Intro: Repairing a Garbage-Picked Snow Blower for $7
I found this snow blower on the curb a few months ago. I checked it out and it seemed like everything was intact and the motor would turn over, so I took it home to work on it. It took a little longer than I expected, and I nearly gave up on it, but it now runs great and this week it cleared about a foot of some very heavy snow. I fixed it for only $7 and a few parts I had lying around my garage.
This is a 2-stroke 3hp Snapper single-stage snow blower. The model number is 3201s but there are many different models that are nearly the same. It looks like Snapper made almost the same model, with slight differences for at least 10 years but I think they last made them in the 80s. I guess this is almost 30 years old, but I can't tell for sure. This one seems to be one of the better ones, because it has the electric start option.
Step 1: Assess and Tear Down
When I first saw this thing on the curb, I pulled the cord to see if it would turn and it did. There was no gas in it so that is as far as I went. I folded the handle down and put it in the back of my car.
When I got it home, my first troubleshooting step was to put a little gas in it and pull the cord to see if it would start. Nothing worked, so I pulled some more and all I succeeded in doing was breaking the handle free from the rope, which ran away back inside it's hole. I tried the electric start and while that didn't start the motor, the electric motor was very strong and worked perfectly.
I took off the top and bottom covers, which were in decent shape. They had some cracks in them, and a few of the fastening holes had broken tabs, but they would still stay on and keep snow out. The top cover is held on with just nuts and studs at the top end, and carriage bolts from the inside of the auger housing. The housing has square holes that hold the square collar on the carriage bolt and prevent them from turning. Once the bolt loosens up it will spin freely and you will have to hold them tight to the housing. I had to use a lot of WD-40 to unfreeze these bolts and I ended up holding the carriage bolts with some locking pliers. Since a lot of snow builds up on the top of the auger housing, I expect most snow blowers would have the same issue.
I was hoping to find a service manual, but there aren't any online. I found the original operating manual here but that is only 3 pages so it isn't much help. I also found some parts diagrams on this website. They can be helpful, if only to see how things come apart. I also found this better operating/service manual but that only shows how to service the auger belt and fold up the handle for storage.
Update: I found the parts manual for the 3200, 3201, 3202 and 3203 models. I attached the PDF below.
Step 2: Pull Rope Repair
I bought a new pull rope and handle for $3, but the handle was still in good shape so I reused it. (Bonus: as it turns out, my weed whacker needs a new pull handle.)
This metal flywheel housing covers the pull cord rewind assembly and the flywheel. I had to take off the visible bolts on the near side, and a few bolts that were very difficult to reach. The only way to get it out without taking the whole auger assembly apart was to use a tiny open ended wrench and turn it 150,000 times.
The red bracket folds out of the way after the center screw is removed. Once the housing is removed, I just tied a knot in the new rope, fed it into the rewind assembly. Once I fed the rope all the way out and back through the control panel and the handle, I held it in place with a spring clamp while I made a knot in the handle. I then secured the housing and moved on to the next step.
Step 3: Clean Carburetor
The main reason I picked this thing up was because I have had some luck in the past cleaning carburetors on lawn mowers, weed whackers and pressure washers. I watched this video once and I was amazed at how easy it was.
I started out with the easy stuff, so I cleaned the spark plug with a wire brush and tried to clean the air filter but there wasn't any. I have since found out that they didn't have an air filter on any of these little Snappers.
Next I started taking off the carburetor. I disconnected the choke cable and the throttle cable from the flywheel and removed the 2 nuts holding the carb on. I struggled to take the float bowl off and gas splashed all over me when it finally came loose. I think this was an indication that I was going to have some trouble with the gasket around the float cup. I used some carb & choke cleaner with a straw in the nozzle to clean out all of the orifices and jets, just like in the video above.
Once everything was clean, I put everything back together and put the carb back on the engine. While I was at it, I replaced the fuel line with some new fuel hose I had laying around because it looked pretty cracked.
While I was writing this instructable, I found this old Tecumseh carburetor repair manual. The link I found on the message board was broken, but I went to the Internet Archive and luckily they had the PDF from 2007 cached and available.
Step 4: Repair Gaskets
After I cleaned the carburetor, the motor still wouldn't run. As far as I could tell, none of the orifices or jets were clogged, but the carburetor wouldn't pull fuel from the tank. The primer bulb just made an air puffing noise, but never pulled any gas. If I poured gas into the carb or used some starting fluid it would start right up but it would die after 30 seconds or so.
I looked online for a set of gaskets to repair the carb, but it's hard to find parts for this model, especially anything for the carburetor. I guess it's just too old. This is the step where I almost gave up and put it back out on the curb, but I had an idea.
The only solution was to make a new gasket or find a way to seal these ones. I thought about using some sort of caulk, but that wouldn't stand up to the heat or the gasoline. Someone on a forum recommended Permatex 2 Form-A-Gasket to seal and rebuild the gaskets. It promises to form a chemical and heat resistant seal that won't harden over time. I bought a tube of Permatex 2 at an auto parts store for $4 the night before a giant snow storm, hoping I could get this thing running that night.
I took the float cup gasket off the carburetor body and dabbed a little sealant around. I spread the sealant around with my finger. I put the gasket back on and spread some more sealant on the outside of the gasket. I tried to put on just enough to steal any gaps, but not so much that it will squeeze out inside the carb and cause other problems. I put the cup back on and put some more sealant on the rubber washer gasket on the nut at the bottom of the cup. This nut has a hole through the sides, so I used less sealant to prevent accidentally plugging these holes. Once everything was back together, I wiped off the excess with a rag.
I let the sealant setup for a few minutes, then I pressed the primer bulb. Immediately I could tell a difference. The bulb now made a familiar squishing noise so I pulled the handle and it started on the first pull!
Step 5: Greasing the Chute Turret
This snowblower is very old, and everything is very rusty. The chute has these nylon guide runners that follow a track with teeth that lock the adjuster mechanism in position. I needed this to move smoothly, so I used some lithium grease to keep it moving freely. I put a blob of grease at the ends of these 3 guides and spun the chute back and forth. The grease slowly worked its way into the track and now it moves very well.
Step 6: Zip Tie
After I got everything back together, I realized that I was missing a bracket that I needed for the throttle spring. Most Tecumseh carburetors have a spring that is wound around the shaft of the throttle butterfly axle. This one is strange, and has a small spring attached to a pivoting lever (I assume adjustable) that has no place to attach. I ran a small zip tie around the auger clutch cable and tightened it until the spring was taught.
It's not a perfect solution, but I think I am missing a part. I was already missing a few bolts from the flywheel housing, so I know this thing has been apart before. If anyone has this model of snow blower with the Tecumseh engine (not the Briggs & Stratton), please take a picture for me?
Step 7: Finish
We got about a foot of really heavy, wet snow the day after I finished this. The auger is small and in some places I had to let the machine ride on top of the snow and take care of it on 2 passes. Even though it's only a 3hp 2 stroke engine, it powered through this snow without much jamming at all. The motor doesn't really like old gas (my 2 stroke gas can sometimes gets a little old). It ran much better after I had to mix some new gas for it.