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Getting a Snow Blower Ready For Winter

10/8/2019 5:00:00 AM


Why it's important to​​ start your snow blower long before the first flakes fly.

We're approaching on one of our favorite times of the year, snow season! Maybe not the favorite for those who prefer warm temperatures, but for the Ariens® team, it's an opportunity to share our knowledge to help ensure y​ou have a fun, safe and hassle-free winter. Part of that is getting you prepared for the snowfalls ahead, and if the Farmer's Almanac is anywhere near close to its prediction, getting your snow blower ready ​for winter is going to be more critical right now than ever before.

​Start your snow blower now. Seriously, TODAY.

No matter how silly it may seem to drag your Ariens snow blower into the driveway and start it up on a mild fall day, you'll thank us for this advice. The first step in preparing your snow blower for winter is starting the engine. Far too often, homeowners don't discover that their snow blower has​ an issue until it's needed most – in the middle of a blizzard. It's the biggest reason why we urge our customers to start their snow blowers right now. Knowing the status of a snow blower's working condition today, before it starts snowing, guarantees you're ready for the first snowfall. Because if you happen to uncover an issue with your unit today, you still have plenty of time to get it repaired by your authorized Ariens dealer without fighting the rest of your neighborhood for an available mechanic.​

Why won't my snow​​ blower start?

If the above warning proved worthwhile and you discover that your snow blower won't start, there's a few things you can do. First and foremost, tha​nk us for warning you. Second, don't worry too much. This could be due to one of several easy-to-fix issues – especially if your engine was running just find at the end of last season. For whatever it is, let's troubleshoot this together and fix the issue now so your snow blower is ready for the snowfall in the coming weeks.

​How to start a sno​​​w blower

The sky is falling just because your snow thrower won't start. Again, it could be one of a few small issues:

a.     How to start a snow blower

Your snow blower might not start because you simply forgot a step in the starting procedure, which is really nothing to be embarrassed about. There's no shame in a refresher course in learning how to start your snow thrower. After all, you haven't used it in a while, so let's make sure you're doing what you need to do:

H​​​ow to start an Ariens carbureted / non-EFI (electronic fuel injected) snow blower:

  1. Move the unit to a well-ventilated area.
  2. Turn the fuel valve on the engine to the on position.
  3. Turn the engine key on the engine to the run position.
  4. If equipped, move the throttle control lever or knob to the on position.
  5. If the engine is cold (hasn't run in the last 30 – 60 minutes), push the primer bulb on the engine two to three times.
  6. If the engine is cold, turn the choke to the on position.
  7. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.
  8. If the engine starts and you used the choke, gradually return the choke to the off position.

How to start an Ariens EFI snow blower:

  1. Ensure the battery is connected and fully charged.
  2. Turn the key on the dash panel to the on position.
  3. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.

For more details on starting an Ariens snow blower engine, refer to the instructions in the Operation section of your operator's manual.

b.    The unit may not have fuel

You'd be surprised, but this happens to the best of us. You possibly forgot to add fuel to the tank after running it dry last season, so open the tank to check that it has stabilized fuel. To check your fuel tank correctly, remove the fuel tank cap, move your unit back and fourth and listen for fuel sloshing around the tank. Never put your nose up to the fuel tank opening to smell for fuel.

c.     The spark plug may be bad

Do you know what the spark plug does? It's the small mechanism in your engine that creates a spark, igniting the fuel that creates combustion in the engine, which makes the engine do its thing: work. If your spark plug is "fouled" with oil or carbon deposits, it could prevent a spark from being generated, keeping the engine from starting.

Checking a snow blower spark plug

Accessing a snow blower engine spark plug is easy. As always, stop the unit, remove the key from the ignition and wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool before attempting service. Also, review the safety information in the operator's manual for your unit and its engine manual. Then, locate the wire, or the spark plug "boot" on the engine and pull it away from the spark plug and unscrew the spark plug from the engine.

If your snow blower spark plug is fouled, or coated with oil, the spark plug will need replacement, but there's also a greater issue at hand. This could be an indication that oil is getting into the combustion chamber or that the fuel mixture is too rich. In either case, this will require you to take your snow blower to your nearest Ariens dealer to get the issue resolved. Again, be happy that you caught it early so you can fix it before it snows.

If your spark plug looks clean, a no-start issue could be a result of a faulty spark plug or one that isn't "gapped" correctly. Try replacing it with a brand new one from your local Ariens dealer or the Ariens parts site online. Remember, spark plugs are different sizes for different engines and are not a one-size-fits all component. If a new spark plug doesn't resolve the issue, check the next item in our list.

d.    Snow blower has a clog in the fuel line

Unfortunately, this is the most common reason for a snow blower to not start. Snow blowers of any brand that didn't have their fuel systems drained and / or stabilized at the end of the last season have a high risk of not starting because old fuel can either:

  • Det​eriorate and lose its flash point – meaning it won't ignite
  • ​Oxidize, causing it to gel and clog the fuel lines and the carburetor

Though old fuel can easily be drained from the fuel system, clogs can't be resolved as easily.

Fuel in carbureted (non EFI) snow blowers passes through the microscopic hole shown in the photo below. It doesn't matter what brand of snow blower you use – if there's even the smallest particle blocking the carburetor jets or the fuel lines, it prevents fuel from reaching your engine and will keep an engine from starting or running.

Use of ethanol-blended fuels and emissions regulations in outdoor power equipment has made clogging issues more frequent in recent years. Though E10 is technically the highest acceptable ethanol blend (90 percent gasoline / 10 percent ethanol) for use in small engines, its characteristics increase the possibility for clogs.

Ethanol is a solvent. When used in older engines that have varnish buildup, ethanol can dissolve those varnish deposits, which can clog fuel lines and carburetors. Additionally, ethanol contains a higher oxygen content than pure gasoline, meaning ethanol-blended fuels can deteriorate more quickly. When left untreated for long periods of time, oxidized fuel can leave gummy deposits in your fuel system and clog it.

If your unit is experiencing starting issues and it wasn't drained or stored at the end of last season with a fuel stabilizer or ethanol treatment, it's quite possible the no-start issue you're experiencing is a result of a fuel clog. If that's the case, you will need to take your unit to your local Ariens dealer for diagnosis and repair.

Snow blower maintenance for winter

Since you already have your snow blower out of storage, maximize the task by completing a few other maintenance checks that will help ensure strong operation all winter long.

​Everyday snow blow​​​er maintenance

  • Check that all nuts, bolts and screws are present and tight
  • Check the tire pressures
  • Check the engine oil level

Lubricating a snow b​lower tractor

Before lubricating the snow blower tractor, or the inside of the snow blower, drain the fuel from the fuel tank and the carburetor, tipping the unit onto its housing and remove the bottom cover. Click here to watch the video that shows much of this procedure.

  • Apply a thin layer of grease to the gears and the hex shaft
  • Apply a thin layer of oil to the chains
  • Remove the wheels and lubricate the axles

If rust is present on the axle shafts, remove it with sandpaper and wipe clean with a thin layer of oil and a rag.

Lubricating a sno​w blower

  • Pump grease into the fittings on the auger shaft and rotate the augers by hand

Snow blower engine ma​intenance

  • Change your snow blower engine oil regularly according to the maintenance schedule in its engine manual and with the correct oil weight and volume listed. Click here to watch how to change the oil in an Ariens snow blower.
  • Check the spark plug as scheduled and replace as necessary.​

Fuel to use in a snow b​​​lower

As we talked about earlier, outdoor power equipment today is especially sensitive to the fuel that feeds it for two reasons. We can't stress enough how important it is to be aware of the fuel you're putting into your outdoor power equipment. Inexperience and lack of awareness with fuel-related issues could lead to problems and frustration, but knowing about these issues and getting in front of them will give you a better chance of going through the season without any issues. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about gasoline.

​Ethanol-blended fuels in snow blowers

Arounds 20 years ago, ethanol blends started quietly mixing into the gasoline at gas stations. For the most part, construction of small engines stayed the same, but the fuel put in them was different. This is fine if you're pumping E10, which is a weaker, 90% gasoline / 10% ethanol fuel blend, but anything greater, such as E15, E20 etc., can do serious harm to a snow blower or lawn mower engine. That's not just our engines – that's engines across the board of the outdoor power equipment industry. This certainly doesn't mean the sky is crashing down, but it requires greater awareness when filling up at the pump.

Stay away from single-source pumps at gas stations. These are pumps that use one single hose to pump a variety of fuel types. Avoid these if possible because their hoses can hold high volumes of fuel selected by the last person to use that pump. Did they use 100% gasoline, or did they use an ethanol blend? You'll never know, and because of that, you risk adding an unacceptable fuel blend to your power equipment when using that pump.​

Know you're always in the best shape pumping E10 or 100% gasoline from a hose that's dedicated to that type of fuel.

Stabilizing snow blo​wer gasoline

Gasoline doesn't stay fresh forever. In fact, gasoline can deteriorate in as little as two weeks from the time it was pumped into a fuel container. Fuel that goes bad is less efficient and could deteriorate so much that it clogs the fuel lines. And though putting your snow blower into storage is a long time away, always add fuel stabilizer to a snow blower fuel tank or to portable fuel tanks used to fill your snow blower tank during the season. Reason for this is because you don't know how often or how little that fuel will be used up. Could be a month where it snows every other day, or January could be dry as a bone. If that's the case, having stabilized gasoline in all your winter fuels provides the assurance that the fuel is fresh, greatly reducing the possibility for engine issues that arise from using bad fuel.

To protect the reliability of your Ariens snow blower, always add a quality fuel stabilizer or an ethanol treatment to each fresh tank of fuel. That's the external fuel tanks in your garage or the fresh fuel that was just poured into your snow blower fuel tank. Just remember that bad fuel can't be rejuvenated. The only way to keep fuel fresh is by adding stabilizer right after it's pumped.

For more details on snow blower storage and adjustments, maintenance and more, subscribe to the Ariens channel on YouTube.​