Snow Blowing Techniques and Tips
There are a number of techniques, which will become intuitive to the user, to help the user best operate his/her snow blower. Consider the following:
Before You Use Your Snow Blower
Before you use your snow blower, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines to ensure it starts and runs properly.
- First, do a thorough read of your snow blower operator's manual. It's critical that you learn how to properly use your machine before you get it outside, especially in tough conditions. These machines are very substantial and conceivably quite dangerous if you are not sure of how to use them properly.
- Follow all Safety Guidelines and adhere to Safety Warnings listed in the Owner’s Manuals for both your snow blower and its engine.
- Try to mark all obstructions and edges (e.g., grass lawns adjacent to the driveway) in the area you plan to snow blow. Remove any items left on the surface, such as newspapers, toys, or other debris. MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO CHILDREN OR PETS IN THE VICINITY OR NEARBY WHEN YOU ARE BLOWING SNOW.
- Moisture in fuel is the enemy of all yard equipment carburetors. So, buy your gas from a reputable, name-brand dealer, like Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Hess, etc. Regular octane is fine. Obtain a fuel container that holds 2.5 gallons or a multiple of 2.5 gallons. If you have a container that has at least 2.5 gallons in capacity, I suggest you fill it with a multiple of 2.5 gallons (2.5, 5.0, or 10.0 depending on the container size). When the gas is fresh, and no later than 10 days after purchase, add fuel stabilizer. Add the stabilizer to the fuel container when you bring the gas home from the gas station. NEVER ADD STABILIZER TO THE FUEL TANK on the machine. Use the exact amount of stabilizer recommended, usually 1 ounce to 2.5 gallons of fuel. Mix the stabilizer in by shaking the container. Then pour the gas into the fuel tank. Using extra stabilizer will cause the stabilizer to gum up the carburetor. Using too little stabilizer will cause the gas to gum up the carburetor.
- Carefully pour gas into the fuel tank. Use a spout or funnel to prevent spills. Wipe up any spills with a rag. DO NOT fill beyond ½-inch from the bottom of the fuel tank neck. NEVER fill the tank when the engine is running or hot from operation.
- Before going out to blow snow, check the oil level and top it off as needed (5W-30). To take an oil level reading, park the snow blower on a level surface. Wipe off any debris from around the dipstick cap. Remove the dipstick and wipe off the oil. Screw the dipstick back into the tube slowly until the cap bottoms on the tube. Remove the dipstick and observe the oil level reading. If low, add clean, fresh oil, of the same type and viscosity as is in the engine, to bring the oil level to the Full (F) mark, per the engine manufacturer’s instructions. Sometimes, the Full mark is the uppermost of two small holes near the bottom of the dipstick. DO NOT OVERFILL. The level must not exceed the Full mark. The oil level MUST be maintained in the safe operating range on the dipstick at all times to prevent engine damage.
- Before starting the snow blower, ‘Prime’ the chute and impeller tube. The impeller tube is the circular or square section below and supporting the chute that leads from the impeller to the chute. Remove the spark plug and release any belt tension to ensure that you are safe. Apply silicone or another suitable lubricant in the opening and all the way up the chute so that the snow does not stick as easily upon discharge from the impeller up the chute. You can even use Pam (from the kitchen). This helps prevent clogging in harsh conditions, especially when the snow is very sticky or slushy.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for starting the snow blower.
- Begin by pointing the discharge chute straight ahead to prevent discharge towards the operator’s starting position.
- Make sure the engine key is fully inserted in the engine key slot (RUN position) or that the ignition key is set to “ON”.
- Move the choke control to the “Choke” position (closed). A warm engine requires less choking than a cold engine.
- Set the throttle at a moderate or fast position.
- When the engine is cold, push the Primer button two or three times, making sure your fingertip covers the hole in the rubber button. If fuel drips out of the carburetor while trying to start the engine, the engine is over-choked.
- Stand to the side of the engine and grasp the starter handle and pull the rope out slowly until it pulls harder. This is the compression stroke. Let the rope rewind slowly. Then pull the rope with a rapid, continuous, full-arm stroke or push the Starter Button if equipped with electric start. DO NOT let the starter handle snap against the starter. Let the rope rewind slowly. Repeat these instructions until the engine starts.
- Once the engine has started, open the choke gradually.
Using Your Snow Blower
In order to blow snow most effectively under varying conditions, there are a number of techniques you will acquire as you gain experience using your snow blower.
- Always run your snow blower at full throttle to shoot heavy snow out as best as possible. The snow blower is designed to operate with the throttle set all the way up at Full. Adjust the deflector angle to determine where the snow is thrown.
- Use a modest gear (usually 2 or 3) so that you move sufficiently quickly to get through the snow but not too quickly, in order to give the machine time to chew the snow up with the augurs and discharge it via the impeller.
- Stop the blower drive from time to time (on any stretch beyond about 5 feet in heavy, wet snow) while keeping the augur engaged so that the blower can discharge all the snow it has accumulated.
- This technique is important when doing long passes. It will become intuitive when you blow snow.
- In particular, when working on heavy, wet snow, you cannot head into the snow non-stop over a long, linear distance and expect the impeller and augurs to keep up with the tremendous accumulation of heavy snow as you move forward. So, if you have a long driveway you need to employ this method at frequent intervals.
- Working on a curve requires frequent use of this technique as well, since you will pack in more snow on one side of the blower intake box.
- Should your driveway go uphill, note that you challenge the machine the most when moving upward against the weight of the snow. Working uphill will also tax the drive more, leaving a little less power to throw snow, again meaning you need to apply this technique often.
- At the end of a pass, e.g., when you come to an edge if you are going across the driveway instead of up and down, once again you need to let the snow blower discharge all the snow before proceeding to do more snow. So, at the end of any pass apply this technique before moving on.
- When the snow is multi-layered, meaning hard snow on top and slush on the bottom, like we encountered in the first storm of 2013, try elevating the front end of the snow blower somewhat by pushing down on the handles. This will enable you to attack the frozen top layer first. Then return and go at the lower, slushy layer. Again, apply this technique to empty the snow box periodically throughout the process.
- If your snow blower has a handle interlock, when you press down the drive handle after the augur engagement handle (or vice-versa depending on the machine), both handles will stay down, enabling you to operate the chute with your free hand. You need to release the interlock to perform step 3.
- In order to perform step 3, you want to engage just the augur handle. If you want to move the machine without blowing snow, you want to engage just the drive handle. So, in order to use the augur and drive handles independently, you have to let go of the controlling handle (drive or augur) to release the interlock and then press down just the augur handle to empty the snow box or press down just the drive handle to move the machine. Sometimes in very cold weather, the interlock does not release entirely. In this case, simply pull up the controlling handle and they should both release. Whenever you let go of the handles the machine should stop. Otherwise you would have a safety issue.
- When working on heavy, packed snow, like that at the front of a driveway, let the machine take a bite out of the barrier. The snow blower will tend to throw some of the hardened snow and then move upward (tilting back) on the snow bank. Once it starts to move upward, stop (disengage the drive handle); you do not want it to tip backwards on you! Apply Step 3 once it has tilted up a little. Then pull back (Reverse) and attack again. With each successive bite, you will take out more of the 'under' snow as well as the embankment. By taking the snow on a snow bank out in sections, you will succeed. This technique is important when the snow is packed in densely and resists breaking up.
- If your house is located on a curve rather than a straight section of roadway, you may get harder, more densely packed snow at the front of your driveway. So, if you're home is on the inside of a curve and/or if the City plows more snow to your side vs. the other side of the street, you will you will encounter harder, packed snow than elsewhere. This means that you have to use the technique in Step 5 more so than, for example, a neighbor on an outside curve or the other side of the street.
- Disengage the power to the augur and impeller, i.e., do not press down the augur engagement handle, when the unit is being moved or transported or is not being used to move snow.
After You Are Done
Make sure you clean and store your snow blower properly.
- Stop the engine by moving the throttle lever all the way down or by using the engine key. If so equipped, pull out the engine key from the key slot. If equipped with an ignition key, turn it to the "OFF" position. Follow instructions in your Owner's Manual for setting the controls properly when turning off your snow blower.
- Clean off your machine. Use a hand-held leaf blower or a soft-bristle brush to clean the snow and ice off the entire machine and engine. Clear any packed snow from the recoil area (starter cord area). Be sure to clear engine and snow blower controls, discharge chute, chute control rods and gears, and anywhere else snow has accumulated. This will fend off pitting, paint peel, and rust.
- Always remove the engine key and store in a safe place to prevent unauthorized use.
- Store the machine in a clean, dry place if possible. Once the snow blower is dry, cover it with a fabric sheet, which can breathe. DO NOT use a plastic cover which will trap in moisture and cause paint peel and corrosion. You can purchase a snow blower cover, which is made with a permeable fabric (like those used for cars). Some covers are made of a heavy nylon or plastic with slits at the rear or sides to allow the snow blower to “breathe”. These are intended for use when storing the snow blower outdoors. Follow the same procedure to dry the machine before storing it outdoors if at all possible.
- If the machine is kept outdoors or in a cold shelter, fill the fuel tank to prevent condensation. Consult your Owner's Manual for further information on preventing ice formation and freeze-up.
The bottom line is that you have to work slowly and methodically with a snow blower especially when you encounter heavy, packed, and/or slushy snow.
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