How to adjust a lawn mower's idle

Updated February 21, 2017

You can accurately adjust the idle on your lawnmower with a tachometer. A tachometer is an instrument that indicates engine speed in revolutions per minute (rpm). A correctly set idle prevents the engine stalling when you reduce the throttle from higher operating speeds and it contributes to greater fuel efficiency and smooth engine rpm transitions. You can adjust lawnmower engine idle speed are with the proper tools, equipment and basic mechanical ability.

Connect the tachometer's electronic pickup wire to the spark plug wire of the lawnmower engine. Wrap the wire tightly several turns by hand. The engine must not be operating at this time.

Remove the engine air filter screw and the filter from the top of the carburettor, using a flathead screwdriver. Turn the screw counterclockwise and lift the filter off.

Start the engine and allow it to operate for five minutes at half throttle to bring it to its normal operating temperature. Once the engine has warmed, reduce the throttle slowly to idle.

Locate the engine air/fuel mixture screw at the bottom of the carburettor fuel bowl.

Turn the idle mixture screw slowly clockwise until the engine revs begin to fall. Turn the screw counterclockwise until the engine begins to pick up again, then turn it slowly back to a midpoint position.

Locate the engine idle speed screw. The screw is on the top of the carburettor connected to the flat throttle stop-plate. The throttle linkage is attached to the other end of the plate arm making the screw location conspicuous.

Adjust the idle screw clockwise with the appropriate screwdriver to increase idle speed or counterclockwise to reduce it. The correct engine idle speed is 1750rpm for aluminium-cylinder engines or 1200rpm for engines with a cast-iron cylinder sleeve.

Replace the air filter and tighten the screw clockwise with a screwdriver.


Tachometers are available at auto parts stores and many home improvement centres.


Keep hands and feet clear of the mower blade when the engine is operating and avoid wearing loose clothing.

Things You'll Need

  • Tachometer
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
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About the Author

Max Stout began writing in 2000 and started focusing primarily on non-fiction articles in 2008. Now retired, Stout writes technical articles with a focus on home improvement and maintenance. Previously, he has worked in the vocational trades such as automotive, home construction, residential plumbing and electric, and industrial wire and cable. Max also earned a degree of biblical metaphysician from Trinity Seminars Ministry Academy.