Gas Pressure Washer: Recoil starter not engaging engine

If the engine doesn't spin as you pull out the recoil starter rope, then you'll likely need to replace the recoil starter because it isn't spinning the flywheel.

If the starter rope won't budge when you try to pull it, the engine may be locked up or the recoil starter may have failed. If you tipped the pressure washer on its side recently, oil may have filled the cylinder, preventing the engine from spinning. Remove the spark plug and then pull the starter rope to see if the engine spins. If it does, pull the starter rope a few more times to clear oil out of the cylinder through the spark plug hole. Then reinstall the spark plug and try to start the engine. The engine may sputter and smoke when starting. If the engine starts, then it will likely run smoothly once it burns off oil inside the cylinder.

If the engine won't spin with the spark plug removed, then the piston may be bound up inside the cylinder or the recoil starter may have frozen up. Pull the recoil starter off the engine and replace the recoil starter if you can't pull the starter rope with the recoil starter off the engine.

If the recoil starter spins after removing it from the engine, then the engine is locked up. You'll likely need to have a service technician examine and repair the locked-up engine.

gas pressure washer

These repairs may help solve your gas pressure washer problem

Repair or replace the pressure washer recoil starter

Repair or replace the pressure washer recoil starter

If the pull rope doesn't retract, it's likely that the spring inside the recoil starter is broken. The recoil starter can also fail to engage the engine when the rope is pulled. Replace the recoil starter if the spring breaks or if the recoil starter won't engage the engine.

Symptoms for gas pressure washers

Choose a symptom to see related pressure washer repairs.

Things to do: tune up the engine, inject pump saver into the water pump when storing the pressure washer for the winter
Main causes: broken recoil spring, damaged recoil starter
Main causes: overfilling engine with oil, improper fuel/air mixture, choke system problems, dirty carburetor, engine needs tune up
Main causes: dirty air filter, stale fuel, clogged or dirty carburetor, bad unloader valve
Main causes: pump running for more than 5 minutes when the spray wand isn't being used, faulty pressure relief valve, bad unloader valve
Main causes: damaged recoil starter, oil inside cylinder, locked up engine piston
Main causes: using a high-pressure spray tip when applying detergent, clogged siphon tube, chemical injection system failure
Main causes: stale fuel, gummed up carburetor, engine needs tune up, throttle and choke controls need adjustment, bad recoil starter
Main causes: insufficient water supply, clogged water inlet screen, clogged pressure hose, faulty pump check valves, stuck unloader valve

Repair guides for gas pressure washers

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your pressure washer.

April 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a pressure washer pump

The pump can be damaged by air in the inlet water supply or by chemicals that remain in the pump body after using the chemical injection system. Follow these steps to replace a damaged pump.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
April 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to install a pressure washer O-ring kit

O-rings seal fittings on the pressure washer pump. Damaged seals allow water to leak from the pump. Follow these steps to replace the O-rings in a leaking pressure washer pump.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 45 minutes or less
How to install a pressure washer chemical injection kit

The chemical injection valve draws detergent into the pump. If it’s not drawing detergent, use a repair kit to replace the chemical injection valve.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less

Articles and videos for gas pressure washers

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your pressure washer.

January 1, 2016

Choosing the correct spray tip for a pressure washer

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Spray tips vary in pressure and angle of spray. This guide matches the spray tip to the cleaning job.

November 1, 2015

7 steps for winterizing and storing a pressure washer

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Follow this advice to winterize your pressure washer.

April 1, 2015

Pressure washer common questions

By Sears PartsDirect staff

See what you can learn from the questions that people most often ask our experts about their pressure washers.