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My Craftsman ride on lawn mower will not start. I charged the battery, yes there is gas in it. You turn the key and absolutely nothing. No click, nothing.

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When I turn the key nothing happens.
There are several elements that go into cranking (turning over) the engine.

  1. Battery
  2. Fuse
  3. Key Switch (and wiring)
  4. Starter Solenoid and wires
  5. Starter motor
To begin with check the fuse. It's a 20amp car style fuse located under the hood near the battery.

If the fuse does not fix the problem let's move on to the battery. The quickest way to make your initial check of the entire starting system and particularly the battery is to get a jump. Yep, get some jumper cables and jump the mower off your car. Turn the key and try to start it in the normal fashion ( meaning sitting in the seat, pto off, brake fully depressed). If it starts cool! It is likely a bad battery. To check this out do the following:
  • Charge the battery for a few hours, on a charger.
  • Then perform a voltage measurement of the battery.
  • Switch a volt meter to DC Volts and clip it to the battery. It should read between 12-13 volts. If not the battery is suspect. If it is 12-13 volts see if it will crank, but continue to watch the volts. If they drop below 10ish volts, the battery may have a bad cell.

Now let's check the starting system while bypassing all the safety switches and wiring. How? You can perform this test simply by jumping the starter solenoid. Hold a wrench or fat screwdriver across the two large posts of the starter solenoid. This bypasses the key switch and all safety devices and directly drives the starter. Your starter will crank if the battery and starter are good, the wires and connections are good, and the engine is not locked up. Don't crank it for more that a couple seconds. You just want to verify the battery and the starter are both in good shape. (The engine will crank but not start during this test if the key is off, or if the safety switches or wiring are damaged, or if the safety switches are in the no start/run positions.)

If the starter cranks try one more test. Run a small jumper wire from the positive post of the battery to the little terminal on the solenoid. You may have to take the small wire off the terminal, on the starter solenoid, in order to do this. When you apply this current from the battery to the terminal it should make the solenoid activate and the starter crank. This test bypasses the key switch and shows you the starter system is working. You could do this test first; if it works you do not need to do the basic jump test.

If these tests cause the engine to crank, but it will not crank with the key, then you know you have a problem somewhere in your starter wiring, safety switch system, fuse, or in your Key Switch. Of course you did check the battery terminals for good connection, right?

Most modern riding mowers have the following safety switches:
  • Seat switch
  • PTO switch
  • Reverse switch (RIS) and Reverse Relay (RIO)
  • Brake/Clutch switch
If you need detailed instruction for testing your wiring and safety system, I will need your complete machine info.
  • Make
  • Model
  • Year
  • Engine Model
  • Transmission Model
  • Deck Size.

On a John Deere (100 series) the starting current flows through the following items in this order:
  1. Battery to Fuse then to the Key Switch.
  2. With key switch in the start position, the current flows from the Key Switch to PTO.
  3. With PTO off, current flows from the PTO to Brake/Clutch
  4. With Brake/Clutch Pedal all the way down, the current flows to the starter solenoid.
  5. If the Starter Solenoid is in good shape, the solenoid connects the battery to the Starter and the engine cranks. Cranking does not mean running; it just means the engine turns over. Running is dependent on many other systems.
Those components are all part of the cranking/starting system. They can prevent the Starter Motor from cranking when you turn the Key Switch. You can trace the voltage with a multi-meter. Connect the black lead to ground and look for 12 volts on each successive step. If the voltage disappears at one particular step, there is your suspect.

Electrical elements that are NOT part of the starting system:
The RIO is the Reverse Implement Option. It is a switch that latches and stays latched under certain conditions. It is activated by the RIS. The RIS is the Reverse Implement Switch. It activates the RIO. These two separate components work to allow the blades to cut while you are backing up (without killing the engine). They have nothing to do with the starting system.

The Seat and the RIO (the reverse latch not the button) switches are tied into the engine kill system. They provide a ground path for grounding the Coil. This same system controls the fuel shut off valve beneath the carburetor. The Seat and RIO can keep the engine from running but they will not prevent the Starter Motor from cranking. Therefore, if you turn the key and nothing happens, the problem has nothing to do with the Seat and Reverse switches.

Note: With the Key in the RUN position, power flows from the Key Switch to the Hour Meter, then to the RIO latch relay (not the RIS button), then to the fuel shut off solenoid. If you do not hear the Fuel Shut off Solenoid clicking on and off when you turn the Key Switch from off to run, there may be a problem in this circuit; including a possible problem in the Hour Meter. Of course none of this affects the cranking circuit. Your engine will still crank, it just won't run.

Posted on Apr 16, 2015

  • Brad Locke
    Brad Locke Oct 10, 2015

    Kprime- Here is the information needed,to help me about my Craftsman lawn mower won,t start. Make: Craftsman 18.5hp Lawn mower (Limited) with a 42" deck. Model: 917.275760, Year:1990, Engine Model: Briggs & Stratton # 31P777 Type # 0299-E1,and Transmission Model: Peerless Transaxle Model # LTH2000. This is the information you asked for,in helping me solve why my tractor fails to start normally. I want to inform you,that i have changed all the safety switches (Four of them),the starter solenoid,the starter and the ignition switch, everything is new,in the wiring harness. I also changed the 20a fuse. I did what you asked me to do. Place a jumper on the battery + post and attach the other end of the jumper to the rear spade post on the starter solenoid,nothing happened. There is this connection,under the seat called the: Protection Wire Loop,it is located near the seat safety switch. It's a plastic type connection,with a wire coming out of the plastic connection and returning back into the plastic connection,similar to a jumper wire. I have physically checked this visually,the wire looks good (not burnt). This wire is very short and is soldered in. If this takes place of a fuse,then why didn't Craftsman use a fuse,in the first place? There is a something i did prior to having this problem,i replaced the mower belt and installed a new belt that was too small. The belt was very tight',so tight, that i couldn't rotate the mower blades. However, i tried to start the motor with the mower engaged,that is when the problem begun. Smart,right? Sincerely, Brad Locke

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Keyswitch... I would definitely test that first

Posted on Oct 11, 2015

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Do the lights come on with they key ???
no, check for a fuse issue first, then a voltage check is needed

fuse, battery connections, defective ignition switch and many safety switches are all possible issues to your problem
should of mentioned the model number
your gonna need a decent test light, DVOM and a wiring diagram

Posted on Apr 28, 2015

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Well you need to sit on the seat push the brake pedal to floor board and turn key all at the same time with deck turned off or disengaged

Posted on Apr 15, 2015

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With key my riding lawn mower does not start, not even crank. Nothing happened.


Are you positive that the battery is fully charged? If so check for current reaching the starter motor. If current is there then it appears that the starter motor is no good. If no current reaches motor it is possible the ignition switch is no good.

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Yes, you may hear a small click when the key is placed in the run position. It is the fuel solenoid (on the carburetor) activating.

If it is a large click, then that is the pto clutch activating (as in the blades are ON) and that will not allow the engine to start.

Sometimes when a battery is low or connections at the battery are dirty, you will hear a click, that is the solenoid activating, but the battery voltage is low enough that the starter will not turn. Sometimes this condition has a chatter.

Easiest test for this situation is jump start from you automobile, or charge the battery for an hour, and see what happens from there.

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the battery probably got over charge & shorted the cells the tractor should charge the battery as it runs if it was equiped with electric start the battery charger more than likely over charged it killing the battery

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