A snow thrower can turn the arduous task of clearing driveways and sidewalks into a cakewalk, but they can also be a major source of frustration. Whether you’ve just banished the shovel or you’ve used one for years, these tips will help you avoid common pitfalls and get the job done faster.Seasonal Maintenance for a Successful Snow Clearing Season
Perform maintenance before the season starts. Is there fresh gas in the tank? Are the belts in good shape? Do any parts need to be lubricated? Are the tires filled to the correct air pressure? Are the shear pins in place? Are all the bolts tight? The user guide included with your snow thrower should include a checklist.
Perform seasonal maintenance before putting the snow thrower into storage instead of after. This way, if there is an early storm, it will be ready to use. If storing with fuel in the tank, add a stabilizer to ensure an easy start when you need to use it next season.
Do a general check of the machine before each use. A snow thrower with a malfunctioning auger control lever could switch the auger on when you are clearing debris from the housing, and a snow thrower with a broken or missing chute or malfunctioning chute controls can turn snow and debris into dangerous projectiles.
Before clearing snow, check the area for large debris. Is there still a newspaper in the yard? Did the kids leave their toys buried in the snow? Is your dog’s leash or chain out of the way?
Is everything set up to allow the engine to start? Depending on the model, this can include closing the choke, setting the throttle to “fast,” opening the fuel shut off valve, setting the ignition switch to “run,” pressing the primer bulb, plugging a power cord into the starter and putting the key into the ignition.
If the snow blower has an electric start, use it. It’s meant to be the primary way to start the engine, while the pull start is for restarts after the motor has had time to warm up.
Start the engine in a well ventilated area and let it run for a few minutes to warm up before using your snow blower. Cold engines are the most common cause of stalls.
Avoid gravel: the auger can pick up small rocks and fling them through the chute. Disengage the auger control and let the auger come to a complete stop before pushing the snow thrower over the gravel.
Learn how to safely clean out clogs. Never put hands or tools near the impeller or chute until all of the mechanical parts have stopped spinning. When removing a clog, let the thrower come to a complete stop, chip away at the clog, and then turn on the impeller to see if that worked. Most snow blowers include a tool designed specifically for this task. If the housing is clear, but the impeller still won’t move, check the shear pins: these are designed to break when too much pressure is put on the impeller, saving the snow blower from jam-related damage. Always replace shear pins with OEM parts to ensure they’ll break when they need to.
Additional Guidelines for Safe Snowblower Operation
– Never aim the chute at cars, buildings or people. Even lightly packed snow can do a surprising amount of damage, not to mention rocks and other debris the thrower may pick up.
– Aim the chute downwind to keep the snow from blowing back to where you are working. For heavy winds, start at the point closest to the wind direction and move away from it. If there is no wind, start at the center and move outwards to keep piling all the snow up on one side.
– Aim the chute to throw snow as far as possible. Leaving snow close to the area you are clearing can create a snow bank that will make it harder to move snow after the next storm.
– Clean the snow thrower before putting it back in storage. This way, the blower won’t leave a huge puddle once the snow melts off.
Snow throwers are built to make it easy for owners to do common repairs, and accessories are available to address common problems. Not sure what you need? Shanks Lawn Equipment has been selling and servicing snow throwers since 1984 and has the parts and accessories you need to keep your snow thrower in service. Located on Rt. 11 one mile south of I-81, they’re a short drive from anywhere in south central Pennsylvania, and they’re also online at www.shankslawn.com.