Generator Pull Cord That Won’t Recoil [6 Easy Fix]

Generators are typically started using a pull cord mechanism, with some models using alternative methods such as a key, switch, or remote device. The pull cord includes a T-shaped handle that extends outside the cord hub, forming part of the starter recoil system.

Ideally, the pull cord should extend when pulled and retract when released, thanks to the combination of springs responsible for its recoil. However, sometimes the pull cord may fail to retract, making it impossible to restart the generator.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the common causes behind this issue and offer practical solutions for fixing it. While the solutions discussed apply to both new and used generators, the wear and tear of components tend to affect the latter more. Nonetheless, these fixes will ensure that your generator operates smoothly and efficiently.

Below are some potential explanations for why your pull cord cannot retract into the recoil hub.

generator pull cord basic image

Dirty or Damaged Recoil Starter

An unclean or faulty recoil starter is the most frequent reason for a generator pull cord that won’t retract. Dirt, debris, or rust can accumulate over time and jam the recoil starter, preventing it from working correctly. The pull rope may become stuck if the recoil starter is worn or damaged.

How to Fix or Replace Damaged Recoil

It could be necessary to clean or replace the recoil starter if it is soiled or broken. Remove the recoil starter from the generator and clean it by brushing or blowing compressed air through it to get rid of any dirt or debris. You might need to buy a new recoil starter if the broken one cannot be repaired.

Engine Seized Can Cause Generator Pull Cord

An engine that has seized is yet another potential reason why the drawcord on a generator won’t retract. The draw rope may not be able to retract if the engine has seized as a result of low oil pressure or another technical issue.

How to Fix Engine Seizing:

If the engine has seized, you must deal with the root cause of the problem. This could entail fixing a mechanical issue or adding oil. You should refer to the generator’s manual for detailed guidance on how to handle engine problems.

To prevent your Generator Engine from being seized read why the Generator overloads while nothing is plugged in and how to solve it.

Bent or Broken Recoil Spring

generator's inside pull cord spring

A generator pull cord that won’t retract can also be caused by a bent or damaged recoil spring. The pull cord is wound back into the generator by the recoil spring once it has been pulled. It’s possible that the spring won’t have enough tension to coil the rope back in if it’s damaged or bent.


The recoil spring may need to be changed or repaired if it is bent or broken. It’s crucial to get advice from an expert or the generator’s handbook for this more difficult remedy.

Pull the Cord Knot inside the starter

A straightforward knot in the pull string can occasionally prevent it from retracting. This may occur if the cord is not wound back into the generator tightly enough or if it is knotted in some way.

How to Fix:

Carefully unwind the pull cord and cut any knots if it has become tangled or knotted. In order to avoid further tangles, it’s a good idea to make sure the cord is wound back into the generator properly after use.

Damaged Pulley

the generator's inside pull cord image to view poly

A damaged pulley is another potential reason why a generator pull cord won’t retract. The pulley is in charge of directing the pull cord back into the generator; if it is broken or damaged, the cord may not retract as intended. This may occur if the pulley is worn down or gets hit by debris.

How to Fix Damaged Pully:

To replace a damaged pulley with a new one and cure the problem, take out the generator’s recoil starter. Make sure the pulley you buy is the appropriate size and kind for your generator. For instructions on how to correctly replace a damaged pulley, it’s vital to ask a professional or study the generator’s handbook.

Broken or Worn-Out Friction (Drive) Plate

The friction (drive) plate could eventually become down or suffer damage from frequent use, friction, or heat.

How to Fix:

A worn-out or broken friction (drive) plate may make it difficult for the cord to retract fully. You can resolve this problem by taking out the recoil starter from the generator, checking the friction plate for wear or damage, replacing it if necessary, making sure you get the right size and type of friction plate for your generator, and getting advice from a professional or the generator’s manual on how to replace a worn-out or broken friction plate. This will make your generator pull cord easily repairable.

Jacob Henry
Jacob Henry

Jacob Henry is a skilled generator mechanic passionate about electricity and machines. He specializes in quick electrical repairs and stays up-to-date with the latest techniques. Jacob values high-quality repairs and excellent customer service, making him a valuable asset to his clients.

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