Pushing a mower isn’t fun, especially a self-propelled one. They’re heavy. Fitting a self-drive cable is a lot less effort than pushing.
The best fix for a self-propelled mower cable is to replace the complete cable. Replace a mower drive cable in six steps:
- Remove cable handle bar end
- Turn mower over
- Remove cable transmission end
- Fit transmission cable end
- Fit handlebar cable end
- Adjust cable
In this post, we’ll cover the process of replacing the self-propelled control cable and adjusting the drive system. If your mower is a Honda, check out “Honda mower self propelled slow”. If you need video help, check out “Self propelled troubleshooting video”.
Mower Repair Safety
Before working on your mower, go ahead and remove the spark plug wire, preventing accidental starting. In addition, turn your gas tap off (if fitted) and palace a plastic sheet over the gas tank filler. This helps to prevent gas spills when turning your mower over. If you’re not sure if you have a gas tap, check out this post “Honda shut off valve”.
Plug Wire Off – Twist and pull
Critical Cable Info
Self-propelled cables consist of a plastic outer casing and a metal braided inner cable. The braided cable is the part that breaks and does so, usually at the handlebar connector or at the transmission end. The ends are essential, and there are many different types. While it is possible to replace just the inner braided cable, most repair shops will only supply the complete cable (inner and outer).
It is critical to get the length of the cable correct, but also, the end types must match your old cable.
Cable Length – Mission critical
Getting this wrong will have you pulling your hair out trying to fit and adjust. I advise removing the old cable and either finding an identical part online that matches your model or visiting your local dealer, cable in hand. While, at first glance, a cable might look like yours, the number of possible cable lengths and connector end combos is endless.
Check before you purchase. See the Amazon link below.Amazon Lawnmower Drive Cable
1 Removing Cable Handlebar End
It doesn’t make any difference which ends you remove first. Since the mower is upright, we’ll begin by removing the handlebar cable end. The most common type of self-drive control is the bail lever, like Honda may use a thumb style control. Whatever you have, the repair is very similar.
Identify Cable – First, locate the drive cable. It leaves the handlebar and travels to the mower body. As most mowers are rear-wheel drive, it passes through the body at the rear just above the axle.
With the correct cable identified, locate the outer cables anchor point on the handlebar. The winged tab is the most common type anchor, however, some may be fastened with a bolt. To release the winged type, use pliers to press on the wings and pull the outer cable free.
Cable Fasteners – Some mowers like Honda may fasten the drive cable to the handlebar by means of a threaded cable end. Using two wrenches, hold one nut and loosen the other, now back off the nuts to release the cable outer end, and unhook the braided cable end from the bail lever, if not already disconnected.
(This fastener also doubles as the cable adjuster)
Unhook Bail Lever – For bail lever-type drive control, squeeze either side of the drive bail lever to unhook (most types).
2 Turn Mower Over
Now we’ll need to tilt the mower on its side. But there’s an incorrect way to turn your mower over, getting this wrong will cause hard or no starting and lots of white smoke. The correct way to turn your mower over is always with the air filter side facing skyward. I wrote a complete post about turning your mower over, “Which way to tilt your mower” or check out the video here.
Tilt Mower Over – Air filter up
3 Remove Cable Transmission End
The transmission cable end fitting is the most challenging part of this repair, you’ll need patience and tenacity, but you can do it. Real estate is tight, and if you have Shrek hands, you’ll need to dig deep. The outer transmission cable is anchored at the transmission, usually with a plastic winged connector, and the inner braided cable hooks into the transmission lever arm.
To release the cable, first, release the outer by pressing the plastic winged tabs and pulling free. Now you’ll need to unhook the braided cable from the transmission arm.
A long handle needle nose pliers, a soft kneeling pad, and light make this process a little easier. With the tab released and the inner unhooked, remove the old cable by pulling it from (upper deck side) the hole.
4 Fit Transmission Cable End
Before attempting to fit the new cable, be sure it’s correct. Check it using the old cable. Fit the transmission cable end through the mower body hole and push the winged outer connector into its anchor. Use your long nose pliers. Now connect the braided cable end into the transmission arm.
Use Pliers and Patience
5 Fit Handlebar Cable End
Fit Cable End – Go ahead now and stand your mower upright. Fit inner braided end to the bail lever and stretch the outer connector to seat in its anchor. Now you are ready to adjust.
6 Adjust Mower Drive Cable
Most mower drive cables will incorporate an adjuster. The adjuster simply shortens or lengthens the cable as required. Two types are common, the cable connector adjuster and the cable end adjuster. Although slightly different, the same principle applies.
In Cable Adjuster
Cable End Adjuster
Checking Cable Slack – With the cable in place and at rest, the braided cable at the bail lever should deflect by no more than a ¼ inch.
Open Lock Nuts – If your cable deflects more than ¼ inch, go ahead and open the lock nuts and unscrew the outer to remove the inner cable slack.
Test 1 – With the self-propelled lever applied (Bail lever) and engine off, pull the mower backways. The wheels should lock.
If not, continue to adjust until they do.
Test 2 – With the self-propelled lever released, pull the mower backways. If it’s stiff to reverse, you’ve over-adjusted, back it off, and test again.
If you need more help, check out the adjusting video here.
Don’t forget to refit the plug and turn the gas tap on after the repair.