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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Atco 4 stroke starter cord set-up

Hi folks,

The starter pull cord on my Atco 4-stroke recently came off when trying to start.

I'm struggling to work out how to re-attach the cord.

I've attached a couple of photos of what the starter set-up looks like and was hoping someone who has the same one could explain how to re-attach the cord, or even better post a photo of what the set-up looks like and explain the steps to get there!

I get the impression I need to simultaneously re-tension the spring, wrap the cord around the outer hub, and then attach the end of the cord to the notch in the inner hub - but not at all sure how to do this!

Any guidance greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,



wristpin Wed, 24/09/2014

It's one of those jobs that those of us who have been messing around with engines and mowers for some time, do without thinking too much about it , and there are probably several ways of doing it with no particular way being the right way.

The objective is to have enough rope to start the engine, that returns smartly and smoothly without putting undue strain on the recoil spring. The latter is important , the starter should run out of rope before the spring becomes coil bound. If the reverse happens there will be problems.

So my way is :-

Looks like you may have removed the pulley and removed the broken bit of cord with the knot. If not you should do so, you should undo the centre screw, conventional RH thread, and carefully lift the pulley out. If there is any springy resistance gently rock the pulley to disengage it fom the recoil spring; the object being to leave the spring in place rather than end up with it wrapped round your arm!

From the broken bit of cord note which way it is wound. The knot can be firmly jammed in the bottom of the groove against the anchor and it may take some effort to get it out. Carefully holding thr pulley in the vice and a thin parallel punch can help.

At this stage its a good opportunity to add a few drops of thin oil to the recoil spring to aid free movement in the future. Also have a trial run of just putting the pulley back in and feeling the re-engagement of the spring. Take your new cord of the correct diameter for the groove and if it is off the roll or comes unsealed , "melt" the ends to prevent fraying . Tie a simple knot with the minimum of " tail" and either hammer it or squeeze it in the vice to thin it down for easy entry into the groove and enter the cord through the anchor in the previously noted direction  then wind the cord around the pulley, filling the groove plus about six inches. Now offer the pulley to the casing  Replace the retaining  collar and screw while ensuring that the cutout in the collar engages the upset in the casing but don't fully  tighten the screw at this stage.

Hopefully that by twisting the pulley in the direction of pull you will feel that it has engaged the spring so now using the spare bit of cord you can put three or four tensioning turns on the pulley against spring pressure. That is, you rotate the cord and pulley together, not unwinding the cord from the pulley . Now pass tha cord though the guide in the casing and tie a loose knot, tighten the centre screw and give it a trial pull. Hopefully the cord will fully extend without the spring becoming coil bound and then return smoothly. If it's a bit slow to return you will need to put another tensioning turn on the pulley and spring. This can be done without further dismantling or un- knotting the rope by slackening the centre screw just enough to let the pulley rock enough to allow you to take another tensioning turn of the rope around the pulley without damaging it. Fully extend the rope and ensure that it is stopped by being fully unwound and not by the spring becoming coil bound.

If all is well,undo your temporary knot, pass the free end of the cord through the pull handle and a small washer and finish with a figure of eight knot.


wristpin Wed, 24/09/2014

GTC wrote

I've not rewound that particular engine's recoil starter, but the technique is similar on all such starter mechanisms. For example, here's how it's done on a Champion engine.

Fine for that Champion type of recoil unit but not totally applicable to the Suffolk/Atco one in question which requires a bit of dismantling to get at the rope anchor and doesn't have a notch in the pulley rim to aid tensioning, but the principle is the same..

hsu139 Sat, 27/09/2014

Wristpin, many thanks for your prompt and detailed response. I managed to get it fixed - there was a sneaky little hole down at the bottom of the groove of the outer hub that I needed to thread the cord through and then knot - had missed this during my first attempt to fix. After that it was a straightforward case of winding the cord around the outer hub and re-attaching to the main mower unit.

Got the mower started after a few attempts and let it tick over at low revs. When I tried to give it more juice it didn't like it and cut out. This is my next challenge! At least it runs, which is a start.

Thanks again.

wristpin Sat, 27/09/2014

You may need to clean the carb but try opening the main jet (knurled screw sticking out of the float chamber at an angle) a quarter of a turn first.

hsu139 Sun, 28/09/2014

Thanks wristpin. I cleaned the carb as a matter of course, so will try letting the main jet out a little and see how it goes!