Snowblower Won’t Move Forward or Backward?

A rusty driveshaft or dry axle is the most common reason a snowblower won’t move forward or backward. Failing bolts in the sprocket of the shaft are another common reason why snowblowers won’t move. Both issues can be fixed with either regular light grease or a 2” bolt and nut replacement.

Having a snowblower that doesn’t want to move either forward or backward is not an uncommon problem. This is a typical situation for old snowblowers or machines that have been sitting in storage for a few years.

As with all machines used around the yard and the house, there’s some light maintenance needed. Apart from light maintenance, we’re also going to have a look at what you can do to prevent your snowblower from being stuck in the future.

Why Doesn’t My Snowblower Mover Forward or Backward?

When you quickly need a snowblower to clear your driveway and when you cannot count on it you’re in trouble. Snow builds up rather quickly and you’ll soon be unable to clear it even if your snowblower moves eventually. Here are the 2 common reasons why your snowblower doesn’t move forward and backward.

A rusty drive shaft is the most common reason snow blowers get stuck

Rust accumulates on the drive shaft which prevents it from rotating freely in the sprockets. This is caused by high humidity, melting snow, or simply due to a lack of maintenance and proper drive lubrication.

You can solve this issue without replacing the shaft most of the time. You’ll need to spray it properly with WD-40 or another type of light grease. Your driveshaft might still be stuck after spraying it so you will need to use a hammer and force it to move. Never hit the driveshaft with too much power to prevent physical damage. Instead, you should be tapping the shaft lightly with the hammer until it frees up.

Failing bolts connecting the driveshaft to sprockets might be an issue as well

Another issue, but less common, is having the supporting driveshaft bolts failing. Lower-grade nuts tend to break under constant freezing-heating conditions. This means low-grade bolts will fail in time. They can either become rusty or break away completely. If you can’t find the bolts holding the drive shaft locked to the sprocket it means they’ve already failed and got lost around the garage.

This needs to be fixed by buying a new bolt (typically 2”) and locking the drive shaft in the sprocket with a paired nut. However, please ensure you find the corresponding hole in the drive axle to properly fix and lock the bolt.

Can I prevent my snowblower from getting stuck in the future?

Yes, you can prevent your snowblower from being stuck in the future by doing light maintenance on it at the end of each winter season. Here’s a small blueprint on how to do it.

  • Always grease and lubricate the driveshaft

It might sound obvious but good lubrication keeps your snowblower running. While you can’t see any immediate issues you will see them in time. In about 2 years the factory lubrication starts wearing off and you’ll need to lubricate some moving parts such as the drive axle yourself.

You can use WD-40 or any type of light transparent great on the axle. Ideally, you’d do the lubrication at least once per season, probably at the end of the season before putting the snowblower in storage.

  • Check driveshaft bolts

Driveshaft bolts are notorious for being quite weak. Made with cheap materials, the weakest bolts are used even on the best snowblowers. While you can choose better brands you never know the type of bolts they use for holding the drive axle.

Ideally, you’d have some spare bolts in a jar in your garage to replace them as needed. A grade-8 bolt is a minimum requirement for replacing low-quality bolts on your snowblower’s driveshaft.

At the same time, you might consider the reason bolts are giving up every year on your snowblower. One of the reasons can be a machine left outside in freezing temperatures overnight. Repeated situations like these will cause nuts and bolts to weaken, freeze, or break completely.

  • Consider checking all other bolts that come in contact with the snow

A pro tip is to consider checking all of the bolts under the snowblower and in other areas that get in contact with the snow. Melting snow turns into the water which can cause rusty bolts. This can be avoided by spraying some lightweight oil grease on your bolts at the end of the winter.

  • Store your snowblower in a dry place

Another good tip to prevent such issues is to have a dry place where to store the snowblower. If you have an open garage it might be a good idea to invest in a  good garage door to keep high moisture air outside, particularly during the winter.

Final words

If your snowblower isn’t moving forward or backward it’s a sign of a stuck or damaged drive axle. These shaft axles get stuck due to rust build-up commonly. Drive axles can also spin in vain when not connected to their nearby sprockets whenever a bolt drops out and isn’t holding them in place.

Make sure to use a lightweight hammer to tap a stuck drive axle if you can’t fix the problem either with grease or by replacing failing bolts. Oxidation can cause the driveshaft to stick to the sprocket and if your snowblower isn’t too old you should be able to get it unstuck by lightly tapping across the drive shaft with a small hammer a few times.

The best way to prevent such issues is to do light greasing on your drive axle. At the same time, keeping your snowblower clean in storage is crucial. All types of debris can pile up under the snowblower. Even rats and mice can nest in the snowblower causing all types of issues that would commonly be problematic for long-term usability.