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Tips for Choosing a Snowblower and Snowblower Maintenance

The first snowfall of the season looks idyllic - until you're outside in the cold temperatures shoveling off your driveway and sidewalk. Snowblowers are a fast, efficient and labor-saving snow removal solution, but they can also be a significant investment. Understanding the different types of snowblowers on the market can help you make a smart purchase decision and keep your new equipment running well for years to come.

Man operating his snowblower on a sidewalk.

Choosing the right snowblower for your home

Snowblowers are available in single-stage, two-stage and three-stage models, as well as electric and gas-powered options. Single-stage and two-stage snow blowers can be effective for depths up to 12 inches. Single-stage blowers are a good option if you only need to clear walkways and smaller driveways from light snowfalls. If you live in a region with heavy, deep snowfall throughout winter, consider a three-stage unit. Three-stage units can handle 16 inches of snow or more.

Electric snowblowers are usually lighter and more compact than their gas-operated peers. Electric blowers are usually lighter and easier to operate and may be a more economical option for clearing smaller amounts of snow on a sidewalk, patio or walkway.

Gas snowblowers offer greater mobility than electric blowers since they are not limited by cord length or battery life. Compared with electric models, gas blowers typically have greater power, greater clearing widths, and greater intake heights. Two-stage and three-stage gas blowers offer the greatest range of features, including an electric quick-start, single-hand operation, power steering, speed controls, thicker snow tires, and heated handles. While these features increase the cost, they may also be a valuable investment depending on how much snowfall you receive each season.

Snowblower use and maintenance

Preventive maintenance throughout the year can ensure your snowblower is ready to go for the first snowfall. These are some considerations:

  • Plan ahead. If possible, don't wait until the first big snow of the season to start your snowblower. Start it up four to six weeks before you anticipate needing to use it, give it a full system check, and decide if any replacement parts need to be purchased.
  • Check the oil and gas. Oil changes aren't just for your car. If you have a gas-powered snowblower, drain and properly dispose of the oil each season. If the snowblower uses a gas/oil mixture, drain that too, dispose of it safely, and replace this mixture. If the snowblower uses straight gas, this can be harder to dispose of. Ideally, you'll finish what's left in the tank at the end of the season so the gas won't stale throughout the off season. For a new season, fill up with fresh gas. Consider adding a stabilizer if you live in an extremely cold environment.
  • Tighten nuts and bolts. Snowblowers vibrate and shake when in use, which may cause the nuts and bolts to loosen. Tighten before every use. Additionally, check for any wear and tear on belts, spark plus and any other components of the snowblower.
  • Check tire pressure. Most snowblowers have sturdy tires, but rapid drops in temperature can trigger an air pressure drop, leading to an underinflated or flat tire. Dealing with a flat tire while a snowblower is in use can be a challenge. Snowblowers are heavy and it can be difficult to roll them to an air pressure station when the tire is flat. Prevention is the best strategy. Keep tires consistently inflated throughout the year and check pressure before heading out for use.
  • Operate safely. Snowblower accidents are typically caused by improper operation, which can lead to lacerations or loss of limbs, cautions the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Reduce the risk of an accident by following all operating instructions in your owner's manual. If your snowblower is jammed, do not attempt to clear the jam while the snowblower is still in use. Turn the snowblower off and wait until all parts have stopped moving. If the snowblower is running low on fuel, turn the machine off prior to refueling. Do not refuel while the machine is in operation.

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