Three Reasons Why Your Snowblower’s Wheels Aren’t Turning

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The whole reason you purchased a dual-stage snowblower was to take the strain off your back. But while the equipment has more than enough power to clear the largest snowdrift, you’re still going to be struggling to push that snowblower up and down the driveway if the self-propelled wheels aren’t turning.

Why did the self-propel function break down just when you needed it most? Let’s examine what makes the snowblower’s wheels turn and the three reasons why those wheels may not be turning as expected.

How do the snowblower’s wheels self-propel?

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “self-propel”. Since the rubber auger blades on single-stage gas-powered snowblowers (and electric-powered ones) will often come into contact with the ground in order to scoop up the snow, the rotation of those blades may help pull the unit along provided you do most of the pushing. But true self-propelled wheels are only found on larger, dual-stage gas-powered snowblowers.

This is the main reason a dual-stage snowblower will often have multiple drive pulleys and belts. One or more belts are used to drive the auger transmission (consisting of both an auger and an impeller), and another belt is used to drive the self-propelled wheels. This belt is looped around a motor pulley and a drive disk which is mounted on a support plate. The drive disk rotates continuously when the engine is running. When the handle drive lever is engaged, a traction control cable will pull the support plate back causing the spinning drive disk to come into contact with a friction wheel. The friction wheel is mounted on a shaft that is engaged with a large drive gear mounted on the axle, so when the drive disk comes into contact with the friction wheel, causing it to spin, the drive gear will rotate the axle to turn the wheels.

A speed control level will change the position of the friction wheel on its shaft so the wheel can come into contact with different areas of the drive disk. If the friction wheel is aligned closer to the center of the drive disk, the snowblower’s wheels will turn more slowly; the speed will increase as the friction wheel is moved further to the outside edge of the drive disk. Moving the friction wheel all the way to the opposite side of the spinning drive disk will reverse the rotation of the snowblower’s wheels, allowing the snowblower to propel itself backward. The wheels will continue to propel the snowblower forward or backward until you release the handle lever.

Why aren’t the snowblower wheels turning?

If your snowblower’s self-propelled wheels aren’t turning, you should first confirm that the wheels are properly secured on the axle and that there is nothing obstructing the wheels themselves. Once you’ve confirmed that, there are really only three likely reasons for why the self-propel function has failed:

  1. Damaged belt – The drive belt that is looped around the drive disk could be damaged and unable to rotate the disk. If the belt is worn or stretched, it might just be slipping on the drive disk, or the belt may have broken and not be aligned on the disk at all. To resolve the issue, you will need to replace the old belt with a new one.
  2. Worn friction ring or wheel – The friction wheel could be worn out as well and unable to properly engage with the drive disk. The friction wheel has a rubber ring positioned along the outside edge of the wheel that makes contact with the drive disk. This is the part that is most likely to wear out. Depending on the snowblower model, you may be able to replace the ring independently of the wheel, although if the wheel itself shows signs of damage or wear, the entire assembly should be replaced.
  3. Broken traction control cable – As noted earlier, the snowblower’s traction control cable applies tension to the support plate the drive disk is mounted on so the spinning disk will come into contact with the friction wheel. A misadjusted or broken control cable will prevent the wheels from turning. Replace the traction control cable if necessary but be sure to properly adjust the cable’s tension so the drive disk properly engages with the friction wheel when the handle lever is depressed.

One more tip to keep those self-propelled wheels turning

Periodically, you should lubricate the wheel bearings inserted into the auger housing to ensure the axle will rotate smoothly and not bind. It’s also a good idea to lubricate the auger bearings and the impeller bearings as well to ensure all of these components will rotate as designed. This is especially important to do if the snowblower hasn’t been used in several months.

Repair Clinic has the right part to match your snowblower

Do you need to find a replacement self-propel drive belt, friction ring, or traction control cable? Repair has the right part that matches your particular snowblower, from self-propel feature components to chutes, auger blades, impellers, and shear pins. To find the part you need, enter the snowblower’s full model number in the Repair Clinic website search bar. With one click, you’ll see a complete list of all the parts compatible with your model. You can then use the “Part Category” filter (Examples: “Control Cable”, “Pulley”) followed by the “Part Title” filter (Examples: “Traction Control Cable”, “Flat Idler Pulley”) to narrow that list down to the exact matching part you’re looking for. Whether you’re searching for gearbox components, scraper blades, slide shoes, or snowblower engine parts like spark plugs, carburetors, fuel filters, and ignition coils, Repair Clinic stocks only original manufacturer parts that fit snowblowers manufactured by such top industry names as Craftsman, Toro, Ariens, Honda, MTD, Troy-Bilt, and Cub Cadet. But it’s important to enter the full model number of your snowblower, or the snowblower’s engine, to identify the specific matching part for your equipment.

What’s better than access to hundreds of genuine manufacturer snowblower parts? How about a free “Repair Help” content library filled with hundreds of instructional videos, articles, and diagrams all pertaining to snowblowers and snowblower engines? Whether you’re a licensed repair technician or a do-it-yourselfer, Repair Clinic has your back (so you won’t be straining it anymore).

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