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How to repair a leaf blower cord that won’t pull

Recoil pull cords are the old school method of starting small engines and pull cords are still being used in newer leaf blower models. Pull cord mechanism is attached directly to the engine of your leaf blower and as you pull the starter cord, it causes the engine to turn over and start running. But a common issue with the pull cords is that sometimes your leaf blower’s pull cord will get stuck and it won’t pull. When a pull cord gets stuck, your leaf blower will not start until you fix the problem. So how can you repair a leaf blower when the pull cord won’t pull?

The leaf blower pull cord that is stuck can be repaired by fixing one of the following problems:

  • The pull cord has gotten tangled or damaged
  • Oil is trapped in the leaf blower’s combustion chamber causing a hydro lock
  • Spring inside the pull starter assembly is not working properly
  • The engine has seized

Your leaf blower’s pull cord might be difficult to pull due to any of the above-mentioned problems and to get to the root of the problem, you will have to carefully inspect your leaf blower’s recoil starter mechanism. It can be difficult to find information regarding fixing a leaf blower starter cord that doesn’t pull. That is why in this article we are going to guide you on how you can repair a stuck pull cord on your leaf blower.  

Tangled or damaged pull cord

This is the most common reason for a stuck pull cord. The cord can get tangled onto itself or somewhere inside the pull starter housing. A tangled pull cord is either going to not pull at all or it is going to pull halfway until it gets stuck again. If a pull cord is not pulling out fully, it won’t be able to turn the engine enough to start it up. Luckily, untangling the pull cord is not too difficult and all you have to do is access the pull cord by removing the pull starter housing. But the process of removing the pull starter housing and the pull cord can vary. Either way here is how you can repair a tangled up leaf blower pull cord that is not pulling:

Step 1

The first thing is, you have to remove the pull starter housing to access the tangled or damaged pull rope. Now there are a few ways to remove the pull starter housing of your leaf blower. In some leaf blowers, you can simply remove the pull starter housing directly without having to remove the side cover by removing the screws holding the pull cord housing in place. While in some leaf blower models the pull starter mechanism is located inside the side cover which can also be removed easily by removing 3-4 screws holding the side cover in place. Then some leaf blowers require you to take apart the impeller and the engine cover to access the pull starter housing. You can refer to the user manual of your leaf blower to locate and remove the pull starter assembly.

Step 2

With the starter cord assembly removed, inspect the pull cord to see if there is a knot or if the cord is tangled onto itself or if it may have come off the reel on which it is supposed to wrap around when the pull cord retracts. You can use a screwdriver to help you in untangling a badly tangled pull rope. If you notice strands coming off the pull rope, then it is a sign that the pull rope is damaged and needs replacing because the strands can get caught inside the starter mechanism and make it difficult to pull the rope. If you have to replace the damaged pull cord (you can find pull cords here) you can do that using the following method:

  • Use pliers to remove the damaged pull cord from the reel and get a replacement pull rope with the same thickness as the old one.
  • Put the new cord through the same hole in the pull starter reel where you took the old rope out from. Make sure to put the rope through the top of the rope so it comes out from the bottom.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the rope after putting it through the hole to stop it from slipping out, making sure that there is a little rope left after the knot as possible. You can cut off the excess rope after the knot to prevent the extra rope from getting stuck.
  • Now put the other end of the rope through the inside of the hole in the pull cord housing so that it comes out of the pull cord housing. This is the end you are going to attach the pull handle too.

Note: Some pull starters have a screw on the reel secure the cord along with a hole. So if that is the case with your leaf blower, make sure to put the cord around this screw as well.

You can find replacements pull cords or full Starter Assembly here.

Step 3

Finally, all you have to do is simply wind the pull starter mechanism up until the rope winds up onto the reel and if you installed a new pull cord, simply attach the handle at the other end of the rope outside the pull cord assembly housing.

Step 4

Test the pull cord assembly by pulling the rope a few times to see if it pulls without sticking and simply reattach the pull cord assembly housing back onto the leaf blower.

Make sure not to leave extra cord hanging after tying the knot with the starter pulley as this can also result in the cord getting tangled and you will have to repeat the whole process all over again. When installing the new rope, make sure to cut the correct length of new rope so that there isn’t any extra rope hanging after the pull starter assembly winds up. And you can do that by attaching the pull handle in such a way that there is no limp rope left outside of the pull starter housing.

Oil in the combustion chamber causing a hydro lock

Sometimes too much oil can make its way into the combustion chamber or the head cylinder of a leaf blower that it doesn’t leave any room for the piston to move inside the combustion chamber. This scenario is known as hydro lock as it stops the piston from moving. A hydro locked leaf blower is not going to allow you to pull the starter cord at all. If you want to be certain that it is the hydro lock that is not allowing you to pull the starter rope, look for signs of engine oil leakage from the exhaust of leaf blower. If the head cylinder of a leaf blower has too much oil in it, then it will try to seep out from the exhaust. Now the engine oil can make its way into the combustion chamber due to many reasons. You might have overfilled the engine oil reservoir causing the engine oil to get inside the combustion chamber. Or you might have simply held the leaf blower in an awkward position that might have caused oil to seep into the combustion chamber.

No matter what caused the engine oil to reach the combustion chamber, it is important to remove it if you want to be able to start your leaf blower. You can repair a hydro locked leaf blower engine by following these simple steps:

Step 1

To get rid of the excess oil in the combustion chamber of your leaf blower’s engine, you have to remove the sparkplug and drain the oil through the sparkplug hole. To remove the sparkplug of your leaf blower you have to locate it first. Luckily most leaf blowers have their sparkplug located such that you can remove them without having to remove any protective covers. In the majority of cases, you will find the sparkplug on top of the leaf blower near the handle.

Step 2

Remove the sparkplug boot that covers the sparkplug of your leaf blower and you should be able to see the sparkplug underneath it. To remove the sparkplug, take the correct sized socket, fit it on the sparkplug and simply turn the socket until the sparkplug becomes loose. Remove the sparkplug from the leaf blower engine and place it somewhere clean.

Note: Make sure to keep the sparkplug boot away from the sparkplug hole when the sparkplug is removed to prevent any oil from getting into the boot.

Note: If your sparkplug does not look ok test it and if needed replace it. You can find a sparkplug tester here. You can find new sparkplugs here.

Step 3

With the sparkplug removed, the sparkplug hole will act as a drain to remove the excess engine oil from the combustion chamber. And to push the oil out from the combustion chamber to fix your hydro locked leaf blower, simply pull the starter cord of your leaf blower. It might take a little force to pull the cord but you will notice oil coming out of the sparkplug hole when you pull the starter cord. Keep pulling the starter cord rapidly until engine fluid stops coming out of the sparkplug hole. This means that you have fixed the hydro lock and your leaf blower’s engine is free from excess oil in the head cylinder.

Note: Oil might also come out of the muffler of your leaf blower as you pull the starter cord so don’t panic if you see oil coming out of the exhaust as well.

Step 4

Once you are sure that all the oil has left the combustion chamber spray some quick start fluid into the sparkplug hole to help the engine to turn over easily. Make sure you spray the quick start at an angle to make sure it gets to the cylinder.

Step 5

Fit the sparkplug back into the sparkplug hole after cleaning the oil from the hole and reconnect the sparkplug wire onto the sparkplug.

Step 6

Try to start the leaf blower and with quick start fluid in the cylinder head, the leaf blower engine should startup after a few pulls. Now don’t panic if you see a lot of smoke coming out of your leaf blower’s exhaust because leftover oil in the combustion chamber is being burnt up resulting in excess smoke. Keep the leaf blower running until the smoke clears out.

The hydro lock can also be caused by excess fuel getting into the engine of your leaf blower and you can use the above-mentioned steps to remove excess fuel from the leaf blower engine as well. You can avoid hydro lock by making sure that you are putting the correct amount of oil inside your leaf blower and when using the primer, make sure not to pump so much fuel into the cylinder that it ends up being hydro locked.

Spring inside the pull starter assembly is not working properly

 The pull starter on your leaf blower uses a spring to wind up the rope after you have pulled it. But if the spring gets broken, the pull starter mechanism can get stuck and you won’t be able to pull the starter cord. Now unlike the pull cord that can be replaced without taking the whole pull starter assembly apart, you will have to remove the complete starter assembly to replace the spring. It can be difficult to find the correct sized spring that would fit your leaf blower’s pull start kit. So it is best to replace the whole pull starter assembly. After you have found the correct pull starter assembly for your leaf blower here is how you can replace it:

Step 1

Remove the starter assembly from the leaf blower and place it on a table.

Step 2

Make sure to remove all the tension from the pull starter assembly before removing the screw on the starter assembly. And to do that simply remove the rope from the pull handle and let the spring unwind. In case of a broken or stuck spring, the starter assembly might not unwind on its own, and in this case, you will have to manually turn the assembly in the direction where the cord would unwind from the reel to make sure the spring is not wound up when you remove the assembly as it can flare out and cause an injury. If the assembly is broken you can find a new starter assembly here.

Step 3

Now all you have to do is simply undo the screw in the middle of the pull starter assembly and tap the starter assembly housing on a table to safely remove the assembly from the housing. You should avoid removing the assembly directly because the spring can flare up very rapidly and it can be dangerous.

Step 4

After carefully removing the bad spring along with the starter assembly, fit the new starter assembly into the pull starter housing making sure the hook on the spring of the new assembly fits onto the slot in the housing. Now tighten up the screw in the middle of the starter assembly to hold the new assembly to the housing.

Step 5

Now simply put the pull cord of the new pull starter assembly through the hole for the cord in the housing, attach the handle to the end of the rope and fit the housing back onto the leaf blower and you should be able to pull the starter cord without any problem. 

You can just replace the damaged spring as well instead of replacing the whole starter assembly. But it can be difficult to find the right-sized spring and installing the spring into the starter assembly can be extremely difficult. If the assembly is broken you can find a new starter assembly here.

The engine has seized

If a leaf blower has been running without proper lubrication then it can seize up and the piston will stop moving inside the cylinder. In this case, the pull cord will also get stuck and won’t pull since the piston has seized against the cylinder walls. Unfortunately fixing a seized leaf blower can be costly and it usually requires help from a mechanic because specialized tools are needed to fix a seized leaf blower engine. But if your leaf blower has run out of oil while it has been sitting and not being used you might be able to fix it by adding some engine oil to it and pulling the starter cord again to see if the engine turns over. But in most cases, a seized leaf blower engine will require a complete engine rebuild.

You can find good leaf blower oil here.


Now that you know the possible causes and fixes for a stuck leaf blower pull cord, you can easily diagnose and repair your leaf blower’s pull starter assembly at home. Keep in mind that some leaf blowers might have a slightly different design, making the repair process different for each leaf blower model. But the basic working mechanism of the pull starter mechanism for each type of leaf blower is the same and you can use the above-mentioned repairs to fix your leaf blower’s jammed pull cord.