Troubleshooting Snow Blower Problems

An alternative to a snow shovel for getting rid of snow from walkways and driveways is a snow blower. (Courtesy: Richard Pilon at

An alternative to a snow shovel for getting rid of snow from walkways and driveways is a snow blower.
(Courtesy: Richard Pilon at

Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west winter is coming. And depending on the region of the country in which you live you can expect a lot or a little bit of snow. Regardless of the amount of snow you do get you probably believe that your only option to get rid of the stuff from your home’s walkways and driveways is a snow shovel. But there is also the snow blower.

A snow blower works somewhat like a leaf blower and simply generates enough wind to blow the snow away.

So if you don’t like the backbreaking work of removing snow with a shovel, then you know that there is an alternative.

However, a snow blower is a mechanical instrument. It can break down just like any other power outdoor product. So when something goes wrong, it is a good idea that you know how to troubleshoot the problem and then fix it. Here are some common problems that can occur with a snow blower and how to troubleshoot and fix it.

Of course, snow blowers are worked with in cold weather and funny things can occur with them if the weather is extremely cold.

People who have used snow blowers in extremely cold circumstances suggest that you store them in a warm area. That puts you a leg up concerning problems that can occur in the extreme cold. If the blower is stored in the cold, then you could be opening yourself up to problems. These include:

· Handles won’t depress.
· Impellers won’t engage.
· Engines won’t start.
· Belts smoke and squeal when engaged.
· Cables break.
· Starters won’t engage.

The reason for many of these problems is not cleaning off snow from a recently used and still hot snow blower prior to putting it away. This can result in the snow melting and then freezes up in places within the machine if the blower is stored in a cold environment.

The most common snow blower in use today is referred to as a “two stage snow blower.” These blowers feature a large steel auger in the front that turns fairly slowly and scoops in the snow. The second stage is smaller and includes a faster turning fan located below the chute that throws the snow.

There are also single stage snow blowers that feature a fast turning impeller or auger that turns fast and scoops and throw the snow. It’s getting tougher to find the wheel propelled single stage blowers because rubber-paddled units have taken their place. These machines are lighter and less expensive to manufacture and they throw snow just as far or farther than the previous models.

Now to the problems you may encounter.

Let’s start off with the smoking belt or non-engaging impeller. So you grab the auger engagement handle and no snow comes out of the chute, but the belt starts to squeal or smoke.

Let go of the handle right away and shut down the blower. Tip it back on its handlebars. If the gas tank is full, place a plastic grocery bag under the filler cap to prevent the gas from leaking out of the cap vent. Reach back to the impeller in the second stage of the machine. It is the three or four bladed fan that throws the snow out of the chute. Try to turn the impeller by hand. If you can’t do it, then it could be frozen to the bottom of the drum of its housing. Commonly there is a drain hole at the bottom of the drum that is supposed to prevent this, but it doesn’t always work as advertised.

To repair this, drag or drive the blower into an area where you can direct some heat into it to thaw it out. You can use a hair dryer to perform this task. Take care not to place the heater too close and be careful where you direct the heat. You don’t want the plastic tarp of the blower to catch on fire. Just direct the heater into the auger area. It usually doesn’t take too long to melt the ice.

You can prevent this problem from ever happening if you clean the snow off the blower and the impeller or auger housing after use. Make certain that none of the impeller blades are pointing straight down. This could result in melted snow forming a puddle and freezing.

The next scenario we will discuss is the failure of the auger or wheel drive handle to engage. This occurs on blowers with cables or linkage. The cable or linkage gets soaked and ultimately freezes. If your blower features linkage, follow the linkage to a pivot point that is frozen. You may have to remove a cover to gain access to the linkage. Use a hair dryer to thaw out the linkage pivot point or the cable.

To prevent the problem, remove both ends of the cable and coat with low temperature or white lithium grease. Make sure to coat the entire inner length of the cable. Don’t use regular ball bearing or general use grease on the blower because it will gum up when it gets cold. On blowers featuring linkage, thaw out the linkage and spray or apply low temperature lubricant on all the pivoting parts.

The next scenario we will tackle is the starter that doesn’t engage. You may not be aware that an optional electric starter is available for your snow blower. So if the standard starter doesn’t work the optional starter could. Applying heat to frozen areas will solve the problem temporarily, but it will probably occur again when the temperature drops. For a more permanent fix is to remove the manual starter or the rope. There is commonly a metal “dog” on the rope or starter that freezes. You should be able to identify the “dog” when the starter is removed. It is the metal tab that engages into the starter cup. Remove the center screw and lube the pivot area with WD40 or similar liquid lubricant.

If the electric starter sound like it is spinning, but it is not turning over the engine, then the starter gear could be frozen to its shaft. Thaw out the area. Apply a light lubricant on the gear shaft to prevent freezing.

The blower not starting is the final scenario we will tackle. If the blower worked properly the last time you used it, but won’t start now, then there may be a small amount of frozen moisture in the fuel tank, the fuel line or the carburetor. Thaw out these components and then add a gas line anti-freeze. If there is too much water in the fuel, then remove the fuel line and drain the tank. After doing this, you should make sure to remove water from the carburetor. Some snow blowers have a spring-loaded drain on the bottom of the carburetor for this purpose. If not, loosen the high-speed adjustment screw or jet and open a few turns to drain the float bowl. This can get messy, so have an empty coffee can on hand to catch the liquid and some rags to clean up the area after.

If you see that it is necessary to remove the carburetor or bowl, then leave it alone and let a trained technician do it.

Another source for troubleshooting problems with your snow blower that don’t include freezing issues, then check here.

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.