Can Snowblowers Be Used On Gravel? Read this first

My snowblower makes me smile because I remember a time when I had to shovel my gravel drive, not fun!  But you are correct to ask about gravel surfaces, not all snowblowers are suitable.

Two-stage snowblowers are perfectly capable of clearing a gravel drive. However, the scraper bar must not contact the gravel surface. Adjusting the skid shoes will prevent stone-throwing.

In this post, you’ll learn about the different types of snowblowers and what type of snow blower is suitable for a gravel drive. You’ll learn how to adjust snowblower skid shoes for gravel use and you’ll also learn some useful snowblower care tips.

Types of Snowblower

Although all snowblowers move snow they’re not all the same. There are three types of snowblowers. Well two actually, because the entry model is not a snowblower at all, it’s actually a snow “thrower”.

And snowthrowers are a little different when compared to their snowblower cousins.

Snowthrower

Snowthrowers move snow in a single motion. They employ a rotating rubber auger, known as a paddle to gather snow and “throw it” up the chute.

The paddle serves another important function though, and this is where it’s very different from a snowblower, it helps propel the machine forward. Snowthrower wheels aren’t driven, propulsion relies on the paddle and of course manpower.

This size machine is fit to process unto about six inches of snow, more than that will require a machine with a lot more Oomph – a Snowblower.

Main distinguishing features of snowthrower:

  • Rubber paddle (auger)
  • Smaller than snowblower
  • Wheels not driven
  • Less powerful than snowblower
  • Often electric
  • Not suitable for all surfaces

Snowthrowers are not suitable for gravel driveways. Using a snow thrower on gravel will cause stones to fly possibly causing injury, property damage, and damaging the snowthrower.

Snowblower

A snow blower is a larger machine altogether capable of moving several feet of snow depending on engine size. It moves snow using a metal auger. But snowblowers don’t stop there, they further process the snow by blowing it up the chute, hence its name “snowblower”.

There are two types of snowblower, the more common two-stage, and the three-stage.

Two-stage

The two-stage is by far the more common type of snowblower. It uses a full-width metal auger to collect snow and direct it to the blower at the rear of the auger housing. The blower further processes it by blowing the snow through the chute as far as 50 feet or more. 

Three-stage

The three-stage is designed for larger drives and can process heavier more compact type snow. It employs a blower and auger just the same as the two-stage. However, the three-stage adds a screw auger upfront, which efficiently guides the snow to the blower for processing.

Main distinguishing features of snowblowers:

  • Metal auger
  • Large engine
  • Driven wheels
  • Sophisticated chute controls

A Snowblower For Gravel Driveways

You already know you need a two or three-stage snowblower. A snowthrowers rubber paddle isn’t suitable. When used on gravel it becomes a missile launcher. A snowblower is suitable simply because the collection height of the auger housing is adjustable. Meaning the operator can easily adjust the ride height of the bin.

Scraper bar

A really low ride height for smooth concrete or asphalt is perfect but on gravel, we’ll need to lift that bin up a touch. Adjusting is a simple process and we’ll look at exactly that, next.

Adjusting the Skid Shoes

To adjust your snowblower so that it rides over the gravel without plowing gravel we’ll need to lift the bin up. To do that we’ll be resting the leading edge of the bin, known as the scraper bar, on a block of premeasured wood.

Anything between one inch and one and a quarter inch shim works great for gravel drives. We’ll then lower the skid shoes to the ground.

The process is as follows:

Inflate tire

Check and pump both tire pressures (about 20 psi)

Level ground

Move machine to a flat, level surface

Timber shim

Place a 1″ shim on the ground (a piece of measured timber)

Timber shim under snow blower bin

Park the scraper bar on the timber

Loosen skid shoes

Loosen both skid shoe bolts, both sides

Lower the skid shoes

Lower the skids making sure they are level and tighten

That’s it, you did it. Remove the timber and rock the machine side to side, it shouldn’t rock. If it does, somethings off and you’ll need to recheck.

Snowblower shoes

Skid shoes wear out but most can be flipped over, meaning they have a second useable side. I prefer tough polymer shoes, they are kinder to surfaces and don’t tend to dig into the surface slamming you on the dashboard.

If you need to adjust for a smoother surface such as asphalt concrete etc., go for a quarter to one eight-inch shim. If you own a snowblower, you’ll eventually hit something hard and you’ll need to replace the shear pins. It’s not a big issue but it’s something you should be aware of. You can check it out here “Should auger spin freely”.

Snowblower Care Tips

I’m a mechanic and I’ve been fixing small engine yard care machinery for years. If you do these simple things your snowblower will repay you with years of dutiful service.

Top snowblower care tips:

  • Use gas stabilizer in fuel tank all year round
  • Check oil level with every gas fill
  • Change oil every year
  • Pump tires evenly
  • Level the skid shoes every year
  • Remove wheels and apply anti-seize  to axles
  • Apply polymer spray or WD40 to chute, auger and auger housing

You can find links to all these products here on the “Snowblower maintenance tools page”.