Preparing Your Snow Blower for Winter

Why should I prepare my snow blower for winter use?

If you own a snowblower, then you probably live in a region where there are many tasks to winterize your home. A snow blower is a seasonal machine, but still vulnerable to normal wear and tear like your lawn mower or chainsaw. It may sit dormant for most of the year but that doesn’t mean the parts inside don’t eventually start to break down. Another factor affecting snow blowers is the very fact that most of them do sit for months at a time. You know how your car has a harder time starting if it has been sitting for a few days? A snow blower spends months sitting idle, and doing preventative maintenance at the start of the season helps extends the life of the snow blower and leads to optimal working conditions.

What happens if I don’t prepare my snow blower for winter use?

We tend to put our snow blowers away and forget all about them until snowflakes appear on the 7 Day Outlook from the local winter weather report. However, without proper maintenance, any vehicle will fail unexpectedly, causing inconvenient issues and delays. If the snowblower runs without oil or gas, the engine could be damaged or worse.

Don’t wait until the first storm blows into town, do your maintenance during those early fall months so this unique machine is ready to roll. Follow the steps below and your blower should be ready to clear any path this winter!

Panic level: 2

Click here to read more about important tasks toward properly winterizing your home. We also have helpful information on the real costs of home ownership as well as the top maintenance tasks for your home.

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  • 1. Fill up the gas tank (gas models only).
    • You can get a jump start on this first step at the end of each previous winter season. When you put the blower away you should drain the gas tank or fill it up with stabilized fuel. This simple step will help each fall when you start the maintenance routine. If you didn’t do the work the previous spring, now is the time to drain the tank. Use a siphon or turkey baster to drain it, fill it with gas and top it off with a fuel stabilizer. Make a note to prepare the gas tank for the following winter when you put the blower away.

      This step will help your tank and carburetor from getting clogged.

      Next Step
  • 2. Check the oil.
    • Some older single stage blowers required you to mix oil in with the gasoline, but newer models have a separate oil reservoir and a dipstick like one would find on a car. Check the oil at least once at the start of the season, and ideally after several uses. If the oil looks dark or dirty, go ahead and change it. It’s a good idea to change it once a season to keep the engine running smoothly.

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  • 3. Check the tires.
    • There are models with airless tires, but for those with regular tires, make sure they are filled with air. Seems like a relatively easy task, but one that is often overlooked, and underinflated tires can make the machine harder to handle, like a car or a bicycle with a flat. Maximum control will help when you find yourself outside wearing gloves and winter jacket trying to complete the task as quickly as possible, so spend some time on the tires. You can use an air compressor or a bike pump, and be sure to check the pressure is correct so you don’t over inflate and pop a tire.

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  • 4. Inspect and/or replace the spark plug.
    • Take the plug out and visually inspect it for any damage or deposits. If it looks ok, go ahead and plug it back in and continue to use it. If not, make sure to replace with a new one based on your snow blower’s manufacturers recommendations. This may be something you choose to switch out since you’ve already removed the old one, why not go ahead and replace it? The goal is to keep your machine running smoothly and new parts help.

      Next Step
  • 5. Inspect belts for wear and replace them if necessary.
    • Most snow blowers have two belts, one for the drive system and one for the auger. You will want to check both to ensure a smooth operation from your machine. Remove the cover and check the belt for obvious signs of wear and tear, make sure they don’t have any cracks and that they fit snugly.

      You may want to take a photo of how belts are attached before taking them out to inspect, just in case the manual doesn’t have a diagram for this. You don’t want to take out the belts and have no idea how to get them back in.

      Replace any belts that look damaged.

      Next Step
  • 6. Inspect the shear pins and replace if necessary.
    • Shear pins are meant to break, so it’s important to inspect these and replace any damaged ones. They connect the auger to the gear case, and when they break, it is a safety feature designed to alert you when the case and auger have become unaligned. Check and see if any are missing, or damaged and replace them immediately. It is a good idea to keep some replacement pins around in case you lose them while using your blower during the winter season.

      Next Step
  • 7. Inspect scraper bar and skid shoes.
    • Replace these if they look worn. Some skid shoes are reversible, so you can flip them over and use them again. Check to see if your blower is a model you can do this with, if not, make sure you to use new ones so you don’t damage your machine.

      Make sure to follow all steps by double checking and tightening any loose bolts and lubricating the chassis. There are a few other things you can check, like for example, you may need a new starter cord. Once you have given your machine a once over, start it up in a well ventilated area and let it run for a few minutes.

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