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Chainsaw Pull Cord Not Catching? How To Fix It

Chainsaw Pull Cord Not Catching? How To Fix It

If your chainsaw pull cord is not catching, your cutting mission is ruined. Your chainsaw will only start if the pull cord, which runs the starter system to crank up the chainsaw engine, is working. You must address why the chainsaw pull cord is not catching.

A chainsaw pull cord might not catch because the recoil spring and pulley ears are damaged, so you have to replace them to fix the issue. Damaged pawls may also cause this issue; you can replace or repair them. Damage to the crankshaft or cylinder will need professional attention.

In this article, I will talk about how all the parts of a chainsaw, including the pulleys, flywheel, and cylinder, play a role in getting the pull cord to catch and how to fix them. Rest assured that following this guide can easily get your saw up and running quickly and with minimal effort.

1. How To Fix Faulty Recoil Springs and Pulley Ears

Faulty recoil springs and pulley ears can cause the pull cord not to catch and cause your chainsaw to stall during use (source). If your recoil springs are faulty, they cannot pull the chain back after each cut. You can fix this common problem with a few simple steps.

  1. Start by disconnecting the spark plug wire to lower the risk of injury if the chain saw starts.
  2. Disassemble the outer starter assembly to expose the pulley system.
  3. Pull out the rope and use a screwdriver to secure the recoil spring. This step will allow you to remove the rope easily.
  4. Remove the rope and screwdriver to allow tension to return to the spring.
  5. Unscrew the center bolt and remove the pressure plate to release the pulley.
  6. Insert a new pulley and ensure it aligns perfectly with the housing post.
  7. Screw back the center bolt. 
  8. Rotate the pulley with your hand to tighten the spring, and then use the screwdriver to hold it.
  9. Reattach the rope and remove the screwdriver to wind down the rope.
  10. Reassemble the cover and return the spark plug wire.
  11. Try to start the chainsaw.

2. How To Repair Broken Pawls

To examine the pawls, you have to repeat the procedure of removing the pulley to expose the flywheel pawls. 

  1. Examine the pawls and determine whether they can be repaired or a new set of spawls is needed. I recommend getting a completely new set of pawls since this can save you frustrations in the future.
  2. After inserting the new pawls, reassemble the pulley and cover systems.
  3. Reinsert the plug system and test the chain saw.

If you have a Stihl chainsaw, I recommend the Haishine Recoil Starter Pawl (link to Amazon). It is made from quality materials, ensuring it is 100% durable and easy to carry. 

This pawl is strong and resistant to breakage and inspection standards, encompassing a wide range of applications and advanced features at an affordable price.

3. Fixing Damage to the Crankshaft and Cylinder Components

Damage to the crankshaft and cylinder components is another probable cause of your pull cord not catching. The cord will feel slippery and loose when the crankshaft does not connect properly to the piston. 

I recommend you engage a qualified technician when dealing with this challenge. The engine is a complex system that is best left to the professionals to fix (source).

Chainsaw Pull Cord System: How it Works and Common Issues

The pull cord starter mechanism of your chainsaw is simple to understand. The starter cord will start slipping because of a faulty component in the starter system

Component failures in the chainsaw starter system result from stresses of regular use. Typically, cord slipping results from work on pulley pawls, broken or worn-out pulleys, faulty starters, or damaged cylinder components.

To understand this mechanism, I will explain what happens when pulling the cord to start your chainsaw. 

The Pulley

The pull cord is wrapped around a pulley system. This allows it to be pulled in and out as it recoils around the engine. A spring located at the center of the pulley sends the pull cord back into place.

A damaged pulley system can cause your pull cord to slip. The most common cause of a broken pulley system is the cracking of the plastic that makes up the pulley system. 

The cracks or breaks can interfere with pulling the cord around the pulley, which can most likely cause the cord to get stuck.

The Flywheel

The flywheel is the heart of the chainsaw starter system. The flywheel rotates the crankshaft and relies on magnets that sit on its outside to generate electrical energy adequate to fire high-voltage sparks that ignite the engine (source). 

The flywheel is attached to the pulley system via special pawls/wings. The pawls are the most likely component to fail and cause your chainsaw pull cord not to catch. 

What is most likely to cause the cord to slip freely on the pulley is a dysfunctional recoil spring and broken plastic ears that connect to the pawls on the flywheel. 

A dysfunctional spring will not stretch adequately and snap back to retract the cord when let go. With little recoil, your pull cord will feel weak and run freely. 

Secondly, there will be little contact between the pulley and the flywheel when the pulley ears are broken. These ears are designed to spin out and catch the pawls of the flywheel (source). The crankshaft will not run over in this case, and the cord will run freely.


The crankshaft is located at the center of the flywheel, and as it rotates, it helps to pull in air and fuel by pushing the piston. 

The flywheel has to spin fast enough to draw adequate air and fuel into the system; otherwise, the chainsaw won’t start. Worn crank bearings are a common reason for the crankshaft breaking, which prevents the pull cord from catching. 

If your chainsaw stops when you give it gas, read my comprehensive guide to find out the reasons. You can address them by following the steps.

Final Thoughts

Faults in the pulley system, flywheel, or cylinder head components can cause your pull cord not to catch. The pulley and flywheel are easy to fix at home, but the engine might require technical assistance. 

I recommend replacing faulty worn-out parts with new parts to prevent future frustrations. Also, read the user manual carefully before disassembling the chainsaw to lower the risk of harming yourself. If you’re unsure about assembling and fixing the chainsaw yourself, engage a technician to ensure your chainsaw remains in good working condition. 

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