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What to Do When Your Snow Blower Won’t Start

A snow blower should ideally start within the third pull of its starter rope. So, how can you troubleshoot it when it refuses to start? Let's find out.

man worker in uniform using snowblower snow removal winter street cleaning service concept cleaner pushing snow thrower modern cityscape sunrise background flat full length vector illustration

There can be nothing worse than getting ready to clear snow only to hear the disappointing whirr of a snow blower refusing to start. Well, just like any machinery, a snow blower requires periodic maintenance to operate. If you haven't used it in a while, it may give trouble when you initially try to start it up.

First of all, there is no reason to panic. Gas-powered snow blowers require regular maintenance and may take some time to warm up. But if you simply cannot start it, it is time for some good old troubleshooting. We will tell you precisely how to do this in our guide.

Let's get started!

How To Troubleshoot A Snow Blower That Won't Start

Teenager removing snow with a shovel in the winter

  1. Check All The Switches And Valves

The latest snow blowers have a plethora of switches and valves which need to be set in their correct positions. Of course, it can get very confusing for a first-time user to understand it all. This is why we recommend pulling out your owner's manual (or checking a copy of it online) and getting acquainted with the different parts.

Every machine will be different and might require different switches to be turned 'on' or 'off.' Some snow blowers might require you to set the throttle on 'high' and the choke on 'full' before you can turn the switch 'on.'

Your snow blower refusing to start can be as simple of an issue as not having all the switches in the correct positions.

  1. Check The Fuel

Unless you experience snowfall throughout the year, it is likely that your snow blower will be sitting idle for several months at a stretch every year. More often than not, this causes the fuel to become old and gummy. Old fuel can also cause issues with the carburetor.

To fix this, you need to siphon out all the old fuel from the tank using a small siphon pump. You may clean the tank if you wish to, but it is not always necessary to do this. Drain the old fuel and replace it with new fuel to get your snow blower started once again.

Sometimes, there is too little fuel in the tank for the machine to run. If this is the case, you can top off the tank with the additional fuel it requires and start the engine. 

  1. Add Fuel Stabilizer

The next thing you should do is add a fuel stabilizer to your tank. Essentially, this helps the fuel stay fresh and prevents it from becoming gummy and sticking to the carburetor. Moreover, the old fuel you drained out may have sticky residue that is clinging on to the carburetor and making it difficult to start the machine.

Adding a fuel stabilizer dissolves this sticky fuel by liquefying the residue. Pull the starter cord repeatedly to enable the stabilizer to spread through the fuel tank. If you see that the snow blower is still reluctant to start, you can try waiting for an hour or two before trying again. This additional time will allow the stabilizer to dissolve more gummy fuel and enable the machine to start.

  1. Prime The Engine

Gas-powered engines can be troublesome during cold weather. Not only do you need to maintain the machinery properly, but you also need to use the choke and throttle appropriately in order to get the fuel running without flooding the engine.

To prime, the engine, press the flexible primer bulb (a small silicone bulb located near the carburetor) about three to four times. Doing this forces a small amount of fuel into the carburetor. This enables the engine to ignite more quickly, especially if it has not been running for a few months.

That being said, priming the engine during the winter may cause it to flood. To prevent this, put your choke on 'full' and put the throttle at ¾ speed (or higher). You may need to do this a couple of times for the engine to ignite finally.

  1. Spark Plugs

The next thing that the engine requires is a spark. Without this, the engine cannot ignite. It is possible that you may need to clean or completely replace the spark plugs.

Using a socket wrench and spark plug socket, carefully remove the plugs from their place. Inspect the porcelain surface and look for any cracks or damages. If there are none, continue to clean the spark plugs and put them back in their proper place. However, if you notice cracks or damage, you may need to replace the plugs entirely.

Using a carburetor cleaner and a thin wire brush, clean up any built-up carbon deposit from the ends of the spark plugs. After drying the plugs thoroughly, place them back in their original positions.

  1. The Fuel Line

Next up, you need to scrutinize the fuel line. This is a flexible and pliable line that runs from the carburetor to the gas tank. However, over time these fuel lines can harden and cause fuel to leak. This leak can prevent fuel from reaching the carburetor.

Check the fuel line carefully for cracks, kinks, or if it has hardened. If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to replace the fuel line with a new one. 

  1. Clean The Carburetor

It may so happen that you have followed all of the steps above, and your snow blower still refuses to start. In this case, you may need to take a more aggressive approach.

The carburetor is located under the air filter, so in order to access it, you will have to first remove the air filter cover, the air filter, and then have access to the carburetor itself. This piece of machinery has a vital job - it combines fuel and air in a very precise ratio for efficient combustion.

So obviously, if the carburetor is clogged, it cannot function efficiently. In order to clean the carburetor, you can use a carb cleaner (a solvent that typically comes in an aerosol spray can with a straw attached to its nozzle). This handy spray can deliver a high-pressure shot of spray that efficiently dissolves any gunk attached to the carburetor.

Next, spray this solvent in the air-intake valve as well. This is a cylindrical valve connected to the carburetor. Once you've completed these steps, replace the air filter and air filter cover, and try to start the snow blower again. 

If The Engine Starts But Continually Stops

Great, so you got the engine running, and you can finally start using the snow blower. But next thing you know, the engine keeps stalling or turning off. What does this mean?

Well, it could be something as simple as a carburetor issue. With continual use, the carburetor collects some amount of dust, grime, oils, and other residues that can choke air as well as fuel flow. As we mentioned in our previous step, you can clean the carburetor thoroughly, and your machine should run smoothly.

However, if this still doesn't work, you likely need to replace the old carburetor with a new one. Fortunately, this piece of machinery is relatively inexpensive and not too much of a hassle to replace!

We should mention that checking the fuel cap vent is another important step that many people often forget. The air that enters the tank makes up for all the fuel that is being continually used. However, if the vent is clogged with residue or grime, it can cause issues with starting.

To check this, try running the snow blower with a slightly loosened fuel cap vent. If you notice issues with the air vent, you may need to replace it with a new vent cap.

Call A Professional

If all else fails, we recommend calling a professional for the job. The snow blower may likely need to be completely disassembled and checked thoroughly, which is a job best done by an expert.

If your snow blower is still under its warranty period, you can get it repaired for free. Otherwise, you can visit any engine repair shop and get the machine looked into by a professional.

Close-up of female mechanic holding spare parts of car at repair garage


As you have probably realized from our guide, a reluctant snow blower isn't a reason to instantly shell out money for a new one.

More often than not, simple troubleshooting can help you fix the machine in no time. Of course, if you are unable to do it yourself, you can ask a professional to look into the matter. It is important to remember that most gas-powered snow blowers require regular maintenance.

If you use your snow blower just once in a few months, the reason for it not starting is relatively simple and easy to fix. We hope our guide helped you in understanding the simple mechanism of troubleshooting a snow blower.

Until next time!

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