Will A Snowblower Start Without Oil?
Snowblowers that are fitted with a low oil cut off switch will not start when the engine oil level is critically low. This is an engine protection feature, however not all snowblowers are fitted with the cut off switch.
In this post you’ll learn why some snowblowers won’t start when the oil level is low. You’ll learn how to identify if your snowblower employs an oil cut out switch.
You’ll learn how to check oil level and what type of oil to use. I’ll also include a fast method for diagnosing why a snowblower won’t start including links to relative articles.
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Checking & adding Snowblower Engine Oil
Many snowblowers are fitted with an engine protection sensor known as an low level oil cut out switch. It’s a clever and simple system that won’t allow the engine to start or cut power to a running engine should the oil level reach a critically low level.
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I advise my customers to check engine oil at least once per week during the snow season and whenever they fill the gas tank. These engines work hard and they won’t run without oil.
To check the oil level follow these simple steps:
- Check when engine cold – ensures oil is drained to crankcase for truer read
- Park snowblower on level ground – more accurate reading
- Locate dipstick – marked with oil symbol often in contrasting color
- Remove stick and clean
- Refit stick (do not screw in threaded type dipsticks)
- Remove and read – upper mark on the dipstick is full, lower mark is low (below lower level is critical) hatched area in between represents an acceptable oil level
When adding oil, add a little at a time and recheck. These engines are small and are easy to overfill. Overfilling will cause the engine to smoke and may cause spark plug fouling.
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Snowblower Engine Oil Type & Quantity
Most snowblowers are happy to run 5W30 or 10W30. But oil type is important to snowblowers. Obviously, they are used in cold conditions and using the wrong oil grade could cost you an engine.
Oil as you know has a harder time flowing in colder temperatures. Warm oil moves far more freely and that’s partly why warming a snowblower up by idling before putting it to work is advisable.
An engine needs protection at cold and warm temperatures. A thin oil is great for cold starts, the oil moves to where it’s needed, quickly. But as the engine warms, the oil gets even thinner, not great for engine protection. A heavier grade oil is better for higher engine temperatures and that’s why oil is blended.
Blended oil also known as multi grade oil is used in all snowblowers. 5W30 or 10W30 are common types. The W means winter grade, the lower the number preceding the W the thinner the oil. So for example, 5W30 offers better cold start protection than 10W30 as 5W is thinner than 10W.
Oil type is mostly dependent on a couple of factors, the manufacturer’s recommendations and the typical ambient temperatures where the snowblower works.
How To Identify Low Level Oil Cutout Switch
Not all snowblowers have a low oil level cut out switch. If your snowblower does, it will have a single wire sensor (typical) fitted towards the base of the oil pan.
Check your owners manual or check the spec on the manufacturers website
Mechanics Hack For Fast No Start Diagnosis
Checking the oil level and topping up as necessary is obviously a great place to start your diagnosis.
An engine needs 3 things to start and run:
- Fuel mix
In general when an engine won’t start, it means there’s a problem with one of these systems. In my experience, it’s commonly a fuel or a spark issue.
In the workshop where time is money, we’ll run the following test to check which system is at fault.
Two outcomes are possible:
- The engine starts or attempts to start – fuel system is at fault, commonly bad gas or dirty carburetor. Check out this post “Carburetor cleaning”
- Engine makes no attempt to start – likely a spark system fault. Fouled spark plug and faulty armature are common issues to look for. Check out this post “Snowblower won’t start no spark”