You put away your snowblower at the end of the last winter season while it was in good running condition. Now there’s a snowstorm coming and you can’t get your snowblower started.
A snowblower won’t start after sitting when the fuel shut-off valve is closed; old fuel has clogged the fuel line or gummed the carburetor; water is in the fuel tank; the spark plug is bad, or the wiring and connections are corroded or damaged.
For safety, remove the spark plug wire before performing any repairs. Take caution when working around the chute or auger. The auger can be under pressure and may move if you touch it even with the snowblower off.
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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to 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.
Fuel Shut-off Valve is Preventing Fuel Flow in a Snowblower
Before you begin looking for items that are keeping your snowblower from starting after summer, check the fuel shut-off valve. This valve is used to stop fuel from flowing through the snowblower.
It is often used at the end of the year to shut off the fuel supply or when transporting the snowblower. You may have shut off the fuel supply and forgotten to turn it back on for the start of the season.
Old Fuel in a Snowblower
Old gas is often a culprit to a snowblower not starting after it’s been in storage and sitting around for a long time. Gas can begin to break down as quickly as 30 days after purchase.
It will leave behind varnish and sticky deposits that can restrict fuel flow to the engine. This is because old fuel can cause blockages in the components and potential failures.
Old fuel must be drained. Add STA-BIL or Sea Foam to fresh fuel and refill the tank. Start the snowblower and allow the fresh fuel to run through it.
If it doesn’t start, continue to check the other items below that can be affected by old fuel.
Water in a Snowblower’s Fuel Tank
Water can dilute the fuel so it won’t start. Water is heavier than gas so it will sink to the bottom of the fuel tank. Water isn’t combustible so the engine won’t be able to form a combustion and start when it is getting water in the fuel.
You may be able to see water in the bottom of the tank with a flashlight. When you find or suspect the fuel has water in it, drain the fuel tank.
Drain the fuel remaining in the carburetor as well. (This is where a little gas is stored after leaving the fuel tank).
To reduce moisture buildup in the future, store your snowblower in a dry indoor location. Add a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL and Sea Foam to fresh fuel. This product helps reduce moisture in the fuel system.
Clogged Snowblower Fuel Line
Old fuel can leave gummy deposits in the fuel line that will prevent a good flow of fuel from moving through the fuel lines.
To determine whether you have a fuel line clog, shut off the fuel supply using the fuel shut-off valve or hose pinch pliers.
Next, remove the line from the carburetor and place it in a container 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 you aren’t getting good flow, shut off the fuel supply and remove the fuel line from the snowblower. Spray carburetor cleaner into the line. What this does is loosen the clog. Next, blow air through the line to remove the clog.
Repeat spraying with carburetor cleaner and compressed air until the clog is removed. If you can’t get it removed, replace the line with a new fuel line.
Keep in mind, most snowblowers don’t have a fuel pump. However, if you have a fuel pump on your snowblower, remove the fuel line from the inlet port on the pump to check fuel flow.
If you are getting good flow, check that the pump is working and pumping fuel to the carburetor. A fuel pump is required when the carburetor is placed higher than the fuel tank.
Dirty Carburetor on a Snowblower
Clean a dirty snowblower carburetor:
- Spray carburetor 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. Using a flashlight makes it easier to see what you’re doing. 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 a new fuel supply 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 Spark Plug on a Snowblower
A dirty or damaged spark plug can prevent a snowblower from starting. Remove the spark plug and inspect its condition.
If it is very dark in color and has a broken porcelain or a burnt electrode, the plug must be replaced with a new one. When you find the plug is in good condition and just a little dirty, you can clean it with a wire brush.
Make sure the electrode gap is set to the engine manufacturer’s specification before installing the new or cleaned spark plug.
Bad Snowblower Battery (If your snowblower uses one)
Most snowblowers with an electric start are plugged into an outlet to start it. Check the power supply at the outlet if you are not getting power.
You will find some snowblowers that use a battery. Check the battery with a voltage meter to ensure it is holding a sufficient charge. Make sure the cables are securely attached making a good connection.
Clean the terminals with a baking soda and water solution if you find corrosion buildup. If the battery charge is low, use a battery charger to charge it. Replace a bad battery that will no longer hold a charge.
To reduce the chances of ruining your battery, you must keep it fully charged. A battery can freeze under cold temperatures when it isn’t fully charged.
Damaged or Corroded Wiring or Switches on the Snowblower
If your snowblower won’t turn over, check the wiring and electrical connections. Connections can corrode due to storing a snowblower while the components and connections have moisture on them.
I have also seen rodent damage to wiring systems after equipment has been sitting for long periods. Look for nests and chewed wiring indicating you have had a rodent infestation. You will have to replace the damaged wiring.
To avoid corrosion and damage in the future, make sure the snowblower is stored completely dry. You can also spray WD-40 to displace any moisture left on the wiring or components that can cause corrosion.
Use a rodent deterrent like Grandpa Gus’s Repellent to keep the little critters away from making a home in your snowblower. I like this product because it comes in little packets and in spray form.
I place the packets around the snowblower and spray the wiring.