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Craftsman Rotary mowermodel #917387660

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Lawnmower: Why Does Pull Starter Not Engage the Engine?

Hello, I was sent to you from the PartsDirect phone line. I was sent a starter for a Craftsman engine on a push lawnmower model number 917-387660. It is a simple installation with four screws. When I pull the cord, it does not engage the engine. The partsdirect line insist they sent me the right part. There does not seem to be any rocket science behind the installation, but maybe I am wrong. Can you explore the possible problems and solutions with me, including the possibility the part is defective or whether there is some special way this installs other than with four screws or whether there could possibly be other causes? Perhaps of relevance is that I notice when I pull the started and observe underneath, many times the two metal pieces do not open up. Before you take my side and tell me to just order a replacement, keep in mind that this is not the first time I ordered a replacement. My name is Richard.

Posted September 15, 2012


Richard, September 15, 2012

i meant pull the starter.

Jerry C, September 15, 2012

hello richard,

i am sorry that your replacement pull starter will not engage and i would like to assist you. there are two things that i would like you to check first. compare the replacement pull starter to the old one and verify the engagement cup on the flywheel is in good shape. take a look at the underside of the old and new pull starters. is the round area where the dogs are located the same diameter? is the new one considerably smaller? look at the starter engagement cup for signs of wear on the stamped ramps that are inside of the cup. if these are worn badly the starter will not engage.

does the new starter engaged at all? can you feel or hear any contact being made by the dogs, to the cup?

please let me know what you find and i'll be happy to assist you further.

jerry c

Richard, September 15, 2012

dear jerry c, great diagram. the shape, look, and size of the new starter appears to be the same. i noticed a tiny difference, which is that there is a little factory-made groove on the new one, basically a small oval shaped hole, but at the other edge, not near the engagement. perhaps i can study it more for other differences. as for whether the engagement cup is worn, i could not tell or guess either way because i never looked at it or measured it when it was new, so for all i know, it may be the exact same depth as when it was new. i never imagined that those little ramps wore out as they are solid metal. do they usually and how often are they replaced? what i did observe that may be helpful is that the ramps are not at markedly sharp 90 degree angles and are really no more deep at the deepest point than approximately the size of the dogs, leaving in my opinion not a significant amount of extra metal, should for example, the dogs not stretch out far enough. because i am observing that the dogs sometimes do not stretch out or they sometimes stretch out a small amount, i am theorizing that they are not pulling out far enough to engage. of course, with the ramps being only about the same diameter, more or less, it does not allow a lot of opportunity for weakly-opened dogs to contact, but i really do not know how to compare worn ones to new ones. perhaps a clue on measurements or comparison sizes might help. is the engagement cup actually called the flywheel or is it just a part of the flywheel or something else? perhaps an important point is that on occasion, although rarely, as i am fiddling with the pull starter as i am kneeled down near the starter to study its engageability, i will notice it grab firmly onto the metal, as if it is a perfect fit. however, as soon as i stand up to pull it, it once again feels loose with no contact whatsoever except for a rare scrap against metal with little contact.

Richard, September 15, 2012

a few other interesting observations. i noticed that, for some reason, i cannot keep in a screw in the hole that is to the right, at about 3 or 4 o'clock as you are on the pull side. if i do so, the screw wiggles out or interferes with the turning of the starter. the other screws are okay and all the holes seem to line up fine. i would like to believe that this is of little significance because i am quite sure in the past i have occasionally lost a screw on a flywheel and the other three screws still allowed it to function perfectly. another observation is that i had a prior starter replaced because after a relatively small amount of use (like a month or so), i started to have frequent problems with engagement, to the point where it was only possible to engage after several dozen tries and pure luck. this might lend to the theory that the engagement cup is worn. however, the next point seems to question that. when i obtained this new starter, it actually engaged in the beginning, on the very first minute of the first day. it was not until after the machine stopped and i pulled it to start it again, that i had the problem resulting in my forum question. is this the standard type starter for all pull starter lawnmowers or is there a more robust, more durable, more long-lasting, more dependable type of starter that exists on the market, and what is that type called and what brands or manufacturers make it? i am of the opinion that it is of questionable quality and durability because those two little spring-fed dogs seem to be a point of structural weakness and the cords do not reliably stay intact over short-term use (like a season or so) because they do seem to quickly get stuck and not rewind or sometimes the cords will break. with much experience with those starters over the years, they seem to be the most unreliable, inefficient, frustrating, and most brake-prone part of the lawnmower. i would love to know if there is a better quality out there.

Jerry C, September 17, 2012

hello richard,

i think that you should be certain that the shroud, the part that the pull start mounts to , is properly secured. after that, take a look at the starter cup. i have included an image of what it should look like. the dogs not extending fully out can happen when pulling slowly, but i am not too concerned with this part at this point. i think that it is more of an alignment issue. since the old pull start stopped making engagement, this is where we should look. pull starts generally last a very long time, the quality is sufficient, they usually break due to difficult starting or misalignment issues.

please let me know what you find and i'll be happy to further assist you.

jerry c


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