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The machine is running too lean on the fuel mixture, if the fuel filter in the fuel tank is clean ( replace if needed ) then you can unscrew the H screw on the carb to richen it up, you may need a special tool to turn the screw if it is an anti tamper type.
Check your fuel filter. It could be clogged. If not, it will be a problem that will require removing the carburetor and cleaning the mesh fuel strainer. It will most likely be clogged with a fine sedement. The strainer can be removed using a very sharp pointed large needle. Place the needle against the edge of the strainer and lift out. Sometimes they can be difficult but persistance is the key.That and patience.
Sounds like you will need to clean your carburetor.
Sometimes you can get by with priming it a few times, and letting it run a few times like that and it will flush the gunk out of the jets, but most of the time you will need to rebuild the carburetor. If the mower is over a couple years old, then I also recommend that you buy and install a new carburetor repair kit, because the diaphragm will get hard and that will cause it to be hard to crank. When you clean your carburetor and remove the jet screws, count the number of turns it takes to seat the jets from their original position. That way when you go to put the jets back in, you know how many turns they were in/out. Please do not forget to rate me, Thanks Good Luck, I hope this helped
if it runs on choke only and it sat up for two or three months the carb diaphragm may be brittle and not pumping fuel. install a carb diaphragm and gasket kit or try opening the high speed jet a 1/4 turn
Check the fuel lines for cracks/breaks. If they are o.k., then:
will need to disassemble the carburetor and spray
with carb.cleaner. Make sure the small screen is free of debris.
(Should be able to see daylight through it.) Use a Den Tek Brush, (http://www.drugstore.com/products/prod.asp?pid=165357&catid=1152),
to clean the small portals in carb. These portals can
become blocked. Reassemble and start.