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Snowblower Stalls When Auger Engaged – Simple fix

By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2021/06/22 at 8:03 am

It’s frustrating using kit that’s just not up to the job. Snowblowers have it tough, but do they really? They only work a few months of the year, not a bad gig, and that is the root cause of your problem.

A dirty carburetor is the most common cause of a stalling snowblower engine when the auger is engaged. Cleaning the carburetor and fresh gas will fix the stalling.

In this post, you’ll learn why your snowblower stalls when the auger is applied. You’ll learn how you can fix it today and how to prevent this from happening again.

Engine Stalling

The root cause is, as you now know, most likely a lack of fuel supply. It’s known as fuel starvation. A dirty carburetor is the most common root cause of fuel starvation. Tiny fuel passages inside your carburetor become clogged and restrict gas flow.
When the auger is engaged, the engine demands more fuel; when the carburetor can’t supply it, the engine simply stalls. While the main cause of fuel starvation is a dirty carburetor fuel jet, we’ll look at other possible causes of fuel starvation too.

Auger Brake

Although a fueling issue is the most likely cause, it’s not the only possible cause. A fault with the auger brake assembly may also cause the engine to stall when the auger is engaged. However, it is the less likely cause, so we’ll look at it towards the end of this post.
First, we’ll look at the fueling system.

Fuel Starvation

For an engine to run without stalling, it needs a mix of air (oxygen) to gas ratio of 14.7:1. It’s known as the AFR (Air Fuel Ratio).


It means for every 14.7 parts of air the engine receives, it must also receive 1 part of gas.

If either air or fuel is off, the engine protests by not running at all or poorly. If the engine doesn’t get enough gas in the mix, it’s said to be running lean.

If, on the other hand, the engine isn’t getting enough oxygen, it’s said to be running rich.

In our case, we suspect we have a fuel starvation issue (lean), evidenced by the stalling engine precisely when more gas is needed (auger engaged).

What Causes a Lean Condition?

A lean condition, as you know, means there isn’t enough gas in the mix. The root cause of a lean condition is fuel starvation, but there are other causes.

Here’s a list of the more common causes of a lean condition:

  • Fuel starvation (blockage)
  • Faulty carburetor
  • Fuel mix screw out of adjustment
  • Bad gas
  • E15 gas
  • Gasket leaks
  • Engine wear
  • Valve seating issue

Common Fuel Starvation Causes

Since fuel starvation is the most common cause of our suspected problem (lean condition), we’ll look at its causes in greater detail.

In many cases, the good life may well be the cause of your snowblower stalling issue. When snowblowers retire at the end of the season, the gas in the fuel system starts to degrade.

Some owners drain the gas tank. However, it’s the gas in the carburetor bowl that’s the problem. The ethanol fuel blend we all use today begins to degrade after just a month. And degraded gas is the most likely cause of fuel starvation.

The components most likely affected include:

  • Carburetor
  • Gas filter
  • Gas tank

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

Small engine carburetor components

Carburetor Diagnosis

The diagnosis is pretty simple, remove the carburetor bowl and check the contents. Finding a gungy deposit, corrosion, or dirt means we have found our problem.

The process looks like this:

Snow blower Gas off

Turn the gas tap off (or pinch the gas line).

Place rags under the bowl

Remove bowl fastener

engine covers
Snow blower carb bowl removal

Remove gas bowl

Grit in the bowl means your carburetor likely needs cleaning

Dirty gas

Try Cleaning The Bowl 

In some cases cleaning the carburetor bowl and fuel jet will solve the issue. It’s worth a try, as cleaning the bowl and jet is a ton less labor than removing the carburetor to clean.

Bowl removal

After refitting the bowl, check for leaks; older carb bowl seals and bowl fastener gaskets often leak after removal.

If they do leak, replace the gaskets. Bowl cleaning is covered here “Snowblower only runs on choke” or check out the video here.

If your carburetor bowl employs a fastener with an integrated jet, make sure to clean it.

Fuel feed jet

Snowblower Carburetor Cleaning

Cleaning the carburetor thoroughly means removing it. It is possible to spray carb cleaner into the carb, but it’s like shooting in the dark.

Removal, stripping, cleaning, rebuilding, and refitting is the best solution. However, as said it is worth cleaning just the bowl and bowl fastener (jet type) before embarking on a carb teardown. Carburetor cleaning is covered here “Snowblower only runs on choke” or check out the carburetor cleaning video here.

Snowblower Carburetor Removal

Small engines are easy to work on; for most tasks, just basic tools are needed. That’s true for this task. If you need tools, check out the “Snowblower maintenance tools page.”

Tools & products you’ll need include:

  • Pliers Fuel clamp
  • Ratchet & socket set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Wire brush
  • Syphon
  • Carburetor cleaner
  • Gas stabilizer

 You’ll find all these tools & products here on the “Snowblower maintenance tools page,” 

The removal process is as follows:

The removal process is covered with pictures here “Snowblower only runs on choke” or check out the video here.

Mesh Filter

  • Remove intake housing
  • Remove gas line
  • Take picture record of choke & throttle linkage locations
  • Remove carb fasteners
  • Take a picture record of gasket locations and orientations
  • Turn carburetor to ease choke and governor linkage removal
  • Snowblower Carburetor Teardown

    The teardown process is as follows:

    The teardown is covered with pictures here “Snowblower only runs on choke” or check out the video here.

    Carburetor emulsion tube

  • Remove gas bowl
  • Remove float and valve
  • Remove jet & emulsion tube
  • Remove fuel mix screw (if applicable) count turns to remove
  • Snowblower Carburetor Cleaning

    To nail this task, you’ll need some carburetor cleaner and a selection of small screwdrivers, pliers and small socket set.

    I’ve covered carburetor cleaning previously, and you can check it out here “Carburetor cleaning” or check out the video here. (It’s a mower carburetor, but they’re all similar).

    Carburetor gas bowl cleaning

    Or check out the cleaning process here “Snowblower only runs on choke” or check out the video here.

    The cleaning process is as follows:

    Carb cleaning

  • Using carb cleaner and its straw, spray all passages of the carburetor
  • Using a wire brush strand, clean the portholes of the main & idle jet and the emulsion tube
  • Snowblower Carburetor Rebuild & Fit

    The rebuild and refit process is covered with pictures here, “Carburetor cleaning,” or the video here.

    Rebuild in reverse order; note the following tips when rebuilding and refitting:

    Rebuild carburetor

  • When refitting the fuel mix screw, ensure to fit the same number of turns (if applicable)
  • Drain the gas tank before fitting the carburetor
  • Ensure all carburetor gaskets are located correctly including their orientation (gasket leaks will cause engine surging)
  • Careful not to overtighten carburetor fasteners
  • Consider fitting new float needle, gas bowl seal, bowl fastener gasket, and gas filterCareful not to overtighten gas bowl
  • Fit choke and throttle linkages to the carburetor before fitting the carburetor to the engine
  • Adding Gas Stabilizer

    To prevent this problem in the future, we have two options.

    One: We can drain all the gas from the machine, including the gas bowl and fuel lines.

    Two: We can add a gas stabilizer that will keep the gas fresh and protect the fuel system from gum.

    The gas stabilizer is mess-free and has a lot less work. The gas stabilizer is a chemical additive we add to the gas tank to keep the ethanol from going stale or eroding the plastic and rubber components of the fuel system.

    You can check out the stabilizer I use here on the “Snowblower maintenance tools page,” and you can check out how to mix gas stabilizer and add it with this video.

    Add stabilizer as follows:

    Gas stabilizer

  • Add gas stabilizer to a clean fuel can.
  • Typically add 1/2oz. (tablespoon full) to a gallon of gas
  • Shake the can
  • Fill a low or empty snowblower gas tank to the top.
  • Run the engine for five minutes
  • Told you it was easy!

    Auger Brake Assembly

    The auger is fitted with a brake to stop it quickly when the handlebar auger lever is released. The system is simple, a spring-loaded arm with a brake block attached is pushed against the auger pulley, slowing it down and stopping it when the auger lever is released. A brake is activated by way of a cable from the auger lever.  

    As you can imagine, if the auger brake isn’t releasing, then the engine will naturally stall. This isn’t a common problem but should be eliminated as a possible cause. 

    The system is simple, a spring-loaded arm with a brake block attached is pushed against the auger pulley, slowing it down and stopping it when the auger lever is released. A brake is activated by way of a cable from the auger lever.  

    Check out the auger component overview here.

    Checking the brake as follows:

    Snow blower Gas off

    Turn gas off (if fitted)

    Place a plastic sheet over the gas  tank neck and refit the gas cap (prevents spill)

    Cover gas tank with plastic
    Correctly tilt snowblower

    Turn blower up and on to bin (auger housing)

    Remove belly pan

    Belly pan
    Pulley guide

    Have a helper activate the auger lever while you check the auger brake clearance

    The brake block should be clear of the auger pulley when the auger lever is applied. If not, go ahead and adjust it so that it does. Adjusting is covered in the following post “Auger stops in snow.”