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Classic Briggs Recoil Systems

Two things cause the failure of these units. Wear and tear, and starter clutch failure. If the rope was cut [shredded] somewhere in the middle and not broken at the knot at either end, the clutch is likely the cause. If the rope won't retract, the clutch or return spring could be the cause. If while running the rope wants to kick out or you hear a gawd awful screeching, the clutch is bad. If the clutch is suspected as the recoil problem, plan to replace it while fixing the recoil.

Unless the pulley is damaged, it shouldn't be removed, there's not need to.

Typically the recoil housing is held on by 3 bolts. The Max series of engines had a plastic fuel tank housing which needs to be removed first. There may be throttle, drive, or other control cables attached to the recoil housing. They will need to be removed. Use masking tape or some method to mark their mounting location so you can return them to the original setting and avoid the need to make adjustments later.

CAUTION; The recoil spring is long and stiff, handle with care, it can poke an eye easily. Also with the Max series you'll be removing the fuel tank so caution handleing fuel should be taken.


Remove the starter housing assembly. If the rope is still extending through the out hole, pull it all the way out, hold the pulley and cut the rope. Slowly let the pulley retract.

Find where the spring attaches through the side of the housing. It's in a slot that's rectangular with one end a bit narrower. With a pair of needle nose pliers, grab the end of the spring and pull just a bit, slip it to the wider portion of the slot and remove the spring. When it gets to the end, rotate the spring 90 degrees and give it a wiggle and it should come free from the pulley. Try to remember how this feels because you're going to have to re-install it and now is a good time to get familiar with how it works. There's a similar notch in the pulley to match the one in the housing except it doesn't have a wide section.

Remove any remaining rope from the pulley. With solvent or WD-40 and a rag, clean the spring. If it's rusted or won't clean up, replace it.

Have the new rope ready. 3 thrugh 4 hp engines use a number 4 rope, about 5 foot. If the rope is to travel up the handle for an extended rope set up, add to the 5 foot the distance from the recoil to the rope retainer on the handle. 5 hp engines use a number 5 or 5 1/2 rope. Burn [melt] the ends of the rope to prevent fraying and carefully [use a rag to prevent burning the fingers] shape the melted rope to a dull straight point. Don't leave a glob at the end, you won't be able to feed the rope into the pulley later.
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Now, since you probably don't have the special tool, have someone handy to lend an extra pair of hands. Snake the sping back into the housing and find the notch in the pulley. Rotate the spring back into proper alignment and begin winding the pulley counterclockwise. Keep light tension on the spring to keep it in place. When you get to about a foot of spring left, hold the spring tight and wind the pulley 2 more rounds. With a pair of needle nose pliers, grab the tip of the spring securely and feed back into the retaining notch. Don't let go until it's in place or you'll be trying to dig the spring out of the housing. Once the spring is secure, wind the pulley until it stops. Back off the pulley until the hole for the rope aligns with the housing hole for the rope. Don't try to force wind the pulley tighter to align, you'll end up breaking the spring later on from being to tight.

Now is when you really need the extra pair of hands. While continueing to hold the pulley, feed the rope through the housing and into the pulley hole, somtimes a little twist will feed it up or retrieve your needle nose for grabbing the rope. Tie a single, tight knot with about a half inch left over and pull the rope down to the pulley. Hey, you're almost done!

Re-attach the rope grip and re-install the housing on the engine. Unless you have a clutch problem also.


Starter Clutch

The center square extension of the starter clutch should lock when turned clocwise, it should easily freewheel when turned counterclockwise. If not it will damage the recoil.

Remove the 1/4 inch hex screws retaining the debris screen, [if so equiped] and remove the screen. Replace the screws so the clutch won't come apart.

The clutch has a nut molded into it's lower body so the clutch doubles as the flywheel retainer. Use a pair of vise grips and clamp to the bottom of the deck in a manner so they will stop travel of the blade. With a pair of large channel locks, vice grips or pipe wrench {there is a special tool if you want to get it} unscrew the main clutch body. It has standard direction threads. Once off, you'll notice the crank has an extension up the middle of the clutch square adaptor for the recoil pulley. It's there as a support. It should be polished. Clean it with WD-40 and steel wool before installing the new clutch. Don't use any oil or grease, just the WD-40. You don't want to attract dirt, and oil will. In the top of the clutch square is a tiny hole, under it is a felt pad. Place one [1] drop of motor oil in that hole, nothing more.

The clutch should be torqued to 55 foot pounds. With out the special tool this may be difficult to do accurately. GET it tight.


The Lawn Mower Repair Man