Snow Blowers: 6 Things to Know Before You Buy

January 20, 2014

Snow Blowers: 6 Things to Know Before You Buy


Throwing snow around may be fun when you’re a kid, but it’s more of a chore when you’re trying to clear a driveway or sidewalk. Whether you call it a snow blower or a snow thrower, this piece of machinery is great to have around when the weatherman is predicting snow. However, the last thing you want is a single-stage snow blower, especially a small electric one, when you actually need a two-stage gas snow blower. The reverse is also true. So here are some things to consider before investing in your new wintertime best friend.   

Fact # 1: How Much Snow Do You Get?                                                        

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where the snowfalls are low, and the snow is light and fluffy, an electric snow blower should do the trick. However, if you live in an area where the average snowfall is a bit more (up to 8”), invest in a single-stage gas snow thrower. Get hit with snowfalls up to 18” with snow that is wet and heavy? Well, then your best friend is going to be a two-stage gas snow blower with a tall bucket.

Fact # 2: Pay Attention to Your Driveway

Remember, the wider the clearing width of the snow blower the less time you’ll spend clearing the driveway. That means you’ll enjoy that nice, warm cup of hot chocolate even sooner.

If you have a small driveway, you can get away with an electric snow blower. This type also comes in handy if you need to clear off decks and steps. Just check out how far your outdoor extension cord will reach, because you don’t want to be stuck shoveling out the end of the driveway! Depending on the model, an electric snow thrower can clear widths from about 11” to 18” and paved surfaces with no hilly driveways. If you have a gravel driveway, this type is not an option.  

You can find single-stage gas models that clear widths anywhere between 18” to 30”, once again depending on the model. Like an electric snow thrower, these gas models are only good for paved surfaces and aren’t ideal if you have a hilly driveway.

Two-stage (dual-stage) gas snow blowers are the best for large driveways. These powerful machines are efficient in that they have a clearing path anywhere between approximately 20” to 36” and can be used on both paved and graveled surfaces. Thanks to the engine-driven wheels, this snow blower can also handle uneven terrain and hilly driveways. Some models with higher horsepower even have a clearing width of up to 45”.

Fact # 3: There Is Some Upkeep Involved

Many snow blowers require gasoline and an oil change. Another thing to keep in mind is that most single-stage gas models have a two-cycle engine which means you need to add a bit of oil to the gas. With an electric snow blower, it’s simple; all you need is an outdoor extension cord.

Fact # 4: Understand the Inner Workings of a Snow Blower

Both a single-stage snow blower and a two-stage snow blower have an auger that scoops up the snow and breaks it up. However, while the auger in a single-stage also discharges the snow through the chute, in a two-stage there is an impeller that does so. Because the auger doesn’t touch the ground in these models, they can be used on concrete as well as gravel surfaces.

As for single-stage snow blowers they don’t have driven wheels. Keep this in mind as they will be propelled only by the auger blades which means you’ll need a bit of your muscle power to keep it going.

Fact # 5: Exercise Caution

A snow blower is a machine, so care should be taken when using it. If not used properly, it can quickly become a safety hazard. First of all, be aware of how far your model throws snow, ice and things like gravel and other objects that are on the ground. An electric model can typically throw snow 25”, a single-stage 35” and a two-stage 50”. It’s important to know this so you can make sure that people and pets are kept far enough way so they don’t get hurt.

Also, when it comes to cleaning out obstructions, never use your hands. They should be kept away from the chute or auger at all times. Look for models that come with a cleaning tool to avoid losing a finger or even a hand. If your snow blower doesn’t have a cleaning tool, you can also use a broom handle to safely clear it.

Dead man controls are a handy feature you want to look for. When the handlebar is gripped, the snow blower’s impeller or auger will run. However, when you let go of the bar, it will stop so you don’t have to worry about your snow blower getting away from you.

Fact # 6: Features that Make It Easier

Some models have headlights, because snow removal doesn’t always happen during the day. You’ll appreciate this when you work during daylight hours.

If you’re looking to buy a two-stage gas snow blower, look for a trigger release mounted on the handlebars. This is great because when the trigger is pulled, power is disengaged from one or both drive wheels. So when you encounter something unexpected, it’s easy to stop the snow blower quickly.

Are you taller or shorter than average? Look for a snow blower that adjusts so you can clear your driveway without hunching down or reaching up. Speaking of handles, on a single-stage you can find ones that easily change the direction or height of the machine. To do this on a two-stage, look for joystick controls. You can even find models with heated handle grips that make facing the cold a little more bearable.

If you buy a two-stage model, you can also adjust a snow blower’s speed. Depending on the make and model they may have five or six forward speeds, even seven. This way you can adjust your snow blower based on the amount of snow you get and prevent clogs.

Also look for large tires for easy maneuverability and traction. And whatever you do, don’t forget to pick a snow blower with an electric start. Who wants to keep tugging on a cord when you don’t have to!

Take these facts into consideration, and before you know it, that snow will be all cleaned up, and you’ll be throwing snowballs with the kids in the neighborhood.




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