It’s frustrating when your Ryobi electric lawn mower won’t start, especially because the selling point is that they are really easy to start and really reliable. Here’s what to do when it happens.

When your Ryobi electric mower won’t start, it’s usually one of three things. It’s often the battery, the handle not being fully extended or locked, or the discharge, all of which are fairly easy to fix.

Don’t forget the battery!

Don’t overlook the most obvious solution. If your battery is flat, or overheated, that could be the problem. Here’s some advice on Ryobi batteries. If the battery is freshly charged and tests good in the charger, it’s not the battery.

But if the mower was working and stopped suddenly, this is the most common reason. Let the battery cool down and then charge it.

Check the handle

Ryobi electric mower won't start

When your Ryobi electric mower won’t start, it’s usually either the handle or the discharge. Extend the handle and check that the discharge is connected properly.

The handle is supposed to be fully extended for the mower to run. You can lock the handle in a lower position. But the extensible handle is meant for storage, not to adjust the mower’s height. Most of the time when my Ryobi electric mower won’t start, it’s the handle. Either the handle isn’t quite fully extended, or one of the levers that holds the handle in place isn’t locked in the right position. Or both. It’s very easy to bump one of the levers when you walk past the mower in the garage.

When I unlock the handle, extend it fully, and lock it in place on both sides, it starts working again.

Just to be sure, I always lower the handle completely downward. Then I extend the handle completely, and lock it in place.

When I have trouble starting my mower, or one of my family members says they can’t get our Ryobi mower to start, this is the most frequent reason why.

Check the discharge

The other reason a Ryobi mower may refuse to start is because of the discharge. If you’ve changed between the discharge, mulching, or bagging anytime recently, make sure the deflector, mulching plug, or bag is installed completely, and completely snapped into place. There is a sensor that detects when you don’t have one of those three things properly installed, since running the mower without one of them is a safety issue.

I almost always mulch, so this usually isn’t the issue for me. And these parts are designed to be really easy to change. But if you have the bag or deflector installed and the mower gets bumped, I could see the bar coming unsnapped and making the sensor unhappy.

It takes about a minute to check, regardless.

In my experience, the problem is one of those two things most of the time. Check one, try starting. Then check the other and try again. You’ll probably be back in business.

Bad sensors

I have heard of the sensors going bad on Ryobi electric mowers. And there are already YouTube videos showing how to bypass them. I have a couple of problems with this. The first being that virtually any Ryobi electric lawn mower is probably still under warranty, so bypassing the sensors voids the warranty.

If you’re good with a soldering iron, then bypassing the sensor probably is less work than taking the mower back to the store to get it fixed. And you can make the modification in an afternoon. An authorized repair will certainly take longer than that. Maybe a week, maybe multiple weeks.

So you will have to decide if voiding the warranty on your $300 piece of lawn equipment is worth that for you. I would certainly recommend calling the store where you bought it to find out what the warranty procedure is and how long it usually takes. It’s at least worth the phone call.

Safety issues

The second problem is, you are introducing a safety issue when you make these modifications. I know people have mixed feelings on that, and some people like to defeat the safety measures on their tools, thinking this somehow is sticking it to the man. But if there is one thing I have noticed in the course of doing my day job, it’s that people are not very good at calculating risk. I have seen the same person say that 30% is really high or really low in two different situations, and I’ve seen this more than once.

Safety features reduce the number of bad things that happen. They don’t completely eliminate them, and unfortunately, there is an element of society who believe that if you don’t eliminate the bad thing from happening, it’s not worth doing anything. But if your choice is between stopping the bad thing from happening 50 times out of 100 instead of allowing it 100 times out of 100, it’s worth doing. At least you stopped 50 bad things. And usually the effectiveness is much higher than that.

I probably don’t know you, but I’d still really rather you didn’t get hurt.

Two possible workarounds

My workaround has been to have two mowers. I have the 20-in mower that works how mowers are intended, and I have a small, cheap, 13 in mower for backup. If one of the mowers ever gives me trouble, I can use the other one. And the 13-in mower is small and light enough that it doesn’t take a lot of space. Granted, it’s a $175 piece of equipment, and for some people that’s a lot of money. And for other people that’s a trivial amount of money. I look at it and much cheaper than a trip to the emergency room, and also less money than I would get fine if a neighbor complained that I haven’t been mowing my lawn.

If that’s more money then you want to tie up and having a spare lawn mower, here’s another option. Maybe one of your neighbors would let you borrow their lawn mower long enough to finish the job. And then again the next time you need to mow if your Ryobi is still in the shop. Just a thought.