How to Replace the Pull Start Mechanism on a Chainsaw: A Guide

How to replace the pull start mechanism on a chainsaw

As an avid DIYer, I often find myself tackling minor repairs on my chainsaw to keep it running smoothly for yardwork and woodcutting projects. One key component that commonly needs replacement is the pull start mechanism. This recoil starter allows you to start the chainsaw engine manually by pulling the starter cord rather than relying on an electric starter. When this mechanism wears out or breaks altogether, the chainsaw won’t start at all.

Replacing a faulty pull start mechanism may seem daunting, but it’s a very doable repair you can perform yourself with some mechanical know-how and the right tools. In this guide, I’ll walk through the complete process in detail, from gathering supplies to troubleshooting issues. With a bit of time and elbow grease, you can have your chainsaw starting like new again.

Why Replace the Pull Start Mechanism?

How to replace the pull start mechanism on a chainsaw

Before jumping into the repair, it helps to understand the signs that your chainsaw’s pull start needs attention. Here are some of the most common indicators:

  • The starter cord pulls but lacks tension or recoil
  • The cord steadily becomes harder to pull as the spring loses strength
  • The cord frays, snaps, or melts during starting attempts
  • You hear grinding noises when pulling the cord
  • The pulley loosens or detaches over time

If you notice any of these symptoms, it likely means the recoil spring or other components are worn out or damaged. Replacing the entire pull start mechanism is simpler and more effective than attempting to patch or repair individual parts. With a fresh start assembly, you can look forward to easy, reliable starting every time.

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before I begin any chainsaw repair, I make sure I have all the required tools and parts on hand. Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need to replace the pull start mechanism:



  • Replacement pull start assembly or kit
  • Pull cord (if cord isn’t included)
  • Electrical tape
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It’s crucial to choose a replacement assembly specifically designed for your chainsaw make and model to ensure proper fit and function. Check your owner’s manual for the part number, or bring the chainsaw into a repair shop for assistance identifying the correct replacement.

Once you have all the necessary gear, you’re ready to get started!

Removing the Starter Housing

The first step is accessing the inner components we need to replace. On most chainsaws, the starter housing is held in place by three or four small screws. Use a flathead screwdriver to remove them, being careful not to strip the heads.

Once the screws are out, you should be able to detach the starter housing. Some gentle prying with the flathead may help loosen it. Set this plastic housing piece aside for later reinstallation.

With the housing removed, you’ll see the drive components including the starter pulley, drive disc, and recoil spring. Now we can begin disassembling these parts to remove the defective pull cord.

Loosening and Removing the Pulley Bolt

The pulley that the starter cord wraps around is secured by a bolt through its center. Use a socket wrench with the appropriately sized socket to loosen this bolt and remove it.

Sliding off the bolt will allow you to detach the pulley and access the old starter cord underneath.

Disassembling the Drive Components

With the pulley bolt removed, the next step is carefully disassembling the spring-loaded drive components.

First, slide off the drive disc located behind the pulley. Be cautious as you remove this piece since the recoil spring will be released from tension.

Next, go ahead and push the pulley out from the drive side to fully detach it and unload the spring. You can then access and remove the entire recoil starter spring.

Once all these starter components are disassembled, removing the defective pull cord will be easy.

Removing the Old Starter Cord

Now that the pulley and spring are detached, you can peel the old starter cord out from the pulley spokes where it is anchored.

Check the cord thoroughly where it feeds into the starter housing to make sure no remnants are stuck inside. Remove every last bit so the new cord can feed smoothly.

With the old cord removed, it’s time to begin installing the fresh replacement!

Installing the New Pull Cord

To start reassembly, take the new starter cord and feed one end through the anchor hole in the pulley. Leave plenty of slack on the end protruding through the pulley.

Next, begin wrapping the cord tightly around the spokes in a clockwise direction, just as the old one was wrapped. Leave about 6 inches of slack cord at the end after winding it completely.

Now you’re ready to reattach the pulley and recoil spring assembly.

Reassembling the Drive Components

Take the end of the recoil spring and hook it into the tiny hole or notch inside the drive disc or pulley. This secures the spring as you reassemble the unit.

Slide the drive disc back onto the main drive shaft, followed by the pulley. The spring should fit snugly in place.

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With the pulley centered on the drive shaft, insert and tighten the pulley bolt securely using your socket wrench. Give it a few tugs to ensure everything is aligned and moving smoothly.

Pull Cord Guide and Securing

At last, all that remains is threading the new pull cord through the starter housing and tying it off.

Feed the cord end through the hole where the old one emerged. Use needle nose pliers to grasp it and pull it through.

Leave about 3 inches of slack cord exposed. Make a knot at the very end, then pull it snug against the inside of the starter housing.

Finally, reinstall the starter housing cover. Insert and tighten all the screws securely with your screwdriver.

That concludes the pull start replacement process! Give the cord a few test pulls to ensure smooth starting. Now your chainsaw should be ready to roar back to life.

Troubleshooting Common Pull Start Issues

While I hope your new recoil starter works flawlessly, it’s good to be prepared if any issues arise. Here are some troubleshooting tips for common problems:

Cord Pulls With No Tension

If the cord still pulls freely with no resistance after replacement, it likely indicates:

  • Improper spring installation or hookup
  • Defective recoil spring that needs replacing
  • Pulley not aligned properly on shaft

Double check the spring connections and pulley to fix these issues.

Cord Snaps or Melts

If your new cord quickly shows signs of damage or melting, potential causes include:

  • Inadequate cord quality or thickness
  • Overwinding the pulley causing too much friction
  • Pulley binding due to improper bolt tightening

Getting cords specifically made for engine pulleys can prevent snapping. Check pulley spinning and reduce winds to stop melting.

Choosing the Right Parts

The key to success when replacing the pull start mechanism is using the correct replacement parts. Here’s how to ensure compatibility:

Identify the Proper Pull Start Assembly

Closely check markings on your chainsaw’s housing to identify the manufacturer and model. Consult your owner’s manual or bring it to the parts store. This helps ensure you get the right replacement kit.

Purchase from Reputable Suppliers

Buy parts made specifically for your chainsaw model rather than generic parts. Getting them through the manufacturer or authorized dealers prevents compatibility issues.

Doing your homework on the right components saves hassle and headaches down the road!

Maintaining the Pull Start Long-Term

While a new recoil starter gets your chainsaw going again, performing ongoing maintenance keeps it functioning smoothly for the long haul. Here are my best care tips:

Inspect and Replace Components Proactively

Periodically check the pulley, cord, and spring for visible wear or damage. Swap out parts before they fail to prevent being stranded with a non-starting chainsaw.

Clean and Lubricate

Use compressed air to dust out the pull start housing. Lubricate cords and springs with lithium grease to prevent corrosion.

Just like changing the oil, keeping the pull components clean and lubricated is crucial for longevity. Proper maintenance saves you from frequent replacements down the road.

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Safety Tips for Starter Replacement

While replacing the pull start mechanism is a straightforward repair, chainsaws warrant extra safety precautions. Keep these tips in mind:

Disconnect Power

Unplug any electric chainsaw or remove the spark plug before servicing to prevent accidental starting while working on internal parts.

Use Protective Gear

Chainsaw mechanisms contain sharp edges that can easily cut bare hands. Wear heavy work gloves and eye protection during disassembly and reassembly.

Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions

Consult your owner’s manual for any specific precautions related to servicing your chainsaw model. Following the step-by-step instructions prevents safety mishaps.

Exercising caution keeps you safe while servicing dangerous power equipment. Don’t disregard chainsaw safety while trying to get your machine running again.

When to Call a Professional

While the pull start fix outlined here is within reach of the average DIYer, more complex recoil repairs are best left to the professionals. Seek expert help if:

Complete Starter Replacement is Needed

If damage extends beyond the cord and pulley to include the housing, special tools may be required. Let a shop handle full starter assembly replacement.

The Starter Mounts Need Servicing

Issues with mounts that secure the starter require dismantling the chainsaw further. Allow an authorized technician to service mounts to avoid complications.

Specialized knowledge and tools are necessary with certain repairs. Know your DIY limits to determine when professional service pays off.


I hope this guide provides a helpful overview of the entire pull start replacement process from start to finish. While seeming intimidating at first, methodically disassembling, swapping parts, and reassembling the mechanism helps ensure success.

With the right steps and safety precautions, you can breathe new life into a chainsaw with starter issues and keep it reliably cranking for years to come. Don’t let a faulty pull cord sideline your yardwork and woodcutting!

Tuning up tools extends their life and saves the cost of new equipment. A smooth-running chainsaw is invaluable for tackling outdoor work, making repairs like this well worth the effort. Let me know if you have any other questions about reviving and maintaining your chainsaw. Happy DIYing!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I replace the pull start mechanism on my chainsaw?

Expect to replace cords yearly with frequent use. Other components like the pulley and spring may last 3-5 years before needing replacement. If the cord frays or pulley loosens, replace immediately even if new.

Can I use a generic pull start assembly for my chainsaw?

Generic parts risk compatibility issues. Get an assembly made specifically for your chainsaw’s make and model for proper fit and performance. Check online or with retailers for the right replacement.

What are signs my pull start needs replacing?

Fraying, loosening cords, lack of recoil, melted or snapped cords, grinding noises, and resistance pulling all indicate replacement is needed. Replace individual parts or whole assembly as needed.

How can I prevent starter cord damage?

Use thick cords designed for chainsaw starters, install new mechanisms carefully to avoid overwinding, and keep pulleys aligned and lubricated. Don’t over-pull cords during starting.

Is it better to repair or replace the pull start?

For common issues with the cord, pulley, or spring, replacing the entire starter assembly is quicker and easier than repairing individual components. But minor issues can be fixed through repair.

How long does pull start replacement take?

With all the correct tools and parts on hand, plan 30-45 minutes for the job. Allow extra time for troubleshooting any function issues afterwards. Patience prevents rushing and mistakes.

What tools do I need for pull start replacement?

Common tools include flat and Phillips screwdrivers, socket wrenches, pliers, protective gloves and eyewear. Refer to your model’s manual for any specific tools needed. Avoid improvising to prevent injury or damage.

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