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What is an Electric Start Lawn Mower?

By Bobby R. Goldsmith
Updated May 16, 2024
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An electric start lawn uses an electric starter rather than a manual crank cord to initially turn the engine. An electric start lawn mower should not be confused with an electric lawn mower, which uses an electric motor rather than an internal combustion engine to rotate its blades. The electric starter is driven by a small electric motor actuated by a solenoid that cranks the flywheel, which then begins the process of ignition.

The primary advantage to an electric start lawn mower is that the mower can be turned on with the flip of a switch. Lawn mowers started with a manual crank cord can be much more difficult for operators to use. Once started, though, no difference exists between an electric start and a manual cord crank lawn mower. With a self-actuated electric starter, the operator does not need to use carburetor or starting fluid or a primer pump to prime the engine for ignition. This makes an electric start lawn mower simple and more convenient to use.

Another feature of this type of lawn mower takes advantage of the design and layout of the flywheel and crank system. Such a design allows a lawn mower equipped with an electric starter to be fitted with a self-propelled drive assembly. Self-propelled lawn mowers do not need to be pushed along, allowing the operator to simply walk behind the mower while it is in operation.

There are drawbacks to using a lawn mower with an electric starter, however. A lawn mower featuring an electric starter is more complex than a manual cord crank lawn mower. Such complexity can make the lawn mower more difficult for do-it-yourself operators to repair and maintain. This type of lawn mower features fairly elaborate electric and gear-driven systems that require more maintenance and a more thorough level of troubleshooting. Manual cord crank lawn mowers are easier to maintain and to troubleshoot when repairs are necessary.

For example, if the battery runs down completely on an electric start lawn mower, an operator must either immediately replace the battery or place the battery on an appropriate battery charger. Such charging may take hours, depending upon the make and manufacture of the battery and the charger.

Likewise, if the self-propelled gear-drive assembly fractures, the electric start lawn mower may be rendered unusable until the assembly is repaired or replaced. For some makes and models, this process is simple and affordable. For others though, repairs or replacement can be costly and time consuming.

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Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On May 20, 2014

@Vincenzo -- it is true that a broken rip cord or one that pulls free of its housing can be a chore to replace. However, the "do it yourself" types might not mind tackling such a job and there are plenty of instructions on how to do that repair on the Internet.

Besides, those rip cord mowers generally cost a lot less than the electric start kind.

By Vincenzo — On May 19, 2014

An electric start mower may be more complex than one that is started with a rip cord, but the unit may actually be more durable. Here's the thing. One of the true weak points in a rip cord mower is the cord assembly itself. The more you use that cord, the weaker it will become and it can either break or separate from its housing.

Replacing that cord can be a real pain and it is far too easy to not do the job right. You will either yank the cord loose again or it will not wind up properly so it can be pulled again.

You just don't have that problem with an electric start mower.

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