You finally get some time in your schedule to get your lawn mowing done. You go out to your mower and start it. Nothing happens. Finding a Murray mower’s starting problem can be frustrating.
Especially when you don’t have a lot of time and just need to get it running as quickly as possible before your lawn becomes unmanageable.
A Murray lawn mower won’t start when the fuel tank is empty; old fuel is clogging the fuel components; the spark plug is bad; the air filter is plugged; the battery is bad; the charging system is failing; the carburetor is dirty, or a switch is bad.
Keep reading for additional items that will cause your Murray lawn mower to not start. Follow all safety precautions in your Murray operator’s manual to avoid injury.
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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.
Reasons Your Murray Mower Won’t Start
Fuel Tank is Empty
Murray lawn mowers require gas to run. I’m sure you already know this. I only mention it because, in the heat of the moment when you’re frustrated because your mower won’t start, you can easily forget to check for this simple requirement.
If you feel like you are going through more gasoline than normal, check the fuel system for a fuel leak. This includes leaking from the tank, fuel lines, fuel filter, carburetor and also the fuel pump if your mower uses one.
Repair: Add fresh fuel to a fuel tank low on fuel. Check for fuel leaks on your Murray lawn mower and perform necessary repairs.
Old gasoline can have bad effects on your Murray lawn mower. Most types of gasoline contain ethanol. This is a corn-based fuel that is added to gasoline to make it a more environmentally-friendly product.
While gasoline with ethanol is okay to use in most vehicles, it can cause problems for the small engines used on a Murray mower.
Ethanol naturally attracts moisture from the air. This moisture and ethanol mixture will cause fuel restrictions when it evaporates and leaves behind gummy sticky substances. It can also corrode the fuel system and degrade fuel components.
Gasoline can begin breaking down and becoming less effective as soon as 30 days after purchase. Because of this, always use fresh fuel in your mower and consume it within 30 days, or stabilize it with a fuel additive so it lasts a little longer.
Use a gas that contains no more than 10% ethanol. Read more about the right gas and the effects of ethanol here.
Repair: Drain the fuel tank using a fuel siphon. Add fresh fuel with a fuel additive to stabilize your fuel and clean your fuel system like Sea Foam Motor Treatment. You can find out more about its benefits here.
Murray Mower Fuel Cap
A Murray lawn mower uses a fuel cap that allows air to pass through the cap to equalize air pressure so fuel will flow through the fuel system. When the vent in the cap becomes plugged, vacuum forms in the fuel tank that keeps fuel from flowing out of the tank so the mower won’t start.
Isolate whether or not you have a problem with your fuel cap by starting and allowing your mower to run with and without the cap.
If your mower starts and runs without the fuel cap in place, but eventually dies with the cap in place, you may have a fuel cap problem. Do not allow any debris to get into the tank while your fuel cap is removed.
Repair: I prefer to replace the gas cap when I run into a bad cap. You can attempt to clean it. If you are unable to remove the clog, it’s best to purchase and install a new gas cap.
Bad Spark Plug or Loose Connection
The spark plug can become dirty with carbon buildup and oil. When this happens, the spark plug will misfire keeping your Murray mower from starting. Loose spark plug wires or an incorrectly gapped spark plug will also cause a starting problem.
Repair: Remove your spark plug and inspect it for signs of carbon buildup, a cracked porcelain insulator, or a burnt electrode. Replace with a new spark plug(s) if you find any of these conditions present.
Make sure the plug is correctly gapped according to the specification provided by the engine manufacturer.
As an alternative, you can attempt to clean the dirty tips with a wire brush, but I recommend replacing them. They are the least expensive maintenance item on your mower and should be replaced annually.
Clogged Air Filter
The air filter is necessary to protect your engine from dirt and debris. Contaminating the engine can result in significant damage and a large repair bill. Never run your Murray lawn mower without an air filter, even for a short time.
It’s good practice to start each mowing season with a new air filter. Your air filter maintenance doesn’t stop there.
You must check and clean the air filter several times throughout the mowing season to keep it from being plugged. A plugged filter, restricting airflow, will cause your lawn mower to not start.
Repair: Inspect your air filter to see if it needs to be replaced or if you can clean and reuse it. Follow these instructions for cleaning your type of air filter:
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, you must replace your old filter with a new one.
Foam Air Filter
- Remove the foam filter from the air filter housing.
- Wipe out any dirt that remains in the housing. Don’t let any dirt fall into the air intake.
- Inspect the air filter to see if it can be reused. If you find dark spots or the filter is dry and brittle, replace it with a new filter.
- Proceed with cleaning a foam filter if it is still in good condition. Use mild dish soap and water to remove dirt and any oil found on the filter. Rinse the filter until the water runs clear and all soap is out of the filter.
- Lay the filter flat and allow it to dry. Placing it out in the sun will speed up the drying process.
- Once the filter is completely dry, or if you are using a new foam filter, lightly saturate the filter with clean engine oil. You want the filter to be completely covered in oil, but you don’t want it dripping with oil. (Too much oil will cause smoking when oil is pulled into the engine to burn off).
- Install the air filter and reattach the housing cover.
Fuel Pump is Bad
A fuel pump is required when the carburetor sits above the fuel tank. If you have a push mower, you most likely won’t have a fuel pump installed. A fuel pump is used to get fuel to the carburetor.
When the pump is no longer able to build pressure 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 Murray mower starting problem is due to a bad fuel pump.
Repair: To identify you have a bad 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 to test fuel flow. You can also use hose pinch 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 the 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.
Plugged Fuel Filter
The fuel filter is designed to prevent dirt and debris from entering the fuel system. If the filter is plugged or cracked keeping fuel from passing through the filter, it must be replaced.
Repair: Install a new fuel filter with the arrow on the side of the filter pointing in the direction of your Murray mower’s fuel flow. The arrow should point toward the carburetor and away from the fuel tank.
Blockage in the Fuel Line
Old fuel sitting in your machine can develop gummy deposits that can block the fuel line. To identify a clog in the fuel line, you will need to start and stop fuel flow while you check each section of the fuel line for good flow.
Use the fuel shut-off valve found at the bottom of your fuel tank or pinch-off pliers to stop fuel flow. Check a section of the fuel line:
- Shut off your fuel flow
- Determine which section of the fuel line you are checking.
- Remove the end furthest from the fuel tank and place it in a container.
- Turn on the fuel flow and check for a good flow out of the fuel line.
- If the flow is good, shut off the fuel and reattach the fuel line.
- If there isn’t flow because the line is clogged, proceed with the repair
Repair: Remove the fuel line, spray carburetor cleaner into the tube, and use compressed air to blow air through the tube until the line is free of debris and gummy residue. If you are unable to clear the clog you will need to replace the fuel line.
Clogged & Dirty Carburetor
A small amount of fuel collects in the carburetor bowl once it leaves the fuel tank. The carburetor is the part that regulates the amount of fuel that gets mixed with air to form combustion in the cylinder.
Old fuel will gum up and clog the carburetor so it no longer can function properly.
Repair: 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 it 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 Murray mower will not start with a bad battery, loose cables, or corroded terminals. Confirm your battery terminals are not corroded and are attached securely to the battery. If you own a push mower, a battery may not be used.
Repair: 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 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 Murray lawn mower uses several safety switches designed to keep the operator safe. The manufacturer installs safety switches to prevent the mower deck to run without the operator present.
It also has a safety switch involved to not start when your parking break isn’t engaged. If these safety switches fail, your mower may not start.
Never operate your Murray lawn 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.
Repair: Test the switch using a multimeter or you can temporarily bypass the safety switch to identify a bad switch.
Bad Ignition Switch
You insert the key into your ignition switch and turn it only to find your Murray doesn’t start or even turn over. The ignition switch could be the problem.
Repair: You can use a multimeter to test the ignition switch. Replace the switch if bad.
Bad Starter Recoil
If you own a Murray push mower without an electric start, you will have a recoil to start the engine. The recoil can fail so you are unable to start your mower. A bad pulley; loose or missing spring; or broken clips can keep your recoil from working.
Repair: You can attempt to replace the spring and restring the recoil. If it does not work because other components in your recoil are damaged, such as the clips or the pulley, you are better off just replacing the recoil assembly.
Bad Ignition Coil
The ignition coil provides voltage to the spark plug so it can fire and start the engine. The engine will not start if the spark plug isn’t able to fire.
Repair: After you verified your spark plug is in good condition, check the continuity of your ignition coil using a multimeter. Replace the ignition coil if you find a break in the continuity.
Faulty Charging System
While the charging system isn’t the main reason your Murray riding mower won’t start, it can contribute to a weak battery that prevents the mower from starting.
When the charging system fails to charge the battery, the battery may not be able to start the mower the next time you go to use it.
A bad stator or alternator can be the problem along with several other electrical parts. Read this article to test your charging system here using an ohmmeter.
Repair: When you find your Murray starting problem is due to the charging system, take your lawn mower to your local lawn mower repair shop for further troubleshooting and repair.
If you don’t have experience with charging systems, you will most likely just throw different parts at your mower hoping to fix it.
The cost of all of these parts can get pretty expensive if you don’t guess right the first time. Most lawn mower centers do not allow you to return electrical parts so you will be stuck with the part whether it is the problem or not.
Incorrect Starting & Operating Procedure
Murray implements safety precautions with their lawn mowers that require certain steps to be followed when starting and operating the lawn mower.
Repair: Refer to your Murray operating manual to ensure you are operating your lawn mower correctly, so you don’t set off the safety features that shut off your lawn mower.