How to Use a Snow Blower Safely

Assess The Working Conditions

Don’t Wait For It To Stop Snowing  

If you are expecting a lot of snowfall, don’t let it accumulate too high before heading outdoors. 

Don’t let the snow pile up more than 6 inches. Clearing 6 inches of snow twice is much easier than 12 inches at once, especially if working with a single-stage snowblower that can’t handle such a load. 

By working in increments, you won’t put much strain on the snowblower, and you will throw snow farther away, too. Remember, the longer you let the snow sit, the harder it will be to remove. 

Clear the snow before it gets wet, otherwise, you will have to follow my guide on how to use a snowblower in wet snow (and to make sure that you have the best snow blower for wet snow).

Blow With The Wind  

Don’t let the wind discourage you from clearing your driveway in time unless you are dealing with a blizzard. In fact, you can use the wind to your advantage to throw the snow further away from your driveway

Step outside and determine the direction of the wind. You can do this by licking one finger and holding it up or throwing a little bit of powdery snow in the air to see in which direction it moves. You can also use a windsock, like this one 

The direction in which the wind is blowing should be the direction of your discharge. 

Plan Out Your Snow Clearing

Choose Where You Want To Pile The Snow 

Image credit:
Image credit:

First, determine where you want to pile the snow. On one side of the driveway or both? 

Ideally, discharge the snowfar away from the driveway without getting it in your neighbor’s yard. I recommend you blow the snow into an unused area of your yard that has good drainage. You won’t have to deal with puddles in the spring once the snow pile melts.  

Also, make sure to never blow snow towards people, houses, cars, or onto the street. Plow trucks will push the hardened mess right back into your yard. 

Pro Tip: As mentioned above, let the direction of the wind determine where you pile your snow.

Pick A Pattern 

If you would like to pile snow on both sides of the driveway, make the first pass in the center of the driveway and work your way out by going in circles, as shown in the picture above (left pattern). 

If you’ve decided to pile the snow on one side of the driveway, start on the opposite side, going up and down until you’ve completely covered the area (right pattern). You will have to rotate the discharge chute 180° each time you take a turn to keep blowing the snow in the same direction.

Video

How To Clean Your Snow Blower

If your snow blower does get clogged, cleaning it

If your snow blower does get clogged, cleaning it is pretty easy and doesn’t cause much of an issue.

If branches and rocks get clogged in the chute, make sure to first turn off the machine. If your snow blower comes with a cleaning device, use it to remove the build-up.

If your machine didn’t come with that device then just use a wooden stick or broom.

It’s also important to clean your snow blower every time you finish using it. A clean snow blower will prevent ice from forming in and around your machine while it’s in your garage or shed.

General Snow Blower Maintenance

Whether it’s battery powered or not, you’ll want t

Whether it’s battery powered or not, you’ll want to make sure you keep your snow blower maintained and looked after throughout the year.

Taking good care of your snow blower doesn’t require that much attention but the type of maintenance required can depend on the kind of snow blower you own.

Snow blowers that are gas-powered usually require more attention to keep functioning properly. On the other hand, battery-powered or electric snow blowers require less maintenance to run at their best.

The most important part of any snow blower is the auger. The auger is the rotating blades that collect the snow and throw it out through the chute.

If this part of the machine is damaged (or doesn’t get the attention and maintenance it needs), the machine most likely won’t even start or won’t function properly.

To care for the auger make sure that you dry it off with a towel when you’re done using the snow blower. Cleaning out the chute and drying off as much moisture as you can will help to prevent ice from forming under the machine (as it sits in your garage).

Gas-Powered Snow Blower Maintenance

Here is a maintenance checklist if you have a gas-

Here is a maintenance checklist if you have a gas-powered snow blower:

  • Check the spark plug. Ensure there isn’t any damage. If there is, make sure to replace the spark plug as quickly as you can before operating again.
  • Regular oil changes are needed to keep the engine running properly.
  • Make sure that the snow blower has enough fuel and that it’s the right type for the machine. Some require a mix and others need 100% gasoline (read the manual first otherwise you may damage the machine).
  • Make sure the shear pins on the machine haven’t been damaged. Over time they may need to be replaced.

Checking through this list can ensure that your snow blower functions properly. If at any point you’re having bigger issues (or you have a more heavy-duty snow blower), hiring a professional to take a look at your snow blower could be a good idea, or follow my troubleshooting guide.

How Often do Snow Blowers get Clogged?

This spray works similar to cooking spray and willInvesting in a snow blower is often a measure that is taken to save home owners on time. The last thing you want to worry about is a clogged dispensing chute! You’ll lose a significant amount of time trying to take care of this issue. Luckily, this is an easily avoidable mistake. By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that you’ll never have to deal with the frustration of a clogged snow blower. The first thing you can do is spray down your dispensing chute and auger with a no stick spray.

This spray works similar to cooking spray and will help to make sure that your machine continues to work without issue. Make sure that you let the spray sit long enough to dry before you get to work. Another step you can take is to find the right working pace. Moving too fast or too slow are both ways to clog your dispensing chute. However, you can easily avoid this issue by working at a pace that is natural for you.

If you have too much difficulty trying to keep up with the pace of the machine, you can upgrade to a more powerful snow blower to counter the pacing issue. Last but not least, try to avoid using your machine when the snow is wet and heavy. This is understandably unavoidable at times. However, getting an early start on your work will help to keep you in the clear. Try to complete your work before the sun is fully risen for the best results.

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Adjust your Skid Shoes

Skid shoes, also known as skid plates, are small adjustable metal pieces that drag along the surface when the machine is being used. They are attached to both sides of the auger housing and keep the auger from making an impact with the ground as you are clearing.

If you have a concrete driveway, you can adjust the skid shoes so that there is about ¼ inch clearance. A quarter inch clearance keeps the snow blower’s auger from directly hitting the driveway. For blacktop, asphalt or other smooth driveways, adjust the skid plates, so the scraper blade is 1/8 inch off the surface. A low setting allows the auger to blow as much snow as possible, leaving you with a clean surface.

Be Mindful Of Where You’ll Be Using Your Snow Blower

Try to figure out where it is that you want the re

Try to figure out where it is that you want the removed snow to pile up. Once you have that location, you can then make sure that you strategically move the snow blower in a way that allows for all the snow to end up in that spot.

While moving the snow to this location, make sure you don’t move too quickly. Snow blowers can sometimes become clogged if you move the machine too fast.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to rotate the snow chute on the machine when you’re changing directions (to ensure the snow piles up where you’re wanting it).

If you forget, don’t worry because you’ll be able to see your mistake and be able to quickly fix it by reversing the chute. Also, make sure that you’re not rushing the machine by pushing it faster. You want to make sure that you’re allowing the snow blower to set the pace (while you act as the guide).

This will help to keep the snow blower from overworking or clogging. Many snow blowers have a forward setting (like a lawnmower) where it will allow you to select the speed so all you’ll have to do is guide the snow blower in the right direction.

When is the best time to snow blow?

The most common question we receive about how to use a snow blower is, ‘When is the best time to snowblow?’. After talking with the experts, we recommend beginning once snow has accumulated only a few inches. It puts less strain on your snow blower, and makes it easier to control where the snow goes. Much like a lawn mower, moving in an organized pattern is the most efficient – and neatest – way to move snow.

Barbara Roueche, Troy-Bilt Brand Manager advises further: ‘Whether shovelling or blowing snow, keep in mind that the longer you allow snow to sit, the more difficult it will become to clear. It’s important to plan your snow throwing pattern to avoid discharging material toward roads, bystanders, and the like, because thrown objects can cause serious personal injury. 

‘And during the snow removal process, be sure to pay attention to where the excess snow is piling up. Make a conscious effort to keep snow from building up on the sides and foundation walls of your home, to help prevent water damage. Also try to keep the end of your driveway as clear as possible to reduce buildup when snow plows clear your street.’

The type of snow blower you have will also dictate how much snow you can clear (and therefore when to do it). There are three common types of snowblowers: single stage, two stage, and three stage. Single and two stage snow blowers are best suited for accumulation under 10 inches, while three stage snow shooters can tackle an impressive 16 inches of snow. The surface you’ll be clearing should also be taken into consideration, as well as the incline. 

If the snow is not deep enough to warrant getting the snow blower out, there are smaller snow removal tools you can use such as brushes, and don’t forget to grit your driveway for icy weather.

(Image credit: @Filip Mroz on Unsplash)

Practice situational a​wareness​

Pause occasionally to scan the clearing area while snow blowing. If you spot something concerning, such as a child or pet that came into view, an obstruction you didn't see before or the abominable snow beast, stop the engine, remove the key from the unit and wait for all moving parts to stop before leaving the operator's position and correcting the situation.

Staying alert is especially important when operating near a roadway, whether it's busy or not. We've all seen news stories of emergency and maintenance workers struck by distracted or impaired drivers when stopped on a roadway. And if a driver can't see flashing emergency lights during a dry summer day, there's little chance they'll see you in the roadway during a blizzard at nighttime, even if you have a bright orange snow blower with a headlight. Always operate with caution near roadways.

3. Replace spark plug, fuel, and air filter

Check your owner’s manual to ensure that you have the proper replacements on hand. To change the spark plug, remove the lead wire, then use a socket wrench to remove the plug. Replace with a new spark plug, being careful not to over-tighten the new plug, and re-attach the lead wire.

5. Check tires and chains

Check the tire pressure and add air if needed. Visually inspect the tires for wear; replace if necessary. If you have chains for your tires, either put them on in advance or make sure they are readily accessible.

Photo: lowes.com

Photo: lowes.com

What to wear​​ when blowing snow

Never operate a snow blower with any clothing articles that could be caught in moving parts. Always wear snug, tight-fitting clothing and tie back long hair. Additionally, wear clothing that's adequate for the season. There's no sense risking hypothermia or frostbite over a clean driveway – even if you have a snow blower with heated hand grips.

Quality winter boots with good traction, goggles a

Quality winter boots with good traction, goggles and hearing protection are also required when operating winter outdoor power equipment. Though the Ariens engineers do their best to make quiet snow blowers, no outdoor power equipment with an internal combustion engine is quiet enough to skip earplugs or earmuffs. Prolonged exposure to noise as quiet as 85 decibels, which is the noise level of a vacuum cleaner, is enough to cause hearing loss.

Moral of the story is that though some machinery may seem quiet enough, it could still be loud enough to damage hearing over time. No matter how tough you think you are, nobody is immune to hearing loss risk factors, so always wear adequate hearing protection when operating a snow blower.

Always wear protective eyewear. Even simple plastic protective goggles can help prevent eye injury from a rogue ice chunk, stone or piece of asphalt that flies in the direction of the operator. Glasses don't cover your eyes completely, so if you have prescription lenses, use a pair with side shielding when snow blowing.

For the greatest amount of protection, comfort and visibility while throwing snow, consider a pair of ski goggles.

Take smaller bites

When you want to clear up heavy snow, and you are in a hurry, you may be tempted to increase the speed of your snow blower and plow right through the snow. Doing this may clog your equipment or even break the drive belts. Additionally, you will have to constantly stop to unclog the chute making the snow blowing activity time-consuming.

Taking smaller bites may be a rule of thumb when working in a wet and clog-prone driveway. Manufacturers recommend taking smaller bites of the snowpack; about one-third to one-half the width of the snow blower. Taking smaller bites makes snow blowing faster than slogging through a path full of heavy snow.

Also, maintain a steady speed so that the snow does not get a chance to solidify into ice.

Extra Operator and Safety Features

As you will be using your new snow thrower or blower in seriously cold temperatures and difficult working conditions, some innovative operator features will make using the machine a little easier.

Adjustable chute rotation

An adjustable chute rotation is a good feature to look for as it gives you more control over the redistribution of the snow. Some snow blowers have chutes that can be adjusted to swing up to 200° and some gas-powered models allow you to eject the snow up to 50-feet away.

Electric start

Many gas-powered models have a pull-cord start just like a lawnmower. However, they also feature an electric start button, which is great if you find yourself struggling to start the machine with the cord in extremely cold temperatures.

Power Steering

Power steering is not just a handy mechanical feature that is synonymous with cars and recreational vehicles. Some gas-powered snow blowers have power steering that helps you to maneuver the blower over uneven terrain and when you have to work in tight spots.

Foldable Handle

A snow blower that has a foldable handle is such a great idea for when you need to store the blower in the garage, especially for those bulkier gas-powered models.

Heated Hand Grips

Clearing away snow is a tough job and working in icy conditions can make your snow day chores that much harder, even with weather-resistant gloves or mittens, but heated handgrips can give you that extra warmth when you need it.

LED Headlights

If you need to quickly clear away snow in the early morning hours before the sun is scheduled to rise or in the late evening, LED headlights give you that extra illumination.

Safety Features

Some snow blowers have extra safety features. Electric snow blowers may provide you with a safety cord lock that conveniently holds an extension cord securely in place. Or a gas-powered snow blower may have an engine automatic shut-off feature when you remove your hands from the controls.

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