You go to start your lawn mower, but all you hear is click…click…click. Your mower just won’t turn over and start. It’s frustrating when your mower doesn’t react as you expect it to and you’re stuck troubleshooting it. Use this guide as a tool to help you identify the cause of your starting problem.
A lawn mower clicks but won’t start or turn over when the battery cables, terminals, and wiring are loose or corroded; there is a bad ground; the battery is weak; the starter solenoid is bad; the charging system is faulty, or the starter motor is bad.
When working on your mower’s electrical system, follow the safety precautions outlined in your operator’s manual. This includes wearing gloves and eye protection.
Reminder: Always disconnect the negative cable (black) from the battery before making any repairs to the electrical system.
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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.
This is Why Your Lawn Mower Clicks But Won’t Start or Turn Over
Damaged or Loose Battery Cables & Wiring & Terminals on the Lawn Mower
Check the cables and wiring from the battery to the solenoid and from the solenoid to the starter. Ensure they are in good condition and making good connections.
Inspect the terminals to make sure they are free of corrosion and securely attached. These items need to have excellent conductivity and connections.
SOLUTION: Remove any corrosion found on the wires. If you find that the cables keep coming loose or they are broken, they must be replaced. Bad cables can contribute to a bad battery and starting issues.
Remove any corrosion on the terminals. Disconnect the battery from the mower and clean them. A wire brush and a baking soda mix consisting of 2 cups of water and 3 heaping tablespoons of baking soda work well. Repair or replace any wiring that has signs of corrosion.
Add a dielectric grease to protect terminals and wiring from corrosion. Replace terminals when they are damaged or in bad condition.
Bad Ground on the Lawn Mower
Check the black cable from the battery to the frame of the lawn mower. Check the ground from the solenoid. (A 3-post solenoid is self-grounded). Remove any corrosion you find and make sure it’s making good contact.
SOLUTION: Replace a damaged cable coming from the battery to the frame. Remove any corrosion found for the grounds from the battery and the starter solenoid.
Bad or Weak Battery on the Lawn Mower
A weak battery or one that won’t hold a charge won’t provide enough power for your lawn mower to start. It will just click and not turn over or start.
Check the voltage of a lawn mower battery
Use a multimeter’s red and black prongs and touch them to the corresponding colors of terminals on the lawn mower battery. The most common type of riding lawn mower and zero-turn lawn mower batteries have a voltage of 12 volts.
You may get a voltage reading between 11.5 and 12.7. A reading of 11.5V indicates a battery that is almost dead while a 12.7V reading indicates a fully charged battery.
Charge a lawn mower battery
- Put on your safety gear so your eyes and skin are protected from acid or electrical shock.
- Get access to the battery and its terminals. You may need the screwdriver to uncover the lawn mower’s body to get access to the battery or battery casing.
- Leave the battery in its casing with the terminal cables attached.
- Connect the charging cables starting with the red cable first (The one with the positive sign on it)
- The red cable clamp goes onto the positive terminal, and the black cable clamp goes on the negative battery terminal.
- Make sure that your skin only touches the rubber coating of the charging cables and clamps.
- Set the charger’s voltage level and amp level to the desired level. The average volt level for lawn mowers is usually 12 volts. More amperage charges the battery faster (Start with two amps and work up to no more than 10 amps).
- If your charger has a battery charging gauge, keep the charger connected until the battery is fully charged.
SOLUTION: When the battery is weak, use a battery charger to charge it. If you find the battery will no longer hold a charge, it’s time to replace it with a new one.
A battery that dies and is able to be charged may indicate you have a problem with the mower’s charging system. See information about the charging system below.
Bad Starter Solenoid on the Lawn Mower
When your mower keeps clicking, a likely cause is a bad lawn mower starter solenoid. The solenoid acts like an on-off switch. It is an electromagnet switch that is actuated to engage the starter motor so the engine will turn over.
Most starter solenoids are mounted on the starter. However, they do not have to be to still work. Follow the positive wire from the battery to find the solenoid.
There are many reasons why a starter solenoid can go bad. The internal spring can become weak or the copper plate can start to corrode. A bad ground, weak starter, or bad battery can also result in the starter solenoid failing.
SOLUTION: Test your starter solenoid. You’ll need a volt-ohms meter, screwdriver, continuity light, and some wrenches. Follow the instructions found in “How to Tell Your Lawn Mower Solenoid is Bad“. If you are able to start your mower by bypassing the solenoid, it must be replaced.
Bad Starter Motor on the Lawn Mower
If you’ve checked the battery, cables, wiring, ground, and starter solenoid only to find them in good condition, but still have a starting problem, your starter may be the problem. The starter can be removed and tested.
SOLUTION: A starter can be a pricey item on a lawn mower. I advise having your local dealership confirm you have a starter motor problem.
You can also bring the starter to a local repair shop that specializes in starter and alternator repairs. The personnel at the repair shop can test the starter and oftentimes rebuild it if necessary.
Bad Lawn Mower Charging System Drains the Battery
A bad charging system will not keep your battery charged and in turn cause a weak battery to not start your mower. Depending on the size of your lawn mower, it may have an external alternator like the one you find on a car.
It may also have an internal one located under the flywheel. Most lawn mowers will have an internal alternator.
Perform the steps provided here to check the charging system using a volt-ohms meter.
If you find your lawn mower is no longer charging the battery, I recommend having a mechanic familiar with your charging system perform further tests and necessary repairs. Troubleshooting the exact cause of a charging system can be quite difficult.
If you’re not familiar with the charging system, you will probably just end up throwing parts at your mower. This can get very expensive, especially since if you get it wrong, you can’t return an electrical part. You could be looking at a bad stator/alternator, regulator, or other electrical problem.
Still Having Problems with Your Lawn Mower?
Lawn mower ownership doesn’t come without its frustrations. Own a lawn mower long enough, you are bound to run into many lawn mower problems including starting, smoking, leaking, cutting, and overheating.
For a list of the most common lawn mower problems and items that can cause them, check out my guide “Common Lawn Mower Problems: Solved!“