Q: I am an 80-year-old who still makes a garden and mows her yard. As I've gotten older, however, I've been having a hard time pulling the starter rope on my lawn mower. Is there anything I can do now to prevent this problem next year?
— Estelle, Checotah, OK
A: Roger Cook replies: The starter rope of a mower usually gets slightly easier to pull as the mower gets broken in, so it's possible that something is obstructing the rope or the blade. Following the directions in the owner's manual, try taking off the pull-start housing and cleaning it out to dislodge any debris that may be inside. This work is pretty easy to do, but you might also have a bent crankshaft, which will need to be fixed by an experienced small-engine repair guy.
Or you might consider buying a new mower without a cord. You can take your pick of electric or battery-powered models, as well as gas mowers with electric starting. With that last type, all you have to do to fire up the engine is hold down a safety-control bar and turn a key. This labor-saving feature raises the price about $100 over an equivalent manual-start gas mower.