You’re caught in the middle of a snowstorm without a running snowblower. If you can’t get it started, you’re going to be stuck using a manual shovel. Your snow-clearing task just got more difficult.
A Honda snowblower won’t start due to an empty fuel tank, old gas, dirty carburetor, clogged fuel line, bad gas cap, bad spark plug, faulty starter recoil, bad electric starter, or wrong choke setting.
Follow all safety precautions listed in the Honda operator’s manual. Always wait for all parts to stop moving, allow the engine to cool, and remove the spark plug wire prior to performing repairs.
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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 Honda Snowblower Won’t Start
Incorrect Starting and Operating Procedure
You must follow a starting procedure to get a Honda snowblower running. Make sure you have completed the steps below before you move on to looking for other reasons preventing it from starting.
Steps to start a Honda snowblower:
- Set the fuel shut-off valve to the on or open position. You may have turned the fuel supply off for storage during the off-season
- Set the choke lever or choke knob in the closed position to start a cold engine.
- Set the throttle lever in the fast position.
- Make sure the key is inserted into the ignition switch.
- Manual start: Turn the key to the on position. Pull the starter rope until the engine starts.
- Electric start: Turn the key to the start position and release it once the engine starts. Do not burn out the starter motor by holding the key in the start position too long. If it doesn’t start right away, wait 10 seconds and try it again.
- Once started, adjust your choke to allow more air so your Honda snowblower continues to run.
Empty Gas Tank
Of course, you know there needs to be gas in the fuel tank for your snowblower to run. You just may have forgotten to check the fuel tank.
If you developed a fuel leak or the fuel gauge isn’t working properly, you may not be aware the tank is empty.
SOLUTION: If you find the Honda is out of gas, check the fuel system to make sure you don’t have a fuel leak. Check the fuel gauge. Repair or replace any faulty parts.
Fill the fuel tank with fresh gas for your type of engine. A Honda snowblower with a 4-cycle engine requires unleaded gasoline with a minimum 87 octane rating and maximum 10% ethanol content.
Bad or Old Fuel
A Honda snowblower can fail to start when there is old gas in the fuel system. Gas can begin to break down and become less effective as soon as 30 days after purchase.
It’s important to always purchase fresh gasoline and consume it within 30 days. When gas sits in the engine, ethanol and the water it attracts will leave behind varnish and sticky deposits.
This can result in fuel restrictions and component failure. Ethanol and the water it attracts will separate from gas causing potential engine damage.
Avoid gas with a high ethanol content:
Because of the negative effects of ethanol, always use a fuel that includes no more than 10% ethanol. While ethanol-free gas is best because it will minimize fuel-related problems, it is the more costly option to fuel your Honda snowblower.
Use a fuel stabilizer:
I always add a fuel stabilizer with each tank of fuel to help protect my fuel system and engine.
Adding a good quality fuel stabilizer gives me a little peace of mind knowing the gas is remaining stable longer in case I am unable to consume the fuel right away. I never know when I’m going to experience another snowfall.
SOLUTION: Remove old fuel from the gas tank. A fuel siphon pump works well to drain the tank into an approved fuel container.
In another container, mix fresh fuel and a fuel additive like Sea Foam Motor Treatment to make gas stable, remove moisture, and clean the fuel system.
To learn more about the advantages of Sea Foam on your engine, read my article The Best Fuel Additive for Your Snowblower. Another good alternative is STA-BIL.
Bad Fuel Cap
A bad fuel cap can starve the engine of fuel to keep it from starting. This is because the Honda snowblower fuel cap allows air to pass through the cap to allow the fuel tank to vent.
When the vent in the cap becomes plugged, the fuel tank forms a vacuum that keeps gas from flowing out of the fuel tank.
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.
SOLUTION: Replace a bad Honda snowblower gas cap.
Bad Spark Plug or Loose Connection
Spark is one of the essential items needed to form combustion in the cylinder. When the spark plug is dirty, worn, or damaged it can fail to provide the spark needed and the snowblower will fail to start.
Other items to check that can cause an intermittent spark is a bad spark plug electrode gap or a loose spark plug wire.
SOLUTION: Remove the 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.
If the plug is a little dirty and in good condition, you can clean it using a small wire brush. However, if you suspect the spark plug is the main reason for your Honda’s starting problem, go ahead and replace it with a new one.
The spark plug is an inexpensive maintenance part that is essential to a well-performing snowblower.
Once you have installed 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 sticky deposits that clog the fuel lines restricting fuel flow. Without sufficient fuel, your Honda 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
A Honda’s snowblower carburetor is responsible for creating the fuel-to-air mixture the engine requires. Again, old fuel is often the reason the carburetor fails to function properly.
Old fuel clogs the fuel passageways. The carburetor must be cleaned by removing the carburetor from the snowblower and dissembling it to clean it.
SOLUTION: Steps to Cleaning Your Honda Snowblower 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, use 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 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 (Electric Start Models)
You insert the key into your starter switch, turn the key to the start position, and your snowblower doesn’t start or turn over. You could have a problem with the starter switch.
SOLUTION: Use a multimeter to test the starter switch. Replace the switch if it is bad.
Engine Needs to Be Primed
For Honda snowblower units without an electric or battery start, priming the engine moves fuel from the fuel lines into the carburetor.
Only press the primer bulb until you begin to see fuel. The primer bulb does not need to be full of fuel. Pressing the primer bulb too many times can cause the snowblower to flood by adding too much fuel to the carburetor.
SOLUTION: 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 Honda engine.
Bad Recoil Start (Manual Start)
Some Honda 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.
SOLUTION: 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 Honda Snowblower
When a piece of equipment doesn’t start, homeowners often reach for the starter fluid. After all, it is called “starter fluid” so you should use the fluid to help start an engine.
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.
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.
Instead, 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.”