March 1, 2016

How to replace a lawn mower drive cable

By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a lawn mower drive cable

This DIY lawn mower repair guide gives step-by-step instructions for replacing a lawn mower drive cable. The drive cable connects the handle drive control lever to the transmission and engages the transmission to move the mower across the grass when you pull the drive lever up. Replace the drive cable with a manufacturer-approved replacement part if it's broken or frozen up inside the sheath and your lawn mower won’t move.

Use this basic procedure to replace the drive cable on common Craftsman, Toro, MTD, Husqvarna, Troybilt, Ariens and Poulan walk-behind lawn mowers.

A drive cable problem is just one reason the wheels of a lawn mower won't drive forward. To learn how to diagnose a lawn mower drive problem, see Lawn Mower Won't Move Troubleshooting Video: Motion Drive Failure.

Quick links
Tools required
Nut driver set
Small needle-nose pliers
Wire cutter
Bungee cord
Plastic sandwich bag
Work gloves
Repair difficulty
Time required
60 minutes or less
Repair difficulty
Time required
60 minutes or less
Replacing a drive cable on a lawn mower

This video explains how to replace the drive cable on a walk-behind lawn mower.

Instructions

  1. 01.

    Disconnect the spark plug wire

    Disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug.

    Disconnect the spark plug.

    Disconnect the spark plug.

  2. 02.

    Release the cables from the handle

    Pivot the cable clip up and release it from the mower handle.

    Release the zone control cable from the bail control bar.

    Release the drive cable from the drive control lever.

    Depress the release tabs and pull the zone control cable out of the drive cable clip.

    Cut the cable ties that secure the cables to the mower handle.

    Release the cable clip

    Release the cable clip

  3. 03.

    Remove the drive cover

    Remove the fuel tank cap.

    Place a plastic sandwich bag over the fuel tank opening and reinstall the fuel tank cap to prevent gasoline from leaking out through the fuel cap vent.

    Tilt the mower back to lift the front wheels then secure the mower handle to your work table to hold the mower steady as you remove bottom-mounting screws.

    Remove the bottom drive cover mounting screws.

    Release the mower handle from the work table and carefully lower the mower to the upright position.

    Remove the top drive cover mounting screws.

    Release the height adjuster lever and pull the drive cover off.

    Remove the drive cover.

    Remove the drive cover.

  4. 04.

    Remove the drive cable

    Remove the drive cable end from the anchor post.

    Depress the release tabs and pull the drive cable sheath out of the transmission lever.

    Remove the drive cable.

    Remove the drive cable.

    Remove the drive cable.

  5. 05.

    Connect the new drive cable to the transmission

    Attach the drive cable end to the anchor post.

    Push the drive cable sheath into the transmission lever.

    Attach the cable to the anchor post.

    Attach the cable to the anchor post.

  6. 06.

    Reinstall the drive cover

    Put the drive cover in position on the mower and re-engage the height adjuster lever.

    Reinstall the drive cover’s top-mounting screws.

    Tilt the mower back to lift the front wheels then secure the mower handle to your work table.

    Reinstall the drive cover’s bottom-mounting screws.

    Release the mower handle from the work table and tilt the mower upright.

    Remove the plastic bag from the fuel tank opening and reinstall the fuel tank cap.

    Reinstall the drive cover.

    Reinstall the drive cover.

  7. 07.

    Install the new drive cable on the mower handle

    Route the drive cable around the right side of the engine and connect the zone control cable to the drive cable clip.

    Reconnect the zone control cable to the bail control bar.

    Connect the drive cable to the drive control lever.

    Snap the drive cable clip back into the mower handle.

    Install new cable ties to hold the cables against the mower handle.

    Trim the ends of the cable ties.

    Reinstall the zone control cable.

    Reinstall the zone control cable.

  8. 08.

    Reconnect the spark plug wire

    Connect the spark plug wire to the spark plug.

Warning: Undertaking repairs or maintenance to appliances or power equipment can be hazardous. Should you choose to undertake repairs or maintenance, you are assuming the risk of injury to your person or property. In an effort to reduce the risk, use the proper tools and safety equipment noted in the applicable guide and follow all instructions. Do not proceed until you are confident that you understand all of the steps and are capable of completing the repair. Some repairs or maintenance, however, should only be performed by a qualified technician.

Symptoms for gas walk-behind mowers

Choose a symptom to see related walk-behind mower repairs.

Main causes: damaged cutting blade, loose cutting blade, damaged flywheel key, engine needs tune up
Main causes: dirty carburetor, bad spark plug, clogged air filter, engine choke problems, clogged gas cap vent
Main causes: uneven wheel height settings, damaged wheel, dull or damaged cutting blade
Main causes: engine needs tune up, dirty or clogged carburetor, damaged flywheel key
Main causes: drive control cable failure, worn or broken drive belt, bad transmission, broken drive wheel
Main causes: stale gas, engine needs tune up, bad spark plug, dead battery, bad recoil starter, faulty safety switch, bad ignition coil

Repair guides for gas walk-behind mowers

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your walk-behind lawn mower.

March 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a lawn mower carburetor

The carburetor mixes air with fuel to drive the piston. Replace the carburetor if it's clogged or damaged.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace a lawn mower flywheel key on a flathead engine

When you hit a hard object with your mower, the flywheel can shear to protect more expensive components. Learn how to replace this tiny but essential part.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 45 minutes or less
How to replace a lawn mower ignition coil on a flathead engine

If the spark plug doesn't fire when you try to start the mower, you could have a defective ignition coil. Follow these step-by-step instructions to replace it.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all walk-behind mowers

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your walk-behind lawn mower.

October 1, 2019

Types of walk-behind mower blades video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Learn about the different kinds of mower blades and how to maintain them.