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Snowblower Oil Smells Like Gas? Solved

By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2021/06/15 at 12:48 pm

You have likely just saved yourself a ton of money and heartache. Nice work you! The smell of gas from the engine oil is a cause of concern and needs immediate attention. Engine oil contamination is serious and often ends with a seized engine, and that means replacing the motor, Ouch!!.

A leaking snowblower carburetor float valve is the most common cause of a snowblower’s oil smelling like gas. Engine oil contamination is serious and can cause an engine to seize. The repair is simple: replace the float needle valve and change the engine oil.

In this post, you’ll learn how to diagnose why your snowblower’s engine smells of gas. You’ll learn what oil contamination is and why it’s so serious. You’ll also learn how to fix this problem and, importantly, how to prevent it from happening again.

Diagnosing Contaminated Snowblower Oil

The smell of raw gas from the engine oil is a sure sign the carburetor needle valve is leaking gas. However, there are a ton of other symptoms associated with a leaking carburetor needle valve; your snowblower may exhibit many or some of these symptoms in addition to the smell of raw gas from the oil.

Common symptoms include:

  • Smell of raw gas in the garage
  • Excessive oil level
  • Leaking gas from carburetor
  • Engine flooded with gas
  • Engine sputters when running
  • Engine hydro-locked
  • Air filter gas soaked
  • Gas tank drains overnight
Carburetor needle valve replacement

If you have one or more of the above symptoms, then it’s pretty conclusive that the carb float needle valve has failed and needs replacing.

What is a Carburetor Needle Valve?

The carburetor float and needle valve work as a team inside the carburetor bowl. Their job is to control gas flow to the bowl.

Carburetor float and needle

The bowl is a reservoir of gas that stands ready to feed the engine on demand. The float is made from plastic and floats on the gas level inside the bowl.

The needle valve is attached to the float, and as the float rises, the valve seals the fuel feed port.

carburetor float

As the snowblower’s engine consumes gas, the gas bowl level drops, and so does the needle; gas once again begins to fill the bowl. This is a continuous process.

The needle valve employs a rubber tip to seal the carburetor fuel feed port. However, some carbs use a rubber seal in the port itself.

In both cases, the rubber perishes over time, and this allows gas to leak into the gas bowl.

Needle valve

Ethanol gas blends are harder on rubber components than straight gas. As a result, it’s advisable to use a gas stabilizer in all types of small engine kit, (more on this later).

What is Hydro locking?

A leaking carburetor float valve (also known as a carburetor needle valve) eventually overflows, which spills into the cylinder through the open inlet valve (usually). This causes the engine to lock, a condition known as Hydro-locking.

When an engine is hydro locked, it won’t crank over and often convinces the operator they have a flat battery, starter motor issue, or a problem with the pull start assembly or some other obstruction.

Given time, the gas-filled cylinder will leak past the piston and rings and settle in the crankcase with the engine oil. Symptoms include engine oil stinks of gas, the oil level will show very high on the dipstick, maybe a wet patch on the garage floor, a stiff pull cord, and no-start.

The fix is to replace the needle valve, but we’ll need to change the engine oil also, which we cover below.

Checking Engine Oil Level

Go ahead and check the oil level; for those that are a little foggy on the process, follow these steps:

Park the snowblower on level ground, and the engine is off for at least 5 minutes


Locate the dipstick, often marked with an oil symbol or the word “OIL” In addition; the dipstick cap may be a contrasting color.

Remove the dipstick & clean.

Reseat the dipstick

Threaded dipstick

Threaded type dipstick

Dipsticks employ an upper mark to signify “Full” and a lower mark to signify “Low”; the area between may be hatched, which indicates an acceptable oil level.

Oil dipstick check
Dipstick too full

To sum up, if you have a high oil level and it stinks of gas, go ahead and change out the needle valve.

Replacing Carburetor Float Valve

The needle valve is easy to swap out and only costs a few bucks. As said, there are two types, a rubber-tipped valve or a full metal valve with an accompanying rubber seat. The rubber-tipped valve is easier to fit as the rubber seat type can be tedious to remove and fit.

In any event, we’ll cover both types here in this section. If your carburetor is old, go ahead and just swap it out, carbs aren’t expensive. Check out the Amazon link below.

Amazon Snowblower Carburetor

Need more info on the fuel system, carburetor components, and how they work, you can check them out here.

Small engine carburetor components

The tools you’ll need:

  • Wrench set
  • Clamp or needle nose grips

First off, we’ll need to access the needle valve; to do that, we’ll need to remove the gas bowl. When replacing the needle valve, it’s advisable to replace the gas bowl gasket and the bowl fastener gasket too. Older carburetor gaskets often leak after being disturbed.

To replace the needle valve, follow these simple steps:

Carburetor plastic covers

Remove – May need to remove the carburetor covers to access the carburetor bowl.

Gas Off – Turn the gas tap off or pinch the fuel line using a clamp – removing the gas bowl will cause fuel to flow continuously unless stopped.

Snow blower Gas off
Fit bowl

Remove – Remove the gas bowl fastener. (usually one)

Remove – Remove the float pin.

Float needle
Float pin removal

Slide – Pin slides out; needlenose pliers make the task easier.

Remove – Remove the float together with the needle valve if your valve has a rubber tip, great! You got it easy.

Simply swap out the valve and refit the float in reverse order.

Carburetor float and needle

If however, your valve doesn’t have a rubber tip, it means you have a little more work, but not much.

Follow these steps to remove and replace the rubber seat type:

  • With the valve and float removed use a small wood screw to extract the seal from the gas feed port. Thread the screw gently into the port and pull firmly
  • To fit the new seal, use a small dab of silicone grease to help it seat. Use a suitable tool such as the chuck end of a correctly sized drill bit to press home the new seal
  • Fit the new valve and needle
  • Have some rags handy, turn the gas on and lift the float, gas flow should stop with the float lifted
  • Clean and refit the gas bowl, be sure not to pinch the bowl gasket or overtighten the bowl fastener. A weep from the bowl after the repair means the fastener gasket or bowl seal are damaged and need to be replaced

In addition to replacing the valve, consider using the gas tap when the snowblower is not in use; this takes the load off the valve.

I advise using a gas stabilizer; this helps protect the rubber and plastic components of the fuel system from the corrosive effects of ethanol. In addition, a gas stabilizer keeps the ethanol fresh for longer, which also protects the carburetor from gumming up over the summer months. The gas stabilizer should be used in all small engines, 2 and 4 strokes.

Check out this video, “Adding gas stabilizer,” and you’ll find a link to the gas stabilizer I use here – “Snowblower maintenance tools.”

We’re not finished just yet; it is really important to change the oil after making this repair. Diluted engine oil will damage the engine. If your snowblower has an oil filter, change it also. We’ll cover oil changes in the next section.

How To Replace Snowblower Engine Oil

Engine oil should be changed on all machines at least once a season and preferably at the start of the season. Although your snowblower may not have done a ton of work since the last oil change, moisture and fuel acids collect naturally inside the engine, which contaminates the engine oil.

Tools you’ll need:

Most oil changes are made pretty easily by snowblower manufacturers. Most engines will employ a drain plug at the base of the engine. Some offer toolless draining, which is nice.

For the most part, you won’t need many tools

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Rags
  • Oil catch container
  • Funnell
  • Oil filter tool (if oil filter fitted)

Follow these steps to nail the oil change procedure like a pro:

Snow blower parked

Level – Park snowblower on level ground – more accurate dip readings.

Warm – Warm oil drains easier than cold, usually, I’d say run the engine for a while to heat the oil, but in our case, that’s not advised.

Locate – Locate and remove the dipstick; this improves the oil draining process.

Remove dipstick
Oil drain bungs

Locate – Locate the oil drain bung. (this engine has two drain options)

Drain – Use a suitable drain container and have some rags handy

Drain oil

Your engine may have an oil filter fitted. An oil filter is easy to identify; they’re cylindrical and fitted in an accessible area on the side of the engine.

  • Oil filters are threaded to the engine. To remove them, use an oil filter tool to turn filter counter clockwise
  • Use rags to clean oil spill
  • Before fitting the new filter, oil the seal using fresh engine oil
  • When tightening the new filter (clockwise), tighten by hand – Do not use a tool
  • Go ahead now and refit the oil drain bung
  • Set the snowblower level again
  • Using the funnel, add oil

Most engines will run very happily on 5W30 or 10W30, but it’s always best to check with your engine maker. As snowblower engine sizes vary, oil quantities will also.

Correct snowblower oil level

It’s important to fill the engine until the dipstick reads full.

An extra procedure is required for snowblower engines that employ an oil filter. Oil-filtered engines need to be started and run at idle for a minute until the oil fills the filter. The oil level will require further topping up.

After completing the oil change, run the engine and check for leaks.

That’s it; you nailed it!