Can Snowblowers Be Used On Gravel?

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 type of snowblowers and what type snowblower is suitable for a gravel drive. You'll learn how to adjust a snowblower skid shoes for gravel use and you'll also learn some useful snowblower care tips.

Mower gas cap

Vented Gas Cap

Types of snowblower

Although all snowblowers move snow they're not all the same. There are three types of snowblower. 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

Snow throwers move snow in 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 man power.

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 snowthrower on gravel will cause stones to fly possibly causing injury, property damage and damaging the snowthrower.

Snowblower

A snowblower is a larger machine altogether capable of moving several foot 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 it's 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
Vented mower gas caps

Vented gas caps

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.

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 ploughing 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.

Any thing 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:

  • Check and pump both tire pressures (about 20 psi)
  • Move machine to a flat, level surface
  • Place a 1″ shim on the ground (piece of measured timber)
  • Park the scraper bar on the timber
  • Loosen both skid shoe bolts
  • 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.

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 something you should be aware of. You can check it out here "Should auger spin freely".

Snowblower 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".

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Auto Technician and Writer at Lawnmowerfixed | Website

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Lawnmowerfixed.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write "How to" articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of mechanical repairs, from lawn mowers to classic cars.