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Pulling the starter cord on a lawn mower is nobody’s favorite pastime, but have things really gotten so bad that we need to start our mowers with the turn of a key?

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Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen a lot of companies expanding their lines of electric-start lawn mowers, and now you can find models by Toro, Honda, Craftsman, Lawn-Boy, and Snapper at all the major home improvement stores and even at lots of small independent dealers.

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Most retailers market these easy-to-start mowers to the elderly and to people recovering from surgery or with recurring injuries.  But that begs the question:  Should a person who can’t muster enough strength to pull a cord really be put behind the controls of a 60lb gas engine with a rapidly spinning metal blade on the end of it?

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Of course, the other point may well be that we’re just lazy and don’t want to pull the cord.

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So, are electric-start mowers a hot solution, allowing everyone the freedom to mow their lawn despite physical limitations or injuries?  Or are they just one step further on the long path to a lazy American population not willing to pull a simple cord to get some work done?  Let us know in comments.

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53 Responses to Hot or Not? Electric-Start Lawn Mowers

  1. Nik says:

    Seems like a bad idea. You have to add a starter, starter clutch, battery, and a way to charge the battery. So many more things that can break. If it sits around unused over the winter, the battery will discharge itself, so you have to figure out how to keep it charged over the winter. So much to worry about. It seems much better to just pull the cord and be done with it.

  2. Toolhearty says:

    Nik Says:
    …You have to add a starter, starter clutch, battery, and a way to charge the battery. So many more things that can break. If it sits around unused over the winter, the battery will discharge itself, so you have to figure out how to keep it charged over the winter.

    Not necessarily. My snowblower’s electric start… with an extension cord. No battery or charger to deal with. Still, I agree. I’d rather just pull the cord. The snowblower has a starter ’cause it can be a little reluctant, even more than even I am, to get going on a really cold day.

  3. Rick says:

    I have the electric start option on my John Deere push mower…first year worked great…second year after hassle of battery storage/charging during the winter and the starter not always engaging, I just pulled the battery and only use the pull start. With good maintenance and upkeep, it starts on first/second pull every time and its close to 10 years old!! Don’t miss the electric start, don’t want it back on the mower. Waste of money in my opinion…so NOT gets another vote in my book.

  4. Will says:

    My push mower has Honda 4 stroke engine with “Auto Choke” and it never takes more than 2 easy to moderate pulls in season to get it started (maybe 4 – 5 on the first use after winter). I believe it has some spring assist contraption, which would explain the fairly low torque it requires on the pull to get it going. The thing truly is a breeze: turn the gas valve on and pull once or twice.

    Given how easy it and how I agree with other about the hassle of a battery, I’d say not hot.

  5. NOT,

    I agree with the sentiment in the post about not mowing if you can’t pull start a mower and I completely agree with Nik about added complexity. Additionally if you keep your mower in good condition, you should be able to start it one of two pulls every time.

    When I was buying a new mower, they tired to up sell me to an electric start mower. I told the guy “If I can’t pull start a lawn mower, I should be paying somebody else to do my lawn.” The sales guy said he agreed and didn’t give me any trouble after that.

    I have an electric start on my snow blower that requires you to plug it in. I used it once when I was first testing it out. I haven’t used it since. The thing starts first pull every time and it’s 25 years old. Why would I go through all that trouble?

  6. Emis says:

    My landlord’s 15+ year old 3.5HP Tecumseh still starts with 2-4 pulls … that’s with no tune up in 3-4 years, low oil in the crank and abuse from a few users who wish it would die (it’s not self propelled)

    But a friend’s 5 year old 6.5HP Tecumseh will often take 5-6 pulls plus a shot of starting fluid to get going — this is with a new air filter, fresh gas, new plug, oil change, etc…

    I’m curious if after a few hundred hours the higher HP engines are naturally harder to start then the older low HP models?

  7. jeff says:

    Battery powered electric start is great on any vehicle that has no problem carrying it from a weight stand point. Great on riding mowers, not on push mowers. However, the cord types are great (as mentioned above) on snow throwers. My 1978 toro single-stage 2-stroke will not start on the cord, only on the starter.

  8. Chris says:

    I havent bought a lawn mower in a while, but if it plugs in to start like my snowblower and didnt cost much more, then sure why not. On the snowblower I give it a pull or two and if its being stubborn I plug it in and the starter can usually kick it over fast enough to get it running.

    Plus if its got a turn key and its self propelled then the women/kids have no excuse as to why they cant mow the lawn too.

  9. Dave says:

    I have to agree with the “If I can’t start it…” crowd. I have never had a mower with an electric start but I haven’t felt like I was missing something. It’s like so many things the more features and functions the more likely something is to go wrong. My experience has been that if you give a mower a little bit of preventive maintenance before you put it away for the winter and a when you break it out in the spring they will run like a top (and if that doesn’t work, swearing at it always does).

    I have to go with not.

  10. Michael says:

    I bought a Craftsman 6.5 hp electric start model 2 years ago, a left over floor model. Charged it last year and it ran fine. This year, with no charge, had to pull start it the first time I ran it. The electric start has started it every time after that without recharging. Its a nice little feature because I have to empty the bag and the engine stops when I let the safety bar go. If I empty the bag 10 times each time I mow, I have to start it 10 times; if I had to pull start it, I would be tempted to tie the safety bar so I wouldn’t need to restart it. That said, if the electric start didn’t work, I wouldn’t worry about fixing it. I’d chalk it up to ‘oh well’ and use the pull start.

    • T. Brophy says:

      Some mowers ( with a blade brake) allow the blade to be stopped while the motor continues. Failing that, tying the deadman so the mower can keep running, and the blade spinning, has not been a pleasant experience for me! Much of the debris keeps flying out– not nice. Only did it once. Lol

  11. Chaim says:

    No particular opinion here…but back when people had to start propeller planes by turning the propeller, they probably had the same argument.

  12. gillsans says:

    My dad got a Montgomery Ward mower with electric start back around the time my brother and I were big enough to start mowing the lawn (the mid 80s). It worked okay for a few years until the battery died. Then it was back to the cord and pushing around the extra weight of the starter and batter. He hasn’t gotten a electric start mower since. Looking back, I’m sure my dad’s rationale for getting electric start was so his scrawny 10 year old could mow the lawn instead of him…

  13. Jerry says:

    Okay – I guess I am lazier than that even. Memorial Day brought about the death of my 11 year old gas machine that got harder to start every time. I think it finally blew a piston. I recall paying a whole $129 for this machine brand new. 11 years is a lot of years for that price. I looked and looked at lawnmowers – pull start, electric start, electric (completely. I recalled my mother having an electric that ate the cord somewhat regularly. I ended up with a 24 volt cordless machine (Homelite) and zoomed through my entire, smallish lawn in about 15 minutes with plenty of battery power left over. Quiet – no stinky gas or oil and no cord to exercise my arm getting nowhere. Not for everyone but I am impressed.

  14. Jim K. says:

    My Mom got one of these about 3 or so years ago. Bad shoulder, but wouldn’t stop mowing the yard for herself (I’d do it, but it’s a long way from CA to RI). Anyway, it worked fine for about 6 months, then broke. Simple mechanical linkage problem that I fixed the next time I was visiting. Lesson learned, “Never trust plastic to do work that metal would be much better suited for.” A few years later and it’s still going strong.

  15. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    Half of me says that an electric start will mask problems from poor maintenance, and more people will regularly use less efficient more polluting engines.
    The other half of me says sometimes just getting the lawn mowed is enough to kill me, and not having to pull the engine cord on every restart might make that little bit of difference in getting it done.
    Overall I still go without the electric start!

  16. Slow Joe Crow says:

    Not,
    needless weight and complexity, more points of failure, and just another excuse to charge more money. My 8 year old B&S powered Craftsman will light off on the second pull all season after its annual wake up shot of carb cleaner.
    If somebody does need a boost due to an injury then one of the adapters that allows you to start the engine with an electric drill makes more sense since you can leave the motor behind while mowing.

  17. Chris says:

    Chaim: the difference being that electric start in an airplane adds a measurable and significant degree of safety, whereas electric start on a power tool generally doesn’t :-p (That, and carrying around the weight of a starter motor — and possibly a battery — is less significant on most aircraft than on a push mower.)

    cl

  18. PB says:

    Seems like a bad idea. You have to add a starter, starter clutch, battery, and a way to charge the battery. So many more things that can break. If it sits around unused over the winter, the battery will discharge itself, so you have to figure out how to keep it charged over the winter. So much to worry about. It seems much better to just pull the cord and be done with it.

  19. Chris K says:

    My view is no-one complains about electric starters on riding tractors. Who am I to complain about making pushers easier to use too?

  20. Trevor D. says:

    Who cares? I don’t think it matters if they do or don’t come with a starter. I say if you don’t like ‘em, then go get a pull start. If you need or want it for some reason, then go get an electric start mower. Its not BAD to have the choice, and no one is stopping you from going one way or the other.

  21. paanta says:

    If you can’t pull-start a mower, the mower needs a major tuneup. My snapper started on the first pull this spring. Just like the year before and the year before….

  22. Jason says:

    So, i bought the exact model pictured above.

    It has a small Lithium-Ion battery on it, and a wall charger.. No on board alternator or anything …

    Why did i buy it? My wife was 5 months pregnant at the time, and she enjoys push mowing the lawn. I work 60+ Hours a distance from home, and can’t be there to start the mower for her. She enjoys the exercise of push mowing, so , for the 30 dollars more it was to get the electric start, it was worth it.

    And i figure, if it breaks, i can still pull start it later.

    As a side note, it pull starts pretty easily, and the electric starter is pretty easy as well. Being you can’t ‘test start’ them at sears i couldn’t find out how my wife would fair with pull starting the mower.

    That’s my reason. I don’t think it really matters. I have a car in my garage that you started with a hand crank. Think those guys like batteries and keys??!

  23. Stanley says:

    Remember when you had to kick start motorcycles??? Pretty sure almost all motorcycles (street) are electric start. No biggie.

  24. Brau says:

    Not!

    Will says: “I believe it has some spring assist contraption, which would explain the fairly low torque it requires on the pull to get it going. ”

    To be more precise, shims are engaged to hold the valves open during pulling to make it easy to spin up the engine revs. Honda came up with the idea and many have followed. My Ariens (Tecumseh 6HP) has this same feature and it really is fantastic. I would have bought the superior Honda if not for their decks being either plastic or aluminum (brittle); I needed a steel deck to survive all the rocks on my property.

    Bottom line: If your mower is hard to pull-start, you bought a cheap one. Put your money into a great engine, not add-on gadgets.

  25. David Bryan says:

    Don’t mow if you can’t start it, huh? You boys have got a lot to learn.

  26. Kevin says:

    alot of woman can’t pull start a mower, smaller kids and old folks too, anything to get them outta the house I am for. The toughest part of mowing a lawn is starting the things.I put this in the hot cat.

  27. paganwonder says:

    Scott Manual push mower- no pull cord no gas barely any maintenance. And my oldest was happy to have started some muscles when football try-outs came around.
    And if you couldn’t use the no-start mower as an excuse to swear…

  28. Paul says:

    I would not have bought an electric start mower but was given one my dad couldn’t get running. Simple fix and it is self-propelled too which is nice on the steep hills in my front yard. Anyhow the electric start works ok on this 6 or so year old toro. I have it so I might a well use it. I’ve had this mower apart and the starter and charging system isnt ‘high tech’ it is just using a magneto on the flywheel to charge the battery and the starter is very small and lightweight ‘car type’ solenoid actuated spring return starter sot here is no clutch system for the electric start. I wouldn’t look for this feature on a model but if it is there its nice.

  29. Jscotty says:

    I bought a model similar to the one above and I have to say that in spite of the purist that I am, I really love it! But I agree with what was said earlier about someone not being able to handle the mower if they can’t even pull the cord. I originally got this for my mom so that she does not have to depend on me but I’m sure that she could pull the cord if she tried. IMO pulling the cord is a “right-of-passage” for anyone who uses a lawn mower. I think that this is a nice convenience for when you stall the mower so that you don’t break your flow but this should not be a crutch.

  30. mike says:

    Actually the first commercial jetliner to have an all electric start is the brand new boeing 787.

  31. Carol says:

    Just bought the Craftsman model shown above and love the key start! And yes it is a big honker of a machine, but since I do not have a ton of upper body strength, pulling the cord to restart every time I emptied the bag in my large yard was not going to work. The rear drive is great on the hills. I am well aware that any gas driven machine of this size and weight must be used with caution and care. I may lack arm strength, but my common sense is still functioning just fine, thank you!

  32. Dave says:

    I have a craftsman 22″ self propelled lawn mower, the self prpelled just quit all of a sudden, when I move the lever down to the drive position , the front weels brake on it instead of moving. do I have to replace the whole drive unit, or is there a way to fix it?
    Dave

  33. Tim Chew says:

    Does anyone know of a manufacturer who makes an electric-start mower that is NOT self-propelled? Seems everywhere I look they are either pull-start and you push or electric-start sef-propelled.

    • Jim says:

      Honda, Troybuilt …. not sure if that’s the way it’s spelled, but it is a Honda and it’s electric start but not self propelled.

  34. ejchi says:

    i have a mower that uses a spring that winds up when you stop… a flip on a button on the handle and it releases the spring… not a problem for 4 years now. no battery, no cords, and it works when i start in spring…. i have only pulled the cord to wind the spring about 7 times.
    ejchi

  35. Hal Quilliam says:

    To Tim chew (above)

    I have a Yardman 6.75 HP 21 inch cutting swath with an electric start and
    it is not self propelled. I don’t know what year it is as obtained it nearly new
    from somebody else who was moving. I live in Canada.
    Hal

  36. Charles Gentry says:

    Not having a starter on my Tiller is BS! I have one on my Snow blower and it works like a champ! No battery just plug it in and cranker up! My Tiller I have to pull 20 or 30 times-pray starting fluid – let it sit try again. People today do not have the time to put 2 hours of work just to get it started when my SB takes 2 min with an electric starter. Most of the engines benefit from the starter option without battery. Let us plug them in!!!!

  37. Robert says:

    I need a hand push more (not a self-propelled) with Electric start 20″ cut I am sixty years old have been battleing cancer for eight years. now I have been cut on eight of the last nine years my health is not great but I will not just sit on my but and die. I thank the Lord every night and each day I have. So if any one knows were I can find a hand push lawn more with Electric start and no self propelled please let me know a self-propelled is to heavy for me God Bless all ps if you are Fighting cancer and need someone to talk to E-mail me Remember the Lord is with you always.

  38. mark says:

    I am arthritic. Time to trade the push mower for a self-propelled that is a little easier on my shoulders and hips to use. Went to Sears and they had a $600, totally loaded front drive mower on sale for $280. It came with electric start and all the toys. The choice for me was a no brainer.

    Doubt I’d will use the electric start so much, but damn if I am not glad it is there for those days when my shoulder is sore and I’m not feeling up to pulling on a ripcord. Even if it does only take a single yoink to start up.

    After all the grass still has to get cut and no, I’m not paying some kid down the street $20 twice a week to mow it!

  39. Sorry folks, not all of us are 250 pound guys using these. I have trouble starting everything from the weedeater to the tiller. I need to be able to do this myself, so… if any of you wanna just come pull that cord and make it start, I’d appreciate it. I don’t mind the mowing (or tillin) if you can just get it going…… Have I said how much I hate that cord, but who can afford the auto start?

  40. flaminghanky says:

    Honda mower Co. should be ashamed of the dill weed designers they are paying to put charging coils in these very expensive mowers that can’t keep the battery even partially charged. I am a dummy & even I figured out how to do it. That is why they come with a plug in charger. Did you car? or tractor. HELL No-now they don’t put an on board charge system on at all WTF. Cum on get with it Honda. We still try to luv ya.

  41. Gilk says:

    Electric start versus pull cord! The way I see it the electric start is great if and ONLY IF it is functioning properly. The potential problem is that there is too many ways for it to break, (moisture, rust, etc.) Like all the power gadgets on a car. They’re great as long as they work right, but after a few years, problems start to crop up. Keep it simple, play it safe, and buy a pull-cord model.

  42. Terry says:

    Why hasn’t Tecumseh (or whoever owns Tecumseh now)put an electric start (120V) on their lawn mower engines like they have on their winter (snow throwers)? This would eliminate their battery, key start and added weight issue. I simply do not understand why this cannot be accomplished by Tecumseh.

  43. John Burd says:

    Dave asks:
    “I have a craftsman 22″ self propelled lawn mower, the self prpelled just quit all of a sudden, when I move the lever down to the drive position , the front weels brake on it instead of moving. do I have to replace the whole drive unit, or is there a way to fix it?”

    You probably need a drive belt. They run about $7-10 at your local mower shop.

  44. Edgar says:

    I like the idea of electric start. For all those that think it is unnecessary, the same can be said of the self-propelled feature. But I bet many of those that think the electric start feature is unnecessary would not want to give up the self-propelled feature. When I was a kid, yanking on the cord to start it and having to actually push the mower was fine, but I am no spring-chicken anymore ( I way abused my body when I was younger thinking I was going to live forever), so I like the idea of electric start and self-propelled feature.

  45. Spenser says:

    Electric start is a nifty feature.. it’s nothing new. My 1971 Lawn Boy has a starter, and thats a nice thing.. on older mowers, it was either pull or electric.. no backup. So if the battery died, you were screwed. I had a 1979 Toro with ‘Key-Lectric’ starting, and I’m still running the first battery and starter. Has yet to give me trouble. Coming from a person who weekly mows lawns with a 1917 Ideal Lawn Mower.. anything like this is luxury.. but you can count on it breaking soon.. the new ones aren’t really that great. Besides.. you only get about 10 years out of a mower now anyway. Thats why I use old stuff. The self propel units aren’t meant to really pull weight at all.. less the better.

  46. mulberry says:

    Why don’t we still have crank start cars? Why do we have washing machines instead of a wash board? etc. etc. I’m a small woman and yes I have an electric start push mower. I’m very capable of mowing my lawn but I was tired of exhausting myself and my arm trying to get the mower started. I use a broom instead of a vacuum for clean up, I sometimes wash my car by hand instead of running through the car wash, I never use a dishwasher, I’m not lazy, nor unsafe…I just pick my battles.

  47. brenda says:

    Pull starts are difficult for short women, that doesn’t mean that they can’t mow their lawns.

  48. Kathy says:

    Well, it’s a bit discouraging to read the variations on the ‘if you can’t pull a cord, you shouldn’t be mowing the lawn’ comments. After two rotator cuff surgeries, I can’t put any power into a pull. But I CAN push, and push hard if need be. I live alone, so I need to mow my own lawn, and would rather not pay someone to do something I can do for myself if only I could get it started. If someone could recommend a good mower for me I’d be grateful. Thanks

    • Amen! I have chronic health issues and moving helps. But no way can I start a mower. I love to garden and work in the yard. Just because I can’t start a mower doesn’t mean I CAN afford or WANT someone else to mow my lawn!

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  50. ken t says:

    Ask anyone with a sensitive/sore shoulder that aches for days after jerking on a mower what would be a good remedy. Pushing a mower is otherwise excellent exercise. I’m still looking.

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