How to Start Honda mower

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:

  • Check oil level
  • Check gas level
  • Turn gas on
  • Apply bail lever (if fitted)
  • Apply choke (if fitted)
  • 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 that 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.

Which ever type you have, your Honda should start on the first or second pull, assuming of course, everything's in order.

Honda Fault

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 repair video library". The videos walk you through diagnosing and repairing common mower problems, including a non starting mower.


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 mower controls

Honda With Roto-Stop

The yellow button on the bail lever will be obvious.

You don't need to pull and hold any of these bail levers.

These levers control the self drive and the engagement of the cutting blades.

Choke Type

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. 

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

Your Honda may have auto or manual choke and it may or may not have Roto-stop.

Honda mower auto choke Honda mower auto choke engine cover Honda mower throttle lever

Honda Auto Choke

The Auto choke engine is the easiest Honda mower to start.

Just pull and mow.

Honda choke lever Honda choke lever Honda choke button

Honda Manual Choke

Your manual choke lever may look different, but that's not important.

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.

Basic Checks

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
  • Check the mower  for loose components
  • Set your wheels to the same height
Honda engine dipstick

Check Oil

Check that the oil level is correct, remember too much oil can cause hard starting.

Check out mower oil level check (internal link)

Honda mower gas tank

Check Gas

Check the gas level is OK and that it's not older than a month.

Stale gas will cause hard starting.

Honda gas tap

Gas On

Check that your gas tap is turned on. Check out Honda gas tap (internal link)

Starting Your Honda

You already know the starting procedure is slightly different for mowers with Roto-Stop and auto choke. The different start procedures are set out below.

Your engine should start on the first or second pull, if not check out my complete Honda mower won't start guide.

Honda throttle lever Honda throttle lever

Starting Honda With Roto-Stop

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

Pull start Honda mower

Pull Start

Now two good pulls and it should burst into life.

For mowers with manual choke, as soon as the engine starts, move the throttle lever to the fast setting (hare)

If your Honda didn't start, check out Honda mower won't start.

Honda throttle lever Honda throttle lever

Starting A Honda Without Roto-Stop

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.

Honda bail lever Honda bail lever

Bail Lever

The Bail lever is the engine on/off control, it must be pulled and held in order to start and keep the engine running.

Pull and hold the bail lever with your left hand, this frees up your right hand for pull staring the engine.

Honda pull starting

Pull Start

Two good pulls usually does the job.

If it takes more than that, it's likely you have a fueling fault.

Honda mower starting procedure

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.

So 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 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 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 combustion cylinder, it saturates the spark plug and prevents it from creating a good spark.


Flooding can also be caused by a faulty carburetor, 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 too leak into the engine especially when the gas tank is full.


This can develop into a serous problem, as the leaking gas often makes its way to the crankcase which dilutes the engine oil. A symptoms of diluted oil is white smoke and engine oil leaks.


Turning your mower over with the carburetor side down can often cause the engine to flood gas onto the air filter, this can then cause the engine to flood when you try to start the engine.


Removing and replacing the air filter will fix this problem.

Ride-on mower carburetor


Gumming is a carburetor killer.

The gas chemicals breaking down and clogging up the Carburetor.



Mix it throughout the fuel system for winter protection against gumming.

Related Questions

How do you start a lawnmower after sitting all winter? Old gas sitting in a mower all winter can cause gumming. A mower should get a tune-up at the start of every season.

  • 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? Yes, your lawn mower gas (ethanol blend) will begin to go stale after just one month and regular gas after three months. To prevent problems caused by bad gas, use a gas stabilizer before storing your lawn mower. 


Auto Technician and Writer at | Website

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write "How to" articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of mechanical repairs, from lawn mowers to classic cars.