Once nighttime temperatures have dropped below the freezing point and the annuals have wilted, snow isn’t far behind. What better time to give your snow blower a good checkup—before you really need it?
Like it or not, you’re best off starting with the owner’s manual. If your snow blower runs on gasoline, the manual probably says to replace the spark plug annually. Change the oil also, at least once a year, if your model has a four-stroke engine.
Your manual will also tell you how much oil and gas to mix together for models with two-stroke engines. Get it right: Too little oil can damage the engine, and too much can foul the spark plug, hampering starting. Excess oil also creates unnecessary exhaust emissions.
Whichever type engine you have, use fresh gas to which you’ve added stabilizer. While stabilizer is claimed to keep fuel from degrading for up to a year, increasing concerns over ethanol in gasoline suggest you gas up when you need to. Leaving gas idle in the engine, even without the effects of ethanol, encourages gum and varnish buildup that can clog the carburetor and fuel passages.
If your snow blower is two-stage—meaning it has a fan-like impeller to throw snow that the auger has scooped up—keep some spare auger shear bolts on hand. These bolts are designed to protect the gearbox by breaking should the auger hit a hard object.
For all machines, tighten nuts and bolts, especially on control linkages, which tend to loosen as a snow blower vibrates. The owner's manuals of some models also recommend you adjust the auger's scraper and skid shoes. Doing so helps keep the auger closer to the surface. The result? Less snow left behind to freeze.
After you've done all this, don't forget to turn your snow blower on and run it so you're not surprised during the first snowstorm.
Snow blower Ratings and reliability: If you’re looking for a new snow blower, we’ve just begun testing a dozen or so new models. Read our free buying advice and check out our latest report on snow blowers and ratings of gas and electric models (available to subscribers). Whichever type you use, play it safe.