How to Start a Riding Lawn Mower Without a Key

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 If you have a lawn that is more than ½ an acre big, the idea of using a push mower might be very appealing to you and everyone else in the neighborhood because it is plain exhausting, and it’s not worth all effort, at least not in this time and age, or if you can afford more convenience, and this is where the riding lawnmowers come in.

The riding lawn mowers are quite efficient, and in most cases, they come fitted with very powerful engines made by top brands such as Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, and Kawasaki.

They are very easy to use, and if your mower is fitted with padded armrests, a high-back seat, and has large fuel tank capacity, you will be on your way to one of the most comfortable and fun lawnmowing experiences.

But what happens when your lawnmower comes fitted with all the best features, maybe even a zero-turn radius design for increased maneuverability, but somehow you cannot get it to start? The truth is that in as much as these mechanical tools come fitted with top features and function, they still go through the bender.

This means that on one of those days that you may need to get through the lawn fast, you might not be able to because you lost the start key. The riding lawnmowers come with start keys, which not only allow you to fire up the engine to start mowing, but the start key is also a safety feature that prevents the theft of the mower.

So, what happens when you lose the key or if it’s broken? Would this mean that you’d have to postpone mowing to another time or call in a professional lawn care company?

Well no. Even in the absence of the mower’s start key, you can still fire it.

All you need to do is to make sure you have all the right tools, and you also need to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of the battery. Like your car, you can switch it on safely without the key, but only if you know what you are doing.

About the Mower’s Key Switch

About the Mower’s Key Switch

The reason why the switch key works as it does is that that key will create an electrical connection between the riding mower’s starter and its solenoid.

Since the key has metallic parts, the metal touches the two poles of the solenoid, and when this happens, electricity is sent throughout the solenoid and into the starter system, turning on the motor. You can, therefore, see why it would be frustrating to lose the switch/ start key.

But as mentioned above, the loss of the start key doesn’t signal the cancellation of mowing plans, because you only need to find a way of mimicking the behavior and the action of the start key to turn on the mower and for the engine to start running.

Option 1 – Using Jumper Cables to Start the Mower

 Start a Riding Lawn Mower Without a Key

First, you need to find all the safety and starting tools to jump-start the mower. We are talking about jumper cables, a pair of rubber gloves, as well as a pair of pliers.

The rubber gloves are crucial because rubber is a non-conductor of electricity, which means that they will prevent the conduction of electricity, protecting you from electric shocks from the mower’s battery.

That said, you should never attempt to bypass the standard key switch start of the mower if you don’t have the best rubber gloves. If you have all the tools above, you can proceed.

  • First, put on your rubber gloves
  • With the brake turned ON, the blade(s) disengaged, and all the other important safety precautions take into action to prevent the mower from moving or jerking forward without you initiating the movement, open the mower’s hood.
  • Locate the battery. Next, disconnect the battery’s red and the black cables from the 2 posts in the mower’s solenoid.
  • Get a battery post cleaner to clean up any corrosion and dirt that has accumulated around the posts, then reconnect the two cables.
  • Clamp the jumper’s booster cable (the black one) around the battery’s negative plug then clamp its other end to the mower’s cutting deck end.
  • Next, take the red cable and clamp it to the positive plug/ post of the battery. All this time, your rubber gloves must be on. Now, touch the red cable’s other end and allow it to touch a metallic part/ piece in the mower’s starter.
  • If successful and the engine runs, first remove the red (booster) cable then the black cable before closing the hood.

This option that involves the use of jumper cables (or screwdriver in place of the jumper cables) is also called the bypass method. With the bypass method, you will be able to turn off the mower easily and to stop it by throttling the mower all the way down.

The kill switch option is not an option here. Keep in mind that throttling down the mower will not kill the engine instantly, and you have to give it some before the engine dies.

How do you start or prime your lawnmower if it isn’t priming as it should?

Option 2 – Using A Screwdriver

gloves and a screw

You also need rubber gloves and a screwdriver for this.

Note that this is an appropriate option for you if, after popping up the trunk, you find that the negative and the positive posts to be engaged on the battery – one end on the solenoid side and the other connecting to the starter – are too close to each other.

In such cases, the screwdriver would be a preferred option. So, put on the rubber gloves and then touch the screwdriver to the two battery posts at the same time. Doing this should start the engine automatically.

Keep in mind that in this setup that uses the screwdriver, the screwdriver will work as a bridge between the battery posts, and it takes the place of the jumper cables.

You must have a two-head screw for this to work. Alternatively, you could use a flat-head screwdriver as you would the start key. Here, place your screwdriver into the keyhole then wiggle it around, the same way that you would do if you had an actual key.

This option has been shown to be quite effective with some models of Cub Cadet and Craftsman mowers. Again, you must wear your rubber gloves for this.

Option 3 – Installation of A New Ignition Switch

If you cannot find the starter keys anywhere and the options above are not ideal (generally, they aren’t ideal long term options), your next best option would be to install a new ignition system.

Now, for this to happen, you’d have to talk to the manufacturer and find their dealers for the installation of the switch, unless you are a mechanic and you can handle the ignition system on your own. Otherwise, you have to take the mower to specialized mechanics, especially if the manufacturer doesn’t make any replacement keys for the mower.

The installation of the new ignition system is, and always should be your very last option. It’s expensive, and it might take time, especially if the replacement parts are not available locally, but unlike having to jumpstart the engine, the installation of the new ignition switch will resolve your problem permanently.

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