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10 Reasons a Murray Lawn Mower Won’t Start

by Jack Grover
Reading time: 16 min Prefer to listen?

When the sun is shining, and you’ve managed to carve out some precious time in your schedule to tackle lawn mowing duties, the last thing you want is a stubborn mower that refuses to start. It’s an unfortunate scenario that can leave you feeling frustrated and wondering what went wrong.

You’re not alone in this predicament. Many homeowners face this situation every year, and it’s not uncommon for even the most reliable of lawn mowers to experience starting difficulties from time to time. However, most of these issues can be resolved with some simple troubleshooting.

To get your Murray lawn mower up and running again, we’ve compiled a list of common reasons that might be preventing it from starting. By addressing each of these potential problems, you’ll be able to identify the root cause and take the necessary steps to fix it.

Empty Fuel Tank

Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the correct one. An empty fuel tank is an easily overlooked cause of a non-starting Murray lawn mower, especially if you’ve had your mower in storage for a while or haven’t used it recently.

To determine if this is the issue, simply look into your mower’s fuel tank or give it a gentle shake. If it appears empty or you don’t hear any sloshing sounds, that’s likely the reason why your mower isn’t starting.

fuel tank

Refueling your mower might seem like a no-brainer, but using the right fuel for your specific machine is paramount. Most Murray lawn mowers require regular unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 87 or higher. Still, some models may have different requirements.

Always consult your owner’s manual for specific fuel recommendations for your mower.

Out of Gas or Old Fuel

One of the simplest reasons for a non-starting lawn mower is running out of gas or using stale fuel. It’s easy to overlook, but even experienced landscapers can forget to check their fuel levels from time to time.

If you’ve got plenty of gas in the tank, make sure it’s fresh. Gasoline can degrade over time, becoming less effective at igniting your engine. It happens because volatile compounds evaporate, leaving behind a less combustible residue that can cause starting difficulties and decreased engine performance.

If your fuel has been sitting around for over a month or two, consider replacing it with fresh gasoline before starting your mower again.

To avoid this issue in the future, try not to store more gasoline than you need for a single season and use a fuel stabilizer to prolong the life of your stored gas.

Dirty or Clogged Air Filter

A dirty air filter can choke off the flow of air that your engine needs to run efficiently.

Over time, as dust and dirt particles accumulate in the filter, it becomes increasingly difficult for air to pass through. This reduced airflow can lead to poor engine performance, increased fuel consumption, and starting issues.

To determine if this is the issue causing your starting troubles, you’ll first need to locate and remove the air filter from your lawn mower.

Generally found near the carburetor or engine, the air filter is housed in a plastic or metal casing. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure where to find it on your model.

Once located, carefully remove the air filter and inspect it for debris, dirt, or any signs of clogging. If you find the air filter visibly dirty or clogged, it’s time to clean it thoroughly.

For foam filters, wash them with warm soapy water before rinsing thoroughly and allowing them to air dry completely. Paper filters should be tapped gently against a hard surface to dislodge loose dirt particles. If they appear excessively dirty or damaged, it’s best to replace them entirely.

In either case, ensure the filter is completely dry before reinstalling it into your mower.

Keeping your air filter clean helps prevent starting issues and prolongs the life of your engine by ensuring optimal airflow and combustion. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to check your lawn mower’s air filter at least once per mowing season and clean or replace it as needed.

Faulty Fuel Pump

A faulty fuel pump can also be a reason your Murray lawn mower refuses to start.

The fuel pump’s primary function is to deliver fuel from the tank to the carburetor, ensuring a steady flow of gasoline for smooth engine performance. If the fuel pump is malfunctioning, it may fail to supply the necessary amount of fuel, preventing your mower from starting or causing it to run poorly.

Here are the steps you should follow to diagnose a faulty fuel pump:

  1. Locate the fuel pump on your mower.
  2. Carefully disconnect the fuel lines and remove the fuel pump.
  3. Inspect the pump for any signs of damage or wear.
  4. Perform a fuel pump pressure test using a pressure gauge to determine whether the pump is functioning correctly.

If your fuel pump is faulty or damaged, replacing it with a new one should resolve the issue. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use compatible replacement parts while performing this repair.

Remember that working with gasoline and other flammable substances can be hazardous, so always take appropriate safety precautions when diagnosing and repairing fuel system issues.

Plugged Fuel Filter

Another possible reason your Murray lawn mower won’t start is a plugged fuel filter. The fuel filter ensures that clean gasoline reaches your engine by trapping any debris or contaminants that may be present in the fuel. Eventually, this debris can accumulate and clog the filter, restricting fuel flow to your engine and preventing it from starting.

To check if a plugged fuel filter is causing your starting woes, locate the filter and carefully disconnect it from the fuel lines. Keep in mind that some gasoline may spill — it’s a good idea to have a container handy to catch any leaks. Inspect the filter for any visible signs of blockage or damage.

fuel plug

If the filter is dirty or clogged, you can try cleaning it using compressed air or gently tapping it on a hard surface to dislodge debris. That said, it’s generally recommended to replace a clogged fuel filter with a new one, as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find at your local hardware store or online.

When reinstalling the fuel filter, connect it properly to avoid any leaks or further issues.

Regularly inspecting and replacing your fuel filter as needed is an integral part of maintaining your Murray lawn mower. By doing so, you’ll not only help prevent starting issues but also ensure that your engine runs smoothly and efficiently for years to come.

Bad Spark Plug

A faulty spark plug can be another reason behind your Murray lawn mower’s starting troubles. The spark plug is responsible for igniting the fuel in your engine, and if it’s not functioning properly, combustion won’t occur, leaving your mower lifeless.

To inspect your spark plug, locate it on your mower (check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure where to find it), then remove it using a spark plug wrench.

With the spark plug removed, it’s time to examine it for signs of wear or damage that may be causing issues with your mower. Key indicators of a faulty spark plug include a burnt electrode or visible cracks in the insulator. Should you come across any such signs, it’s time to replace the spark plug with a new one.

Remember that even if there aren’t glaring issues with your current spark plug, it is still generally a good idea to replace them once per mowing season to ensure optimal performance and prevent future complications.

Moreover, while inspecting your spark plug, take note of its condition beyond just looking for physical damage. Keep an eye out for excessive soot buildup or oil deposits, as these can also hinder the performance of your lawn mower. Cleaning off these deposits with a wire brush may resolve minor ignition issues.

Clogged or Dirty Carburetor

Another common reason for a Murray lawn mower that won’t start is a clogged or dirty carburetor. The carburetor plays a crucial role in mixing the right amount of fuel and air to ensure efficient combustion in your engine. Dirt and debris can build up in it, restricting fuel flow and causing starting issues.

If you suspect your carburetor might be the problem, remove it from your mower. Then, carefully disassemble the carburetor and clean all its components using an appropriate carburetor cleaner. Be sure to remove any dirt, gum, or varnish that may have accumulated within the small passages and jets.

While cleaning, inspect the various parts for damage or wear, such as gaskets, seals, or diaphragms. If any of these appear damaged or worn out, they should be replaced before reassembling the carburetor.

Additionally, check the float needle and seat for proper function — if the needle is not seating correctly or if the float is damaged, it could cause flooding or fuel starvation issues.

After cleaning and inspecting your carburetor, reassemble and reinstall it on your mower. With a clean, properly functioning carburetor in place, you’ll likely find that your Murray lawn mower starts with ease and runs more smoothly than before.

Working with a carburetor involves dealing with tiny components and potentially hazardous chemicals. Because of that, always wear appropriate safety gear, such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area to minimize risks while handling these tasks.

Dead Battery (For Electric-Start Models)

If you have an electric-start Murray lawn mower, a dead or weak battery could be the culprit preventing your mower from starting.

Like all batteries, lawn mower batteries can lose their charge over time, especially if they’ve been sitting idle for extended periods. Plus, even the most reliable batteries have a limited lifespan and can eventually go bad.

To determine if your battery is the root of the problem, you’ll need to test its voltage using a multimeter. A fully charged lawn mower battery should have a voltage of around 12 volts. If your multimeter reading comes in at less than 12 volts, your battery needs recharging.


Before attempting to recharge your battery, check the terminals for any signs of corrosion or loose connections. Clean any corrosion and tighten any loose connections before proceeding.

Next, use a battery charger specifically designed for lawn mower batteries to recharge it. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines for charging time and amperage is essential to avoid damaging the battery.

After allowing the battery to recharge, use your multimeter again to check its voltage. If it still reads below 12 volts or the battery is over two years old and has shown signs of declining performance, it may be time to replace it with a new one.

When shopping for a new battery, make sure to choose one that is compatible with your specific Murray lawn mower model.

Bad Ignition Switch

Another reason your Murray lawn mower may not be starting is a bad ignition switch. This crucial piece serves as the gateway for the flow of electricity from the battery to your mower’s engine, allowing it to start when you turn the key or flip the switch.

If the ignition switch is faulty, it can prevent power from reaching the engine, leaving you with a non-starting mower.

To diagnose a bad ignition switch, check for any loose or corroded connections between the switch and the battery. If everything seems to be in good shape, you can use a multimeter to test the continuity of the ignition switch itself.

First, disconnect the wiring harness from the back of the switch and set your multimeter to measure resistance (ohms). Place the probes on the appropriate terminals and turn the key or flip the switch to the “on” position. If there is no continuity, you likely have a faulty ignition switch that needs replacing.

Replacing an ignition switch requires some basic tools and a bit of mechanical know-how. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on replacing the ignition switch on your particular Murray lawn mower model.

Damaged Starter Rope or Recoil Mechanism

Finally, if you have a pull-start Murray lawn mower, a damaged starter rope or faulty recoil mechanism might prevent your machine from starting. Both of these components can suffer from wear and tear — the rope can fray or snap, while the recoil mechanism’s springs can weaken or break.

To fix this issue, carefully examine the rope for any signs of damage. If you find fraying or other wear that could impede its proper function, it’s best to replace it as soon as possible.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, check the recoil mechanism. A malfunctioning recoil mechanism may prevent sufficient tension from being applied to the starter rope, leading to a failure to engage the engine properly.

To inspect the recoil mechanism, you’ll need to remove its housing and carefully examine each component. Pay particular attention to the springs, which can lose their elasticity or even snap under stress. If you discover any broken or worn-out parts within the recoil mechanism, repair or replace them as needed.

The Bottom Line

A Murray lawn mower that refuses to start can be frustrating. Nevertheless, with some patience and basic troubleshooting knowledge, you can often identify and fix the issue yourself.

By checking the common culprits mentioned above, you’ll be well on your way to getting your mower back in action and your lawn looking great again.

Lawn mowers are complex machines made up of numerous components that work together seamlessly when functioning correctly. Regardless, even minor issues with one part can lead to more significant problems if left unaddressed.

So, by staying vigilant and tackling any issues as soon as they arise, you can keep your mower in peak condition and avoid unnecessary headaches down the road.

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