How To Fix Self Propelled Cable?

Pushing a mower just isn’t fun, especially a self propelled, 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:

  1. Remove cable handle bar end
  2. Turn Mower Over
  3. Remove cable transmission end
  4. Fit transmission cable end
  5. Fit handlebar cable end
  6. 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 common faults video”.

Mower drive cable

Drive cable

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 spill when turning your mower over.

If you’re not sure if you have a gas tap check out this post “Honda shut off valve”.

Mower plug wire

Remove plug wire

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 important 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.

Mower drive 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 on line 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.

1 Removing Cable Handlebar End

It doesn’t make any difference which end you remove first, since the mower is upright we’ll begin by removing the handlebar cable end.

The most common type self drive control is the bail lever, some like Honda may use a thumb style control. Whatever you have, the repair is very similar.

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.

Mower drive cable at handlebar

Handlebar end

With the correct cable identified, locate the outer cables anchor point on the handle bar. The winged tab is the most common type anchor, to release the winged type use a pliers to press on the wings and pull the cable outer free.

Some mowers may use a threaded end with two nuts. Using two wrench’s hold one nut and loosen the other, now back off the nuts to release the cable outer end.

Now unhook the braided cable end from the bail lever, if not already disconnected.

Mower turned on its side

There's a Wrong way

2 Turn Mower Over

There’s an incorrect way to turn your mower over, getting it 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”.

Mower transmission cable end

Transmission end

3 Remove Cable Transmission End

The transmission fitting is the most challenging part of this repair, real estate is tight and if you have Shrek hands you may need to dig deep.

The transmission outer cable is anchored at the transmission also and usually with a winged connector. A long handle needle nose pliers makes life easier here, the correct tools always do.

With the tab released use the pliers to unhook the inner braided cable connector from the transmission arm. Use your long nose pliers.

Now go ahead and remove the old cable by pulling the (upper deck side) cable from the hole .

Long nose pliers

Use pliers to aid fitting

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.

Long nose pliers

Use pliers to aid fitting

5 Fit Handlebar 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.

Mower drive cable adjuster Mower handlebar adjuster

Adjuster Types

6 Adjust Cable

Most mower drive cables will incorporate an adjuster. The adjuster simply shortens or lengthens the cable as required.

Two types are common, the in cable connector adjuster and the cable end adjuster, although slightly different the same principle applies.

With the cable in place and at rest, the braided cable at the bail lever should deflect by no more than a ¼ inch. If your cable deflects more than ¼ inch, go ahead and open the lock nuts and unscrew the outer. This will reduce inner cable slack.

Mower braided cable Mower adjuster

Check braided cable slack and adjust outer cable

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.

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 your mower wheels still won’t turn, check out “Mower wheels won’t turn”.


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.