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Fixes for the Most Common Snow

Jan 19, 2024Jan 19, 2024

Taking care of these issues now can save you from a trip to the repair shop

Snow blowers are complicated machines with plenty of moving parts, so it’s only natural that problems will arise on occasion. But some problems are easily avoided, and others, when addressed quickly, can help you avoid bigger, pricier repairs down the road.

CR’s snow-blower experts have put together a list of problems that can, when neglected, lead to poor performance or worse—a trip to the repair shop when it’s at its busiest.

“The good news is that if you’re handy and you have the right parts, most of these fixes take less than an hour to do,” says Dave Trezza, CR’s test engineer who oversees snow-blower testing.

Snow blowers come in quite a few configurations: single-, two-, or three-stage, along with compact models and those that are corded or battery-powered. Our snow blower buying guide is the place to learn about the different types. You can also jump to our ratings to find the best models.

Here are seven of the most common problems you may experience with your snow blower this winter, and CR’s expert advice on how to fix them.

The Problem: The Blower Won’t Start If you have a gas model, first check to see whether there’s gas in the tank. If the gas blower has an electric starter, make sure the blower is plugged into an outlet. Otherwise, if the gas is more than 30 days old, ethanol in the fuel may have caused moisture to build up in the fuel system. Use a gas siphon to drain the gas from the blower, then refuel with fresh stabilized gasoline and try again. For electric models, make sure the tool is plugged in or that the battery is fully charged.

The Problem: The Auger or Discharge Chute Is Clogged Turn off the engine of a gas snow blower or unplug the cord, or remove the battery, of an electric model. Use a clearing tool or broom handle to clear the clog—never your hands or feet, even if you’re wearing gloves: A stationary auger and impeller are often under enough belt tension to harm hands and feet, even with the engine or electric motor off.

The Problem: The Snow Blower Is Difficult to Maneuver or Lurches Forward Over time, the cables that send power to the wheels need to be adjusted to apply proper tension to the belt on two-stage snow blowers. If you squeeze the drive handle and the snow blower jerks forward, you’ll need to tighten the line. Unclip the cable from the handle and snug up the line’s threaded adjustment at the base of the machine, then reconnect the clip and test the handling. Adjust again as necessary until the lurching stops. After adjusting the cables, be sure to spray some lubricant at the pivot points of any moving parts.

The Problem: The Machine Leaves Too Much Snow Behind A flat metal bar on the underside of the machine chisels snow and ice off the ground and into the auger. Running over concrete, asphalt, and gravel can wear the metal down, leaving furrows of snow behind. Prop the snow blower up and remove the bolts that hold the bar to the housing, and replace it with a new one. (Check with the store where you bought the machine, or search by brand at Snow Blowers Direct to order one online.) Adjust the new bar to be about ⅛ inch above the ground. Caution: Keep in mind that you shouldn’t run a single-stage snow blower over gravel because it can pick up and throw the gravel with the snow, possibly damaging windows or injuring passersby. The problem is unique to single-stage blowers because their augers make direct contact with the ground, unlike two- or three-stage blowers, which have augers that don’t touch the ground.

The Problem: The Belt Breaks During Use The friction required to engage the auger belt on a single-stage snow blower tends to wear a belt down faster than on two-stage machines. Between uses, remove the cover and check the belt for cracks. Replace a suspect belt by pulling the wheel off, then the belt, and adding the replacement part in reverse order. Changing a belt on a larger two-stage machine involves dismantling the unit to gain access to the flywheel, a job best left to a service professional.

And if you want to avoid trekking to a store in a snowstorm, it’s a good idea to always have a replacement belt (and extra shear pins) on hand throughout the season.

The Problem: The Snow Blower Runs Rough If your gas blower is shaky or jittery when it’s on, there may be a problem with fuel combustion. Check the fuel or spark plugs—each is fairly simple to do. First, drain the fuel from the tank and refill it with fresh gas. Next, try replacing the spark plug by disconnecting the rubber boot attached to the plug and removing the plug with a ratchet wrench. You’ll need a special spark plug socket, available at a home center or an automotive store. Replace the plug with a new one. If neither of these works, you’ll have to take the snow blower to a dealer for repair; call the manufacturer to locate one near you.

The Problem: The Engine Runs, but the Auger Won’t Turn With the engine off and key removed, inspect the auger and/or impeller for obvious problems, such as a rock or chunk of ice that’s keeping moving parts from turning. Next, inspect the shear pins, typically located near the auger. Check your manual for the exact location. These pins will break when your blower hits an obstruction—like a rock—then the auger will stop working. Replacing these pins should get your snow blower working again. You can buy them online or in stores; it’s always smart to keep a few extra on hand.