Winter and snow are here – like it or not. Perhaps "check the snow blower" has been on your to-do list for a while now, but you just haven't gotten around to it. And now you find yourself with a snow blower that won't start, 12 inches of snow to clear, and no desire whatsoever to shovel it off your driveway (or even to try to find someone else to shovel it).
Here are some troubleshooting tips that could save you a lot of time, and perhaps a trip to the snow blower repair shop.
Just start from the top of the list and move down until your start-up problem is remedied.
1. Empty Tanks Start No Engines
Make sure your fuel tank isn't empty (and check the oil while you're at it). Moreover, if you didn't add a fuel stabilizer to the gas before you stored it, the fuel might have lost its volatility. If this is the case, you'll need to drain the system through the carburetor. Once it's drained, you can pour in fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer. If old fuel has gotten into the carburetor, it likely needs to be cleaned or replaced by a professional. You can tell if your fuel is old if it has turned into a varnish-like coating in the carburetor.
2. Remember the Fuel Shutoff Valve?
The correct position of the switch for the fuel shutoff valve to start your snow blower is something that could easily elude your memory if you haven't used your equipment for months. If this switch is in the OFF position, then flip it to the ON position.
It is easy to do, but also easy to forget.
3. Which Switch Is Which?
Are we done checking switches? No. Some snow blower engines have a safety key switch (you may be familiar with similar starting keys on lawn mowers) and a red toggle switch. Check to make sure that the key is properly inserted into the holder and that the red toggle switch is in the RUN position.
Failure to flip either one of these switches will result in an inability to start up your snow blower. Worse yet, you might flood the engine if you attempt a start-up under such conditions.
4. Choking Under Pressure
Athletes despise the word "choke." But there's no shame involved in using the choke on your snow blower. In fact, to start up a snow blower when the engine is cold, you want to use FULL CHOKE mode. Also note that if the thermometer outside reads above freezing, you may not want to prime the carburetor, as this may flood the engine. It may be best in this case to use just choke and skip priming altogether.
5. I'll Throttle You if You Don't Start Up!
If you have a throttle on your snow blower, check to make sure the throttle is positioned to three-quarters speed or higher.
6. From Spark to Flame
All right, let's say you've performed all of these steps and the engine still isn't firing up. What now? Remove the spark plug to check it. You're looking for three issues here:
Fuel that doesn't belong on the spark plug
The correct gap
A crack in the porcelain part of the spark plug
Regarding the first issue, if the spark plug is wet, that means it has been flooded with fuel, which is not something you want.
If you find the spark plug in this condition when you remove it, turn the engine over several times (with the spark plug still removed). This should remove the fuel from the spark plug hole that had seeped in during the flooding. Now clean off the spark plug and put it back in (or if it doesn't clean up to your satisfaction, install a brand new one).
Regarding the second issue, the following YouTube video illustrates how to check for the correct gap and, if necessary, adjust it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk70oyUEftY.
Regarding the third issue, cracking indicates the spark plug is damaged beyond repair and must be replaced.
Even if the spark plug, itself is in good shape, there could be a problem with your ignition coil. There are spark plug testers and ignition coil testers that can be helpful in diagnosing issues keeping your snow blower from starting up.
Finally, try to start the engine again, but without using the choke.
If you've completed this checklist, but your snow blower still won't start up, you'll need to take it to a professional servicing dealer. If you think it's time to buy a new machine, check out these tips on how to select a snow blower.
Editor's Disclaimer: If you have any doubts regarding your ability to perform the tasks above without causing harm to body or property, have your unit serviced by a professional.