Purchasing a Hustler mower is an investment you made to take care of your home’s exterior. These are very good mowers with engines from top manufacturers like Kawasaki, Kohler and Briggs & Stratton.
No matter the brand of mower and engine, every mower is bound to have starting problems sometime during its lifespan.
A Hustler lawn mower won’t start when the engine doesn’t get the air, fuel, and spark required.
This may be due to a plugged air filter, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, bad fuel pump, plugged fuel filter, bad spark plug, faulty switch, bad battery, or loose cables.
Keep reading for additional items that may be keeping your Hustler from starting. Take all safety precautions outlined in your operators before performing repairs.
This includes removing the ignition key, setting the parking brake, and removing the spark plug wire.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before 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.
This is Why Your Hustler Lawn Mower Won’t Start
Empty Fuel Tank
I’ve been stuck in the middle of my lawn with a lawn mower that won’t start before because I forgot to check the fuel level before I started mowing.
Everyone knows a gas-powered Hustler lawn mower requires gas to start, but sometimes this simple thing can get overlooked.
Solution: Add fresh fuel to your fuel tank. Check for fuel leaks on your Hustler lawn mower and repair them as needed.
Type of Gas to Use
Not only do you need gas to run the mower, but you need to select the right gas and ensure it is consumed while it is still fresh.
A Hustler lawn mower requires gasoline with a minimum 87-octane rating and a maximum 10% ethanol content. This gas is typically sold as “Regular” gas or “E10” gas at most fuel stations. Stay away from gas that has a higher ethanol content than this.
Use Fresh Fuel
Gas doesn’t have a long shelf life. It can begin breaking down as soon as 30 days after it is purchased. Ethanol, found in most types of gasoline, attracts moisture from the air to the fuel system.
The water and ethanol mixture will form varnish and gummy deposits that may clog the fuel system and damage fuel components. This can result in a Hustler mower not starting because the engine isn’t getting the fuel it requires to form combustion.
Solution: When you find old gas in the tank, drain the fuel using a fuel siphon pump into an approved gas container. In another container, mix fresh gasoline with a fuel additive to stabilize your fuel and clean the fuel system like Sea Foam Motor Treatment or STA-BIL.
Read more about why I choose to add Sea Foam to every tank of fuel to minimize fuel system problems that come with running old fuel.
Plugged Air Filter
An air filter is used on a Hustler mower to ensure the engine receives clean air that is free of dirt and debris. Without an air filter, dirt will cause wear on the engine and permanent damage.
Because of the dusty conditions created when you mow, a Hustler’s air filter will become dirty. A buildup of dirt can eventually restrict the amount of air that is able to pass through the filter.
This lack of air will prevent your mower from starting and continuing to run. To avoid this problem, check the air filter prior to operating your mower. This only takes a minute or two.
When it is a little dirty, remove the filter and clean it. If there is a significant buildup of dirt, replace the filter with a new one.
In addition to checking and cleaning the filter regularly, I recommend starting each season out with a new filter when performing full maintenance on your Hustler.
Solution: Inspect the air filter to see if it is the cause of your mower not starting. Replace a filter that is extremely dirty or damaged. Follow the instructions below to clean your air filter.
Clean a Hustler lawn mower paper air filter:
- Remove your paper air filter from the air filter housing.
- Wipe out any remaining dirt in the housing being careful not to allow dirt to fall into the air intake.
- Tap your air filter against a solid surface to loosen dirt and remove it from the filter. Do not use compressed air to clean the filter as this can damage the paper element.
- Hold your clean filter up to a light source. If you can see light shine through the paper element, it is safe to reuse it. If you don’t see light or find it is damaged, you must replace your old filter with a new one.
- Install the cleaned or new air filter and attach the air filter housing cover.
For directions to clean other types of air filters, refer to “Guide to Lawn Mower Air Filters“.
Bad Spark Plug or Loose Connection
A loose, dirty, or damaged spark plug can keep your Hustler from starting. Without a good spark plug, you’ll be missing one of the three main requirements to form a combustion – spark.
Solutions: Remove the spark plug(s) and inspect it for dirt and carbon buildup, a burnt electrode, cracked porcelain, or an incorrect electrode gap. Any of these items can cause a spark plug to fail.
If the plug appears to be in good condition but is just a little dirty, clean it with a wire brush. Check the electrode gap and make sure it’s gapped according to the engine manufacturer’s specifications.
You must replace the spark plug(s) if you find it’s dark in color or damaged. Once you have a good spark plug, reinstall it and securely attach the spark plug wire.
(Don’t attach the spark plug wire if you still have additional repairs to perform on the mower).
Plugged Fuel Filter
The fuel filter is placed on a Hustler mower to screen the gas coming out of the fuel tank to prevent dirt and other items from flowing through the fuel lines and contaminating the carburetor and engine.
When the filter isn’t regularly checked and replaced, it can become plugged with dirt. A good flow of fuel will not pass through the filter.
It’s good practice to replace the fuel filter annually. You may have to change it more often when running dirty fuel or you are using your Hustler for commercial purposes.
Solution: Replace a filter that is plugged or damaged. When installing an inline fuel filter on your Hustler mower, pay attention to the arrow on the filter. The filter must be installed with this arrow pointed in the direction of the mower’s fuel flow.
Bad Fuel Pump
A fuel pump is used to pump gas from the fuel tank to the carburetor. When the pump is no longer able to draw fuel from the fuel tank using the vacuum in the crankcase, it must be replaced.
Sometimes you can visibly recognize damage. The housing may have a small crack or fuel may be leaking from the seams when a pump is bad.
Other times you will have to test fuel flow to determine if the fault of your Hustler lawn mower’s starting problem is the due to a bad fuel pump.
Solution: To identify you have a bad vacuum fuel pump, first verify you are getting fuel flow to the fuel pump by checking for fuel out of the line connected to the inlet port on the pump.
Once you confirm you are getting fuel to the pump, you will proceed with testing the pump to make sure a steady or pulsating flow of gas is being pumped out of your fuel pump.
Use the fuel shut-off valve or fuel clamps to start and stop the flow while checking the flow. You can also use hose pinch-off pliers to crimp the line to stop the flow. With the fuel flow stopped, remove the fuel line from the carburetor and place it in a container.
Start your fuel flow and start your mower. Watch for a steady or pulsating flow out of the line into the container. If you aren’t getting sufficient fuel flow, your fuel pump may be damaged and will need to be replaced.
Clogged Fuel Line
Running old fuel can cause deposits to stick to your fuel lines restricting the amount of fuel that is able to flow through the lines. Without a sufficient source of fuel, your Hustler mower won’t start.
Check for a blockage in your fuel line by stopping your fuel flow, and removing the end of the hose from a section of the fuel line furthest from the fuel tank. Place the hose in a container and start the fuel flow.
Make sure the container is placed lower than the fuel tank. Fuel cannot run uphill without the help of a fuel pump. If you are not getting sufficient flow, you will need to remove the line and remove the restriction.
Solution: Remove the fuel line from the mower and spray carburetor cleaner into the line. This is used to loosen up the clog.
Next, use compressed air to blow air through the line until the blockages are removed. If you are unable to clear the clog or you notice your fuel line is beginning to crack, you will need to replace the fuel line.
Your carburetor can become dirty from running old fuel through your lawn mower. Fuel can leave varnish in your Hustler mower carburetor. This can plug the fuel jet or cause the small parts in your carburetor to stick and not function properly.
A carburetor’s main job is to regulate the amount of fuel is mixed with air to form a combustion in your engine’s cylinder.
Solution: If you are a little mechanical you should be able to handle cleaning your carburetor. Clean the carburetor by taking it apart and using carburetor cleaner to clean the carburetor including the float bowl and needle.
You can find steps for cleaning your carburetor here. If your carburetor is too dirty to clean adequately, you should replace it.
Bad Battery, Loose Cables, or Corroded Terminals
A Hustler mower will not start with a bad battery, loose cables, or corroded terminals. Loose cables or a bad connection are often the problems with a mower not starting. This is due to the cables coming loose from the bouncing and vibration of the mower.
Solution: Confirm your battery terminals are not corroded and are attached securely to the battery. Clean corroded terminals in a baking soda solution containing 2 cups of water and 3 rounded tablespoons of baking soda. Use a wire brush to scrub the terminals clean.
Test your battery with a multimeter. You will want a reading at about 12.7 volts. Place on a charger to charge your battery if your reading is less than this.
Read more about the steps and items needed to charge your battery here. If your battery does not hold a charge, you will need to replace it with a new battery.
Bad Safety Switch
Your lawn mower may use several safety switches designed to keep the operator safe including the seat switch, brake switch, and clutch switch. Hustler installs safety switches to keep you safe. When a switch fails, the mower may not start.
Solution: Test the switch using a multimeter or you can temporarily bypass the safety switch to identify a bad switch.
Do not operate a mower without the safety switch. Never run a mower when a safety switch is bypassed. You never know when you will encounter a situation where the safety switch can save you from serious injury.
Bad Ignition Switch
You insert the key into your ignition switch and turn it only to find your Hustler mower doesn’t start or even turn over. The ignition switch could be the problem.
Solution: You can use a multimeter to test the ignition switch. Replace a bad switch
Bad Starter Solenoid
A starter solenoid is an electromagnetic switch that is like an on-off switch that actuates the starter motor to turn over the engine.
A click or hum when turning your ignition key is an indication to check your solenoid. Another indication your Hustler mower solenoid may be bad is when a wire attached to your solenoid gets hot and begins to smoke or melt.
Repair: Test your Hustler mower solenoid by following the steps here. Replace your solenoid if it is found to be bad.
Incorrect Operating Procedure Will Cause a Hustler Mower Not to Start
There are certain starting procedures that must take place in order to start your Hustler mower. This includes setting the parking brake and placing your steering levers in the open/outward position.
(On some models, the levers moved to the outward position will also engage the brake).
Make sure your clutch is not engaged. If you don’t have any of these items in the right position, your Hustler mower will not start.
Another item that can prevent your mower from starting when not in the correct position is the choke control lever. The choke lever must be in the on position to start a cold engine.
The choke restricts the amount of air that is allowed to be mixed with fuel to form combustion.
It allows a higher concentration of gas needed to start a cold engine. Once your engine starts and warms up, you will begin to move the choke lever to the off position.
If you don’t adjust the choke to the off position once the engine has warmed, you will find the engine will run sluggish and die.
Solution: Refer to your Hustler mower operator’s manual for starting procedures for your model mower as it can differ. Ensure you are starting your lawn mower correctly so you don’t set off the safety features that shut off your lawn mower.
Your Hustler lawn mower uses fuses to protect your mower’s electrical system. The fuses are typically located under the seat platform.
Solution: Replace a blown fuse. Use a fuse with the same amperage as the fuse you are replacing. If you continue to blow fuses, you should bring your Hustler mower to your local repair shop or your local Hustler mower dealership to troubleshoot the root cause of the electrical failure.
Bad Fuel Cap
Check the fuel cap when your Hustler mower won’t start. The cap is designed with a vent to allow air to pass through the cap to equalize the pressure in the fuel tank.
When the vent is plugged, the fuel tank will form a vacuum keeping fuel from leaving the tank and getting to the engine.
To find out if your gas cap is broken and no longer venting, troubleshoot it by removing the cap and starting your lawn mower.
If it starts with the cap removed allowing air to enter the fuel, reinstall the fuel cap. Allow it to continue to run with the potential bad cap to see if the engine will eventually run sluggish and die because of a lack of fuel.
If it does die and starts up again once after you remove the fuel cap again, you most likely have a bad fuel cap.
Solution: Replace a bad fuel cap with a new one.