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Knowing Your Gilson Dealing With Your Gilson Other Topics
How do I identify my Gilson snowblower?
This is the tag you need to find. It will be located down low at the back of the machine on the end panel, down near your feet as you operate the machine.
Gilson Identification Tag Gilson Identification Sticker
Early machines had metal tags with stamped numbers. These tags have tabs that are threaded through holes in the machine and bent to stay in place. If all you have left are 2 empty holes yours got lost along the way. Visit the
family tree and begin to identify your machine or send some pictures and I will try to give you a model number for ordering parts. Later machines have stickers in the same location with the information. Many machines have decal designations such as ST826, this is not the model number in most cases, be sure to get the number from the tag. The exception seems to be FORD branded machines where I have seen the actual ST-826 tag. On the 2 stroke Snow Cannons the ID sticker can be found on one of the lower handle tubes.

Note to Montgomery Ward machine owners: The machines built by Gilson will have a GIL prefix on the model number. Machines built latter may have a TMO prefix, these were built by MTD, they can be found on my links page.

Where can I get a manual for my Gilson snowblower?
Contact LawnBoy, they have the Gilson archives and have been very good about supplying reprints of the manuals. Call LawnBoy Customer Support directly at 1-800-526-6937. All manuals will be photo copies of original archive materials. These materials have not been converted to digital form and I have been told that due to the age of this legacy there are no plans to do so. The Gilson owners manuals genrally cover set-up, safety, operation, maintenance, common adjustments, belt replacement and complete parts breakdowns. Be sure to have your actual model number as described above.

If LawnBoy is not able to locate your model I may be able to provide the parts breakdown as described here.

Briggs and Stratton offer complete parts breakdowns on their website. Try this link to get to the index. If this won't connect navigate through; Engine Support & Maintenance --> Manuals, Video's and Books --> Illustrated Parts Lists. For most of the Gilson machines the Antique Engine volume is what you need.

Briggs & Stratton Manuals

These are the genuine Briggs and Stratton manuals. They are concise and complete. Trouble shooting and repairs are covered in excellent detail and fully illustrated. Use the frst 2 digits of your engines CODE number to determine the year of manufacture of your engine when selecting your manual.
B&S antique manual, 1981 and prior
B&S Antique Engine Manual

Briggs and Stratton Antique Repair Manual Covers out-of-production B&S engines from 1919 to 1981. The L-Head was the B&S engine thoughout the Gilson era. This manual covers those engines built though 1981 that have conventional breaker point ignition.

B&S L head manual after 1981
Late Model B&S L-Head engine manual

Briggs and Stratton Small Engine Repair Manual For all L-Head (non-OHV) Single Cylinder engines manufactured after 1981. These will include engines with Magnetron Solid state ignition.

Click here to locate engine manuals for other series of Briggs & Stratton engines. These manuals offer well organized step by step procedures and tips on getting the job done. I learned from one of these decades ago and they are now available in printed book form as well as electronic media. These are actual manufacturers publications and include all of the required torque values and test specifications.

Tecumseh engine owners Click here .

Where can I get an Illustrated Parts List for my Gilson snowblower?
LawnBoy is not always able to locate the original owners manual for these vintage models. To help fill this void I have taken the snowblower microfiche library and had it digitized. These are the illustrated parts lists including Gilson part numbers and other information including order of assembly as provided on the micro fiche. Other owners manual content such as safety and instructions in the set-up, adjustment and operation are NOT in these files. However I am often able to include other related documents such as the factory service and owners manuals depending on what is available for your model at no extra charge.

In order to help recover the cost of digitizing and retrieving your information there is a $10. fee. All documents will come in PDF format which can be viewed on any computer with a free viewer you probably already have. The digitizing process captures minute detail including blemishes that do not appear on my projector but the information is preserved and accesible. If you would like to get a package of your machine here is the process:

1. View the sample diagram . This is the typical image quality.
2. Send me an e-mail message with your machine's model number. This is the number located on the Gilson ID tag. Do not use numbers that are on graphic decals like ST-826.
3. I will confirm that your model number is in my library.
4. If I have your model I will send a PayPal invoice for $10. (US)
5. When the invoice is paid I will prepare your files. I will include the machine as well as any common sub-assemblies such as the worm drive and transmission as applicable. I will then send the files via return email.

If your model number is not in my library I can help identify a sister model that will provide you with the needed information. This is quite common with machines that were exported to Canada and Europe.

Friction Drive & Gear Drive
These terms refer to methods of controlling the traction system of the machine. There are 2 general styles used in different combinations by various manufacturers over the years. Both can provide years of good service however with regular use some maintenance is inevitable on a friction system.

FRICTION DRIVE systems by using a platter driven by the engine and a rubber tire that runs on the platter. The tire is connected to a drive train that will transmit power to the wheels. A combination of spring force and clever geometry allow this arrangement to transmit a high amount of torque. This mechanism will also allow the tire to touch down on the platter at varying distances from the centerline. The further away from the center the tire is the faster the machine will go. If it moves across the center it will be driven in the opposite direction (Reverse). Lift the wheel from the platter and you're in Neutral. For a friction drive system to change speeds two things have to happen, the wheel has to be lifted and then it has to slide to a new position where it is lowered. In Gilsons heyday many makes were using separate "Clutch" and "Shift" controls. Gilson called their friction drive system UniTrol (One Control). Theirs was particularly ingenious. Gilson engineers devised a clever linkage that generated the two actions in a way that is transparent to the operator. If you have one, watch under the handle as you shift and you will see it working two separate control rods.

Gilson single speed systems found on 4 and some 5hp models had one speed forward and one reverse. The wheel was friction wheel is hung between to platters driven together. When positioned between the platters it is in neutral. If it contacts the front or back platter it will generate forward or reverse power. This design also allowed for it to be a UniTrol.

GEAR DRIVE systems use a sealed gearbox to do the shifting operation. These are frequently made by Tecumseh's PEERLESS group. They are very durable boxes that will generally outlast the machine. They also save the manufacturer of the machine a lot of time in engineering and construction since many critical functions are solve with the single part. For those reasons the price difference between a friction drive and a gear drive machine (Usually about $50.) was insignificant and was driven more by extra heft in the gear drive machine.

The earliest Gilsons were of the gear drive configurations using a single speed box (Forward and Reverse). The premium machines had a HI and LO speed selector built by Gilson that selected the speed for both forward and reverse. The beauty of these machines is that the move at a good clip in both directions. This is in contrast with some machines (including some Gilsons) that were excruciatingly slow in reverse. These machine shine in yards that require you to blow repeatedly in the same direction.

My wheel won't come off
This is a very common problem on these machines. It is very preventable with proper maintenance. If you find that you cannot freewheel or remove the wheels after removing the click pins you should take action right away before the problem gets worse.

The problem comes from the repeated reversal of the axle rotation. Every time the machine begins to move the click pin rocks slightly in it's hole. When the pin rocks it peens the steel axle and eventually metal begins to rise. Eventually this steel forces against the inside diameter of the wheel hub forming an interference. The axle has some relief around the holes but if not checked periodically it will lock up. Common rust can also be a culprit if the machine had excessive exposure to the elements.

If you do not need to get the wheel off the best thing you can do is move the click pins to the outboard holes. Allow the interference or rust to drive the wheels. Keep the axle coated with penetrating oil. If it does break free you should be able to wind the wheel off, then you can dress the axle and maintain it over time. With the wheel off the problem will be obvious. Dress the pin hole with a file, half round works best. Afterwards lay a stream of 30W oil on the axle and spin the wheel on coating the joint fully. Pin the wheel to the inboard axle hole. Check this every year or two.

If you need to force a wheel off work carefully. The rim by nature is hard to grip with a puller and is not strong enough to take a lot of force. If you can get one wheel off you may be able to remove enough parts to get the wheel onto a hydraulic press at a machine shop, parts store or equipment dealer. An acetylene torch can also be helpful to expand the wheel hub but be careful with the heat on other parts and near a fueled engine.

In some cases a little bit of constructive destruction is required. In the case of the UniTrol models this may mean cutting the axle. It can then be replaced or re-fabricated. Please contact me about part availability before doing so. The gear drive designs offer more press access and can usually be pressed apart safely.

My tires go flat
Flat tires were a persistent nuisance problem in the 1970s. Usually it's from the bead and they can be fussy. If it's a puncture just plug it.

As for the bead we used a 3 step approach. Any of these procedures can be carried out with the wheels still on the machine although it is easier if you can get the wheel up on the bench.

I need new Tires!
Replacements for the hard rubber and semi pneumatic tires used on the early models are a tough nut to crack. These tires were also used on a number of smaller machines in the latter years. So far I can offer the following options:

Where can I get parts?
The first step is knowing what you need. If you do not have your machine's original documentation getting an illustrated parts list is a good place to start. The first step on that path is to identify your Gilson snowblower. If the tag is missing or illegible contact me with some pictures and the numbers stamped in the engine shrouding, usually MODEL TYPE and CODE. From that information I can usually determine what you have.

With part numbers we can now accurately seek what you need. Documentation will provide the original Gilson part numbers and some of those numbers are still widely cross referenced. The last word on checking availability is to search the LawnBoy numbers. Contact me with the numbers you need and I can cross reference and check availability.

For OEM parts the Gilson Snowblower Shop has partnered with M&D Mower. to provide OEM parts when they are available. When I search a part I will provide links to simplify ordering. M&D also supplies engine and Peerless transmission parts.

With the Gilson legacy well into it's 3rd decade many gaps have developed in what is offered for OEM parts. My objective has been to close those gaps wherever I can. On the parts page you will find reproduction and replacement parts for the most common needs. Many machines that were plagued with discontinued parts are now highly serviceable. These parts come from a mix of commercial and custom sources, many are exclusive to this site.

From time to time I acquire machines that due to incompleteness or overall condition simply will never be running machines again. These machines get parted down to support surviving machines in my collection. Over time I have accumulated surplus quantities of some items including many that have not been available for years. Let me know if you are in need of a discontinued Gilson snowblower part. All inquiries are handled on a case by case basis.

Consider keeping your eyes open for a parts machine. Remember that since Gilson built many private brand machines the decals and color may not match. You should be able to get a complete machine minus the engine for well under $100. Depending on what you need for parts this can be a great bargain. Just visit local dealers to see what they have in their "graveyards".

Do not under estimate generic parts sources. If a bearing fails many are common items you can get at a local bearing supply house such as Bearings Specialty Company or look in your yellow pages under BEARINGS then bring your old parts in for matching. The same holds true for gears, many are standard profiles, you may need a local machine shop to add a key-way or size a bore. Ask the clerk at the bearing shop, often they know of small local shops that will do small jobs like this on a walk in basis. Other items such as spacers, pins, grease fittings and such can be found at a good local hardware store.

Finally in some cases you may need to enlist a local machine shop or welder to fabricate or repair a part. Try to find a small machine shop. Large shops have a lot of overhead and usually can't do this sort of work at an affordable price. What you want is what is referred to as a garage or basement shop, usually a one man operation and in some cases part time. Bring in the damaged part and any other parts that the new one will have to be fit up with.

Engine parts or service can be obtained from nearly any power equipment dealer or online. Many common needs can be found here. If you go in to buy parts be sure to bring all of the numbers stamped on the engine.

Machines up through about 1977 were beige and red. Afterwards the scheme switched to black and red. Although the part number remained the same over the years I can tell you that the red color did vary over the years. Although called red (and sometimes refered to as crimson red) the appearance was mainly orange with different biases towards red over the years.

I do not have paint codes for custom mixed finishes.

RUSTOLEUM MATTE NICKEL #7277 (Drift breakers, control rods and linkages)
I generally use a gray spray primer. It overcoats well and is less obvious than red when the inevitable scrapes occur.
Samples photograped under same lighting.
Factory Paint
Factory original #13255

What kind of oil should I use?
What you use for crankcase oil in your 4 cycle (Gilson) snowblower has become a complicated question. Most engines are permanently marked with a suggested oil for winter use. That recommendation has changed over time and oil technology has also advanced. Many older engines suggested SAE 10W oil for winter use. Along the way it became SAE 5-20. I'm sure there have been other variations as well. Either one of these oils will do a fine job in moderate winter temperatures. The problems start in extreme cold. Petroleum oils begin to change states when you start getting below -10F. There are 2 important properties you can read up on if you like they are "POUR POINT" and "PUMPING TEMPERATURE" the bottom line from my experience and research is that when you get into sub zero Fahrenheit conditions conventional petroleum oils no longer perform as expected. They begin to thicken and eventually certain components begin to solidify. When this happens in an engine that relies on splash or slinger lubrication the lubricant can get whipped into a froth and put the engine at risk. Exactly what temperature this will happen at depends on your exact brand and grade of oil. For me the simple solution has been to switch to 5-30 synthetic such as "Mobil-1". 5-30 Synthetic is now recommended as a year round lubricant on the B&S Website. The synthetic products have a much wider operating range with pour points that run 20-30 degrees lower than comparable petroleum oils.


How do I determine when my Gilson was built?
According to Gilson Service Bulletin #116 Dated December 4, 1978 It gives the following explanation;

In late 1975, we changed to a nine digit serial number. Example:

Serial number 8365B1 569

  • 1st digit - calendar year 8=1978
  • 2nd through 4th - calendar day of the year 12/31=365th day of the year
  • 5th digit - manufacturing assembly line B
  • 6th digit - workshift of the day 1st shift
  • 7th through 9th digits - consecutive serial number of the unit manufactured that day on assembly line B. (serial numbers run 001 through 999.
Each day of manufacturing has a repeat of the last three digits, but the calendar day (digits 2 through 4) changes. This system allows us to identify year, date, assembly line, shift, and time of day of manufacture by serial number.

What is the horsepower of my engine?
Here is a table that picks those numbers apart.

How do I determine when my Briggs and Stratton engine was built?
ENGINE CODE 6905297 Photo Credit: Cale
The CODE number on the engine determines the exact date it was built. Here is a very simplistic way for you to determine the build date. Follow these easy instructions:

We will use a date code of 6905297 for our example.

  • The first two digits are the year of manufacture. In this case it is 1969 ( 69 ).
  • The next two digits are the month of the year. In this case it is May ( 05 ).
  • The next two digits are the day of the month. In this case it is 29 ( 29 ).
  • The last one or two digits tell us the plant and assembly line.
  • This engine was built May 29, 1969.

The MODEL number describes your basic engine, displacement, carburetor style, horizontal or vertical shaft, and basic output shaft features. The TYPE specifies any unique features, in some cases they can be unique to your particular piece of equipment. As discussed the CODE number identifies when and where the engine was built. It is very important to bring the MODEL, TYPE, and CODE numbers with you when visiting a dealer for parts.

If your engine predates 1965 this site will help you date the engine.

How do I determine when my Tecumseh engine was built?

Locate the ID numbers on your engine they may be stamped in the shroud or in the form of a sticker. Find a number marked as SER and/or D.O.M.. In the example 8105C

  • 8 is the least significant digit of the year of manufacture. You're on your own to guess the decade let's say 1998
  • 105 is the day of the year, 105 being April 15th
  • C represents the line and shift on which the engine was built.

How can I use my wheel pins?

Many models used these pins with round bails for securing the wheels to the axels. By moving the pins the machine could be made to freewheel. By moving one pin the machine could be rendered one wheel drive for easier handling in light duty.


Why doesn't my machine throw snow very far?
A frequently asked question from the owners of Gilson and other machines concerns throwing distance. There are many things that enter in the throwing distance including the machine, operator technique and natural conditions including the snow and wind.

  • If your blower belt is damaged or a poorly chosen substitute for an OEM belt then it may be slipping. It's always best to use the OEM belt. It is worth the few extra dollars.
  • Your engine should always be running at full speed while blowing snow. it is possible for the governor to be disturbed and not deliver full speed. A small engine tachometer and tools are needed to check and adjust this.
  • The most serious cause of poor throwing distance is a damaged impeller. Through heavy use or from ingesting debris the impeller blades can become deformed and reduce performance severely. See these examples of impellers
  • My Operating Tips page offers more ideas about getting the most from your unit.

Snowblower versus Snowthrower
Last but not least is the age old question of snowblower versus snowthrower. The 2 terms are often used interchangeably and there probably isn't a definitive answer to it, but here's mine;

  • SNOWTHROWER: Also called a single stage machine. The snow is gathered by a high speed auger. When the snow reaches the centerpoint it is hurled upward by the auger and thus THROWN. There are fewer moving parts in these machines but they are all moving very fast so damage can be very sudden and severe. This design is almost always used in tractor attachments because of its shorter overall size.
  • SNOWBLOWER: Also called a dual stage machine. The snow is gatherd by a low speed auger and fed back to a high speed impeller that BLOWS the snow up the chute. The lower speed auger is less prone to sudden damage and is generally protected by shear pins. A worm driven auger is preferable to a chain driven one. A worm drive will have a small gearcase between the auger leads griven by a shaft coming through the center of the impeller. A snowblower is preferable under almost all conditions. Remember that you will get the greatest throwing distance when you throw to the side that continues the arc generated by the direction of impeller rotation.
  • That's my definition if I'm asked. Actually I have a number of Gilson brochures and it gets even fuzzier. One year they are blowers, the next throwers and in another year they avoid the terms altogether and say "powerful machines" and other such phrases. So as I say, nothings definitive.If you go to Webster.com and type snowblower it will refer to snow thrower for the definition. The definition they provide is essentially that of a single stage machine!

What about belts?
I recommend that you get factory replacement belts for your machine. The OEM belts were engineered as part of the machine design. How a belt twists and bends as well as the work it does all enters into the design. Keep in mind that since they are special belts they are not always even inch sizes. A 1/2 inch difference can mean a blower that slips if the belt is long or doesn't stop if the belt is on the short side.

The cross section profile as well as the wrap of the belt are also important. While most of these belts are what would generally be termed 1/2 inch wide or L4 experience has shown that there is quite a range in the cross section of generic belts. This causes the belt to ride higher or lower in the pulley grooves and this changes the effective length. A belt of the proper length but having the wrong cross section will not work correctly.

Getting a generic belt to fit and function correctly can be a game of V-belt roulette. In the end the Factory belt will be your best buy. When you consider that most belts will last for a decade or more the slight price premium is a bargain. For your convenience I have gathered the belt ordering information of most common Gilson snow blower belts. You can find them on the parts page.

It's always good to own a spare set of belts. You never know when you will need one and you don't want to be counting on the local shop to have it on hand. Stored in a clean dark dry place they will keep indefinitely.

Can I add or replace an electric starter?
Getting an electric starter for your Gilson is not as straight forward as one would hope. Before you can add or replace a starter there are a few things you need to know. Most of this is in reference to Briggs & Stratton engines. The Tecumseh situation is similar.

Does your flywheel have a ring gear? In order to use an electric starter your flywheel must have a gear that runs along the circumference. For most of the "Gilson era" this was not necessarily standard equipment. For many years 5 HP units had to be factory ordered with or without the electric starter. Along the way the ring gear became standard on more and more engines and electric starters became a field (dealer) installed option. The gear will be found on the back side of the flywheel and you may have to remove a shroud panel to get a good look.

What is my ring gear made of? Early units had steel ring gears that meshed with brass starter motor pinion gears. Latter model units used an aluminum ring gear and nylon pinion. Engine documentation is ambiguous on this so you need to check. Also to my knowledge all currently available new starters are of the nylon pinion configuration meaning that an aluminum ring gear is needed. This often means a new and costly flywheel and it's installation is part of the project.

These starter motors can have a hard life. To make them weather proof they are sealed. This means they have limited heat dissipation. They should never be used to coax a stubborn engine to life. They are meant to crank the engine and be turned off. Abuse can lead to things like melted brush holders. Since they are sealed and have carbon brushes the carbon residue is trapped in the motor. Despite being sealed, moisture can enter and promote corrosion. For all of these reasons I have stopped selling used surplus electric starters. It's just not worth the aggravation.

Motors were supplied by a number of sources over the years making repair parts difficult to pinpoint, if they are even available. Some electric motor shops will do what they can.

My best advice is to visit your local Briggs and Stratton dealer with your engine MODEL, TYPE and CODE numbers. If you can get a handle on the presence of a ring gear and the material that will be a big head start. You can then explore new and used options that they may have available.

Where is my air cleaner?
Snowblowers do not have air filters. Normal operating conditions are essentially dust free. Your air intake is ducted such that it is shielded from flying debris and the muffler serves to preheat intake air. Air filters would also be prone to icing.

Where do you keep all of your machines?

Many machines are stored in this area. 6' X 6" skids are the basis for these shelters that comfortably house 2 machines each. There is also under cover storage between some of the sheds and those parts machines have an additional tarp over them for protection. In the gararge there are usually about 4 machines waiting for use and that same number waiting for some sort of attention. The rest are sheltered in a 40' shipping container.

Where do I Live?
I live in southern Maine (USA), about 10 miles inland, from the Atlantic Ocean. I get a mix of coastal and inland storms, or as the meteorologist have started calling them ,"winter weather events". The Coastal storms have a tendency to include sleet and freezing rain and sometimes end as plain rain, making for a heavy snow pack. Other storms are of the inland variety and include deep snow with blowing and drifting. Our average winter snowfall is 71 inches. Our snowiest winter (1970/71) brought 141.5 inches of the white stuff. In 1979/80 we receievd a scant 27.5 inches of snow. Our most challenging winter storms are those that end as rain, followed just a few hours latter by a long cold spell. If you don't clear it away in time you'll need a pick axe! Freezing rain can coat trees, utility lines and everything else with 1/2 inch or more of ice resulting in fallen limbs, wires and treacherous driving. Just plain snow generally is handled in stride. I clear a little over 10,000 square feet per storm of driveway and paths.

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Updated 12/18/09