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I Fought the Snowblower and the Snowblower won.

2007 December 16
by Nayan Hajratwala

We had our first big snowstorm of the season up here in Detroit today. Eight inches or so… with drifts of about 2 feet in some places.  I knew the storm was coming so I decided to get my snowblower up and running last night. Usually this is a good thing to do around the beginning of November, but I tend not to be quite on top of things of this nature.

I had a little bit of gas left over in the gas can from the summer of lawn mowing, so I poured it in the snowblower. Now keep in mind that the blower had gotten no use the previous year due to very light snow, and it’s about 16+ years old.  I know it’s at least that old since it’s the same one that I used to clean my folks’ driveway while I was in high school. Well, surprise surprise… the gas came pouring right out of the bottom of the gas tank.

Upon inspection, it looked like the rubber fuel line had deteriorated to the point of complete failure. Later that evening, I ran over to our local Lowe’s  and picked up a new fuel line tube, some oil, and a new sparkplug … because it seemed like a good idea. The other thing to keep in mind here is that my knowledge of engines, big or small, is about the same as my knowledge of glass-blowing.  That is to say, almost none.

Anyhoo — I replaced the fuel line with little trouble (how hard is it to plug in a hose?) and fired her up… or not.  Nothing doing.  Now I knew I was getting in a littler deeper than I had hoped, although I had an idea that the old fuel had probably just “gummed up” the works. I followed the fuel line over to a unit which I guessed was the carburetor, which a trip to HowStuffWorks confirmed.

Long story short, I disassembled the whole thing, cleaned it out with some carburetor cleaner that was in my garage (I honestly have no idea when or why I bought it), got a bunch of gasoline on me and my coat, and cheered triumphantly when the snowblower roared to life.  The process took me about two hours. As one of my colleagues likes to say: “Learning happened.”

It seemed to be running at about 50% efficiency when I hit the snow with it, so it was slow going. After about 4 trips up and down the driveway, the blower stalled.  My wife quickly pointed out that there was gas dripping onto the snow. Another few minutes of pondering and I realized that the “thingy” (I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called) at the bottom of the carburetor had fallen out somewhere on the driveway. I think I might find it in the spring…