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How to Troubleshoot MTD Rider Solenoid Mowers

TONDEUSE AUTOPORTEE ref 1400 image by Marie-Thérèse GUIHAL from

Virtually every MTD riding mower with a battery and keyed ignition system can be called a solenoid mower. This is because the electric starting function needs a solenoid to operate properly. For MTD riding mowers and nearly every other electrically started vehicle, a solenoid will be an integral part of the ignition circuit. All solenoids act like an electromagnetic switch. When the ignition has been activated, the solenoid closes the circuit and allows power to the starter. If the starter does not respond when the ignition is turned to the "start" position, the first thing to do is to troubleshoot the solenoid.

Locate the solenoid on your MTD riding mower. Open the hood and find the positive or red cable that comes off the battery. The red battery cable will begin at the battery and end at an electrical post attached to the solenoid.

Locate the starter cable. This will be a large red cable, similar to the battery cable, that will be connected to the other electrical post on the solenoid. This cable leads directly to the starter, and needs to be removed from the solenoid electrical post with a proper sized wrench. Although there may be other cables or wires attached to the solenoid, they will be smaller than the larger battery and starter cables and can stay attached.

Adjust your multimeter setting to 20 volts DC. Turn the ignition switch on the rider to the "on" position. Touch or clip the black or ground probe on your multimeter to the chassis. Touch or clip the red or positive probe to the post where the battery cable remains connected, and verify that the multimeter is now reading 12 volts.

Disconnect or remove the red probe from the battery side on the solenoid. Clip or touch the red probe to the side of the solenoid where the starter cable has been removed. Activate the starting sequence by turning the ignition to the "start" position, and read the voltage on the multimeter. If the solenoid is good, you will read 12 volts on the multimeter. If there is a zero voltage reading on the multimeter, the solenoid is not working and needs to be replaced.


Backyard mechanics have a little trick they use to test a potentially bad solenoid. The ignition is switched the the "start" position, and the solenoid is lightly tapped with a hammer or a wrench. Oftentimes, the tapping will trigger the electromagnetic switch inside of the solenoid, which will complete the circuit and allow the mower to start.

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