While it’s commonly accepted that an icy driveway or walkway can result in slip-and-fall injuries during the winter months, there are less obvious injuries that can occur when clearing that driveway or walkway with a snowblower. According to a report issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it is estimated that more than 5,700 people annually are admitted to hospital emergency rooms with injuries caused by snowblowers or snow throwers. To avoid contributing to this statistic, it’s a good idea to be familiar with how a snowblower works before attempting to use one, as well as know the precautions you should take before you fire up the engine.
How does a snowblower work?
Most snowblowers, or snow throwers as they are commonly referred to, are classified as either single-stage or dual-stage. Single-stage models use one auger to collect and throw the snow and work best on snow that is six inches deep or less. Dual-stage snowblowers use an auger to collect the snow and an impeller to throw it; these models can handle snow up to one foot deep or more, depending on the auger housing.
The engine crankshaft extends out the side of the engine and is attached to one or more pulleys to drive the auger. On dual-stage models, the impeller is also driven by the crankshaft. When the bail arm is engaged on single-stage models, the idler pulley tightens the belt around the drive pulley and the auger rotates. The auger blades collect the snow and throw it out of the chute in one motion.
Dual-stage snowblowers will have multiple drive pulleys and will use one or more belts to drive the auger transmission and another belt to drive the self-propelled wheels. The auger blades will cut through the snow and throw it towards the impeller which then propels it through the chute. The self-propel drive belt is attached to a drive disk. When the drive handle is engaged, a pulley will apply tension to the drive belt which rotates the drive disk, engages the friction ring, and rotates the wheels.
Both single-stage and dual-stage models have a scraper blade on the bottom of the auger housing to assist the auger in collecting the snow. Single-stage snowblowers use the scraper blade to slide directly on the ground to collect snow close to the surface; dual-stage snowblowers add slide-shoes or skids to the sides of the auger housing that will allow the user to adjust the height of the scraper blade. This is especially important if the home has a gravel driveway: you can raise the scraper blade several inches above the ground to prevent stones from entering the auger housing.
Proper snowblower maintenance
Keeping your snowblower running smoothly and safely will require maintenance. Here are some recommendations you should follow:
- If your snowblower has a four-cycle engine, you should check the oil level in the engine after every eight hours of use and add oil as needed. The oil should be replaced once a year or after fifty hours of use.
- Replace the engine’s spark plug annually.
- Since a clogged fuel filter can interfere with engine performance, you should replace the filter periodically.
- Consider adding fuel stabilizer to keep fuel fresh for a longer period of time, and to prevent clogs in the fuel filter or carburetor.
- Fuel tank caps have small vent holes to allow air into the tank. Since the holes can become clogged with residue, consider replacing the cap every few years or as needed.
- A degreaser can be used to clean any grease or dirt from the auger housing or from around the engine. After application, allow ten to fifteen minutes for the degreaser to dry before wiping with a clean cloth.
- Inspect the snowblower tires for wear and check the air pressure regularly if your model has pneumatic tires.
- Inspect the scraper blade and slide-shoes for wear and replace, as necessary.
- For single-stage models, the auger paddles should be inspected regularly. If the paddles no longer come into contact with the ground, or the metal is exposed through the rubber, the paddles should be replaced.
- Periodically lubricate the wheel bearings, auger bearings, and impeller bearings to ensure the components will rotate as designed.
10 precautions you should take before operating a snowblower
While a well-maintained snowblower will be safer to operate, there are other precautions you should take to avoid a trip to the emergency room. Here are ten of them:
- Always keep hands and feet away from the auger, impeller, and self-propelled wheels.
- Never leave a snowblower running in an enclosed area.
- Never add gasoline to the fuel tank while the engine is running or still hot.
- If the snowblower is powered electrically, always be aware of the power cord’s location.
- Wear safety eyewear to protect you from any ice or debris the snowblower may throw up.
- Wear ear protection – gasoline-powered engines are loud enough to damage hearing.
- Wear no-slip gloves as well as slip-resistant snow boots (and tuck pant legs into the boots).
- Don’t remove any manufacturer safety features.
- Always keep children and pets indoors when the snowblower is in use.
- Never use your hands to unclog the chute. Instead, use a broom handle or a dedicated snow clearing tool. To help avoid clogging during operation, you can use a polymer spray (like “Snow Jet”) to coat the auger housing and chute.
Find the right snowblower parts with Repair Clinic
Repair Clinic has all the parts you need to keep your snowblower in good condition, from engine parts such as spark plugs, carburetors, fuel filters, and ignition coils, to replacement auger blades, scraper blades, shear pins, drive belts, and much more. Enter the full model number of your snowblower, or the snowblower’s engine, into the Repair Clinic website search bar to see a complete list of compatible parts. Repair Clinic stocks replacement parts that fit snowblowers manufactured by Craftsman, Toro, Ariens, Honda, MTD, Troy-bilt, and Cub Cadet, among many others, but you always want to make sure you’re purchasing the specific part that matches your equipment.