10 Things to Check When Buying a Snow Blower
Note that these checks are intended as a preliminary guide and do not ensure that a snow blower is in full and proper operating condition. Any of the following internal components may need attention: friction disc, wheel and augur drive bushings, flange bearings, impeller main ball bearing or kit, pinion shaft, pinion and sprocket assemblies, friction plate bearing assembly (very expensive), speed fork, and augurs. Owing to recent increases in parts prices, repair can become extremely costly very quickly.
- Check the augurs when the machine is fully off, preferably before you even start it (when cold). It's a good idea to remove the spark plug wire to make sure the machine can't start up. You should be able to move each augur (easily) back and forth a little on the axle, meaning that only the shear pins are holding the augurs in place and the augurs aren't frozen to the axle.
Shear pins look like bolts that go through each augur (left and right) and through the axle to hold them in place. These "pins" are designed to break away if an augur hits an obstacle, like a rock or curb, so the augurs aren't ruined. Once a shear pin breaks, the augur will turn freely on the axle. The user just needs to put in a new shear pin to "reconnect it".
Make sure the augurs (also called "rakes") have not become frozen to the axle shaft owing to accumulation of rust. If frozen, upon impact, an augur will not break its shear pin(s) and spin freely as intended. This can result in severe damage to the augur(s), augur gearbox, and even the impeller shaft. Occasionally, the augurs can be freed using a high heat torch without removing them, but this is a labor intensive process that more often than not fail. However, if the augurs and axle have to be removed and/or replaced, the entire augur assembly and augur gearbox must be dismantled. The cost of parts and labor make it prohibitive to perform such a fix.
- Check the impeller to ensure it’s in decent shape. Make sure that none of the claws (usually there are 3 or 4) that stick forward are bent or misshapen, which would cause an imbalance and poor operation. The impeller can be seen from the front of the machine. It is located behind the augurs in the barrel section of the blower. This is the part that is the 2nd stage of a 2-stage blower. Once the augurs (1st stage) crush up the snow, the impeller sends it up the chute to a hopefully remote location.
- Pull out the dipstick from the engine and check the oil. Firstly, it should be up to the full mark. Smell the oil on the dipstick. It shouldn't have much of an odor. If the oil has a strong scent of gasoline, then gas is somehow leaking into the engine sump.
- The engine, when cold, should start right up with the choke on part way or full (depending on the outside temperature), the throttle all the way up, and 2 to 3 presses of the primer bulb. Also, try the electric starter to ensure it works. The exhaust will smoke while on full choke at first; that's okay. As the engine warms up, lower the choke gradually until it's fully off. The engine should run smoothly without the choke once it is completely warmed up (after about 5 minutes).
- Once it warms up, it should run pretty smoothly with the choke completely off. They do burp a little because they're single cylinder engines.
- The impeller turns 4 times for each revolution of the axle and augurs. So, you should make sure the augurs turn when the augur handle is held down. Ensure that the chute is pointed away from you and have the seller hold the handle down while you look in front. The main thing is that the augurs should be propelled by the impeller output shaft without any problem (I won't ask you to stress test it; you can get hurt). Basically, you want to ensure that the differential at the front, between the augurs, is good.
Perform only when the snow blower is off: One way to check the differential is to reach in and turn the impeller to make sure the augurs move and don't go backwards under any pressure. If you do this check, remove the spark plug wire so the blower cannot start while you are doing the check. If you're pretty convinced that the augurs move properly under load when running, you can skip this test.
- Make sure all the controls work properly. All of the controls should work as intended. The controls for the chute should work easily. If the controls are tight or hard to move, generally they just need lubrication and/or adjustment. When engaging the traction drive, the snow blower should move forward in each gear and backward in each reverse gear. If it runs fine, but one of multiple gears in one direction does not work, that should only require an adjustment. Another good test is to hold the handlebars while engaging it in first gear. The machine should pull you forward, i.e., you shouldn't be able to hold the machine back.
- If it has a wheel lock/unlock control on the handle usually located under the grip (or on one wheel), test it to check that with each pull of the handle (or when switching between the lock and unlock positions) it switches from posi-traction where both wheels move together) to unlock where one wheel has power and the other doesn't allowing you to maneuver it left and right very easily. You can do this with the machine running or not running.
- Check the wheel bushings and, if so equipped the drive axle bearings, by ensuring the machine is balanced. Perform this check on level ground with the tires filled properly (evenly to recommended pressure) and the skid shoes set similarly, The snow blower should not rock from side to side or along either diagonal of the footprint (wheel to opposite skid shoe). Check the scraper bar on the very bottom of the snow box, which scrapes the snow surface depending on the height of the skids. If it's worn and/or rusty, it probably needs replacement. Check the skid shoes, one on each side of the snow box, for wear and damage, which you can replace yourself.
- Finally, it's about the overall condition of the machine. You don't want to see much rust. Some small surface rust spots can be fixed and touched up, but spreading rust and lots of peeling paint is an indicator that the machine has been ignored and will likely have a shorter lifespan.
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