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8 Common Craftsman Lawn Mower Problems

When buying your lawn mower, you understand you’re eventually going to run into a problem. You bought a Craftsman over a lessor known brand hoping it will be less problematic because of the reputation Craftsman has in the equipment and tool industry.

This may hold true. However, every mechanical piece of equipment will eventually develop problems as parts wear due to age.

I have put together a list of some of the most common Craftsman lawn mowers and what items you should look at when experiencing these issues.

You will also find a link to my articles that explain the issues in more detail. I hope this helps narrow down your problems so you are able to identify and fix your Craftsman mower problem.

Craftsman Lawn Mower Problems

The most common problems in a Craftsman lawn mower are:

  • Craftsman fails to start
  • Loss of power or the mower dies while mowing
  • Craftsman begins smoking
  • Craftsman has a weak hydrostatic transmission
  • Craftsman won’t drive straight or steer correctly
  • Craftsman won’t move
  • Craftsman is vibrating
  • Craftsman is providing a bad or uneven cut

A lot of the problems with your Craftsman lawn mower can be fixed with a few tools and a little effort. There are some items that should be left for a professional mechanic so you don’t cause damage to yourself or your mower.

Common Craftsman lawn mower problems

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

Craftsman Mower Problem 1: Mower Won’t Start

A Craftsman lawn mower may fail to start because of a bad battery or charging system; faulty electrical components; and air and fuel restrictions. These restrictions can be due to plugged filters, dirty carburetor, clogged fuel lines, and a bad fuel pump.

Detailed information can be found at:
Reasons a Craftsman Mower Won’t Start: The Complete List

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
No gas in the fuel tankFuel tank is EmptyFill with fresh fuel
Bad or old fuelFuel breaks down overtime making your fuel less efficient and prone to clogging the fuel systemDrain the fuel tank and fill it with fresh fuel. Use a fuel additive like Sea Foam to stabilize the fuel and assist with cleaning the fuel system. Use the right fuel.
Faulty or clogged fuel capThe vent in the cap can get clogged causing your tank to form a vacuum restricting fuel flowUse a thin piece of wire to try to clear the clogged vent. Replace the cap if needed.
Bad spark plugExcessively dirty or broken spark plug; bad connection; not gapped correctlyReplace with a new spark plug, secure connections, and ensure it is gapped to manufacturer specifications
Plugged air filterDirt and grass can plug the air filter preventing airflowRemove the filter and clean it. Replace the filter if it is in bad condition.
Plugged fuel filterA dirty fuel filter will restrict fuel flowReplace the fuel filter
Bad fuel pumpA failed or leaking fuel pump will no longer create the pressure needed to pump fuelReplace the fuel pump
Blocked fuel linesBad fuel deposits and dirt can build up and clog the fuel lines preventing the engine from getting the required fuelUse a carb cleaner and compressed air to clear the clog out of the fuel line. Replace the line if necessary.
Dirty carburetorThe carburetor can become dirty and clogged due to bad fuel and ethanol deposits preventing fuel flowClean all of the components making up the carburetor. Replace if needed.
Bad battery or loose & dirty terminalsA dead battery, loose cables, or corroded terminals can cause starting problemsCharge your battery and replace it if it won’t hold a charge. Make sure your cables are tight and clean the corrosion from terminals.
Bad safety switchSafety switches are a safety measure that exists to prevent your mower from starting in certain situations. When a switch fails, your mower may not start.Test and replace faulty safety switch
Bad ignition switch or coilYour mower will not start when either the ignition switch or coil is badTest and replace a bad switch
Broken recoilA pull start mower may have a damaged or broken recoil preventing the recoil to initiate starting your engineCheck the recoil to see if it can be restrung or broken parts, like the pulley, can be replaced. Replace the recoil assembly if needed.
Reasons a Craftsman Lawn Mower Won’t Start

Craftsman Mower Problem 2: Mower Loses Power or Dies While Mowing

A Craftsman lawn mower may lose power or die while in the middle of mowing because of an air or fuel restriction. A clogged fuel filter plugged air filter and a dirty carburetor are the most common reasons why your mower may encounter a loss of power.

Detailed information can be found at:
Why Your Craftsman Lawn Mower Dies & How to Fix

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Bad fuelFuel breaks down overtime making your fuel less efficient and prone to clogging the fuel system and engine damageDrain the fuel tank and fill it with fresh fuel. Use a fuel additive like Sea Foam to stabilize the fuel and assist with cleaning the fuel system
Plugged air filterDirt and grass can plug the air filter preventing airflowRemove the filter and clean it. Replace the filter if it is in bad condition.
Dirty or broken cooling finsCooling fins get packed with dirt, oil, and grass not allowing air to effectively cool the engine blockReplace broken fins and clean the cooling fins.
Clogged fuel linesBad fuel deposits and dirt can build up and clog the fuel lines preventing the engine from getting the required fuel.Use a carb cleaner and compressed air to clear the clog out of the fuel line
Dirty carburetorThe carburetor can become dirty and clogged due to bad fuel and ethanol deposits preventing fuel flowClean all of the components making up the carburetor. Replace if needed.
Reasons a Craftsman Mower Starts Then Dies

Craftsman Mower Problem 3: Lawn Mower is Smoking

A Craftsman lawn mower usually begins smoking because of oil from the engine beginning to burn.

This happens when oil is pushed into the compression cylinder or oil is leaking out of the engine onto the hot muffler. Another reason why a lawn mower may smoke is due to water in your fuel system.

Detailed information can be found at:
Why Your Craftsman Lawn Mower is Smoking

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Plugged air filterDirt and grass can plug the air filter preventing airflowRemove the filter and clean it. Replace the filter if it is in bad condition.
Too much oil in the crankcaseExcessive oil can cause pressure to build in the engine allowing oil to get into the cylinder through the valve trainDrain a little engine oil until it is at the manufacturer’s recommended oil level.
Low engine oil levelLack of oil can increase friction in your engine causing extreme heat in the engineBring to a small engine repair shop to inspect engine damage. You can try adding oil, but it is often too late to this fix your engine problem.
Internal problems including the piston ring, valve train, or engine gasketInternal engine problems can have a detrimental effect on your mower if they are not caught soon enough and fixed.Bring your Craftsman to your local small engine repair shop for troubleshooting
Reasons a Craftsman Mower is Smoking

Craftsman Mower Problem 4: Weak Hydrostatic Transmission

Craftsman mowers that utilize a hydrostatic transmission may experience a weak transmission when the hydraulic is old or low in capacity. It can also feel weak when the drive belt or tensioner pulley is worn or broken.

Most Craftsman zero-turn mowers utilize a sealed transmission system where the owner is unable to service the hydros. Your lawn mower must be brought to a Craftsman service center for any transmission problems.

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Bad drive beltA bad drive belt can cause your pump not to work efficientlyReplace a frayed, cracked, or worn belt
Bad tensioner pulleyWhen a tensioner pulley fails, it fails to keep tension on the drive beltReplace the pulley and grease the tensioner arm
Transmission ProblemsMost Craftsman zero turns have sealed transmission systems so they are unserviceable.Bring your zero-turn to your local Craftsman service shop to be repaired.
Reasons a Craftsman Mower has a Weak Hydrostatic Transmission

Craftsman Mower Problem 5: Mower Won’t Drive Straight or Steer Correctly

Several items can affect your Craftsman mower’s steering including incorrect tire pressures, bad dampers, and worn steering components. The tracking may be off on Craftsman zero turns causing the mower to veer off to the right or left.

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Incorrect tire pressureUnequal tire pressure can cause your mower to pull to one side.Check tire pressures and keep them filled to the manufacturer’s spec. Tires on each side of your mower require equal pressure.
Bad dampers on zero turnBad dampers will cause your mower to jerk to one side when moving forwardReplace with a new damper
Tracking adjustment needed on zero turnWhen one tire is moving faster than the other, your mower can pull to one sideAdjust the speed adjustment bolt to change the rotation speed of the tire. Refer to your owner’s manual.
Worn or loose steering components in riding mowerWorn bushings, washers, and gears can cause your mower to not steer one way or the otherInspect and replace the parts that failed on your steering system
Reasons a Craftsman Mower Won’t Drive Straight or Steer Correctly

Craftsman Mower Problem 6: Lawn Mower Won’t Move

A Craftsman mower may not move due to a bad or missing drive belt, worn tensioner pulley, or missing idler spring. The key may also be missing in the axle of a Craftsman riding mower and the drive release lever in the wrong position on a Craftsman zero turn.

Detailed information can be found at:
9 Reasons Your Mower Won’t Move or Go Forward

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Drive release lever in the wrong positionThe drive release lever allows hydrostatic mowers to roll freelyThe drive release lever must be in the operating position.
Missing key in the axleYour riding mower may have a small key in the axle that may have fallen out of placeReplace the key in the axle
Drive pump belt is wornThe mower won’t move if your drive belt has fallen off. It could also not move if the belt is worn.Replace a worn or cracked belt. Make sure the belt is securely around the pulleys.
Bad tensioner pulleyThe bearing in the tensioner pulley can failReplace the tensioner pulley
Missing idler arm springIf the idler arm spring breaks or goes missing, it can no longer place tension on the drive beltReplace the broken or missing spring
Transmission ProblemsMost Craftsman zero turns have sealed transmission systems so they are unserviceable.Bring your zero-turn to your local Craftsman service shop to be repaired.
Hot hydraulic fluidHot hydraulic fluid can be a sign of damage to your hydrostatic transmission systemLet your hydraulic oil cool. If you find your mower runs fine when it is cold, but becomes weak when the hydraulic system gets hot, have your mower checked at your local Craftsman dealership.
Reasons a Craftsman Lawn Mower Won’t Move or Go Forward

Craftsman Mower Problem 7: Mower is Vibrating

A Craftsman lawn mower may begin vibrating from loose, failing, or damaged parts and components including bearings and mower blades. Debris lodged under the pulleys in your mower deck can also send a vibration through your mower.

Detailed information can be found at:
Craftsman Lawn Mower Vibration

CauseReason for ProblemSolution
Loose or missing engine mounting boltsEngine bolts are used to reduce the vibration of the mower when the engine is runningSecure engine bolts and replace any missing bolts
Failing clutchWhen there is bearing failure and it falls out of the clutch it can cause vibration. A manual engagement clutch can have a bushing and linkages that can fail.Replace the clutch
Unbalanced or damaged mower bladesBlades must be balanced before installing them on the mower. Vibration can be caused by unbalanced or damaged blades.Replace any damaged blades and make sure they are balanced.
Foreign material wrapped around the blade shaftForeign materials like string or long weeds can get wrapped around your blade shaft causing vibrationRemove all debris and items wrapped around the blade shaft. Check for spindle damage.
Bad spindle housing bearingsConfirm vibration is not coming from bad bearings in the spindle housingReplace the bearing in the spindle housing or replace the whole spindle housing assembly
Bad deck belt or pulleysCheck deck belt and pulleys for wear and bearing failureReplace any damaged or worn belts and pulleys
Debris lodged in mowerStones, acorns, woodchips, and other small items can get lodged in the mower under the pulleys or other items on your mower. Sometimes this causes your mower to shake.Check over your mower deck and mower for any place small items can be stuck in your mower. Remove these foreign materials.
Reasons a Craftsman Mower is Vibrating

Craftsman Mower Problem 8: Mower Has a Bad or Uneven Cut

Your Craftsman mower deck can give you an uneven cut when the deck shell, blades, and spindle shafts are damaged. Not running your mower at full throttle or moving your mower too fast can also affect your lawn mower cut.

Detailed information can be found at:
Why Your Craftsman Lawn Mower Cuts Uneven

Dull or worn mower bladeTire pressures unevenEngine speed is too low
Bent mower bladeMower deck is not levelGround speed is too fast
Blade installed wrongBlade spindle is bentDeck is damaged
Deck is plugged with dirtBade mower deck belt or pulleysOperator error
Reasons a Craftsman Lawn Mower Cuts Uneven

In Summary

While these are many of the most common problems for Craftsman lawn mowers and most other lawn mowers, there are additional problems that can occur such as a fuel leak or a belt breaking.

With so many items that can wear or become damaged. It’s important you perform periodic checks before each mowing and regular service maintenance once or twice a year.