You just checked the weather and see a snowstorm will be here soon. Next, you run out to your garage to get your snowblower ready, and then it happens. Your snowblower won’t start.
A snowblower won’t start due to an empty fuel tank, clogged fuel filter, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, bad fuel cap, bad spark plug, faulty electric start, or bad starter recoil.
I have put together a list of problems that can result in your snowblower not starting along with ways to fix them. Hopefully, these tips will keep you from having to use that hand shovel.
Keep reading and I’ll share what I have learned over my years in the equipment industry.
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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 Snowblower Won’t Start: Troubleshoot & Fix
1. Incorrect Starting and Operating Procedure
It can be tough to remember how to start your snowblower since you only use it for a few months out of the year. Make sure you are doing thing 4 things before you begin to continue with the other steps to troubleshoot your starting problem:
- 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, make sure it is flipped to the on position.
- Set your snowblower to full choke.
- Set your throttle to ¾ to full throttle.
2. No Gas in the Fuel Tank
Having gas in the snowblower’s gas tank seems like the obvious answer, but it is often overlooked. I’m just mentioning it just in case you forgot to check.
- 4-Cycle Engines: Fill with fresh unleaded gasoline with an octane level or 87-grade or higher. Choose a gas with an ethanol level no greater than 10%. Find more information on the correct fuel for your gas snowblower here. Most current snowblower models use a 4-cycle engine.
- 2-Cycle Engines: Fill with an oil and gas mix following the recommended manufacturer ratio of oil to gas.
3. Bad or Old Fuel
Gas begins to break down and become less effective after about 30 days. It is important to buy and use the gas for your snowblower within 30 days.
Today’s gasoline contains a corn-based environmentally friendly product known as ethanol. While ethanol is fine to run in your vehicle, it can cause extensive damage to your snowblower’s small engine.
Ethanol attracts moisture from the air. When that moisture evaporates, a gummy residue is left behind that can be left in the fuel system to clog fuel lines, filters, and the carburetor.
- Remove the old fuel, flush the tank, and add fresh fuel with a fuel additive.
- Sea Foam is a good idea, 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“.
4. Bad Fuel Cap
Your gas cap has a vent. When this vent gets plugged, the fuel tank forms a vacuum preventing gas from moving through the fuel lines. Your snowblower is starved of fuel when it is unable to pull gas due to improper venting of the cap.
- Try to clean the cap to open up the vent.
- Replace with a new cap if you are unable to get your cap to vent.
5. Bad Spark Plug or Loose Connection
Another reason your snowblower won’t start may be due to a bad spark plug connection. It can also be due to the spark plug being excessively dirty or damaged.
A fouled spark plug can cause your engine to misfire. A plug that is not properly gapped or does not make a good connection can also cause starting problems.
- Remove your spark plug and inspect it for signs of carbon buildup or cracked porcelain insulators.
- Replace with a new spark plug if the plug is too dirty to clean or the porcelain insulator is cracked.
- Make sure to gap the plug according to the manufacturer’s specifications. It is always a good idea to check the gap even if you purchased the spark plug pre-gapped.
6. Blockage in the Fuel Line
Old fuel that gummed up can become lodged in your snowblower’s fuel line.
- Check for blockages by clamping a fuel line to stop fuel flow. Remove one end of the line from your snowblower and place it in a container placed lower than the fuel tank. Restart the fuel flow and check for good flow coming out of the line into the container.
- If you find your fuel line is clogged, remove the other side of the line so the line is off your snowblower. Don’t forget to prevent fuel from leaking on your floor by using pinch pliers or the fuel shut-off valve to turn off the fuel. Some snowblowers will have a fuel shut-off valve.
- With the fuel line 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.
- Replace with a new fuel hose if your hose remains clogged or it is becoming dry and brittle.
7. Clogged Fuel Filter
Not all snowblowers have a fuel filter, so don’t worry if you can’t find one on your snowblower. If you do have one, just like fuel lines can become plugged, your fuel filter can also become plugged.
- Replace your fuel filter if it is very dirty, gas is not able to flow through the filter, or you have fuel leaking from your fuel filter.
8. Engine Needs to Be Primed
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.
9. 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 carb cleaner to clean the carburetor including the float bowl and needle.
Fix: Steps to Cleaning Your Carburetor
- Spray carb cleaner to minimize carbon buildup. Spray carburetor cleaner into 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 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 plus 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.
10. Bad Electric Starter
You insert the key into your starter switch, flip the toggle switch to on, or push the start button and your snowblower doesn’t start or turn over. You could have a problem with the starter switch or motor.
- You can use a multimeter to test the starter switch. Replace the switch if bad.
11. Bad Recoil on a Pull Start Model
Some snowblowers use a recoil to start 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 Your 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 carb cleaner is preferred along with how to use it in “Don’t Use Starter Fluid on a Snowblower: Use This Instead.”