Remember, they’re made to be lightweight. So before the inevitable comparison with your starts-every-pull lawnmower, be thankful you don’t have to carry your 22 hp garden, 200 lb rider on your back.
The most likely problems will be the cord breaking or the main spring snapping where it’s tangs bend to hold it in place. The cord breaking is obvious-it comes out in your hand. Spring failure has two failure modes: 1) the cord won’t retract at all, or 2) after you pull it out, the handle doesn’t retract all the way. You’re left with several inches (or lots more) cord hanging loose.
This unit is blessedly easier to work on than a couple other that I’ve worked on although I’m certainly no master mechanic.
The most likely rebuild parts, besides obviously worn ones, are the spring and cord. Here are the steps to replacing anything in the assembly:
After removing the starter assembly from the motor, lay it down as shown and unscrew the only screw there, the Pawl Cap Screw, which holds everything together.
Pull the pawl cap off along with with the little center spring just below it. The screw has a wide diameter shaft that allows the pawl cap to spin even though the screw is tightened.
The reel contains the pawls on top, cord in the middle and main spring below. Take care that the main spring doesn’t fall out. If the spring snaps out of its metal housing, curl up into the fetal position and cry. It may not be so bad but I have thankfully not rounded that particularly nasty curve. While holding the pawls in place, pull the main spring out (you may have to twist it first) then lay the reel down with the pawls on top.
Replace the cord if necessary. Now is a great time to do so because it’s easy. Don’t skimp on cord quality. Boating cord (see Boaters World) is the good stuff, apparently. It can’t be too thick lest it not fit enough windings in the reel. Stretchy is bad because it chafes while stretching.
Replace the main spring. Here’s the trick: use a very small piece of toilet paper to wedge in on the spring’s edge to hold it in place. That simple trick made rebuilding this thing a breeze.
Put everything back together, preferably using a dab of medium locktite for bolt.
Theoretically this should last for at least 100 hours but do have an extra main spring and cord on hand. Enjoy your now-easy and reliable starting!