I'm currently about to buy a lawn mower, but don't know if I should take a fuel, electric with cable or battery one.

I'm leaning more towards electric with cable, because it's cheaper than battery and the price and the raising price of fuel won't screw me over in a few years.

But the only thing I'm wondering is what would be to happen if I run over my extension cord?

Will I just ruin an extention cord, or are there some serious health dangers to do so?


7 Answers 7


Minimal protection when using a corded electric lawnmower is to power it from a GFCI protected outlet/circuit. If your outdoor outlets do not have GFCI built in, or if you are running your extension from a regular indoor outlet, you can purchase standalone GFCI devices to go between the extension cord and the power source.

US in-line GFCI UK in-line RCD

To answer your question directly - the lawnmower itself should be double-insulated, meaning the handle bar should be electrically insulated from the mower blade and the motor components. But if you run over the cord you still have the problem of severed cable ends supplying full mains voltage to whatever they touch, which is why using a GFCI is so important.

  • 5
    'Double-insulated' means that the entire user-accessible metal chassis is electrically double-insulated from the power supply and the live circuitry. Unless there is a special meaning for electric lawn mowers, I don't believe it inclues the blade.
    – user207421
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 23:56
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    @EJP IME all electric mowers have plastic handles. The definition doesn’t change for them, but they normally are isolated as described here.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 0:46
  • The severed cable would be touching ground. haha
    – Aequitas
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 6:02
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    Quite a few hover type mowers have plastic blades, which find it difficult to cut through mains cables in the first place.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 6:57
  • @Aequitas - the severed cable may well not touch ground well enough to ground the current and trip the RCD. No laughing matter!
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 6:58

Yes, but the better question is "how dangerous?", and the answer is "not very".

Assuming your outdoor outlets are up to modern code, they're protected by GFCI and will trip even without a high-current short to neutral or ground. If you don't have GFCI outlets, you could upgrade them or just use an extension cord with GFCI protection. But even without GFCI, at the moment the blade cuts the extension cord, you can expect a high-current short that would trip the breaker, and any modern electric mower is going to have the blades electrically isolated from the handle and any part of the chassis you could touch externally.

Sparks at the moment of the short do pose some nonzero risk of fire if you're cutting in dry conditions. Depending on where you live this may be a concern. A GFCI outlet should partly (but not fully) reduce the risk.

Of course after the cord is cut and the mower stops, there is a slim possibility that the cut happened without producing a short that could trip the breaker (or GFCI) in which case the wire lying on the ground could be live and dangerous. This can be managed by unplugging the cable from the outlet before attempting to retrieve it.

Gas and battery operated mowers also have their own risks which should be weighed against those of corded mowers:

  • Puncture of fuel tank or battery may cause fire.
  • Corded mowers have a 100% fail-safe mode where they cannot start: unplugged. A unit with a battery-operated motor or gas and battery starter always potentially has malfunctions where it could start unexpectedly (unless you go to excessive lengths to remove parts in the field).

FWIW I highly recommend a cabled electric mower if the area you need to mow is amenable to one (not too far from outlets, few obstacles to work the cord around). The weight difference from an internal combustion engine and fuel, or from a battery, is extreme, and you will notice the difference in effort expended to use it.

  • 2
    I would consider "uplugged" and "without batteries" equivalent in terms of safety - neither of those is resolve without explicit action. That said, removing the spark plug from gas motors is also common, so I feel that's a bit of a wash overall.
    – GManNickG
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 19:50
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    (Just wait til the next generation of electric mowers with batteries is "IoT enabled" and has start/stop via UI on phone... ;-) Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 20:08
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    @R.. it's coming...
    – CactusCake
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 20:18
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    1. Self-driving mower runs over something and blades get jammed. 2. You stop it, flip it over, and start to clear out the jam. 3. Skript kiddie who rooted your mower already sends the "start motor" command... Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 20:23
  • 3
    Counter point: I've used a gas powered mower for 30+ years and never had one "just start". Usually, it's a fair bit of an argument with the pull cord to get the thing to fire up. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen, but I would consider it extremely unlikely. The amount of effort needed to start a gas-powered mower makes it nearly fail-safe - your 4 year old won't be able to get it started, but he could probably plug in a corded electric and fire it up.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 16:01

Electric with cable, hands down. They are cheaper than battery powered, and all electric mowers will be much quieter than gas powered mowers. The only consideration is if your yard is too large for a cord to reach the far corners.

The best advice I can give you with regards to the cord is to not run over it. Yes, you might not cut the cord, yes, you might be fine, yes, GFCI might help, yes, the breaker might trip. But pay attention and be mindful of the cord at all times. It is a hassle at first, but I quickly got the hang of "throwing" the cord, swinging it from side to side to move it out of the way.

I have personal experience with running over the cord. The outlet was not GFCI, which was not ideal. Some answers and comments are saying the breaker will provide protection. I don't think this is the case. Someone else was mowing, and ran over the cord, not cutting through, but stripping a good amount of insulation and exposing copper. When I saw it, I assumed it had been unplugged, and (stupidly) touched the bare copper. I got a strong tingle, and fortunately I released the cord before any permanent damage was done. It felt a bit like brief contact with an electric cattle fence (story for another time). The breaker did not trip. I didn't do a full post-mortem, but my guess is only the hot wire was cut, so there was no short. Then, when I touched it, a circuit was completed between my body and the ground (via moisture on my shoes, maybe? not sure).

EDIT: In response to comments, I remembered, I was also using one of those converters to plug a grounded cord in to a non-grounded outlet. Which means that I had even less protection than I should have. I think the moral of my story is "Follow the electrical code, it might save your life."

  • 1
    Ideally, the mower should use a grounded plug and the blades should be tied to ground so that cutting/stripping just the hot wire forces the breaker to trip, but maybe there's some reason this isn't done. My model has a polarized, but not grounded plug; in that case maybe the risk that the outlet was wired backwards is too great? Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 20:13
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    Yes, electric is much quieter than gas, but they still have "propeller noise". Mine is just on the threshold of annoyance, so still I use earmuffs anyway.
    – AaronD
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 21:31
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    The reason they're called hot is because once it's live, you'll feel it if you touch it, (that's VERY dangerous, please avoid doing so). It's worse when you're holding a neutral or ground wire while touching the hot. It is HOT, avoid touching HOT wires, (or any of them really). Is this exposed wire dangerous? That link shows that they're inside a building, so limited ground, answers are still talking about the danger of being shocked.
    – Blerg
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 4:59
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    Don't test wires with hands people... Thats like checking if a surface is hard by banging your face against it. A wire with exposed copper should be scrapped, no matter whether it still works or not, and you should not invite mayhem by testing it with your hand, standing in wet grass. I am sorry to be blunt, but mains voltage through the hand to the ground can kill you. What a stupid way to die that would have been.
    – Stian
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 6:56
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    the circuit does not really need to be completed -- your body is slightly capacitive, so you will still get a bit of current flowing from any voltage... especially AC Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 9:10

I use an electric mower with a power cable and have three yards that need mowing. I don't have a problem but have become skilled at cable management. Its important to know where your cable is and flick it away to the mowed area when you need to get past it.

In order to mow as hassle free as possible I always begin from as close to the socket as possible and then mow in straight lines to gradually radiate further away. This way I naturally drag the cable out. I use a 50 metre power cable.

I've never "mowed" the cable but I do have an electric hedge trimmer and I've cut through one with that. My house safety switch immediately turned all the power off. It'd be just like if you blew a fuse. So it was safe but cutting through long power cables is expensive.


I have an electric hover mower, and a couple of years ago, I mowed over the electric cable.

It went bang. The blades stopped turning (very quickly 1 or 2 seconds). No sparks or anything untoward.

Within 30 minutes I was back mowing again, after using a screwdriver and some scissors (to cut off the shorter end of the cable).

My daughter did the same thing the previous summer (which I reckon she did deliberately, to get out of mowing duty).

Neither of us were electrocuted, or in any way in danger.

I live in the UK, and have a modern (<20 year old) house. We have circuit breakers on all circuits.

  • <20 years old in the UK should mean you have RCD on all circuits as well. (For readers in North America an RCD is a bit like GFCI, but it's attached at the fuse box to the whole circuit, rather than at an outlet to part of the circuit).
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 11:24

Yes, it's dangerous. If the extension cord were to be cut and the grass is wet, it could complete a circuit and blow a fuse, or worse, start a fire.

The solution is to make sure not to run over the cord with the lawnmower. The cords are light enough that you should be able to "throw" it out of the way while you're mowing.

  • 2
    Of course you can try starting closest to your outlet, and move out from there to avoid it
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 17:38
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    Tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse is not generally dangerous, and fire is extremely unlikely, especially in the case of wet grass.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 18:03
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    The un-probable is still possible ! Running over the cord and severing it COULD result in electrocution. Electrocution CAN result in DEATH.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 18:09
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    "electrocution" is the very definition of death by electric shock.
    – Norm
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 19:18
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    The seems alarmist since a GFCI solves the problem nicely. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 21:13

First Of All: DO NOT run over any extension cord with any mower. Period.

The suction effect that grabs the grass and throws it in the basket is not strong enough to lift an cable, but if there is a loop on the cord it can reach to the blade.

There are several options how the cable is cut.

  1. It is cut in two pieces. usually the blade cross-cuts the circuit and brakers should open the circuit. Limitted hazzard.

  2. Several wires are cut. If the blade cross-cut the circuit, breakers should open and story ends. If the hot wire is damaged, the current misballance shall trigger the protection to open. If it is neutral wire, the mower just stops. Limitted hazzard.

  3. Insulation is cut off without a blade touching the wire(s). No electrical protection is capable of catching this sort of damage. When the hot wire is exposed this way it is still hot with no insulation. You will feel "your" mains on accidentally touching the wire. Serious hazard!

Summarising the answer. Do not think how hazardous it is to cut the wire. Avoid it at the first place.

  • 2
    Its not like my plan for a nice saturday morning was to go and purposefully run over my cable lol :p
    – Fredy31
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 13:07

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