How to Fix/Adjust Toro 20017 Self-Propel Cable

floridalandscapemanJune 21, 2008

I was mowing my front yard this morning with my three year old Toro 20017 Model Personal Pace 22" rear drive self propelled lawn mower when snap, the self propel function stopped working. I was able to fix it myself today. Since it was a bit of an ordeal, not to fix it, but to find information on how to fix it, I thought I'd post my experience.

First, let me state that I triaged the problem correctly that the self-propel cable was broken. This is the cable that runs down the left-hand side of the mower. I was not able to get a replacement cable at HD but I was able to get some replacement plastic handle screws that I needed as well so at least the trip was not a waste ($3). I headed back home and tried a lawn repair shop near my home and they carried the cable ($12). Ok, so plastic screws and new self prople cable in hand ... I headed home.

Second, let me say before I started the actual repair, I googled around and found *some* help but nothing that really articulated what I wanted to know - so here's my effort to fix that for the next guy.

YOU CAN REPLACE THE CABLE WITHOUT REMOVING THE WHEELS AND REAR ASSEMBLY OF THE MOWER. I didn't have to remove anything from the mower. Start by removing the cable from the mower's handle. In my case, the small metal tip had broken off that latches the cable to the mower, so the cable was just hanging there. I loosened the tension adjustment screw until I was able to pull the cable out of it by pulling it down through the hole. At the time, I didnt even know that was used for adjusting the tension, I could just tell I had to loosen it to remove the cable. If you follow the cable down to the mower housing itself, you'll find a small plastic round piece next to where the cable passes through the housing. Take this off! You'll find you can push the cable through a slot and the plastic piece reveals a bigger hole that you can pull the other end of the cable out of. This cable has a spring at the end which is will fit through this hole. My next step is hard to decribe but I'll do my best. I flipped the mower upside down. You'll see a plastic piece that prevents you from getting your hand in to pull the cable out. The plastic peice is a barrier from the grass cutting area and where the transmission is. You don't need to remove this! This plastic piece is held in with 4 screws. You don't need to remove them, but you do need to loosen the screws closest to you with the mower turned upside down. Or if the mower is right side up, you need to loosen the ones closest to the ground. These two screws hold a metal bar in place that runs the diameter of the mower and obviously provides structural support. Once the screws are loosened, you can pivot the bar out of the way and get your hands on the transmission lever that the spring connects to. I'm sorry for not using the right words to describe this ... With the bar out of the way, you can pull up on the lever and get your hands on the spring and unhook it from the level. Once this is done, you can remove the old cable! From this point on it's easy. Put the new cable on the same way you found the cable. Rotate the bar back. Tighten the screws the way you found them. Put the plastic piece back. Run the cable through the cable support plastic peice. Run the cable through the plastic adjustment piece (this is right near the top of the mower handle). If you look at the cable on the right, you'll see a hole where that cable hooks to the mower's handle. On the left side, you'll see a similar hole. Don't hook the self propel cable into that hole! If you do that, the self propel will engage when you pull up NOT when you push down. If you look at the underside of the mower plastic handle at the top, you'll see another hole where the top of the cable needs to attach. Once it's attached, tighten the cable adjustment screw pulling up on the cable to remove any slack. You should be good to go. I know this is a long description but if you can follow it - it will save you a repair bill.

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Good job. But, are you saying you turned the mower upside down? That's pretty extreme - you need to check the air filter to make sure oil didn't run back into the intake tract. Did the mower run okay after that? Did you have much of a gas leak? Usually its sufficient to turn it up on the RH side wheels, with the carburetor on the high side. The plastic tank shroud is easily damaged and could crack from the weight of the mower, but perhaps with the handle in place the shroud wouldn't touch. I have never seen or heard of a 4-cycle mower being turned upside-down with oil and gas in it. Certainly a novel approach!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 8:57AM
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I just replaced my cable. It broke at the top and despite attempts to jury rig the cable, the mower was too difficult to operate. I followed your directions, but ended up dissembling the housing surrounding the transmission. I could not get the new cable spring hook seated into the transmission hole. From start to finish (not counting trip to Toro shop for $12 cable), 2 hours. I now have to figure out how to adjust the tension. If you can seat the hook with taking apart the housing, go for it. It was a bit tricky inserting the rear handle support bracket washer and screws. Thanks for the original post as it convinced me to put in a new cable.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 12:43PM
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I want to thank floridalandscapeman for helping me going in the right direction concerning where you attach the cable on the handle side. Effectively the most obvious location (symetrical to the right side) isn't correct and the effect of pushing the handle will stop the traction instead of engaging it.
The key is to attach the cable (like described by floridalandscapeman) to the platic part which is moved clock-wise by the spring loaded lever (undernief the handle) when you push the handle.
You just have to adjust the tension of the cable and test it by raising the back wheels and while holding the middle bar (halfway down) push the handle and observe the wheels rotation. If they don't turn it means that you need more tension. At this point it is common sense and you have won!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 11:01AM
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Thanks for your posting. This was really helpful. I had tried turning the mower on its RH side and found it hard to see the hole where the spring goes. After reading this post I tried turning it over and could see much better, but still I had to bend the spring tip slightly to get it in the hole. Other than that it went pretty smooth.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 8:28PM
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Thanks for the help. Mine is a different Model, but your information helped alot

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 8:56PM
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My cable is attached at both ends but it is too slack.
How do I fix this condition?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 2:48PM
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There are two screws on the underside that come off very easily and will let you take the black plastic piece off. One screw is near the front wheel and the other is a little harder to see at first. It is located in the corner just past where the blade would reach to (near the black plastic guard). I had to use a needle nose plier to get it off and on. Once the screws were off, the black plastic (top) piece came off with ease. I put the lawn mower on its side to get them off.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:06PM
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This post was helpful. MIne was not broken but needed adjustment. For the adjustment i loosened the screw on the handle that is about midway and looks like it only there to hold the cable against the handle, slid the cable down some, tightened it back and she rolls again.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Thanks for the advice, floridalandscapeman, I wished I would have read the part where you said "On the left side, you'll see a similar hole. Don't hook the self propel cable into that hole! If you do that, the self propel will engage when you pull up NOT when you push down." I spent 2 hours thinking that the cable went into the hole! This job was not bad, I did not have to even take the plastic part off, I could finally got the main spring onto the pully, but it wasn't easy....

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 5:06PM
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Thanks for the info on changing out the cable, very helpful. I have messed with the cable for over an hour just trying to hook the new cable spring to the lever. I have the model 20017 too and I simply can't get the hook end into the hole, there doesn't seem to be enough room for your fingers to angle the spring into the hole. What am I doing wrong here?
Thanks for any help.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 8:14PM
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how do I get a replacement cable.I am thinking of splicing the one i have because i can not find it. I can discard the tubing and use bicycle cable.??

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:07PM
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"how do I get a replacement cable."
Your best source is to call the manufacturer.

"I am thinking of splicing the one i have because i can not find it. I can discard the tubing and use bicycle cable.??"

Splicing a broken cable is difficult to do properly. The joint will have to be both strong as well as smooth to slide without hanging in the sheath. Bicycle cable might work if it is the right diameter and you can get the end proper end connectors.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 2:38PM
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I have the same model, now laying there apart. I specified the exact part # for the traction cable at a dealer, got the parts manual for my serial # online. But the old cable had a ball at the end that retained it in the spring. The new one has like an "S" curve at the end of the cable, at both ends really. I see how to insert it at the handle assembly. But there is no way it will go into the spring. It looks like the one I got is made to insert into the bracket at the transmission end rather than through the spring. I sent an email to Toro, maybe they will tell me I was sold the wrong part. Oh, and there is no way that black plastic part at the housing was going to come off by sliding it through the slot into the bigger hole. I had to chisel it off, no matter because the cable was broken anyway and the new one comes with this plastic part. If this works the photo at the link shows the old cable and spring at bottom, new one at top.

Here is a link that might be useful: photo

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 7:24PM
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Ok, I found a repair video someone posted, it's a newer model (mine is a 2003) but same cable. I was trying to install the wrong cable. What I call an "S" they call a "Z-end" and that is only supposed to be at the top end. The new one is supposed to come with the spring already attached. And the black plastic thing I broke, you depress the 2 tabs from the underside to remove it, I had seen these but could not do it. Odd thing is the cable shown which looks like what I need is part # 115-8435. I had looked my unit up on the Toro interactive website, using the actual serial number of my mower, and it gave a part # of 105-1844.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cable replacement video

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 7:40PM
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Thank you for the helpful instruction. It took about 40 minutes after reading these posts. I found using locking forceps extremely helpful hooking the spring hook end on the cable into the hole in the lever arm. Licking forceps are use by fisherman to remove hooks from their catch. Cost about $5 in the fishing equipment area at Walmart. They look like scissors, but have a clamping feature at the tip and a quick locking feature in the handle. Locking forceps have multiple uses. They are used by hobbyist and doctors.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 7:05AM
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