For now it may only be an inch or so of snow, and you can count on the sun to melt that away without too much trouble. But it won’t be long before the snow begins to accumulate to three inches or more, requiring you to roll out the snowblower to clear off the driveway and sidewalk. If this most trusted winter outdoor power equipment has been sitting idle for nine months or more, there are seven things you should really do before attempting to fire up the snowblower to tackle those snow drifts:
1. Tune-up the snowblower’s engine
To appropriate a worn-out axiom that nevertheless remains true, an ounce of preventative maintenance is worth a pound of repair. Just as you would with a lawn mower or any other gas-powered equipment, the most important maintenance you can perform on your snowblower is tuning up the engine. With the snow piling up against your garage door or obliterating the walkway leading to your front door, the last thing you want to deal with is an engine that won’t start, runs rough, or stalls. Here’s what you’ll need to do to keep the snowblower’s engine humming during the coldest season:
- Change the spark plug – Due to carbon build-up and a weakened electrode, a spark plug will degrade over time, reducing engine performance and increasing fuel consumption. You can inspect the spark plug for damage and test the component using an ignition tester to determine whether it’s defective or not, but you should really be replacing that old plug with a new one annually. Bonus tip: use a dedicated spark plug wrench to safely and efficiently remove or tighten the spark plug.
- Replace the oil – While a two-cycle snowblower engine does not use engine oil in the crankcase, a four-cycle engine does. If your snowblower is powered by a four-cycle engine, the oil level should be checked after every eight hours of use, and the oil should be completely replaced once a year or after 50 hours of use. You should check the owner’s manual to determine the proper oil for your snowblower’s engine and the correct way to replace it. Normally, a drain plug can be unthreaded which allows you to drain the used oil into a bucket (Note: it’s best to use an approved container to collect the oil). You can then replace the plug and pour the new oil into the oil fill tube. To avoid overfilling, pour in approximately three-quarters of the bottle, then check the oil reservoir with the dipstick to determine if the oil level is at full. You can then add more oil, as necessary. Old snowblower engine oil, like car engine oil, can be recycled at most auto parts stores or local repair shops.
- Make sure the carburetor is clean – Old or bad fuel can leave a gummy residue inside the carburetor which can create an obstruction resulting in the engine stalling or running rough. At the start of the season, you should confirm the carburetor is in good working order. Inspect the component for any obstructions and use WD-40 or a dedicated carburetor cleaner to clean out the ports. You can often purchase a carburetor repair kit to replace damaged or missing components as well.
- Replace the fuel filter – That old or bad fuel can also gum up the engine’s fuel filter. Attempting to clean out an old filter is not recommended as it is likely you’ll end up damaging the part, so it’s best to periodically replace the filter with a new one.
- Use a fuel stabilizer –While you should only use fresh fuel when filling the snowblower’s fuel tank (to avoid creating obstructions in the carburetor or fuel filter), you can use a fuel stabilizer to help maintain the quality of that fuel. The stabilizer can be added to a fuel can or the snowblower’s fuel tank, but you should refer to manufacturer’s instructions to determine the proper amount for both. If adding the stabilizer to the equipment’s fuel tank, be sure to run the engine for at least two minutes to circulate the stabilizer throughout the fuel system.
- Check the fuel cap – As fuel is consumed, the level is the fuel tank lowers. To avoid creating a vacuum, fuel caps will have a small vent hole or holes to allow air into the tank. If the vent holes are blocked by build-up or debris, the air will not be able to enter the tank which can cause the engine to stall. If this is happening to you, try loosening the fuel cap slightly, then start the engine. If the engine runs normally, it’s likely the vent hole or holes are blocked, and the fuel cap should be replaced with a new one.
2. Clean the auger housing
A degreaser or non-stick spray should be used to clean any grease or dirt from the auger housing. You can also use this product to clean around the engine. After application, allow the degreaser or spray ten to fifteen minutes to dry before wiping with a clean cloth. You may also want to consider using a polymer spray (like “Snow Slick”) to coat the auger housing and chute to help prevent heavy snow from clogging the snowblower during operation.
3. Inspect the snowblower’s tires
As you would with your car, you should inspect the snowblower’s tires for wear and replace the tires if the treads are worn down or if there is any other damage. If your model uses pneumatic tires, you can use a tire pressure gauge to check the air pressure to determine if you need to add air to keep the tires properly inflated.
4. Lubricate the moving parts
Periodically, you should lubricate the wheel bearings, auger bearings, and the impeller bearings to ensure all of these components will rotate as designed. This is especially important to do if the snowblower hasn’t been used in several months.
5. Inspect the drive belt
The drive belt or belts make the connection between the engine and the gearbox. If the V-belt is worn out, misadjusted, or broken, the auger won’t turn. Inspect the belt to determine if it is broken or worn out and replace if necessary. If the belt is not broken or worn out, you should still ensure that the belt is properly adjusted.
6. Check the scraper blade and slide shoes
You should thoroughly inspect the snowblower’s scraper blade and slide shoes for wear. These parts have the important job of protecting the bottom of the auger housing and should be replaced if worn thin or damaged.
7. Inspect the auger paddles
If you have a smaller single-stage snowblower model (as opposed to a larger dual-stage model), you should inspect the auger paddles for damage or wear before using the snowblower. If the paddles no longer come into contact with the ground, or the metal is exposed through the rubber, the paddles should be replaced.
From snowblower engine maintenance kits to replacement auger paddles, slide shoes, scraper blades, and drive belts, Repair Clinic.com has the genuine manufacturer parts you need to ensure your equipment is ready for the heaviest of snowfalls. 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 that fit snowblowers manufactured by Craftsman, Toro, Ariens, Honda, MTD, Troy-bilt, and Cub Cadet, among many others. While you’re on the site, check out the library of “how-to” videos and articles to learn how you can successfully maintain and repair your snowblower yourself.