You require a snowblower to remove snow from your driveway and sidewalks so you can provide a safe clear path to get to and from your home.
When the snowblower fails to start, you can be literally stuck at home when there is significant snow accumulation. You need to find and fix your starting problem or you’ll be left using a manual snow shovel.
A Briggs & Stratton snowblower won’t start when there is a lack of fuel, air, or spark due to an empty fuel tank, old gasoline, bad spark plug, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, faulty starter, bad fuel cap or incorrect starting procedures.
Remove the spark plug before performing any repairs. Take all safety precautions provided in the operator’s manual.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.
Reasons Your Briggs & Stratton Snowblower Won’t Start
Incorrect Starting and Operating Procedure
It’s easy to forget a step when starting a Briggs & Stratton snowblower. You only use it for a short season before it’s stored away for the rest of the year. When you don’t get the starting procedure right, your snowblower may fail to start.
Make sure you have completed these 5 steps to starting your snowblower before you move on to looking for other reasons preventing it from starting:
- Set the fuel shut-off valve to the on or open position.
- Make sure the key is inserted into the ignition switch and turned to the on position. If your snowblower uses a toggle switch instead of an ignition switch, make sure it is flipped to the on position. Some snowblowers use a safety key that must be inserted in order to start.
- Set the snowblower to full choke.
- Set the throttle to ¾ to full throttle.
- Once started, adjust your choke to allow more air so your snowblower continues to run.
Empty Gas Tank
You know you require gas to run a gas-powered snowblower. I only mention it here because you may have simply forgotten to check the fuel level when looking for your starting issue.
It’s easy to forget to add fuel to your snowblower especially when you don’t use your snowblower on a regular schedule.
You may have forgotten the last time you filled the fuel tank; you may have developed a fuel leak causing you to lose gas, or the fuel gauge may have stopped working.
Inspect the fuel system to identify any fuel leaks or a faulty fuel gauge. Repair or replace any faulty items.
Fill the fuel tank with fresh fuel for your type of engine. Don’t make the mistake of using 2-cycle fuel in a 4-cycle engine or 4-cycle fuel in a 2-cycle engine. Read more about the fuel to use in your snowblower here.
- 4-Cycle Engine: Fill with fresh gasoline with an 87 octane or higher. Choose a gas with an ethanol level no greater than 10%.
Most current Briggs & Stratton snowblower models use a 4-cycle engine. You will find 2 fill ports: one for engine oil and one for gas. Refer to your operator’s manual if you are unsure what type of engine is on your snowblower.
- 2-Cycle Engine: Fill with an oil and gas mix following Briggs & Stratton’s required ratio of oil to gas. An indication you are running a 2-cycle engine is a single fill port for both oil and fuel.
You may find the fuel-to-oil mix ratio listed on your fuel cap or you may have to refer to your operator’s manual. Current Briggs & Stratton 2-cycle engines require a gas-to-oil mix of 50:1 while old models require a 32:1 mix.
Bad or Old Fuel
When gas isn’t stored properly and consumed while it is still fresh, it can be the cause of your snowblower not starting. This is because gas begins to break down and become less effective as soon as 30 days after purchase.
Most types of gasoline available at your local fuel station contain ethanol, a corn-based alternative fuel added to make fuel a little better for the environment.
While ethanol is better for the environment, it isn’t good for the small engine on your Briggs & Stratton snowblower.
Ethanol attracts moisture from the air. A mixture of ethanol and water leaves behind a varnish that gums and corrodes the fuel system including the fuel lines and carburetor.
Because of this, always choose unleaded gasoline with a minimum octane rating of 87 and a maximum ethanol content of 10%. The lower the ethanol content, the better.
Stay away from types of gasoline sold as E15, E30, and E85 as these have ethanol contents of 15%, 30%, and 85% respectively.
Consume fuel within 30 days. If you purchased more fuel than you are able to consume within this time, add a fuel additive to stabilize the gas and reduce moisture.
I always choose to add a fuel stabilizer with each tank of fuel to help protect my fuel system and engine. I’m never really sure how quickly I’ll go through a tank of fuel because I can’t forecast how much snow is going to fall.
Adding a good quality fuel stabilizer prevents me from having to drain my tank and refill it with fresh fuel when it gets a little old.
- Remove the old fuel using a fuel siphon. Add fresh fuel with a fuel additive to help clean the fuel system and remove moisture.
- Sea Foam is a good product to add especially after running old gas through your snowblower. To learn more about the advantages of using Sea Foam in your engine, read my article “The Best Fuel Additive for Your Snowblower“. Another good alternative is STA-BIL.
Bad Fuel Cap
The fuel tank must be able to vent so the atmospheric pressure equals the tank pressure. When it isn’t able to vent, the fuel tank can form a vacuum that keeps gas from getting to the carburetor.
A Briggs & Stratton snowblower vents through the gas cap. When this vent becomes plugged or damaged, the fuel system is starved of fuel and the snowblower won’t run.
A good way to test if you have a vent problem is to loosen the gas cap and start the snowblower.
If it starts and runs fine, but begins to run sluggish or quit after reinstalling the cap and allowing it to run a while, there’s a good chance your fuel cap is not venting properly.
Replace the gas cap on your snowblower.
Bad Spark Plug or Loose Connection
A good spark plug is required to start your snowblower. When the spark plug is dirty or damaged, it can fail to provide spark. A bad spark plug gap or loose spark plug wire can also cause problems with the starting system.
- Remove your spark plug and inspect it for signs of carbon buildup, a cracked porcelain insulator, or a burnt electrode. Check the electrode gap and make sure it is to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Replace with a new spark plug if the plug is too dirty to clean with a wire brush, the porcelain insulator is cracked or the electrode is burnt.
- Make sure the gap is correct.
- Install the spark plug.
- Securely attach the spark plug wire if you are done performing repairs.
Blockage in the Fuel Line
Old fuel can leave behind deposits that clog the fuel lines restricting fuel flow. Without sufficient fuel, your Briggs & Stratton snowblower will not start and run.
- Check for blockages by using the fuel shut-off valve or pinch-off pliers to stop fuel flow.
- Identify a section of the fuel line you need to check. Remove the end of the line furthest from the fuel tank and place it in a container placed lower than the fuel tank.
- Start the fuel flow.
- If you find you are not getting a sufficient flow and the fuel line is clogged, remove the other end of the line so the line is off your snowblower. Don’t forget to prevent fuel from leaking on your floor by using clamps or the fuel shut-off valve to turn off the fuel supply.
- With the fuel line removed from the snowblower, spray carburetor cleaner into the tube and use compressed air to blow air through the tube until the line is free of debris and gummy residues. Repeat as necessary until the restriction is removed.
- Replace with a new fuel hose if the hose remains clogged or it is becoming dry and brittle.
Clogged & Dirty Carburetor
The carburetor is essential to your snowblower running because it regulates the amount of air mixed with the right amount of fuel to create combustion. The carburetor and its components can get dirty and gum up causing your snowblower not to run.
Clean the carburetor by taking it apart and using carburetor cleaner to clean the carburetor including the float bowl and needle.
Solution: Steps to Cleaning Your Carburetor
- Spray carb cleaner to minimize carbon buildup. Spray some carb cleaner in the air intake. Start the engine to see if it will run. If your snowblower fires up and still won’t stay running then we need to get inside the carburetor.
- Gather pliers, screwdrivers, sockets, and ratchets so you don’t destroy parts while taking the carburetor apart.
- Take a photo for reassembly. These days most people have a handy camera on their phones. It’s a very good idea to take a picture of the carburetor so you can refer to it if you don’t remember how to reassemble it after tearing it apart. You will want to make sure you get a photo showing how the linkage and springs go back on the carburetor.
- Remove the throttle cable and choke cable if your snowblower has one.
- Slowly remove the springs so you don’t stretch them out too much. You may have to twist the carb a bit to get the springs off. Also, watch the gasket at this point so you don’t tear it. This is the gasket located between the engine block and the carburetor.
- Remove the bottom screw from the float bowl. The float bowl is where gasoline is stored inside the carburetor. It should have gas in it so have a rag ready to catch the gas.
- Remove the bowl being careful to not damage the o-ring around it. Caution: Do not get any carb cleaner or any other chemical on the o-ring. It will stretch out and you won’t be able to reuse it.
- Inspect the stem for clogged holes. This stem hangs down from the center of the carburetor and has holes in it. If these holes get plugged from old fuel it will not draw fuel up to the jet.
If the holes are plugged, take a thick wire to clean them out. It’s easier to see what you’re doing if you use a flashlight. Once you get the holes clean you can rinse them with carb cleaner.
- Inspect the carburetor for hard crusty white buildup. This white buildup is fuel additives including ethanol. You need to try to get as much of the white power material out as you can. It’s nearly impossible to get it all out.
- Reassemble the carburetor now that the carb is clean. Put it back to together in the reverse order you took it apart. Remember to refer to the photo you took of the carburetor when reassembling so all parts are reinstalled in the right places.
- Add fresh fuel that contains a fuel stabilizer before you start your snowblower. Pour the fuel into the tank and give it a chance to fill the bowl of the carburetor. Start your engine.
If you are starting with a pull cord, give the rope a yank. It may not start on the first pull, but it should start after several pulls and continue to run.
Bad Electric Starter
You insert the key into your starter switch or flip the toggle switch to on and your snowblower doesn’t start or turn over. You could have a problem with the starter switch.
- You can use a multimeter to test the starter switch. Replace the switch if bad.
Engine Needs to Be Primed
For Briggs & Stratton snowblower units without an electric or battery start, priming your engine moves fuel from the fuel lines into the carburetor. I find it best to try to start the snowblower without priming it first.
Sometimes it doesn’t need to be primed and I don’t want to flood my snowblower by priming and adding too much fuel to the carburetor if it isn’t needed.
- If your snowblower doesn’t start without priming, give the engine a little help by pressing the primer bulb a few times to get fuel into the carburetor.
- Do not over-prime your engine by placing too much fuel in the carburetor as you could end up flooding your engine.
Bad Recoil on a Manual Pull Start Snowblower
Some Briggs & Stratton snowblowers use a recoil to start it instead of an electric start. A bad pulley or spring in the recoil will prevent your snowblower from starting when you pull on the starter rope.
- You can attempt to replace the spring and restring the recoil. If it does not work because other components in your recoil are damaged such as the clips or pulley, you are better off just replacing the recoil assembly.
Don’t Use Starter Fluid to Start a Briggs & Stratton Snowblower
Most people will immediately reach for the starter fluid when their equipment doesn’t start. I do not recommend this at all. In fact, I don’t like starter fluid so much because of the damage it can cause to the engine, I don’t allow it in my repair shop.
Starter fluid is a very dry chemical. Because it is so dry and doesn’t have any lubrication ingredient to it, the dry chemical can cause internal engine damage.
I recommend using carburetor cleaner to start your snowblower. I explain why carburetor cleaner is preferred along with how to use it in “Don’t Use Starter Fluid on a Snowblower: Use This Instead.”