Bolen's Lawn Tractor/Tiller won't start

About a year and a half ago, after I’d done some tilling with 70’s model Bolens tractor, I turned it off. Then I couldn’t get it started again-wouldn’t turn over. It sat unitl the other day. I replaced ignition, spark plugs. Turns over now but won’t start.

How old is the gasoline you’re trying to use? If it’s been in the tank for more than a year it’s probably no good.

changed it out of the tank; but not the lines past the filter.

I recently had to replace the carburetor on a chipper that had been sitting, unused, for some time. The gasoline had absorbed so much water that the carburetor was corroded internally and could not be salvaged.

I hope you don’t have a similar problem.

I’d drain the gas out of the carburetor, lines, and filter and try fresh gas before doing anything else.

Try spraying some starter fluid into the intake to see if that helps get it going.

I would pull the carb, take it apart and clean it. Also replace the fuel filter.

If all of that sounds too ambitious, my brother recently got an old chain saw running again after a long time by draining out all of the fuel, adding straight SeaFoam to the tank, and just cranking enough to get the carb full of SeaFoam. He let it sit for a day or so, and that was all it took.

One of the biggest problems people have with small equipment is getting it started after it’s been sitting for a long time. This is very very common here in the Northeast where 6 months out of the year our lawn-mowers sit in the garage or shed…and the same with our snow blowers.

And MOST of the time it’s the gas. The gas has gone bad or turned to varnish. The one thing I ALWAYS do it drain the tank BEFORE I put the blower/mower away for the season. Then I start it and let it run until all the gas in the system is used up. That way I don’t have any problems again the next season.

I had an old Bolens lawn tractor about the same vintage as yours. It went through motors pretty regularly, and needed the block replaced. When you stopped it and it won’t turn over that sounds like it may have been siezed up. Sitting over time the metal is at different temperature now, this may allow it to turn over but slower that normal due to friction. If I’m right the compression will be lousy because essentially your motor is shot. Low compression and slow cranking will mean it will be very hard to start. If you get it running it will likely only run a bit and sieze again.

For your sake I hope I’m wrong. After 2 motors (and I was good about oil changing which was a bear on my tractor), I went back to a push mover.

Agreed Mike . . . but I NEVER have an issue, always drain the gas & squirt oil in the plug hole in the Fall, then change the oil, clean and re-gap the plug . . . fresh gas in the Spring and viola! Most trouble I have with that stuff is the ignition systems shake themselves apart sometimes, but easy enough to change. OP should change the oil and gas, clean and re-gap the plug, then post back. Rocketman

Didja ever price a carb for a regular, push-type lawn mower? I had to scrap a mower just because the carb crapped-out . . . the replacemetn carb was almost as much as Wal-Mart wanted for a whole new mower. Go figure. Rocketman

What about spark? If you have spark, then you probably can get it to fire with a little starting fluid in the carb. THat would indicate a fuel problem. If there is no spark, and it has a magneto, it’s time to pull the mag and check the point’s. I haven’t seen much discussion about how to troubleshoot your tractor. That is where (IMHO) you need to start.

I forgot to mention in the main text… the spark plugs are not sparking. I look at the plugs (I attach one to a plug boot, then let it dangle to the side-ungrounded) while I am cranking the key. I don’t see a spark (brand new plugs btw). what to check next?

Last year my lawnmower stopped starting. I pulled and pulled and pulled. Then I checked the air cleaner. Problem revealed!

Runs fine now.

When you check for spark the plug needs to be held against the motor to ground it,use a rubber or wood handled screwdriver. If no spark look at plug wire and there will be a wire or wires coming from under fan shroud, make sure it is in good shape and follow it and make sure it is connected good.
If that does not work take off fan shroud, look, some screws ma be longer than others.The coil is where plug wire comes from and flywheel has magnets built into its side and when flywheel spins coil picks up electricty. Clean magnets and face of coil with sandpaper. There is a thickness setting these 2 parts have so if you remove check it before hand, I used to use matchbook cover to judge when you replace it.
See if you have spark now, if not you need to clean or replace points.
Some flywheels have a cutout where you can turn it until you see a shinny cover. Points are under it.If not you have to take flywheel off.
If cleaning flywheel does not work I would buy new points and condenser and relace.


I repaired lawnmowers/tractors/snowblowers for several years. If someone left fuel in one of them over a hot summer, it would do one of three things:

1: Just go stale. In this case, pouring out the old gas and refilling with new (including purging the carb of old fuel) would do the trick.

2: Cause a varnish film. In this case, a can of carburetor spray sprayed in the carb ports would do the trick. Oftentimes you needed to remove the jets and remove the varnish film from them as well.

3: A solid varnish cake. Every year a certain amount of these carbs would have the gas turn into a solid varnish. No can of carb cleaner would even touch them. The only way to get them clean would be to submerse the carb in a container of industrial strength carb cleaner and let it soak overnight. The labor costs for doing this rises quickly - making the expensive new carb purchase look attractive.

The moral of the story, as all the replies have been saying, drain the fuel or use fuel stabilizer.

When putting the engine (mower/tille/blower/etc.) away for an extended period, you need to do more than just empty the gas tank and line. It’s the gas remaining in the carbureator that causes the varnish to form on the micro-screen filter inside the carbureator. After draining all the gas in the tank and line, you need to start the engine and let it run dry.