My recent snowblower scare

Being this is the “general” discussion area, I’m going to vent about my snow blower.

Tuesday I received 14 inches (measured) of snow in my driveway. Halfway through the job of clearing it, late at night, my snowblower started sounding like a gatling gun. But the sound subsided, and I kept going. The sound came back, and it ran out of gas. I refilled it and it ran terrible… and with repeated gatling gun sounds.

Now I’m thinking: damn, it must have gone lean as it ran out of gas under heavy load, started preigniting, and fried a valve. I put it away, spent a few hours on the internet selecting a replacement engine… of another make, since Tecumse apparently went belly-up five years ago and there are no more such engines available… and few parts…

This morning, fully prepared to confirm a burned valve with a compression test and to drive to Harborside for a new motor, I pulled th blower out of the garage and started looking at it. Lo and behold, all wrapped tightly around the auger shaft and the discharge impellar was a big plastic bag! I cleared that, checked the oil, and it tested great.

Which proves once again… our worst fears very often don’t come true. And you never know what you’ve got until you look.


Snow blowers are renouned for their ruggedness. That is if you just blow snow. Plastic bags, ice, sticks and stones all find their way into the shoot and cause 90 % of the problems. The other ten percent…ethanol. Glad to hear your’s was just a plastic bag @Same.

I was “half asleep” last week blowing snow with my tractor blower and could not stop it quickly enough while seeing see it eat a two inch thick branch. I didn’t know what to expect. When I just saw chips come flying out the chute, I gained new respect for that " animal" . That incident made me think of the movie “Fargo”. I treat all snow blowers with lots of respect, even my little walk behind. Those are my biggest fears I have concerning snow blowers. Like chainsaws, they can be dangerous.

I’m with you on the line of though. I always say to assume the worst. That way - if it really is that bad, then you’re ready for it. But its it isn’t that bad, then you have at least a few moments of euphoric relief (or more). Some call assuming the worst “pessimism.” I call it “mental survival.”

Maybe you should have posted that on the thread about the worst repairs that turned out the be the easiest.

I’ve used my snow blower here in east central Indiana more this year than the last four years combined. One morning, I didn’t think that the newspaper had been delivered to the paper tube. I reasoned that the delivery person probably couldn’t get through. The next morning, I picked up the current paper from the driveway on top the snow. As I was blowing out the driveway, I saw something thrown forward from the blower. It was the previous day’s newspaper. It had been thrown into the driveway before the snow hit.
@dagosa–I decided to use ethanol free 50:1 premixed fuel to avoid possible engine problems. The engine does start easier and doesn’t smoke on this fuel. Unfortunately, this fuel costs about $5 a liter. I’ve had to give up booze for myself to be able to avoid non-alcohol fuel for the snow blower–sort of ironic.

Good advice. I use regular gas during the winter with marine grade for ethanhol stabilizer. Then, in the spring before I put it away for the summer, I changed the oil, and run the same enthanol free gas through it for ten minutes. I have found as long as I store it with enthanol free gas, it’s not a problem. If the last thing a machine sees is ethanhol before it sits for a while, nothing but trouble. I do the same with out boards in the fall. But like you, I use nothing but premix ethanol free in chainsaw and trimmer all the time ss they use so little.

" I’ve had to give up booze for myself to be able to avoid non-alcohol fuel for the snow blower–sort of ironic. "

Ok - that’s just so wrong. And insult to injury is that, at least for me, the booze is best in the wintertime.

I have gone to those expensive premix cans when I know I will only use something a little bit. E.g. if I have to go do a small cleanup after a storm or something, the premix goes in the chainsaw because I know I won’t use a lot. Then I don’t worry about leaving it until the next little job. But if I’m going out for a whole day of woodcutting, I go over to regular mix. Then I might do the last fill with the canned premix, OR just empty it out of regular mix and run it dry before storing. This keeps me out of the ethanol problems - and, I guess, in the booze. It’s really not so much the short term ethanol effects, but the long term ones that come from storage - especially for the stuff stored in the carb. That’s the killer.

The guy that delivered the Sunday paper used to throw it on the driveway in a white plastic bag. More than once it would snow and I’d run into the thing with the blower. Quite a mess and pull it back to the garage to clean it out again.

I bought a Toro last year with the Briggs engine on it to replace my 16 year old Tecumseh. I have been having govenor problems with it since day one. Took it back and worked a little but this year took it to a different shop. They can’t figure it out. Everything looks fine and the master tech has even been talking to Briggs. I guess they are a good little engine but mines been in the shop now for two weeks.

I’ve been storing my sons for a couple years now and finally had to put it back in service after the last snow. Now we’ve got another 8 inches. I love that little Tecumseh engine on it. Watch your fuel and keep oil in it and it’ll love you back. I bought spare parts when they went belly up.

If you get the HF, they are all from China and parts will be hard to find. A lot of the MTD’s now are the LCT which are the same China crap and no parts, same as Storm Force at Northern. My Briggs was made in China too but it still has parts available and service, so you have to be very careful what engine you get.

I have a little Toro 2-cycle blower that’s about 20 years old. It was a $20 Craigslist special. I use good oil for the gas mix, but I’ve beaten the living crap out of that thing and it keeps going. It is way underrated for the amount of snow I’ve cleared with it. I’ve gotten the engine so hot apparently that a piece of incandescent carbon or something will keep it running–I couldn’t turn off the motor with the switch, I had to choke it and put it into deep snow to shut it off.

I still also have the smaller Toro “Snow Pup” that my father (RIP) had purchased for the blizzard of ‘78, and it still runs fine too after all these years. Those little 2-cycle engines are pretty much indestructible as long as you mix up a proper batch of gas n’ oil.

I too have used the snow blower more in the last month or so than in the last 3 years combined.

I sucked up one of those door mats that is a cord wound in circle. The blower was acting off and not shooting as far but not enough to make me suspect anything significant. When I stopped it, I saw the rug. Wow. It took hours to chop it out of there it was wound so tight around both augers and frozen.

@oblivion–I bought one of those Toro “Snow Pup” for a Christmas present just before the blizzard of 1978. When my parents moved into an assisted living center fourteen years later, I got the snow blower. I used it a couple of seasons until one season it wouldn’t start because it didn’t have spark. I took it to a respected repair shop for an ignition module. The repair shop called back and said it wasn’t worth repairing as the compression was also really low as well and I would be well on the way to the price of a new snow blower. When I picked it up, the shop manager asked, “Was this snow blower used commercially? Nobody wears out a snow blower for home use in this area”. What happened was that my parents had moved into town when I bought the snow blower for my dad. He loved being outdoors and would go up and down his block clearing sidewalks and driveways for his neighbors. The snow blower probably came close to seeing commercial use.

Similar thing happened to me this morning, TSM. Someone must have gotten their car hung up on a snowbank last night and ripped off their chin spoiler. The plow then shoved it into my driveway, where it got buried under more snow. I had no idea it was there until a big black spear came shooting out of the snow and into the middle of the street. Then the snowblower started sounding like yours, but it was still running fine and throwing the snow almost into the neighbor’s driveway.

The auger had ripped off part of the chin spoiler and wrapped it around the shaft. I had to disable the engine and work on it for about 10 minutes with a vise grips to get it out of there. And now I know that my shear pins are just plain old pins that won’t break no matter what, but it apparently doesn’t matter because my snowblower eats large chunks of heavy plastic without slowing down at all. Maybe I’ll use it to shred trees for mulch this summer.

I’ll be very sad when this one dies. It’s about 25 years old and has the old “10hp” Snow King engine. It just charges through snow no matter how deep it is.

@mountainbike…I went through nearly the same experience with my Craftsman riding mower last year. It started to run badly and had absolutely no power. Since I just tuned the mower a few days prior…I drained the gas and put in a fresh supply from a different gas station in hopes that the problem would go away. It didn’t. I had a spare Briggs engine with more horsepower so…I had a “Tim Taylor” moment and decided why not?

I drained the oil and gas and tipped the mower on it’s side to get at the mower deck, belts, pulley and engine bolts. That’s when I noticed something strange on the engine shaft. When I checked it out…I found about 100 ft of heavy twine wrapped up and jammed between the bottom of the engine and the drive pulley. I have no idea where it came from but it made a nice blaze in my burn barrel. I went ahead and installed the larger engine since I had already started the job and it’s made cutting the yard a lot simpler. “More Power” is actually a good thing and like you said “You never know what you’ve got until you look.”

I use gas with ethanol for both my 2 stage ans single stage 2 stroke but I have replaced the fuel lines on both and store them dry. I would have to make a 30 mile trip to buy premium fuel at a premium price or ho to a marina and pay $7 a gallon and it just isn’t worth the trouble. My big snowblower is a 1972 and has been using 10% ethanol for 10 years or more.

I too had the newspaper problem that Triedaq mentioned. After changing a few popped belts and a few sheared shearpins, I finally got the guy that throws the "free paper (advertisement supplement) at the base of my driveway.

All the rest, the branches, the ice chunks, all of it, I’ve been through at one time or another. But I’ve never had a fuel system problem. I add about 1oz/gal of carb cleaner to my gas, and that plus “running out” the system off-season keeps my engines working beautifully. Afetr I bout my first house many years ago, I got a commercially-used 8HP snowblower about 15 years old that was stumbling. I ran a few tanks of gas through it with carb cleaner and it perked up and started running beautifully. It ran flawlessly for another 17 years… until I lost the house in a divorce and sold it.

My snow blower scare is that I am going to have to use it again before spring.


… And last year spring didn’t happen until after May.

Why do we live Up Nort’ again?

I would rather (and sometimes do) live through 6 months of winter than a southern summer.

Oldtimer, your joints must be in better shape than mine…

Snowblower stories, I ate up an extension cord for block heaters once, a couple of years ago my single stage min 25year old 3.5 horse would run well for 15 min, then be starving for fuel and running poorly if at all. until the next start. after a couple of carb disasembly, rebuld and cleaning and scouring the internet tried everything and no solution.

Looked at a new one, North of $600. So I am thinking because I was still using last years gas, I would dump it all and start over.

In dumping the gas I see there is a pencil eraser size brass filter in the bottom of the tank, not mentioned in manuals or anywhere, and a nice collection of sand size sediment. While running it was clogging up, and on sitting would settle out.

Cleaned out the tank, and working well. I have put a new scraper bar, and replaced the tire type paddle replacements. Going to do it again but like previous guy I spend 4 times more gas helping out the neighbors.

Terminology clarification. Those little Toro 2 cycles are snow throwers. The man sized two stage 4 cycle machines, 5, 8, 10 horse power and up are snow blowers. We use blowers in Minnesota.

One reason I bought a new one last year even though my 16 year old MTD was perfectly good was that the last one I had, which was approaching 30 years old, made it ten feet out the door after a very heavy snow. Then seized up. It was January and in all of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I only found four blowers for sale. One waiting for parts, one a guy hadn’t picked up yet, and two at a dealer. I bought one of those but learned you don’t want to try and replace a bum blower during the middle of a hard winter.

Went through a tank and a half of gas today on our 8 inches plus drifts with the kid’s MTD back-up with my Toro 5 hp 2 stage still in the shop. Three different master mechanics and Briggs so not like they aren’t trying.