Snow blowing 101
Running a snow blower
seems like a skill you could
master in two minutes. But we
wondered: If it’s really that simple,
why are there 6,000 blower-related
injuries in the United States every year?
And why do repair shops get overwhelmed
after a big storm?
To get answers, we talked with experts at
all the major manufacturers—as well as the
guys who fix blowers. It turns out that operator
error is the No. 1 cause of clogs and breakdowns,
and improper clearing of clogs is the most
common cause of injuries. The experts shared
some great tips on how to avoid both. So even if
you’re an experienced snow blower operator,
Don’t wait for it to stop
If you’re in for a huge
snowfall, start clearing
the snow before it
reaches 6 in. Sure, you’ll
spend more time snowblowing,
machine won’t have to
work as hard, and it’ll
throw the snow farther.
That’ll reduce the height
of the snowbanks flanking
Get your property ready for snow
Before the snow flies, take a few minutes to inspect your property. Remove rocks, dog tie-out
cable, extension cords, holiday light cords and garden hoses. Then stake out paths that run near
gardens so you don’t accidentally suck up rocks and garden edging. Mark your walk and driveway
perimeters by pounding in driveway markers. If the ground is frozen, just drill a hole using a
masonry bit and your battery-powered drill.
Don’t swallow the newspaper
Start With Fresh Fuel
Stale gas is the No. 1 cause of hard starting. So
don’t use what’s left in the lawn mower can. It’s
better to dump that summer blend into your car’s
tank, then refill the can with winter blend, which
is more volatile and provides better starting.
Take smaller bites to avoid clogs
Cool Off, Then Gas Up
If your snow blower runs out of gas
halfway through a tough job, you’ll
be tempted to refill it right away.
But think about this: The engine is
hot and the gas tank sits right on
top of that hot engine. Even worse,
you’re standing right over the
machine holding a gallon of gas. If
you spilled gas on the engine or
overfilled the tank, you could
instantly turn your snow-blowing
adventure into a painful burn-unit
experience. Even if you managed to
escape injury, you could still wind
up with a freshly toasted snow
Snow-blower fires happen often
enough that the manufacturers
strongly recommend that you let
the engine cool for at least 10 minutes
before refilling. Take that
opportunity to grab a cuppa joe or
hot chocolate and warm up your
fingers and toes. Then, once your
personal tank is refilled, refill your
snow blower and carry on.
Add stabilizer to the fresh fuel
Switch to Synthetic Oil for Easier Starting
Small engines typically have to reach at least 400 rpm before they’ll fire up. But traditional motor oil thickens when cold, making it much harder to reach that 400-rpm threshold. Synthetic oil allows the engine to spin faster when you yank the cord, so it starts with fewer pulls.
Get your snow blower ready for action by installing a new
spark plug, changing the oil and checking the condition of
the belts. Replace the belts if you see cracks, fraying or
glazing or notice that chunks are missing.
Next, sand any rusted areas and repaint. Once the
paint cures, apply a high-quality polymeric car wax
to all painted surfaces. The wax will shed the
snow and water and protect the paint. And, wax the
inside of the chute to help prevent clogs.
Then consult your owner’s manual to find the lubrication
points and the recommended lube. If the type of lube
isn’t listed, here’s some general guidance: Use motor oil
on metal linkage joints, gears and cables, but dry PTFE
lube on plastic parts (knobs, gears and chute). Spray the
auger, second-stage impeller and chute with silicone
spray to prevent snow from sticking.
Belts, shear pins and tools
Buy parts before you need them
Belts and shear pins always break on a Sunday night in the middle of a blizzard.
So buy replacement parts at the start of the season when everyone
has them in stock. If you break a shear pin and try to improvise using the
wrong shear pin—or worse yet, an ordinary bolt—you risk major damage
that can easily cost you $200. A set of belts and a few extra shear pins will
cost about $25. Also make sure you have the right size of wrenches and
sockets and the correct size pin punch to
drive out the broken pin. Then assemble
a parts and tool kit.
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Prevent major auger damage
The drive shaft applies torque to the shear pin,
which then applies it to the auger. However, if the
auger rusts to the drive shaft, they’ll become one
and the shear pin will never break. If that happens,
the auger clog can cause major damage to the
machine. Lubricate the drive shaft to prevent it
from rusting to the auger.