Tips For Maintaining Your Snow Blower and Operating It Safely
It could probably be said for any number of tools in my workshop, but this week,the snow blower is the tool that changed everything. (Learn more about what features to look for in a snow blower in this post.)
It was a worthwhile investment, that snow blower, and something I would always recommend for driveways that are daunting in any way (and also for people that never see shoveling as fun… <waves>). As much as I strive to keep our home warm and energy efficient during the winter months, we also work hard to keep this tool in good health in the hopes that it serves us well at a moments notice, and for years to come.
If you have, or are looking to buy a snow blower, remember that seasonal maintenance is important, and there are things you’ll need to do before, during, and after each use that contribute to your own safety:
Be aware of the basics
These tools are not maintenance-free, even with a warranty. Gas-powered and electric models vary slightly in their needs, but both require some degree of upkeep. Plan on replacing spark plugs and air filters every year. Monitor tire pressure, oil level, gas level, lubrication, and the condition of the rubber paddles and rubber belts. If your tool is electric, make sure the cord and any extension cords are in good condition (and be wary about accidentally running it over while you’re plowing).
Always check for loose bolts and pins.
This type of machine reverberates constantly during use, which will loosen fittings over time. I wouldn’t say that loose nuts and bolts are a manufacturer’s defect, as much as they are something you are responsible for maintaining yourself. Familiarize yourself with all of the bolts and pins, so you can easily identify if one is missing. Before and after each use, give all exposed bolts a twist with your hand; if they feel loose, tighten them up. If they are loose when you start your tool, the reverberations may be just enough to jostle the screw completely free, causing potential injury, or just making your tool stop working mid-job. (We just dealt with this – real bummer! Had to find a replacement bolt to get it working again.)
Know how to unclog the chute
The chute on the snow blower may get clogged at some point, and it usually when you’re powering through heavier snow, like that dense stuff left by the plows at the foot of your driveway. Always remember to chip away at the heavy snow slowly, and if the chute does get clogged, turn off the tool entirely (let the blade stop spinning), and use the clean-out tool to remove the blockage. Don’t risk using your hand. If you need to buy a clean-out tool, here’s a standard model to check out.
Always clean the snow blower after use.
Your machine will be covered in snow after its use, and if you leave it like that, you risk the snow and ice hardening around the auger and impeller while it’s stored in your garage or shed. Build up of this snow and ice may impede its ability to function next time you need to start it up. Once it’s turned off (go ahead and unplug it or loosen the spark plug for extra safety) use a long handled brush and the clean-out tool to clear off snow and ice that’s both inside and outside the machine.
Know your tool – Read the manual!
There are protocols for specific models that I can’t cover for lack of depth in knowledge. Read that manual front to back, and if you bought used and it didn’t come with a manual, do a quick search online by referring to the make and model number, and find one provided by the manufacturer. If you can’t find one digitally, call the manufacturer directly for more information.