If you are hit with a sudden, unexpected snowstorm earlier than normal you might rush to your garage to grab your snow blower only to realize something…
You didn’t drain the fuel from it at the end of the previous winter.
Should you risk it? Can you use old gas in a snow blower?
Let’s take a close look…
Can You Use Old Gas In A Snow Blower?
Yes, you can try and use old gas in a snow blower, but you shouldn’t. Stale gas is likely to gum the carburetor up and make it difficult, if not impossible to start your snow blower. If you have left gas in your snow blower in the off-season you will want to drain it completely and add fresh gas. You might also have to thoroughly clean the carburetor to get it to run properly as well.
Old Gas Can Cause Problems
I know there are undoubtedly people out there saying, well I leave my gas in my snow blower all year and have never had a problem getting it started again once winter comes.
And I am sure that is true.
You can use old gas in a snow blower, and you might not have any problems.
But for me, it isn’t worth the risk.
Let’s be clear here, leaving gas in your snow blower won’t harm the engine, but it will likely gum up the carburetor, and make your snow blower difficult to start, if it starts at all that is…
Using ethanol-free gas lowers the risk slightly but I still wouldn’t recommend using a snow blower with old gas in it, even if it is ethanol free.
With regular gas, the danger of a gummed-up carburetor is much more prevalent.
That is because the ethanol in regular gas attracts and absorbs moisture.
As that moisture is heavier than the fuel it is in, it sinks to the bottom of the tank, whilst the gas can evaporate.
That moisture can block the carburetor, making it difficult or impossible to start the engine.
The gas will become stale and tacky or varnish-like and may degrade rubber seals, the fuel lines and delicate parts of the engine.
It really isn’t worth potentially rendering your snow blower unusable for the sake of a few dollars of gas.
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How Long Can Gas Last Before It Becomes Stale?
Regular gas can start to go stale in as little as 30 days.
Ethanol-free gas has a longer life span, and it is usually around the three-month mark before it starts to show any sign of going bad.
Both of these figures are fairly arbitrary though and can vary depending upon the conditions the gas is stored in and, to some extent, pure luck!
Adding stabilizer to fresh fuel will significantly increase its life span. It may even keep the gas fresh over a summer or possibly even two, whether it is stored in a can, a tank or the carburetor.
If you live somewhere where snowfall is sporadic, and it might take a while to cycle through your gas, adding stabilizer to the fuel when you first fill your storage container is particularly recommended.
If you are adding stabilized fuel to your snow blower for the first time, it is always worth running the engine for 10 minutes to make sure any untreated fuel has been thoroughly run out of the engine.
In short adding stabilizer to your fuel will reduce the chances of deterioration and damage to the fuel system in your snow blower.
How Do You Know If Gas Is Bad?
As mentioned some of the time scales above are fairly arbitrary.
I’ve heard of people having problems with small engines when gas has sat in them for a month, and others running a machine with old fuel after it has been unused for a couple of years.
There are a couple of ways to identify stale or old gas before you even start your snow blower.
The first way is from its smell.
When gas goes bad it will lose that gasoline aroma and smell sourer. Put simply if you notice a difference in the smell of your gas, there is a good chance it has gone bad.
The second way is from how it looks.
As gasoline gets older and goes stale, the color darkens. Fresh gas will be much clearer than bad gas, which takes on a yellow or brown hue.
If you have got your snow blower running but it was difficult to start, idles roughly or continually cuts out, then that could also be caused by bad gas.
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What Should You Do If You Have Old Gas in Your Snow Blower?
We covered this in more depth in our article tackling what to do if you have forgotten to drain gas from your snow blower, but to recap, in short you want to drain it out and replace it with fresh fuel.
Best Case Scenario
First things first, try and start your snow blower with the old gas in it.
In a best-case scenario, it will start ok.
If this is the case turn it off, let it cool down and drain the old gas and add in fresh gas mixed with stabilizer.
Start it back up and let it run for ten minutes to ensure any old gas has been run out of the system.
You have had a lucky escape!
Worst Case Scenario
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If it doesn’t start or starts but isn’t running properly you need to drain the gas and clean the carburetor out.
You will need some carb spray and something to clean the carburetor like a toothbrush and some old rags.
Start by taking off the bottom bowl, removing the float, unscrewing the carb jets and using the carburetor cleaner to clean everything and using compressed air to clean the jets.
Reassemble and reinstall the carburetor, add fresh gas and crank it up.
If you aren’t sure about how to take apart and clean the carburetor, the video above is worth watching.
It is possible you might get away with using old gas in a snow blower, but it certainly isn’t something I would risk.
Whilst it won’t damage the engine, it can degrade parts of the machine and gum up the carburetor making it difficult (or impossible) to start your snow blower.
My main takeaways from this are:
- Use ethanol-free gas if possible.
- If you do have old gas in your snow blower, drain it and replace it with fresh gas.
- At the start of the season add stabilizer to your fuel to increase its lifespan.
At the end of the snow-blowing season I prefer to run my snow blower completely dry, so keep it running until the engine stalls and you know the gas tank is completely empty.
But the bottom line is, I wouldn’t risk using old gas in my snow blower.