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While up North you’ve been experiencing snowpocalypse, down here in the South we’ve just been a bit cold. Admittedly, the heavens dumped 12″ of snow on us a week ago, but it was gone quickly — albeit not quite quickly enough to keep me from wishing I owned the ultimate winter warrior’s tool: a snowblower.

But since we’re lucky to see only one or two snows a year — usually less than 2″ — I don’t know a damn thing about ’em. So educate me: What separates a brilliant snowblower from the everyday — and the crap?

Pictured above is what I think of when I hear “snowblower.” It’s a 208cc “two-stage” blower, complete with electric start and rubber tubeless tires. The specs say it clears a 26″ path and includes steel augers, which presumably will outlast its two-year warranty.

Bonus: Post a pic of your own snowblower to the Flickr pool and let us know about it. We’d love to see what you chose — and hear why.

Snowblower [Craftsman]


58 Responses to Educate Us: Snowblowers

  1. DeadGuy says:

    You want want that has a seperate clutch for the wheels and the blower. You want one that goes in reverse, as they are difficult to man-handle in deep snow. You want to make sure the chute has a handle to reposition it, like the one you picture.

    Things to remember are that the feet wear out as you scrape them across ice and snow and concrete, so they need to be replaced. If the blades won’t turn, the impeller is probably frozen so put it somewhere warm to melt. If teh auger hits something nasty, there are shear bolts that will break and let the axle turn freely – keep an extra set on hand. Grease, grease, grease them every year and maintain them like lawn equipment. Electric start is a huge plus, as the motor is much more difficult to pull start than a lawn mower. Make sure your forward speed is properly adjusted for the depth of the snow.

    Finally – be prepared to eat a face full of snow because no matter where you point the discharge chute, the wind will blow the damn snow all over you.

  2. Major Al says:

    Blowers are a bigger pain in the ass than any other gas powered instrument of destruction. But, if you need one, you really need it.

    Random points:

    – Drain the fuel from the carb and tank or run it dry after every use. It may sit for a year or more between uses. Service every fall and test start.

    – If you can, store it in snow months in a heated garage, or at least in a garage you don’t have to dig a path to get to. Best is facing out, close to the door.

    – They clog with certain types of snow. They function quite well as improvised limb removal devices for those folks foolish enough to try and clear a clog with the augers or impellers turning. Surface rust makes this much worse, so sand and paint with gloss paint in the off season. I spray the interior of mine with PAM before I take it out.

    – Mine has shear bolts on the augers and impellers. If you run over something that binds it up, these shear. Get proper spare pins from the manufacturer (NO FIELD EXPEDIENTS) and keep them with the blower. Keep the driveway / walk clear of debris before it starts snowing.

    – Drive options include track drive and chains for the tires. I have tracks, and wish I had wheels with chains.

    – Electric start is a must. Other electric goodies include lights and heated grips like a motorcycle. My neighbor who keeps his in an unheated shed has an electric block heater which drops down into the dipstick hole.

    – Being able to adjust the direction and angle of the discharge without leaving the operators position is a huge plus.

    – Several engine manufacturers make an “easy start” engine particularly for winter use. Look for this. A more powerful engine is better, even on a smaller blower. You can always make multiple passes, but if it keeps choking, it’s a real pain.

    – If you’re in an area that rarely gets deep show, I’d buy a portable gas powered leaf blower first. Lots cheaper, easy to blow light snow off a walk, driveway or the car, and if you stay ahead of the snow fall, pretty effective.

    – You’re still gonna need shovels.

    – Use fuel stabilizer in the fuel, bought fresh every fall. Use it in the mower in the spring if there’s any left over. While you’re pre-stocking, aspirin ain’t a bad idea either.


  3. Flabby Boohoo says:

    Chicago native, northwest suburbs closer to Wisconsin than Chicago.

    I have a small single stage 4-stroke, have found that the two stage monsters are useless 90% of the time. Space is a concern too.. the smaller ones can be tucked in a corner.

    I have never needed a 2 stage yet, even with the crazy snowfall last winter.

  4. Pepster says:

    Wow, done in two. I don’t have much to add, but here’s my limited experience:

    * A light is nice to make sure cars coming down your street can see you.

    * Electric start is useful, ever had to use mine, because the guy who thought to design in an electric start also thought about making this darn thing easy to start.

    * Ditto on getting shear pins and replacement feet ahead of time.

    * If it doesn’t come with a chute-clearing rod, stick a piece of scrap furring strip in the garage for when it clogs.

    * Take a good look at how the auger spins at the bottom of that chute – it will inspire you NEVER to put any part of yourself even close to it.

    * Ditto on the debris cleanup before the snow comes, nothing ruins an afternoon like sucking up your morning paper into the snow-blower. You’ll also save on shear pins this way.

    * Put some stakes at the corners of your driveway and walks, It’s real easy to chew up a few feet of lawn before you realize you’ve gone offline. The stakes will give you some bearing.

    * Rethink the shovel you’ll need – I find a smaller one can be nice for doing stairs and areas inaccessible to the blower

    * Ignore the smaller “flapper” style of snowblowers, they clog easy and get overwhelmed in more than a few feet of snow. Stick to the auger style “suck and chuck”

  5. Aaron says:

    Living north of Barrie Ontario Canada I get on average 12+ feet of snow per year (not this unusually warm year though). I have a two stage 24in 9.5 hp Ariens model that can chug its way through snow that is over the augers. It has a lever instead of a screw for turning the chute (spray direction) and this makes life sooo much easier. 9.5hp is as small as I would ever go with my snow loads. Make sure you lube the machine yearly as directed in the manual. Oh and get a steal discharge chute as the plastic ones will break first time its really cold and you hit some ice chunks.

  6. shotdog says:

    We live in snow country in the lee of Lake Ontario. A thirty foot snow season is not uncommon. MOst name brand blowers do a good job. At $1,000 plus depending on the size, the trick is to get one that lasts. Two years ago I retired an Allis Chalmers brand (built by Simplicity) that was built in 1964. I still have it, but it doesn’t shift gears when the temp is low. Sort of like me. I replaced it with a new Simplicity. Big box units are not very high quality. Parts are hard to get and service is non existent. Ariens, Simplicity and other name brands are pretty good. Good bearings and gears are important. MOst of the units are powered by Briggs, which in my opinion has an inconsistent history to be charitable. sd

  7. bajajoaquin says:


    Is that the Barrie near Toronto? I lived there for a while when I was a wee little tyke. I’ve been in Southern California since 1977, but one of my earliest memories is of that place. It’s a long-shot, but is there still an Italian restaurant there called Fierenze?

    (Sorry I’m off topic. This is as close as I can get to discussion of snow-blowers.)

  8. David Hite says:

    For the occasional 8-12″ of snow, the upkeep on a gasoline powered machine is too much trouble, IMHO. Get an electric one. I have the Toro 1800, and it works fine.

  9. MattC says:

    Excellent responses to this. I was a snowblower newbie a couple of years ago and have by my own mistakes learned the proper way to use and maintain the machine. Keeping at least an extra set of shear pins is a no-brainer (despite the best plans, you will suck up something other than snow). Grease and use a quality fuel stabilizer in the off season. Do a proper tuneup or other service well ahead of snow season. If the snow is higher than the blower, it is best to work in unison with someone with a shovel well ahead of you) to knock down the snow prior to using the snow blower. Learn to get a feel of the machine to know when it is at its limits, better to make two passes than try to manhandle in one pass.

  10. Eric R says:

    Do not get a snowblower with a engine that is an overhead cam. Had a $1500 Ariens blow itself apart because of this “design flaw” of course it happened 3yrs and 3 mnths after i bought it, so no warrenty. If you head over to HD now and look at the Ariens they don’t make the engine like that anymore… Go figure

  11. Chris S. says:

    In my area I think the big 2 stage snowblowers like above are overkill. I have a regular single stage 18″ auger style blower. Spray the chute with some silicone before use, change the belt on it every 2 years or so (its cheap) replace the scraper bar and rubber on the augers as needed. Doing that they work fine for most of the snow so long as you dont wait for it to pile up super high.

    If youre the type that waits for the snow to stop and then harden, youll need a big 2 stage beast like above which just chew that stuff up and spit it out.

  12. Austin says:

    Ariens used to make the best ones, not sure if they still do. I’d agree that the small single-stage ‘flapper’ ones should be avoided. Too much plastic -which does not do well in really cold weather and gets in the way if you have any adjustments or repairs to make. These tend to be belt driven, while that avoids having to use shear bolts like on a two-stage, it means it bogs down and binds up easily. The rubber ‘flappers’ are not always replaceable on their own so when they wear out you could be looking at an expensive repair/replacement. I unfortunately inherited one – I would never have bought one on my own. Have found that spraying it with spray silicone (since it’s mostly plastic) does help keep it from clogging as much. Some like them because they can clean right down to the pavement, honestly – I’d rather use a 2-stage to move the mountains (that a single-stage can’t handle anyway) and then go back with a good shovel if I wanted it that clean.

  13. Eric R says:

    Live in northern Michigan. Our snow level is way down compared to last year. If you get any real amount of snow get a two stage. I’ve cursed more times at slush then soft snow

  14. debs says:

    Electric start, separate drive and augur controls, reverse, multiple forward speeds, extra shear bolts, check.

    The only other feature not mentioned that comes in handy that I have on my old Ariens is a differential lock. Disengaged, the wheels turn independently so you can pivot the snowblower, engaged, they drive together so it just goes forward. Great for attacking that snowbank that’s bigger than you really should attack.

    I wish I had the alternator kit so I could add lights and heated grips.

    Nobody mentioned a cab. You can get universal cab kits to fit most snowblowers. A lot of the guys doing commercial buildings downtown have cabs on their blowers because they’re out in the snow for hours at a time.

    Me, I just wear my waterproof Gore-Tex motorcycle suit and helmet and don’t care if the wind is blowing the snow back on me.

  15. BC says:

    I’m a big fan of greasing the auger shaft – that is, the one the augers are mounted to. I inherited a 15-year-old Craftsman from my padre a few years back. Last winter, I hit a buried chunk of ice and blew the worm gear out because the augers were rusted to the shaft. I literally had to put the sucker on the 40-ton press to get one of the augers off.

    What to look for: My main things are a two-stage with a Briggs or Tecumseh (no longer available new) motor, and one made from heavy gauge steel. I say a two stage because when you need one, you REALLY need one. There may only be 6″ of snow on the ground, but the snowplow just left a 3-foot pile of slop at the end of the driveway. Try blowing that out with a single-stage. Many of the parts are interchangeable between brands; in fact, my local small engine shop stocks almost everything I’d need to completely rebuild the Craftsman from scratch. That said, I’d be more inclined to buy and rebuild an old Ariens or Gilson than I would be to buy a new Craftsman. Snowblowers really are a situation where older is better.

  16. BC says:

    Cabs are an awful idea at best, and at worst they’re dangerous. They tend to fog up with your breath, and if the snowblower tips back when hitting an obstacle, it will knock you on your ass.

    Buy a cheap $4 balaclava instead.

  17. SharkyTM says:

    I’ve got a positively ancient Ariens. Its a 1132, 11hp, 32″ clearing path. Its a freakin’ monster. I checked the serial, its from the 1974-1976 era. 11hp Tecumseh HM100 motor, which I put a new carb on 2 years ago. Its loud, vibrates a lot, but it can throw heavy wet snow (like we get here in Coastal Mass) about 35′. The cable for adjusting the height of the discharge broke a year or so ago, but other than that, its been a great tool. 5 forward speeds, and only one reverse. Electric start, and a light, both big pluses.

    Every spring, I drain the fuel completely (well, to be truthful, I take the tank off and put it on my 10hp chipper with the same exact series engine on it), grease the axle, and repaint the discharge chute. Pretty simple, really.

  18. Jon says:

    Two stages are FAR better than single stage and safer. The auger turns way faster on a single stage. On a 2 stage, the auger chews up the snow and feeds a “pump” that throws the snow. If you get serious snow, electric or single stage blowers are a waste of your money.

  19. Shalin says:

    Proud to say that my family up North still has a simple, ~30 yr old, yellow, working Sunbeam electric snowblower that still kicks on takes care of an ~18 inch swath of snow pretty well. …it’s not used much anymore ’cause I’m in the DFW area and my parents have better things to do at their age than get out and clear a driveway at 5am. πŸ˜‰


  20. Chris says:

    I live in western Michigan, and we get anywhere from about two feet all winter (most of the 1990s) to two feet in an evening (most of last winter).

    We had a Craftsman from about 1952 that was an antique when my parents bought it in the 80s from a friend’s dad for about $25. It was a single-stage, but it was the beefiest single-stage I’ve ever seen in my life, and it was built like a two-stage. The auger/impeller was about the size of a garbage can lid and spun darn close to crankshaft RPM of the non-primer-/non-kill-switch-equipped B&S engine. The only way to start it was to open the carburetor and pour about a teaspoon of raw gas directly into the intake, and the only way to stop it was to *very carefully* lift off the all-metal lid and then use a piece of wood to knock the spark plug wire off the plug.

    If you weren’t extremely careful about lifting the lid off just the right way (which was tricky because there were leves and cables for the chute control all over the place), you would get a nice 20,000-volt jolt from the magneto as the lid touched the exposed spark plug.

    Oh, and you did NOT want to run over anything valuable with it, or get it bogged down in really deep snow, because it had solid steel wheels with steel “treads” built into them. It was a remarkably effective blacktop removal tool if you could hold it in place against the drivetrain. It also weighed about 350 pounds, which meant once it got a head of steam going, it would take about two feet of hard-packed snow to stop it.

    One of the things I really liked about it was the front sliders, or “feet” as DeadGuy called them in the first comment. It didn’t have feet — it had solid steel disc wheels about 5″ in diameter and maybe 1/4″ thick. Never had to replace those at all!

    We finally had to retire that thing around 2000 or so. We replaced it with a two-stage Yard-Man that’s very similar in construction to the Craftsman in the photo above, and we’ve had only one problem with it — the throttle lever broke off last year and had to be replaced (about $20, though determining exactly what part we needed turned out to be a two-day job). I added a switch for the headlight (free from my parts bin, and I think newer models have a switch rather than requiring you to plug the light in each time you want to use it). My dad prefers the electric start but after the first couple of winters, I quit using the electric start because the recoil starter was easier to use. It’s always started on the first or second pull.

    Agree with the rest of the folks on easy-to-reach controls and reverse (although I don’t use it much), and tire chains would be nice (the tires on the Yard Man spin on ice; the steel tank wheels on the old Craftsman would just chew down through it).


  21. Toolaremia says:

    The reader’s responses to this are why I love Toolmonger. Excellent detailed information and great stories. Can’t get enough.

  22. Slow Joe Crow says:

    I will defer to Midwesterners and Canadians for handling really heavy snow but for lighter stuff the paddle style actually worked pretty well. I grew up in the NY City suburbs and we got enough snow in 2″ doses to justify light machinery, especially in my neighborhood where the garages were at the backs of the houses and driveways went the full depth of the lot. This was 75-76 and we got a Toro Snow Pup a small two stroke powered rubber paddle machine a bit like this http://www.toro.com/home/snowthrowers/gassinglestage/180.html. This started reliably and did a great job of scraping thin layers of snow off the driveway and even the back deck, since it was light enough to carry upstairs. Most of the time there wasn’t enough snow for the big auger type machines to get a decent bite and if the snow was too deep for the little Toro you could lift it on top of the drift and let it burrow down. I think it stayed with the house when they downsized to a condo or was sold to a neighbor.
    I don’t bother with a snow blower in Beaverton, my driveway is short and half the time it melts the next day anyway.

  23. ChrisW says:

    I bought a Toro 1800 electric at a thrift store for $25 in November. For small properties in moderate snow it works great . I live near Washington DC, and it cleared our sidewalk and driveway after our recent snows of 30 and 12 inches. On the first storm I had to pick it up and make a pass or two over the deep snow, but it was still five times faster than shoveling. It has a crank to adjust the chute direction. It is mostly plastic so it isn’t very heavy. It has a nice handle right over the business end so little effort was needed to swing it in an arc through the snow. It even cleared the 40 inch packed snow left by the plow. I don’t think I would pay the $300 asking price for a new one, though. I guess it depends on my back and whether my teenagers are home.

  24. Old Coot says:

    What Toolaremia said. The only snow I see is in my freezer if the door isn’t shut tight, but each and every comment here is darn interesting. Great place, this blog.

  25. BJN says:

    Hey, that’s my snowblower! My dad got it for me and I almost returned it since Salt Lake City snows aren’t deep that often. But I do have a long driveway with a lot of surface to shovel. Two days after getting this present, we got a foot of snow and I gave in to the machine. I was glad to have it.

    I’ve used it three times this year, I shovel when the snow’s less than 4″ deep. If the snow is slushy, the Craftsman has a hard time, but most of our snowfall is fluffy. Works fine and I get over the guilt of owning it by doing my neighbors’ sidewalks while I’m at it.

  26. Bill says:

    Here in central Kentucky, we typically have inconsistent winters. I bought a Troy-Bilt in December 2004 and didn’t get to use it until March 2008. I used it last winter for one snowfall and once this year, although we’ve had a couple of minor snows this year that I could have used it if I felt like it. I bought it mostly just to have if I needed it, like in 1998 when we were supposed to get a “dusting” and we got 18″. I didn’t aim to wear it out… just an insurance policy in case we really do get some snow. I’m at the age where I really don’t need to get a heart attack from shoveling snow.

    Mine is a 5.5 hp, 24″ two-stage. Works great even in fairly icy and/or slushy snow. Last year we had a snow that put down a couple of inches, then some freezing rain and another two or three inches and the snowblower handled it fine. Mine has forward and reverse, electric start, separate travel and auger clutches, and crank operated chute. As mentioned previously, these are very desirable.

    This year I did find out that it doesn’t like to digest wire-reinforced rubber door mats (my elderly neighbor’s). Didn’t hut the machine but it was a PITA to cut out.

    I do run the gas out at the end of the season. No problems so far. I’m sure there are better units but this one wasn’t terribly expensive and so far it has met my needs very well.

    Agree that you need water-resistant clothing – the wind is usually blowing and the fine snow particles get blown right back in your face.

  27. buckshot says:

    We have a ten horse power Noma brand two stage. I love the damned thing. In a pinch a teenager who reeeeally wants to borrow the car will work too, just make sure they do the whole driveway and not just enough to get the car out.

  28. Mr P says:

    http://www.gravelyrapid.com if you really want to spend money 7,500-25,000. and thats before ant attachments. Each attachment run for a over thousand or two. There are cheaper brands out there with less attachments.

    But the best for snow under 4 inches has got to be a brush its uses here in Manhattan were they don’t want to use salt the brush gets the most packed down, slush, ice patches off and what your left with is the cleanest sidewalk you have ever seen in the winter
    I guess there is not much competition in the brush broom market the cheapest I can find a stand alone model for it like 2g

  29. Frank Townend says:

    Great post and responses. I really think the best snowblower is the one that my neighbor has. I don’t know the brand, but he clears my driveway with it.

  30. johnnyp says:

    In Boston area we generally get “wet cement”. Rule of thumb is 8 hp or larger. Anything smaller is a waste. A friend bought a 13 hp a few years ago , I laughed until I saw it run .
    No secrets to keep them running , do the proper maintenance . My machine is 15 years old and runs fine. From what I understand there only a few manufacturers of these machines and most are identical save for paint scheme, options and as of late , quality of mechanicals.

  31. Toolhearty says:

    Not much to add, all very good responses. I live in northern Illinois and use a light Honda single-stage 4-stroke. I prefer the 4-stroke ’cause they’re quieter and I have to get out there pretty early if I want to get it done before leaving for work. It works for 98% of the snowfalls we get. For those infrequent heavy, wet, sloppy, “I really don’t want to have to shovel this crap” kind of snows, I’ve kept a 2-stage, 12HP behemoth (that I refer to as The Bismarck) that I picked up used for cheap years ago.

    Got this tip from a poster in another forum: Cupholders. If you’ve got a lot of snow to clear, a beer or two makes the job a little less miserable. πŸ™‚

  32. Kelley Nelson says:

    It seems like most of the posters are in the ‘serious snow’ parts of the country.

    I’m in central NJ and a 2-stage would just be overkill for me. I picked up a Toro single stage this year and it works very well for the average snowfalls we get in NJ – and even on the very heavy ones we got recently this year.

    I had a 30 inch berm of dense ‘hard slush’ snow from the plow at the end of my driveway and I needed to knock it down with a shovel (Inlet is about a foot high), but the toro chewed through it no problem.

    The rubber scrapers leave a very clean surface too.

    Toro’s top of the line single stage is a 4-cycle, but I went with the 2-cycle for lack of oil changes. The new chute system lets you aim side-to side from the operator’s position without reaching forward – very quick.

    If you have deep, regular snowfall, don’t cheap out, you need a 2 stage. (Ariens, Toro, Honda are great machines) If you have occasional snowfalls in the 3 to 12 inch range you’d do fine with a modern single stage, IMO.

  33. jeff says:

    I’m in MN and I use the single stage flapper type. It is an old Toro S-200 from the late 70s (like this http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2235/2116097951_1d1924bf40.jpg). It’s older than I am and the only thing I’ve ever had to repair on it is the plastic electric start gear. Ebay is the only place that carries parts it seems for something that old. I’ve never had a problem with deep snow. Sometimes though the banks are a little high for it so I have to ram it into them and it will toss it 10 feet. I keep beating on the thing and the 2-stroke keeps kicking butt.

    We get plenty of snow to justify a 2-stage but I’m too cheap to get one when the one I have still works awesome. The fact that I got it for free doesn’t hurt either. When the snow gets really deep though I’ve been known to tap the Cat skid loader (with tracks of course!) for snow duty.

  34. Erich says:

    Just a note tp folks with gravel drives/walks, you really don’t want a single stage, you will spend all summer raking your driveway out of your lawn. I picked up a smallish Ariens 2-stage a few years ago, Just bought a house and 19″ predicted, I went to the orange box to get one quick.

    So far it’s been a work horse, had to adjust the friction wheel this year but other than that no reall issues. Of course the electric start stopped working in year 3 but no big deal, as long as the temps are above zero, it starts on the first or second pull.

    I do wish that the chute angle was easier to adjust, actually need two 1/2″ wrenches, but not a big deal for me as my house if off by itself.

    Kudos to the fols who recommended the silicon lube, I use it before every use on the chute, keeps snow from sticking and clogging.

    I’m still working on adding additional lighting, I’m always blowing in the dark and the included light only shines forward, I’m planning on adding some supplemental LED floods to shine to the sides and maybe one to show where I’m discharging to.

  35. Toolhearty says:

    jeff Says:

    I’m in MN and I use the single stage flapper type. It is an old Toro S-200…

    Those Toro flappers work surprisingly well. I had a elderly neighbor with one and that’s all he ever used, but I hated the sound the thing made so much that I’d try to get out there before him and do his place as well as mine just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it (and I think he knew this πŸ™‚ ).

  36. JohnAspinall says:

    Another Eastern Massachusetts voice here; I will second my neighbors (above) comment about “wet cement”. Almost any snowblower looks good puffing a big plume of light white powder. But when you’ve got 4 inches of heavy wet glop, the temperature is dropping, and you’ve got to move that stuff before it freezes solid; that’s when you separate the machines from the toys.

  37. Toolhearty says:

    Nearly forgot to mention: Up here in the Great White North, we don’t have snowpocalypses, snowmaggedons, or anything else like that. We just have “winter”. Some are worse than others, but no matter how bad it gets, it still just winter. πŸ™‚

  38. Beans says:

    I’m on the third season using an old Ariens 10M7D (from 1968) that I bought on craigslist. It takes a decent amount of maintenance every year but the price was right and it performs better than all but the best of the new ones.

    Best advice I can give everyone with two-stage blowers that hasn’t been said yet is to look into adding rubber strips on your impeller blades. The clearance between the blade and housing is pretty wide on most blowers, reducing their efficiency and increasing the chance that they will clog with slushy snow.

    I went half a season without the rubber strips and it would clog up regularly and didn’t really throw the snow too far. After installation, it was like totally different machine. Now it clogs up maybe once a season, if that and blows snow an amazing distance.

    On the subject of tires and chains, I’ve found that good snow tires are much better both in terms of traction and in protecting your driveway. I’m chose Carlisle X-Trac tires after researching all the options and it was a great upgrade from the original tires and chains.

  39. jeff says:

    Toolhearty Says:

    I had a elderly neighbor with one and that’s all he ever used, but I hated the sound the thing made…

    Yeah, she screams and puffs smoke but I love smelling like 2-stroke exhaust. My wife doesn’t love it as much… or at all really.

  40. Bren R. says:

    As soon as the snow is gone and it’s warm enough to spend any time in the garage (up here in Manitoba), I “summer-ize” the snowblower. It gets a wash and a coat of Turtle Wax (which I find better than a spray-on lube for keeping things moving through it, helps repel water and ice forming on it the next season too), the oil gets drained out, the plug removed, and it gets tipped up on the bell and the bottom inspection plate gets removed. Everything gets cleaned and relubed. Brake parts cleaner and mineral spirits work well for most of it, and I use gas line antifreeze and some elbow grease to clean the rubber muck off the friction plate. Since you can only reach half the plate at a time, holding in the drive lever and pulling the recoil start a few times will spin the plate until you can reach the other half (like hitting a car starter with a manual tranny in gear, but the wheels are off the ground – and yes, do it with the spark plug OUT!). The hex shaft gets a wipe with 30 weight oil, the chains with motorcycle chain lube (sprayed on a rag then wiped on the chains to keep it off the friction plate). Putting it back on the tires, pull out the shear bolts and grease the auger zerks, give the augers a few spins, curse the crappy press-in zerk fittings that pop out, mallet those back into place, replace the shear bolts, oil and plug, cover it and swap positions in the garage with the lawnmower and you’re ready for the next year. Fuel stabilizer in some premium fuel helps too. This one’s a 9.5HP Tecumseh, 27″ swath Craftsman.

  41. Beans says:

    Bren nailed the end-of-season maintenance routine (including the press fit zerks). I’d just add that spray lithium grease is a great choice for lubrication and it pretty much stays where you put it.

    As with other lubes, keep it away from the drive wheel and friction plate!

  42. BorkBorkBork says:

    I found out how truly useless my 5hp 24″ cut 2-stage Noma was in the last “4 inches of glop” storm up here in Boston. I would have saved myself quite a bit of aggravation if I had just shoveled the damn driveway. It really is “go big or go home” with snowblower purchases in the snowy states. 10hp or better, 2 stage, yadda yadda yadda

  43. Mark says:

    Bean, how did you add rubber strips to your impeller blades? I noticed that Toro have a tighter tolerance between the blades and the housing.

  44. Beans says:

    I bought a kit from a guy named Clarence but you could do it yourself if so inclined. All the info is on his site: http://smllengns.tripod.com/ but the basic idea is to drill holes through the end of the impeller blades and use bolts to sandwich the rubber between the blade and a metal reinforcement strip.

    This mod is highly recommended by me and the folks over at Abby’s Guide outdoor power equipment forum (http://www.abbysguide.com/ope/discussions/) where there’s a lot of very knowledgeable people discussing snow blowers.

    You usually have to remove the chute and it does require drilling metal so it’s not for everybody but I would imagine that the average reader of Toolmonger would be up to the task.

  45. Beans says:

    One more thing. If the gap is less than 1/8″ then the impeller kit is probably not going to result in a significant improvement. Unfortunately, there are very few snowblowers out there with that tight of a clearance from the factory.

  46. Beans says:

    Hey BorkBorkBork,

    While 5 HP is a bit on the small side for a snow blower, it should still be serviceable. My old Ariens has a 8 HP Tecumseh and it works great so I know you don’t absolutely “need” 10 HP or better.

    I’d check the clearance of your impeller blades to see if the rubber paddle fix would help. My guess is that the gap is bigger than 1/4″ which would mean you’re wasting some of those 5 HP.

    I’d also consider if dropping a bigger engine on your blower would be a cheaper way to get good performance. You can pick up a 6.5 HP OHV Honda-clone engine from Harbor Freight in Worcester for around $100. That engine design is very good and should give similar performance to a 7-8 HP Tecumseh.

    Of course, this assumes that your Noma is mechanically sound and that you want to keep it. If not, craigslist the day before the next big storm comes through and keep you eye out for an old Ariens with a cast iron gearbox.

  47. BorkBorkBork says:

    Hey Beans,

    The blower is in good shape. I just tuned it up and greased everything according to the manual before the last storm. I do think that I need to further adjust the engine a bit, as it does not seem to be able to go any faster than the first speed without serious labor. I’ll admit that I don’t have much experience with tuning small engines though, and might have my roommate who is a mechanic look at it.

    I’ll take a look at the impeller on my blower to see if the mod is necessary. It looks like a great way to improve an older blower.

  48. Aaron says:


    That would be correct, although I live just a little north of Barrie…

    Alas that restaurant is no longer around, and you might find that Barrie has become a little bit bigger. It now has a population of almost 150,000.

  49. Dr Bob says:

    I use a 1993 18.5 HP v-twin hydrostatic drive garden tractor with a 48 inch two stage blower. rear tires are fluid-filled (for weight) and is has the obligatory chains. I have too much to blow with a walk-behind. Only drawbacks of this machine are that a) it doesn’t have an electric or hydraulic life – the armstrong method gets a bit old and b) the blower drive belts cost $45 to 49.

    My older blower is a single stage, 47 inch blower mounted to a 1973 JD 112 graden tractor – fluid-filled tires and chains. The tractor and the blower doesn’t have enough power to handle the deep stuff the other one can and the single stage can’t throw the snow as far, so this one is backup when the other is broken for some reason.

    Whatever machine you purchase, make sure you stock any drive belts, shear bolts, idler pulleys, etc. so you don’t have to wait for mail order parts. If you get a 4 cycle (recommended for all except the really light duty ones) and live is cold climates, I recommend using a good brand of synthetic oil (I use Mobil 1).

    Proper winter attire (hats, gloves, eye protection, coat) is good too. No scarves or doopy sleeves either. I have a set of wrap-around sunglasses with fit over ny normal glasses, they help get snow/water out of your eyes.

    If your equipment has a battery, invest in a battary maintainter and use it.

  50. Chris says:

    Dr. Bob’s comment reminded me — I wear an old pair of ski goggles when it’s really windy or if I’m blowing really powdery snow. Most of the rest of the time it doesn’t matter, but sometimes you REALLY need that extra layer of eye protection.


  51. DrunkenMessiah says:

    +1 for the tractor attachment option.

    My old dad has a Case 446 hydraulic garden tractor. He had it for years and used it for lawn-mowing and wood-splitting duties (true hydraulic drive gives you endless options for power attachments). He finally broke down one year and bought a used snow thrower attachment. It’s amazing! 48 inches wide and it steals the hydraulic adjustment normally used to adjust the deck height of the mower. This means full articulation. Combined with tire chains and 180 pounds of ballast resting on the rear trailer hitch it is an unstoppable snow-clearing force. The first time he used it my dad had cleared our driveway, all our neighbor’s driveways and had the roads cleared half=way around the block by the time the plow showed up!

  52. Lou says:

    This is all you will ever need. When in doubt, go big….

  53. Kelley Nelson says:

    I think I’d rather have a Zaugg Snow Beast than one of those V8 machines πŸ˜‰


  54. edward D. says:

    I have a sunbeam snow blower DSL 18. It still runs good. It’s yellow and white,with a spotlite on it that still works.
    Can anybody give me any information on it?
    I’m willing to sell it,if any person is interested.

  55. Al says:

    I have a problem. I have a Craftsman 9.5hp snow blower. When I go to use it, it just rides up on top of the snow. Everything is working, but it just tilts back and goes up top. I tried putting a cinder block to weigh it down, but that did not work. Could my skids be positioned wrong? I have them all the way up, and the back one all the way down. Any help would be great.

  56. jimdodd says:

    Read all the interesting situations about snowblowers throwers 2 stage and 1 stage,however ican’t find any suggestions how to get my snowblower up on my patio which is around 7-8 feet high.Is there any one can suggest something I can use ie: plywood bedding to go up 9 steps,the incline is steep.

    Thank You

  57. jim norton says:

    what do guys think i’m restoring my john derre 826 would it be easy to spray paint it or hand brush it

  58. ROGER LAFOND says:

    I have 28″ Craftsman Snowblower with a 305 cc Briggs & Stratton engine which operates with a plastic chute driven by cables. With heavy snow it [chute} tends to wobble out of place. What can I do to solve this problem and prevent the chute from wobbling.

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