With the polar vortex refusing to stay in its own backyard, snow blower owners are facing a new set of problems: snow blowers that take one look at the cold weather and decide it’s too frosty to go to work. Here are some troubleshooting tips to coax your snow blower to start.
Fuel Shutoff Valve
Sometimes, the most frustrating problems are the ones with easy solutions staring you right in the face. In this case, a non-starting snow blower could be as simple as making sure the fuel shutoff valve is in the “ON” position. Another place to check is the throttle; it should be positioned to three-quarter speed or higher. If either has happened to you, don’t worry. Nobody saw.
Just like you’d be grumpy if you had to go to work in the frigid cold on an empty stomach, so, too, is your snow blower. Make sure the tank never gets too empty, topping it up just a little bit each time you use it.
If you’ve stored it and are taking it out for the first time this winter, one problem may be the volatility of the fuel. Adding fuel stabilizer to the gas before storing it is the easiest way to combat “lazy” volatility. But if it’s a hindsight problem, simply drain the system through the carburetor and then add new fuel and stabilizer.
And remember to always check the oil.
Remove the spark plug and look for one of two things: the right gap size, and an absence of fuel (the spark plug should be dry.) If it’s the latter, turn the engine over a few times to get rid of fuel in the spark plug hole, clean off the spark plug and put it back in (a new one may be required.)
As for how to check for a correct gap and adjust an incorrect one, this video offers a step-by-step tutorial.
Manual or electric starters can be a little finicky, which is why having an optional electric starter is a pretty good idea: there’s always a backup plan in case one starter doesn’t work. If that’s not the case, applying safe heat is a quick solution, but the problem will likely flare up again once the temperature drops.
Snow blowers with manual starters have a metal “dog” (or metal tab) that’s susceptible to freezing, so remove the starter to find the “dog.” The pulley doesn’t have to be removed, just the center screw so lube can reach the pivot area. Just make sure not to use grease because it’ll gum up in cold weather.
Sometimes, the starter gear can get frozen to the shaft, resulting in a spinning sound with no engine turnover. To combat this, first thaw with safe heat, and then put a light coating of lube on the gear shaft. Some snow blowers don’t require you to remove the starter, as you only need a spray lube with a nozzle extension on the shaft, but others do.