Crafstman Mower won't start


Old 05-15-04, 11:26 AM
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Crafstman Mower won't start

Last fall I bought a "gently used" Craftsman mower at Sears. It is 21", 7.0 HP, Briggs engine, front gear drive, variable speed. Its model # is 917-378641.

It is one of those where the pull rope won't pull unless the safety features are all set right. There are two bars in front; one for the blade and one for the drive wheel. If the blade one isn't pused down, the rope will feel like it's stuck and won't pull at all.

I used it for a couple mows last fall in twice now in the spring. I used it yesterday and in the middle of using it, everything just turned off. There is gas in it, there is oil in it, and the blade isn't stuck on anything (although when I turn it over and try to move it, the blade will only move about one inch either way. Again, I think this is a safety feature).

The rope will pull about 5 inches and then get stuck. No matter how hard I pull it will get stuck after 5 inches.

Any advice? On a scale of 1-10, I'd say I'm a 3 when it comes to knowing stuff like this, although I am good at following directions. I've read similar posts and peope tell them to "start the engine manually". I don't know how to do that.

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Old 05-15-04, 12:35 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: USA,Washington
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It sounds like the blade brake is not releasing the blade. When you try to start it, do you notice andy kickback? Was there any vibration the last time you used it. Did you replace the sparkplug this season with a new on? Its possible the plug coudl be fouled to. The carb could need a cleaning but does not sound like the issue here. Someone will direct on where the blade break is and how to fix it if that is the issue here. In the meantime, why don't reply to us with the answers to my questions. To know if the sparkplug is fouled. Take it off and if it looks wet or if it looks all burnt and tared up, then you need to replace it. Let us know how it goes.
Old 05-15-04, 01:10 PM
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Location: Upstate New York
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You said you had oil in the engine, but have you checked it since this trouble? It sure sounds as though your engine is seized. One item to check first though. This machine I believe is a flywheel brake model not a blade brake. (I say "believe" because the parts break-down on Sears Website for your model doesn't seem too accurate) On the right side of the handle, mounted along with your throttle control (only mounted to the inside of the handle) is the brake control cable. This cable will be attached to the top "bale" handle (the one you pull down to the main handle, in order to start) and runs down to the brake assembly on the engine. Be sure this cable isn't broken. Have an assistant squeeze the bale handle and you can watch on the engine for the assembly to move. It should move about 1/2". If the cable is broken, it likely won't move at all (at the engine) and the cable will need to be replaced. If the movement seems OK, double check your oil level and then post back with your findings.
Old 05-15-04, 03:02 PM
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Re: Crafstman

I just checked on the things you were asking about. . .

I could swear I checked the oil after this mess started but I just did and it's bone dry. Now for the non-handyman quote of the day: what kind of oil do I use? Like I said I got this "gently used" at Sears and they said they don't have a manual. I also can't find one online.

I can't stress enough how frustrating this is. Sparkplug doesn't seem to be the issue; there is either something caught in the rope or some safety feature is preventing the rope from being pulled. It's not like I'm pulling and pulling and nothing is catching. It can't be pulled.

I would like to tell you the update on the conidition of the spark plug. Another problem: how do I find the sparkplug? I took the red plastic cover stuff off (had to take off the gas cap for this) and I still can't find it. There doesn't seem to be any more screws to unscrew.

Based on the fact that I don't know where the sparkplug is, I guess you realize it wasn't replaced this spring. I also didn't kickback or vibrate the last time I used it.

Thanks again for any help/advice. This site is a lifesaver.
Old 05-15-04, 03:37 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: southern louisiana
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If this engine was ran without any oil, it most certainly developed some major internal damage. It definately sounds like the engine siezed up. The last time you used it, did you hear any strange sounds? Once an engine like this is siezed up, it's pretty much trashed. In your first post, you mentioned you checked the oil and there was some in the engine, then you mentioned you turned the mower over to check the blade, then you said the engine had no oil. One thing that could cause this is if the oil level could have been low enough to cause engine damage, and then when you turned the mower over, the little oil that was left in the engine might have leaked past the valves getting into the muffler and the intake. Are you sure the engine had oil?????

Last edited by mower17; 05-15-04 at 03:49 PM.
Old 05-15-04, 08:13 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Davenport, Iowa
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You are aways safe using 30W oil in your engine. Stores in my area even sell oil especially made for small lawn mower engines. If the oil in your engine is clean it CAN be hard to see. Many times I've checked oil and have a hard time seeing the level on the dip stick if the light is bad or isn't just right. Perhaps the oil is OK and you just don't see it on the dip stick. It sure sounds to me like you have a safety system locking the engine up. If you were running the engine without any oil I think it would do a lot of smoking and would gradually slow down before finally quitting. Since you said the engine just quit suddenly I suspect that it DID NOT run without oil. Engine oil just doesn't go away on it's own. If it's burning in the engine it will leave a big cloud of smoke while doing so. I suppose that the drain plug could have vibrated out and dumped the sump oil onto the grass while you were mowing, but again, your engine would get very hot running without oil and there would be quite a bit of smoke as the engine started to gradually slow down before it locked up completely. Check your oil again and do the following: Make sure that the cap that has the dip stick on it is FULLY seated first and that the dip stick is inserted into the engine as far as it can go, then pull it out and look very carefully at the dip stick in good light to see if there is indeed oil there. You MUST resolve the oil issue before you can even attempt to start the engine. Adding more oil to an engine that already is topped off with adequate oil can cause you some grief too, so make sure you have the answer to the 'oil' question before you go much farther.

I assume that when you check the oil that the mower is on a reasonably level surface.
Old 05-15-04, 09:02 PM
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Location: USA,Washington
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If the oil is clean to where you can not see it on the dip stick, it is a simple matter to get a flash light and shine it on the dipstick. I am sure you will see it then.
Old 05-16-04, 08:56 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Upstate New York
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Not a good sign

The fact that you found no oil when you checked it post-trouble is not good. Here's what you'll do: 1- remove the spark plug (this will be located at the front of the mowers' engine and hopefully you at least know what one looks like). 2- Tie off the brake bale handle (as if you were going to start the machine). 3- Prop the mower up with the carburetor/air cleaner side up at no more than a 45 degree angle. 4- With a glove on, attempt to turn the mower blade in a clockwise direction (as viewed from underneath). If it won't turn this direction, try counterclockwise.
This may break it free but you will still have the issue of a seized engine and only a glimmer of a hope that by breaking it free and adding new oil it will come back to life. Good luck and let us know.
Old 06-05-04, 01:06 PM
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Same problem

I am having the exact same problem with the same model mover. My mover is new this season. I have used it 10-12 times so far. I have checked the oil and it is full and clean. The gas is fresh with the "Fresh Start" preservative & stabilizer that came with the moved added.

The last two times I tried to start the mover, I could only pull the cord about 5 inches. Its like pulling a 5 inch cord attached to a wall, there is no give. It just comes to a dead stop. I have been able to work around it, by manually turning the bald. Initially the blad is difficult to turn but gets easier the more I turn it. After doing this I am able to pull start it normally. Other than this problem, the mover is working fine. When I turn the blade manually, it sounds like fluid is being forced around. I don't know if this is normal or not. Also, when the mover does start after doing this, the mover is harder to turn over than normal. It puffs white smoke for 5 seconds or so once it gets going.

I am about to call Sears, but wanted to check here first. I hope someone has some information to help out. Thanks.

Old 06-05-04, 11:44 PM
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Hello mattwolf_98!

It sure sounds like the engine siezed. These engines will sieze suddenly (that's how they do it most of the time). Also, if there was no oil, then it would not have smoked. You could try to break it free, but your chances are slim. Sorry. are getting either gas or oil or both in the cylinder. It is locking the engine. Strating it the way you are doing can damage it further. Next time it is hard to pull, remove the spark plug. Look at it. If it is wet with oil, your oil level is too full, or the cylinder is scored. If it is wet with gas, then the carb is leaking.

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