Toro Lawn Mower Won't Start

Toro build great machines, I know because I inherited an old Toro push mower that still runs like you wouldn't believe. 

 So, your Toro lawn mower won't start? The most common reason a Toro mower won't start is because of a dirty carburetor, other possible reasons include:


  • Fuel Valve Off
  • Choke Not On
  • Bad Gas
  • Plug Wet/Faulty
  • Plug Wire Off
  • Air Filter Blocked 
  • Carburetor Fault
  • Coil Fault
  • Bail Lever/Ignition Fault
  • Flywheel Timing (Shear-key)
  • Sticking Valves
  • Low Compression

This guide will help you diagnose quickly, why your Toro lawn mower won't start, restart, or stops when hot. Toro use several different engine manufactures - Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki, Honda and Toro engines. 

 This guide won't cover each of these engine types, and so your engine may look different to the ones used here. The diagnostic and repair procedures will be very similar no matter which engine you have.


If you have a pull cord problem, I wrote a complete guide to repairing all the most common problems "Pull cord troubleshooting".

Diagnosing a no start Toro 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.


This guide covers all the common causes of a no start Toro pretty well. However, if you need more help, check out "Mower won't start video".


It walks you through all the tests you'll meet here in this post and includes a step by step guide to nailing your repair successfully.


There may be many other reasons why your Toro lawn mower won't start. In this guide we will cover all the most common faults. 

Check the Basics

Before we go any further lets check all the basics. Sometimes the easy answer is the solution. 


The basics include:


Check for low oil, some mowers have a disabling system. Check out "How to check lawn mower oil"


Is the gas turned on? Check out "Where is my lawn mower gas tap"


Is the gas fresh? Gas older than one month is stale. Check out "Gas bowl clean out"


Is the choke on and working? Check out "How to start a lawn mower"


Is the air filter clear and dry, a gas soaked filter will prevent starting. Check out "Mower tune-up guide"


Is the plug wire on securely?


Is the bail lever on and working OK? Check out "Hard to Start when hot"


That's all the easy stuff checked, now we'll dig a bit deeper.

3 Things Your Engine Must Have

Toro are a quality outfit, I have customers with 30 year old Toro mowers still giving great service, so I know they can go the distance. The Toro mower engine is simple, it needs 3 things to run.


Thing 1, Fresh Gas - You must have clean fresh gas. Old stale or dirty gas is by far the number one cause of all small engine issues. This doesn't guarantee that bad gas is your problem, but it's one of the first things to check.


Thing 2, Spark - A well gaped spark plug and fired at the right time, this is as important as good gas.


Thing 3, Compression - Piston rings, valves and cylinder head gaskets help create compression, any problem here and the engine won't run.


Each of these 3 systems will have many components, any of which could be the problem. Performing the following simple test will point us in the right direction.


You might find this page useful, "Small engine tools".

These are the tools I use, some of these will make your life a ton easier.


Gas tank

Thing 1, Gas

Spark plug

Thing 2, Spark

Mower engine test

Thing 3, Compression

Try The Gas Shot Test

To quickly test if we have: (1) Fueling (2) Spark (3) Compression fault. We will by pass the fuel system, and we do this by pouring some fresh gas directly into the carburetor. 

This is the fastest way to diagnose which of the 3 systems have failed, it's an elimination round.


For this test to be successful, you'll need clean fresh gas. If your unsure of the quality, stop now and get fresh, and always in a clean empty can. Fuel older than 1 month is stale.


In my workshop, fueling causes the most issues - stale or dirty gas, dirty carburetors, blocked filters and the list goes on. When you identify which system has failed, you will be directed to the relevant repair guide, he said confidently.


Gas shot is covered in the "Mower won't start video".


Mower air filter


Remove air filter cover and air filter, some will be fixed on with screws or wing nuts, others will just pull off.
gas stabilizer


Pour some fresh fuel into the carburetor, about a cap full.

You'll have to tilt your mower on its side to get the gas to flow in.

Mower starting


Now attempt to start the mower in the normal way.

gas stabilizer

Two possible outcomes -

(1) Mower attempted to start or started - tells us we have a fueling fault.  Check out "Choke system"

(2) Mower made no attempt to start - then we've likely eliminated a fueling fault, and the fault will probably be a lack of spark. Check out "Spark system check".

Try The Choke Test

In this guide we will check that the choke systems working correctly. As you know, the correct starting procedure for a cold engine, will require giving it extra gas to enrich the fuel/air mixture, which a cold engine needs for a smooth start. 


Toro mowers are fitted with Briggs & Stratton, Honda and Kawasaki engines. They use two different choke system types to achieve the enriched cold start mix.


If your Toro is pretty new, you'll have auto choke and so you won't have a lever to control choke.


Choke test is covered in the "Mower won't start video".


Choke Plate

The first is the choke plate type - The manual version will have a lever to control the choke. There's an auto choke version, and it won't have a choke lever but it operates in the same way.


As the engine heats the choke plate should be open (Choke off). Some auto choke carburetors give hot start flooding issues.


Both versions of the choke plate type create a fuel rich condition by reducing the amount of air and increasing the amount of fuel supplied to the engine.


If all checks out OK, go ahead, remove and clean gas bowl.

mower throttle lever mower carburetor

Manual Choke On

If you have a manual choke control, move throttle lever to full choke position to start a cold engine.

All current models are auto choke and so won't have a choke lever.

Remove the air filter, this allows you view the choke plate, seen here in the choke fully on position.

The plate should be fully closed, if not check cable adjustment.

mower throttle lever mower carburetor

Manual Choke Off

As the engine warms a little, move the choke to the fast/run position. The choke should be off at this point.

Check that it's moving to the off position.

mower auto choke mower choke plate

Auto Choke On

The auto choke system is controlled by a lever connected to a thermostat which is positioned close to the muffler or on the cylinder head.

As the muffler warms up, the choke plate should open. Check its function.

On some auto choke models, customers complain about hot start flooding issues.

The fix - drill a hole in the choke plate. Check for binding of the control links also.

Primer Bulb

The second type is the primer bulb - This is very simple and easy to use. It creates a fuel rich condition by squirting extra fuel into the engine. You do this by pressing a rubber primer bulb mounted at the carburetor.


So go ahead and identify which choke system is fitted to your Toro and check its working correctly. If all checks out ok go ahead, remove and clean gas bowl.


Carburetor primer


It's a simple system, pressing the bulb injects extra fuel - check the bulb for damage, mice like to eat them. Replacement kits are available.

 Clean The Carburetor Bowl

Cleaning the carburetor and fresh fuel will solve the problem of bad gas or a dirty carburetor. But removing the carburetor can take time and effort. So, before we go down that road, we're going to try a quick fix.


Removing and cleaning the fuel bowl & fuel feed bolt (Not all mowers have the fuel feed bolt) is something we can do with minimum amount of effort and tools.

This may well solve your problem. I covered it below in pictures or check out the video "Mower won't start" for additional help.

You won't need any special tools for this job but a can of carburetor cleaner makes life a whole lot easier. In the workshop I use WD40 carb cleaner, check it out on Amazon. 

I've listed a few other tools on this page "Carburetor cleaning tools". Cleaning the carb thoroughly is important, nobody want's to visit the same job twice. These tools will help you nail it first time out.


You can find your fuel bowl behind the air filter. I'll show this process for the most common types of carburetor. 


Remember, if your gas is older than three months, its stale. So cleaning the bowl won't make it go. You need to drain the tank, carburetor bowl and fill with fresh gas.


If this works out for you great!  If not, I wrote this guide, it'll walk you through the whole process - "Remove & clean carburetor".


Alternatively, it's all covered in the "Mower won't start video".


If you're not into cleaning the carburetor, I understand, why not just change it out, carburetors aren't expensive or difficult to replace.


I've listed the most popular carburetors on the page, where you can check price and availability "New mower carburetors".


Mower plug wire Mower gas tap


When working on your mower' remove the plug wire and turn off the gas.

If you don't have a fuel tap use a grips to gently squeeze the fuel line. This prevents a spill.

Mower gas bowl Mower gas bowl Mower gas bowl

Briggs Gas Bowl

This is an older model Briggs and Stratton engine. The fuel bowl lives behind the air filter.

Your carburetor may look different, other examples are shown below.

Remove the bowl using a 1/2" socket and ratchet.

Turn on the fuel to check that fuel flows from carburetor, if not move on to fuel flow test.

Clean the gas bowl.

This model has a fuel feed bolt, it's a hollowed out bolt that feeds gas to the carburetor jet. Be careful with the bolt gasket.

The bolt must be clean, use a wire brush strand to clean it.

Mower gas bowl Mower gas bowl feed bolt Mower gas bowl feed bolt

Spray some carb cleaner up into the jet.

Check the large o ring seal, usually stays on the carburetor and if so, that's OK, leave it there. If however it came off with the bowl, apply a small amount of oil to help it seat on the carburetor side.

When refitting, don't over-tighten the bowl, this will cause the feed bolt gasket or the large o ring to dis-form and leak.

If after cleaning the bowl the mowers still running rough, Check out " Remove and clean carburetor"

mower carburetor mower carburetor

Briggs Gas Bowl

This plastic carburetor is the latest generation from Briggs & Stratton.

I use a grips to gently squeeze the fuel line to prevent fuel spill.

The bowl drain plug is in the bottom of the fuel bowl. Remove it, some can be tricky as clearance is poor. If your struggling to gain access to the drain plug, (Black hex head) go ahead and remove the two bowl retaining bolts.

mower gas bowl bolt mower gas bowl bolt

With the bowl removed, remove grips from fuel line and check fuel flows from the carburetor, if not move on to fuel flow test.

Use a flat screwdriver to pry off the bowl. Now pry out the fuel jets.

Use a fine wire to clean them. Do be careful with compressed air, as the little brass jets will fly and be lost forever.

mower carburetor mower carburetor mower carburetor jet pack

If cleaning isn't successful, order a new jet pack. Few different types, so have your engine number handy.

mower carburetor mower carburetor mower carburetor

Honda Gas Bowl

This type bowl is fitted to the Toro and Honda engines.

Honda have fitted a drain bolt which allows you drain the fuel from the bowl. Nice! This is great if the bowl has some bad gas in it.

However, if the bowl has some grit, it won't drain out completely. So best to remove the bowl and clean it thoroughly.

Turn on fuel and check that you have fuel flow from the carburetor, if not move on to fuel flow test.

If after cleaning the bowl the mowers still running rough, Check out " Remove and clean carburetor"

Tune-up Your Toro

To get the best from your Toro, you should service at least once per season, ideally in the spring. Tune-up kit includes: oil; plug; air filter; fuel filter (if fitted); new blade (optional).

Doing a tune-up is simple, this guide will have your mower tuned-up in under an hour - "How to Tune-up your mower".


You will need your engine model code, it's stamped on the body of the mower or on the engine. Briggs and Stratton stamp their codes into the metal valve cover at the front of the engine. Kohler have a tag and Honda have sticker on the engine.

After you find these numbers, buying the tune-up kit on line is easy. If you can't find the code - no problem.

Remove the air filter and match it against a tune-up kit listed on-line, most mower engines are very common and so you won't have a problem getting a tune-up kit to match.​​ Or check out "Toro parts lookup".

A full tune-up including blade balancing and sharpening is covered in the "Mower tune-up video".

Mower tune-up kit Mower tune-up kit


Tune-up once per season at the start of the season.

If your mower is new, change the oil after the first 5 hours of use.

The Problem With Gas

Most manufactures are OK with e10, this has a 10% ethanol blend, e15 on the other hand is not OK. Ethanol is an alcohol fuel made from sugar, corn and other plant materials. The alcohol is then blended with gas to make ethanol.


What Manufacturers Say

Some manufacturers claim that the alcohol content of the ethanol will damage the carburetor's plastic and rubber components. E15 and e85 burn hotter than regular gas, your mower is not designed to run at these temperatures. Using these types of fuels will damage your engine and void your manufacturers warranty.


What Toro Say

Toro advise using ethanol free gas with an 87 octane rating. The max ethanol blend advised is e10, and methanol is a no, no. They also advise the use of a fuel stabilizer.

A stabilizer will keep your gas fresh for up to 2 years, you can mix it with your gas and use it all the time, but I only use it towards the end of the season and when winterizing all my gas powered kit, including 2 stroke. A few drops in the gas tank is all it takes.

I use a product called Sta-bil gas,1 ounce treats up to 2.5 gallons, it prevents gumming and cleans the fuel system.

Using gas stabilizer is covered in the "Adding gas stabilizer video".

Check out Sta-bil gas treatment on Amazon. 


The Problem With Ethanol

It absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. If the fuel is left in the mower over the winter, the moisture collects in the carburetor. The water will often corrode and leave a varnish type deposit which blocks up the ports. This is what causes the poor running/no start.


Mower carb Mower carb


It's a carburetor killer, using a gas stabilizer will prevent a lot of problems.

Related Questions

How do you start a Toro lawn mower? All new Toro mowers today are auto choke, that means all you need to do is pull and hold the handle bar bail lever and yank on the pull cord, that's it.


Lawn mower won't start after tilting? Remove the air filter and attempt to start your mower, if the air filter is wet with fuel, replace it. A lawn mower should always be tilted carburetor side up, this prevents fuel and oil spilling into the air filter. 

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.