Troubleshooting Common Horse Clipper Problems and How to Correct Them
Most of us have a set of clippers around, just in case! But, even with incredible care, they do have moving parts that can wear out. Here’s a handy guide to troubleshooting clipper problems.
But first! A few things to know about horse clippers.
- I’ll use the phrase shears when describing the big honking machines. Clippers are the common style of horse clippers. These are mid-range and capable of trimming and clipping. Trimmers are the smaller, touch-up style of clippers for tidying up your horse. For more on the styles of clipping devices, read this page-turner.
- It may also interest you to know that each set of blades has two pieces, the cutter, and the comb. The cutting edge moves side to side and is on the “top”. The comb portion is what rests against your horse.
- Keep the instructions of your clippers. I KNOW. Instructions are for weenies. Just keep ‘em! If you have issues, the instructions tell you where you can get help, and identify all the parts so that you can easily identify what needs to be replaced. It happens!
When all else fails…
How to troubleshoot common clipper problems
Your clipper blades are pulling and yanking, there’s no smoothness. There are a few possibilities here.
- Your horse is dirty! Please start with a spotlessly cleaned horse. Go a step further and be sure your horse is conditioned with a grooming oil. There’s also the possibility that the blades themselves are dirty. Clean them, not with gas or kerosene, and oil the SNOT out of them. Spray cleaners and cooling agents are not a substitute for clipper oil. You should do this every 5 to 10 minutes as you are clipping. I will probably need to say this a lot in this article. Just gut instinct.
- Your blades are dull. Dull blades can’t slice the hair, but they can pull on it. No horse will be comfortable with scratchy and dull blades. It might be that your blades are dirty, so clean and oil them. If they still are tugging, it may be time for sharpening, if the tines have some room left. Blades have a finite number of sharpenings before you need to toss them! More on sharpening in this article.
Those teeth need to be SHARP!
Your blades are not cutting at all!
- This may be a dirty horse and/or a dirty blade set, or the blade drive needs to be replaced. You can easily do this yourself. Most clippers come with an additional blade drive, AKA drive tip, that you can pop out and replace yourself. It’s the little piece of plastic that makes the cutting edge wiggle back and forth.
- For some body clippers, you will need to unscrew the housing of the clipper body. For some trimmers, it can pop in and out. Usually, it will need to be replaced when you can visibly see lots of wear. The edges and top will be worn away.
Your blades are getting hot
- Shockingly, this is probably due to a dirty horse, dirty blades, or both. Blades also get hot when they are dull. Hot blades also appear when they are not oiled enough! Hence, stop every five minutes to wipe off the blades and add more oil.
- Heat between the comb and cutter is the result of friction. If you turn the clippers to closely inspect the profile, you will see two areas where the comb and clipper rub each other, side to side. This is where you add oil, in addition to the teeth. Without oil, the metal is just creating friction and heat.
Side view of the comb and cutter on the Lister Star shears.
- For shears, it can mean that you need to add oil or adjust the tension between the comb and cutter to make a bit more room. This is easily done by adjusting the knob. Undo the knob so that you can be sure the two metal pieces are lined up. Then tighten until you feel the tension go from easy to stiff. Then back up 1.5 times, at least for Listers. Specifics on the process are here. Check with the directions (!!!) if you have another brand. Add oil.
Your clipper blades are rattling
- For shears, and some specific clipper systems that use screw-on blades, rattling can happen. This means that your blade components are too far apart. Time to tension them correctly. For Wahl clippers that use the 10-15-30 detachable blades, you will need to tighten the screws. And add oil!
You are leaving lines on your horse
- I’ll make this one easy and just say DITTO to all of the above, especially the oil!
- Lines are also sometimes a bit of a technique thing, which you will master over time. Even pressure, both front to back and side to side help. If you need to correct some lines, do all of the above and add some oil. Then create X marks over the lines. That X motion will help them disappear. There’s also just time! Most clips grow out enough in a few days or a couple of weeks to make any lines disappear.
Pop a blade on the little hinge, then turn on the clippers before you snap the blade fully on.
- YIKES. Just toss ‘em. You are unlikely to be able to have them sharpened enough to remove the rust. Incidentally, rusty blades happen when clippers and blades are stored without….wait for it…..oil. After each and every use, clean your clipper blades and clipper body, dry them, and then add generous amounts of oil.
Weird noises from the clipper body
- The most common reason for weird noises is that the blades are not properly attached to their attachment thing. I literally can’t think of a better way to say it.
- Shears and some detachable blades that use screws and knobs likely need to be adjusted. Usually, this means tightening them.
- For the snap in variety of blades, like the 5 in 1’s, it’s best to pull off and snap on again. You want to have your clipper blades running when you snap them on. It seems weird, I know!
Slowing of the clipper body motor
- If a horse’s coat is ultra-thick, dirty, or not 100% dry, there may be some noticeable slowing of the clippers. This can also happen if the blades are dull and/or dry. Your best bet is to clean your horse, oil your horse, and get some fresh blades. Also, OIL.
- Hopefully, this is as easy as just charging the battery. Some clipper models have batteries that chill out in a charger, hopefully, you have two of them to switch out. Other cordless clippers have internal batteries that connect the clipper body to the outlet. You can plug them in to charge and use them at the same time.
Examine the length of the cord to look for obvious damage.
- If your clippers or shears are corded, it may be that the cord is damaged. Or, something is going on inside the clipper body. It might be clogged with hair, or just need a tune up.
- Most clipper manufacturers have service programs. It’s as easy as mailing in your clippers! There’s also the option of finding someone local to repair them. Small appliance repair shops are often skilled at this, and you can try your local tack shop for suggestions on clipper sharpening and service providers. If you do go local, you may void the warranty. Just another reason to save the fine print and directions that come with your clippers.
Run down this list and see if anything pops.
- Read the directions!
- Dirty horse and/or dirty blades.
- Dull blades.
- Check the blade drive or drive tip.
- Check the tension of the comb and cutting blades if you are using shears.
- Charge batteries and check for cord damage and wear.
- Perhaps read the directions if you skipped that part.
The white plastic is the blade drive. This one is pristine. They need to be changed when they get rounded and worn.
What happens when you send your clippers in for repair?
- If you send your clippers in for service, they will most likely be totally dissembled. It seems extreme, but there are not that many parts. Everything needs to be inspected and cleaned. Worn or damaged parts are replaced and then reassembled.
- As a complete shocker in this process, the parts inside the clipper body are also oiled. Now it’s good as new!
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Wahl Professional Animal Bravura Lithium Clipper – this includes the 5 in 1 blade that goes from a #9 to a #40. Perfect for designs!
Professional Animal Stainless Steel Attachment Guide Combs for Wahl’s Bravura, Arco, Chromado, Figura, and Motion Pet Clippers (3379) – these combs match the 5 in 1 blades.
Professional Animal Stainless Steel Attachment Guide Combs for Detachable Blade Clippers (3390-100) – for detachable blades.