Sticky/Squealing Ratchet Starter Briggs and Stratton

It’s taken me far longer than it should, but I’ve finally gotten my McLane Edger craigslist score in a proper working order. The original issue had always been an awful squealing noise that would totally un-wind the pull cord in disastrous fashion. A secondary issue was that the cutter arm was totally frozen, would not turn, rotate or telescope. I thought maybe the cutter arm was the issue as it seemed to happen as soon as I put pressure on the engine pulley. Turns out they were un-related, after failed attemps to free the cutter arm I ended up just replacing it with a new one – best $75 spent.

I knew then it had something to do with the starter pulley, which is a hard thing to google if you have no idea what it’s called. Common official terms appear to be “Ratchet Starter”, or “Ratchet Clutch”. What also makes it hard are the specs for this engine; a 2hp Briggs and Stratton horizontal shaft 4-stroke, I think they haven’t made them since the mid 90’s but they are bulletproof little engines used in everything from snow blowers to a favorite for go-karters.  If I knew something about engines, probably wouldn’t have needed to google anything…

The best resources I found we’re Canadians or upper mid-west folk’s youtube videos on repairing their snow blowers/reel mowers, this was by far at the top:

And this guy has nothing but time to dink with small engines:

To repair:

Edger with pull starter housing on, you’ll pull this off to get to the ratchet starter.

This is also an example of how to change the oil, plus stuff on blocks looks cool no matter what it is.

Ratchet starter assembly after removing pull-cord housing

This picture shows the ratchet assembly in the center after removing the pull-cord housing.

Inside of ratchet starter

This shows the inside of the ratchet starter.  I’d actually been to this point about three times, oiled and cleaned all of the ball bearings with no luck solving my problem.  Wasn’t until I watched that youtube video I realized that inner shaft was the problem.  I took that off, was able to clean the entire inside of the ball-bearing housing, and cleaned and lubricated the engine shaft and ratchet-post thing.

My two go-to’s for cleaning/lubrication have always been some WD-40 Multi-Use Spray with Smart Straw, 12 oz. and 3-IN-ONE 10138 Multi-Purpose Oil, 8 oz.

Now it runs like a champ, along with my new cutter arm it’s like new.  And yes, my yard looks better than yours.

6 thoughts on “Sticky/Squealing Ratchet Starter Briggs and Stratton

  1. Thanks for this. With this article and a youtube vid, I got my old horizontal shaft powered mower back in the game.

  2. Thanks for providing this! I am curious as to whether you want heavy oil or grease on the shaft. I used motorcycle chain lube. So far, so good!

  3. This really helped, it was frustrating trying to figure out the screech til I read this then I knew what the matter was. Worked on an old craftsman 5hp rototiller, probably the same motor

    I used a little motor oil and it’s working great


  4. Started my 5 HP rototiller motor for the fall rototilling and got the screech and squeal. Cleaned it up like I have done many times before by getting out the dirt. This always worked before. Put it back together, worse screech and squeal! I figured I better check the internet to see what might be the cause and and how to fix it. Your post showed up among others, and seemed as the best one to look at. Your directions and video were great. Used 1600 grit sand paper and fine steel wool on the shaft and inside the ratchet starter (used a screwdriver to get it in there) to remove the corrosion (it was very slight, could hardly see it) that occurred during summer storage. Then used a couple of drops of 3 in 1 oil to lubricate the shaft. Made sure that the ratchet spun freely. I didn’t lubricate the ball bearings or the housing that hold them. Previously I found that it collected dirt and would hasten the need to clean the ratchet starter assembly sooner. Thanks so much for your post. I would not have known how important the free spin of the ratchet is without your post!

  5. Just picked up a Craftsman wood chipper with an 8 HP horiz shaft Briggs & Stratton. It had sat unused for about 5 yrs but I was able to get it running off of starter fluid… until it made that horrid screech/squeal noise. The seller shaved 50 bucks off the price on the spot and said it would be cheaper than an exorcist! I got the unit home and jumped on the ol’ internet to troubleshoot, landing here shortly thereafter. This describes the symptom to a T, and now I’m confident I can repair it! Thanks for sharing this info for the greater good!

  6. Omg – I could not figure out what was making that horrid noise. You sir are the man. Thank you for your spot on video.

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