Don’t Use Starter Fluid On A Lawn Mower (Use This Instead!)


Sometimes do-it-yourself repairs can be well worth the time and effort. The same is true for using a fluid to start your lawn mower. We have all been there. The mower just will not start. It takes you yanking on the starter string multiple times to get the mower going.

Many believe the best simple fix is to use starter fluid on your lawn mower, but we highly recommend using carburetor cleaner to minimize long term damage. We advise using this method for emergencies only until you can get your lawn mower repaired.

Carburetor cleaner should be used in place of starter fluid because starter fluid is a very dry chemical that can damage your engine. Starting fluid does not have a lubrication value to it so using too much of the substance or using it too often can damage the internal components of the cylinder.

We will walk you through the five steps to using carb cleaner on your lawn mower to get it started, and it is surprisingly easy! Let us dive into the five steps to using carb cleaner. 

Carb Cleaner & Start Fluid
Use Carb Cleaner to Start a Lawn Mower

This post may include affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may provide a commission for us, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Start a Lawn Mower with Carb Cleaner

1. Remove the Air Filter Housing on Your Lawn Mower

The first step to using carburetor cleanerOpens in a new tab. on your lawn mower is to remove the air filter housing. Remove the spark plug wire to work on the lawn mower safely. Consult your lawn mower’s manual for specific instructions and warnings. 

Many times, the air filter housing needs to be removed with one of the following different tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Torx driver

Additionally, some housings just clip onto the lawn mower. This means you can simply unclip the housing and remove it instead of having to unscrew the mounting screws. 

2. Remove the Air Filter from the Housing

Once the housing has been removed, you must take the air filter out of the lawn mower. To do this, simply use your fingers to lift the air filter out of the housing. Some mowers are designed such that you can open the housing and the door sits open, and you can just switch the air filter out of the way with the door. 

Before you move on to the next step, inspect the housing. Make sure that none of the following are in the housing:

  • Water
  • Debris
  • Anything out of the ordinary

If there is anything out of the ordinary in the chamber, make sure you completely clean the chamber before moving to the next step. 

3. Spray the Carb Cleaner into the Lawn Mower

For a mower, there are two places you can spray carb cleaner. However, you have to be careful when using carb cleaner because it is a very flammable material. 

To spray your carb cleaner into the mower, you can spray:

  • Directly into the intake port – This port is located directly under the air filter. Once the air filter is removed, you can spray the carb cleaner directly into the chamber.
  • Into the spark plug port – To find this port, review your lawn mower’s manual. The location varies by machine.

Once you have located the intake port or the spark plug port, you only need to spray the carb cleaner for two to three seconds. A little carb cleaner goes a long way!

If you do use starter fluid, spray the fluid on a rag and hold the rag up to the intake port. Do not spray direction into the intake port.

Too much carb cleaner in the intake port or spark plug port can cause more damage to the engine. You do not need a lot of carb cleaner to get your lawn mower going again. 

4. Get Ready to Start Your Lawn Mower

Now that you have sprayed the carb cleaner into the lawn mower, it is time to put your mower back together. But first, you need to test that the amount of carb cleaner you sprayed into the carburetor was enough to get your lawn mower started. 

The following is a checklist for the steps to take as you prep your lawn mower to start:

  • Set engine speed to its midpoint, if possible
  • Set the choke to the full position, sometimes also referred to as a closed choke
  • Press the priming bulb a few times if you have one.

Now that you have your mower set correctly, it is time to move on to the next step. 

5. Test Out the New Carburetor Fluid

The final step to using carb cleaner is to start up your lawn mower. Reattach your spark plug wire. Now is the time to pull the starter string or turn the electronic start key. 

Your lawn mower should start right up. If that is the case, turn it off and replace the air filter and reattach the filter housing. You are now ready to get moving!

If the problem continues in the future, you can always repeat the process, but it might also be worth having a professional inspect the machine. If you need to use carb cleaner every time you start your lawn mower, seek a professional’s advice so you do not inadvertently cause more damage. 

If the mower does not start up, even after a few pulls or turns of the ignition key, you can repeat steps one through four. If the process still does not end up with your lawn mower starting, it is time to call a professional. 

What Is Causing Your Lawn Mower To Not Start?

If you are the do-it-yourself type and love to take on the challenge of learning new things. You can try to diagnose the issue with your lawn mower yourself. In the case of your lawn mower still not starting, you could have a few problems happening, including the following:

  • Bad spark plugs
  • A bad carburetor 
  • Bad fuel

Sometimes it is as simple as the carburetor needs cleaning. This is true if your lawnmower starts for less than five seconds and stalls. 

If the lawn mower starts, and then after about 30 seconds, it stalls or stops, you probably need to replace the fuel. The fuel may have gone bad or have become water-saturated. Read this article for a complete list of reasons why your riding mower, zero turn or push mower won’t start.

A Quick Overview: When to Use Carb Cleaner to Start Lawn Mower?

Carb cleaner is great for carbureted engines that are having difficulty starting. Using carb cleaner to start your lawn mower only takes five simple steps. Now that you know how to use starter fluid, let us quickly cover why you might need carb cleaner and a few tips for using carb cleaner. If you don’t have carb cleaner available, you can use WD40 when in a bind.

The following is a list of times when it is advised that you should use carb cleaner:

  • You notice that starting up your lawn mower is more difficult than usual 
  • Your mower needs a new part to start, but it is not sold anymore. Try using carb cleaner before junking it.
  • You are trying to identify an engine problem, using carb cleaner can rule out issues with the carburetor 
  • Maybe you are trying to start your mower during colder than usual temperatures

The following are times when you should not use carb cleaner:

  • If your mower has a diesel engine
  • If the lawn mower has a 2-cycle gasoline engine
  • If you are having difficulty identifying the problem with your lawn mower

The following is a list of places where you can buy carb cleaner to give your mower a tune-up:

  • Home improvement stores
  • Automotive stores
  • Big-box stores
  • Hardware stores

Now you know how to use carb cleaner, when to use it, and where to buy carb cleaner.

In Summary: The Five Steps To Using Carb Cleaner

The five steps to starting your lawn mower with carb cleaner are, simply put: 

  • Remove the air filter housing 
  • Remove the air filter 
  • Spray the exposed area of the machine with carb cleaner 
  • Start the lawnmower 
  • Replace the filter and housing 

It is that simple! Hopefully, your lawn mower starts and stays running after your first try at using carb cleaner. If it does not, there could be a larger issue at play requiring you to do some further investigating that may result in you taking it to your local repair facility.

Your Mower Starts and the Dies

If you are able to get your lawn mower started and then it dies, you may have another problem. Read our article to see if you may have a plugged air filter, dirt carburetor,

Powered Equipment Team

We're just a guy and a girl obsessed with outdoor power equipment! We are excited to share the knowledge and tips we have learned over our combined 55 years in the power equipment industry. We have both ran equipment dealerships and took pleasure in helping our customers everyday providing equipment repair, parts, purchasing, and business tips to our residential and commercial clients. We hope our blog will help you with your next purchase, repair, or project.

Recent Posts