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6 Reasons a Snowblower Turns Over But Won’t Start

The last thing you want to deal with during a snowstorm is a snowblower that won’t start. That’s why I put together this list of the most common causes of a snowblower that turns over but you just can’t get it running.

A snowblower turns over but won’t start when the choke is stuck or in the incorrect position, the spark plug is bad, the fuel is old, the fuel line is clogged, the carburetor is dirty, or the fuel vent in the gas cap is plugged.

Consult the operator’s manual for the safety measures to take while working on and operating the machine.

Snowblower turns over but won't start

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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.

6 Reasons Your Snowblower Turns Over But Won’t Start

Stuck Choke or Incorrect Choke

The choke is used to regulate the amount of air allowed to mix with fuel to form combustion so the snowblower can start and run. Although you will find a choke lever on most snowblowers, some will have an automatic choke and will not find a lever.

A cold engine requires less air and more fuel than a warm engine. In order to achieve this, the choke lever is placed in the on/closed position to restrict air.

Once the engine starts and warms, the choke lever must be adjusted to the off/open position so the engine receives sufficient air to keep running. When the lever isn’t adjusted after the engine starts and warms, your snowblower will stop running.

If you are starting an engine with a warm engine, the choke must be in the off/open position or it will not start.

When the choke lever is adjusted correctly, but won’t start because of airflow problems, check the choke and choke cable to ensure they are able to move. If the choke or cable is stuck, use carburetor cleaner to free it up.

Dirty Spark Plug

Remove the spark plug using a 3/4″ or 5/8″ socket wrench. The size you need depends on the engine model used on your snowblower. Inspect the condition of the plug.

A plug that is damaged or very dirty can cause an intermittent or lack of spark required for the engine to start and run. When looking at the spark plug, check for a burnt electrode, broken porcelain, or dark-colored tip covered in carbon.

If you find any of these conditions, install a new spark plug. If the plug is in good condition and just a little dirty, clean it with a wire brush.

Reinstall the spark plug after you ensure the gap is correct. Then securely attach the spark plug wire.

Because a good spark plug is essential to a good performing snowblower, I recommend starting each season out with a new spark plug.

Old Fuel

Gas doesn’t stay fresh for very long. It actually can begin to break down as quickly as 30 days after purchase. Old gas leaves behind varnish and sticky deposits that cause fuel restrictions and component failures.

Because of this, it’s important to purchase fresh gas and consume it within 30 days. Stay away from gas with high ethanol levels. Only use gasoline with a minimum 87 octane rating and a maximum 10% ethanol content.

Read more in This is the Type of Gas Snowblowers Use. I will share more about the right gas to use in a snowblower with a 2-cycle or 4-cycle engine.

If you find your snowblower has old gas in the fuel tank, drain the fuel tank using a fuel siphon pump. Fill the tank with fresh fuel in addition to a fuel stabilizer like Sea Foam or STA-BIL to help clean the fuel system and reduce moisture. Read more about the benefits of fuel additives on snowblowers here.

Allow the engine to run so the gas and fuel additive works its way through the system. If you aren’t able to get it started yet, continue reading to troubleshoot other items that can cause your starting problem.

Clogged Fuel

Next, follow the fuel line coming out of the fuel tank to the carburetor. Look for any kinks that may be restricting fuel flow allowing the snowblower to turn over, but not start.

If you don’t find any kinks, check for a fuel restriction in the fuel line. Do this by first shutting off the fuel flow using the fuel shut-off valve or fuel pinch-off pliers. Then remove the fuel line from the carburetor.

Place this line in a container used to collect fuel. Turn the fuel supply back on and watch the flow coming out of the fuel line. If you are getting good flow, reinstall the fuel line. If not, shut the fuel flow off and remove the fuel line from the snowblower.

Spray carburetor cleaner into the line. This is used to attempt to loosen the clog. Then, blow compressed air through the line to dislodge and remove the clog. Repeat using the carburetor cleaner and compressed air until the clog is removed.

Reinstall the fuel line once the clog is removed. Replace it with a new fuel line if the restriction is not removed or you find the fuel line is aged and beginning to crack.

Dirty Carburetor

The carburetor’s function is to mix gas with air to form combustion. When the carburetor fails to work, your snowblower will not start.

Too often, the main culprit of a carburetor not functioning properly is old gas. Old gas leaves behind a varnish that may plug the fuel jet or cause the internal components to stick.

When you find the carburetor isn’t working, you’ll need to attempt to clean it, replace any faulty parts, or replace it with a new one.

Before you tear apart your snowblower carburetor, do this first:

  • Confirm you are getting good fuel flow to the carburetor.
  • Spray carburetor cleaner into the air intake and allow start the engine to run. If it runs strong while it burns the carburetor cleaner, but then begins to run sluggish and possibly shut off once the cleaner is burned, chances are your carburetor is dirty.
  • Proceed with disassembling the carburetor and cleaning it or replace it with a new one.

Plugged Fuel Vent in the Gas Cap

The fuel tank must vent to equalize the air pressure inside that tank to the atmospheric air pressure. On a snowblower, the vent is located in the gas cap.

When the vent becomes plugged and no longer allows air to pass through the cap, the fuel tank forms a vacuum. This vacuum keeps gas from getting to the carburetor.

To determine whether or not your gas cap is the problem, loosen the cap and attempt to start the snowblower. If it starts, the gas cap may be the cause.

To further confirm the cap as being the problem, continue to let the engine run while tightening the cap. If it begins to sputter, shuts down, and won’t start again until you loosen the cap, you must replace the cap with a new one.