How To Start A Honda Lawn Mower

Starting your Honda is simple, they build very reliable machines. But successful starting requires you to follow a set of procedures.

So how to start a Honda lawn mower? Starting a Honda mower will differ slightly from model to model. Most will follow this basic procedure:

  1. Check oil level
  2. Check gas level
  3. Turn gas on
  4. Apply bail lever (if fitted)
  5. Apply choke (if fitted)
  6. Pull start mower

Two common features of your Honda mower will dictate how you start it, Roto-Stop and choke type. All modern Honda mowers are auto choke, that means you don’t need to fiddle around with any levers to start the engine, but if your mower is a few years old, it may have a manual choke lever.

Your Honda mower may have auto or manual choke and it may or may not have Roto-stop. Which ever type you have, your Honda should start on the first or second pull, assuming of course, everything’s in order. That said lets now identify which Honda you have and that will allow you follow the correct start procedure.

As it’s newer, we’ll cover the Honda with Roto-stop starting procedure first.

Starting Honda With Roto-stop

Roto-Stop is a feature on some Honda mowers that allow the operator control engagement of the blades. It’s a fantastic feature that allows you run the engine without running the blade, it’s particular useful when moving across paved areas. Honda mowers that have Roto-Stop, won’t have a bail lever, and so you won’t need to pull and hold a bail lever to start the mower.

You can easily recognize if your Honda has Roto-Stop, it has a big yellow button at the blade control bail lever.

Honda With Roto-Stop – The yellow button on the bail lever will be obvious, yours may not look the same as this but a yellow button indicates you have a Roto-stop feature.

You don’t need to pull and hold any of these bail levers to start the engine. These levers control the self drive and the engagement of the cutting blades.

If this is your model, congrats, this is the easiest Honda mower to start. Simply set the throttle to fast (hare symbol) for auto choke. For mowers with manual choke – set to full choke Here’s the procedure:

1 Check oil level – Checking oil is just a great habit to form, yes your mower would start if you skipped this step. Need help checking oil, check out “Does my engine need oil?”

2 Check Gas Level – A mower with a low gas level may be harder to start. Be mindful of old gas, older than a month and it starts to degrade. Best to use gas stabilizer.

3 Turn Gas “On” – A gas tap is fitted to all Honda mowers and it’s a good habit to turn as off when not in use. See gas tap use here.

4 Set Throttle – Simply set the throttle to fast (hare symbol) for auto choke. For mowers with manual choke, set it to full choke to start. Some Honda mowers won’t have any throttle levers, the engine has a factory set speed.

If you are unfamiliar with choke, how and when to use it, you are not on your own (See below).

5 Pull Start – One or two good pulls does the job. Any more than that and you may have an issue. But not to worry, you are in the right place, check out “Honda won’t start post” or the “Mower won’t start videos”.

Starting Honda With Bail Lever

Now lets start a Honda mower with out the Roto-stop. The process is close to identical with the addition of one extra step, the pulling and holding of the handlebar located stop/start bail lever. And maybe you’ll ask what is a bail lever? The bail lever is a safety feature, (also known as the dead mans lever, catchy!). It’s a spring loaded lever and as you’ve likely guessed, defaults to the off position should the operator move away from the mower at any time.

The off position kills the engine, the bail is if you like, a big “On” switch that must be held when cutting grass.

Bail lever markings

The whole start procedure looks like this:

1 Check oil level – Checking oil is just a great habit to form, yes your mower would start if you skipped this step. Need help checking oil, check out “Does my engine need oil?”

2 Check Gas Level – A mower with a low gas level may be harder to start. Be mindful of old gas, older than a month and it starts to degrade. Best to use gas stabilizer.

3 Turn Gas “On” – A gas tap is fitted to all Honda mowers and it’s a good habit to turn as off when not in use. See gas tap use here.

4 Bail lever – Pull and hold the bail lever.

Set Throttle – if you have throttle controls, now’s the time to set them. Simply set the throttle to fast (hare symbol) for auto choke. For mowers with manual choke, set it to full choke to start.

Some Honda mowers won’t have any throttle levers, the engine has a factory set speed.

If you are unfamiliar with choke, how and when to use it, you are not on your own (See below).

5 Pull Start – One or two good pulls does the job. Any more than that and you may have an issue. But not to worry, you are in the right place, check out “Honda won’t start post” or the “Mower won’t start videos”.

Choke Types

As you know, all modern Honda mowers are auto choke, that basically means you don’t have to adjust the throttle lever in order to start the mower. In fact some Honda models in addition to having an automatic choke, also have a set engine RPM (engine speed), that means they won’t have a throttle control lever at all.

Older Honda engines may be fitted with a manual choke lever. That means the operator will need to operate the choke in order to start the engine from cold. If your mower has Auto choke, it will be badged auto choke on the engine cover or the air filter cover.

Choke Symbol – If your mower is manual choke, it will have the choke symbol on the throttle lever.

Auto Choke – No action required here

Basic Checks Before Starting A Mower

Before you start your mower, run these basic checks. And remember old gas, will cause hard starting, so never use last seasons gas in your small engine equipment.

  • Check the oil level
  • Check gas level
  • Check the gas tap is on
  • Check the mower for loose components
  • Set your wheels to the same height

How To Use Choke

First you’ll need to identify the choke control lever. On Honda walk behind mowers choke control is integral to the throttle lever and on tractor mowers the choke is a stand alone knob. Your manual choke lever may look different to the ones seen here, but that’s Ok, it’s the choke symbol that’s important.

Using the choke like a pro looks like this:

  • Look for the choke symbol on your throttle control panel.
  • Set it to full choke, that’s all the way up to start a cold engine.
  • Once the engine is running, move the throttle lever off the choke down to the fast setting (hare symbol).
  • This is the correct throttle setting for cutting grass.
  • Generally, restarting a warm engine doesn’t require choke however some models may.

Auto choke requires no input from the operator, it is fully automatic. Nice!

What Is The Purpose Of A Choke On A Lawn Mower?

The purpose of a choke is to give the engine some extra gas for easy cold start up. An engine runs best when the air to gas ratio is 14.7: 1, that’s 14.7 parts air to one part gas, this is the sweet spot and it’s known as AFR (Air Fuel Ratio).

But a problem arises with cold air, it’s denser (more air), this throws the ratio off and causes hard starting. The solution is to temporarily adjust the ratio, just until the engine heats up. Your cars does all this automatically, and latest generation mowers have auto choke too.

Engine designer came up with two simple solutions – the choke plate and the primer bulb.

The choke plate – as it’s name suggests is a flap that moves across the carburetor opening choking off the air entering the engine.

The result is a balancing of the AFR, and the engine now starts smoothly.

But leave the choke on too long and you’ll have the opposite problem, too much gas in relation to air, this causes poor running and black smoke.

The Primer bulb – It vacuums gas from the gas tank and squirts it into the carburetor.

It  comes at the problem from the other side. Instead of restricting the quantity of air, it adds extra gas, this has the same net effect, it balances the carburetor 14.7: 1. 

Can You Flood Your Mower?

Yes, repeated unsuccessful attempts at starting your mower will cause the engine to flood. So what is flooding? It’s un-burnt gas in the cylinder, it saturates the spark plug and prevents it from creating a good spark.
Flooding can also be caused by a faulty carburetor.

How does flooding happen? Two root causes are common.

1 The float and needle live inside the carburetor. There job is to keep the fuel bowl reservoir full, but as they age the rubber needle tip wears and allows the gas leak into the engine especially when the gas tank is full. This can develop into a serious problem, leaking gas often makes its way to the crankcase which dilutes the engine oil. Symptoms of diluted oil is white smoke and engine oil leaks. Check out “Mower white smoke”, for the fix.
 
2 Turning your mower over with the carburetor side down can cause gas wet the air filter. Attempting a start with a wet filter usually results in flooding or if the engine does start it runs rough and blows black smoke. Removing and replacing the air filter will fix this problem. Check out “How to tilt your mower” and you might find “How to unflood a lawn mower video” useful also.

Honda Won’t Start

If your Honda fails to start, it may of course have a fault. Luckily most Honda mower problems are simple and can easily be fixed by the owner. Diagnosing your Honda no start is pretty straight forward, carry out a few basic tests to eliminate ignition, fueling and mechanical faults.

Tests are not difficult, but you’ll need to execute them correctly to avoid burning time or replacing parts needlessly. If you need video help, check out “Mower won’t start video”. The videos walk you through diagnosing and repairing common mower problems, including a non starting mower. You may find this post helpful “Honda mower won’t start”.

Related Questions

How do you start a lawnmower after sitting all winter? Old gas sitting in a mower all winter can cause gumming. To start a mower that’s been sitting all winter follow these steps:

  • Drain the gas tank and carburetor gas bowl
  • Clean / replace the air filter
  • Clean / replace the spark plug
  • Fill the gas tank with fresh gas
  • Turn on fuel valve
  • Check / change oil
  • Pull start the engine

Does gas go bad lawn mower? Ethanol gas in a lawnmower will begin to turn stale after one month and regular gas after 3 months. To prevent problems caused by bad gas, use a gas stabilizer before storing your lawn mower.