How to Drain Gas from a Snowblower

Man using gas snowblower.

Scott B. Smith Photography/Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 1 unit
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $3.00

The gas snowblower is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal for clearing snow off driveways, walkways, and sidewalks for homeowners who live in cold climates. Many prefer using snowblowers to snow shovels for this purpose, especially if they own large properties. But you do pay a price for this convenience in the form of maintenance; this includes draining the gas out of the snowblower when you are ready to store it away in the shed for another year. (If you want the convenience without the maintenance hassles, there is an alternative: Use an electric snowblower, instead.)

Draining the gas out of your gas-powered snowblower at the end of the winter yard maintenance season is a simple but necessary project. It involves very little in the way of supplies and tools, nor does it require great skill. In fact, your main challenges are in remembering to do the job at all and keeping safety in mind, first and foremost.

Do You Need to Drain a Snowblower?

Many people mix a fuel stabilizer into the gas tank of their snowblower to avoid having to drain the gas out before storing the unit away. But let's assume that you do not want to bother with buying a fuel stabilizer. You may want to simply drain the gas out of the tank, especially if you have only a bit of gas left in the tank.

Either way, leaving untreated gas in your tank for months and months is a bad idea. Caring for your unit properly at the end of snowblowing season is critically important. To be sure, the negative consequences of leaving untreated gas in the tank will not show up right away. That is why it is so easy to forget to undertake this project. But you could pay dearly down the line for a failure to drain the gas out of your machine. When you go to use your snowblower for the first time the following winter, you may find that it does not start up for you.

The problem is that regular fuel contains ethanol. Over time, the ethanol mixes with any water that may seep into the tank. Corrosion results, and you can experience clogging in your engine. You may end up having to bring the unit into a repair shop to have the engine cleaned so that the snowblower will start up again.

Before You Begin

Select a location outdoors. Since you are dealing with a flammable substance, you want to be away from heating units, open flame, etc. Running the unit indoors would expose you to carbon monoxide fumes.

The location should be flat. You are less likely to slip on a surface that is flat. The driveway is a less than ideal location for the job since you would have to perform clean-up if you should spill any gas (gas is harmful to pavement).

Safety Considerations

Snowblowers are powerful machines and dangerous if you forget about safety when you're around them. Never perform maintenance of any kind on a snowblower, gas or electric, while it's running. Always shut it off first.

If it has been running for a long time, it will be hot, and you could burn yourself when touching it. So give the unit a half hour to cool off before touching it. Even then, wear work gloves for superior safety. Don't run a gas-powered snowblower inside of a garage (carbon monoxide poisoning could result). Insert earplugs before you start up a snowblower; the engine is loud, and the noise could damage your hearing over time. Wear eye protection. Avoid wearing any loose-fitting clothing (especially long scarves) that could become entangled in the moving parts of the unit. Wear slip-resistant boots to avoid injuries when working on icy surfaces.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Siphon pump
  • Work gloves
  • Earplugs
  • Eye protection (safety goggles or glasses)
  • Tight-fitting clothing
  • Sturdy boots with a good grip

Materials

  • Catch pan (to catch gas as it drains out)

Instructions

  1. Move the Snowblower to The Selected Location

    Set up the snowblower in the selected location. Make sure it is off and the engine is cool before you attempt to drain the gas out.

  2. Familiarize Yourself With a Siphon Pump

    Siphon pumps are easy to use, but if you have never used one before, familiarize yourself with the basic concept behind them. There is a little pump (usually a different color from the rest of the device) that you squeeze with one hand to generate the pumping action. Two tubes come out of this manual pump. The end of one of them goes into whatever reservoir you are siphoning from. The end of the other goes into whatever container that you are using to catch the removed liquid in.

  3. Remove Fuel Tank Cap

    Find the cap on the snowblower where the gas goes in. Unscrew this cap. Put the end of one of the tubes of the siphon pump down into the fuel tank.

  4. Set Up the Catch Pan

    Set up the pan that you are using to catch the gas in at a suitable distance from the fuel tank. Put the end of the other tube down into the catch pan.

  5. Drain Out the Gas

    Squeeze the pump on the siphon pump with one hand, using the other hand to stabilize the siphon pump apparatus. In this way, you will be able to drain most of the gas out of the fuel tank of the snowblower.

  6. Run Engine to Drain Out Residual Gas

    Despite your pumping efforts, a bit of gas will remain behind in the snowblower. You can get rid of this by running the engine. Replace the cap to the fuel tank, start the engine, and let it run until it shuts off on its own due to lack of gas.