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Thanks Cannon! Yep - I figured it out when I saw the word “hydraulic”. Learning something new every day! :)

It’s kind of a bummer because the valve lash issue sounded like it could be the source of my problems. I haven’t noticed the starting getting any easier after I replaced the gas with fresh. In fact, the motor doesn’t want to turn, even after replacing the starter. So far the only thing that works is manually turning the engine to just past compression. That seems to give the starter enough of a run up to get past the next compression. I’m starting to wonder if something is bent somewhere…

I fought this problem on a Courage 20 hp for a while. It had to have a good bit of head start to overcome compression. I checked and adjusted valves ( these are adjustable on Courage). Finally found out the battery was weak. Replaced it with a 300cca battery and problems went away. Don't rule out battery.
 
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