By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2021/06/24 at 8:35 pm
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 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.
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; 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 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 damage to the snow thrower.
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 snowblowers, the more common two-stage and the three-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.
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, efficiently guiding the snow to the blower for processing.
Main distinguishing features of snowblowers:
A large metal auger is the main distinguishing feature of a snowblower.
They also have:
- Large engine
- Driven wheels
- Sophisticated chute controls
A Snowblower For Gravel Driveways
You already know you need a two or three-stage snowblower. A snowthrower 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; we’ll look at exactly that next.
Adjusting the Skid Shoes
We’ll need to lift the bin up to adjust your snowblower so that it rides over the gravel without plowing gravel. To do that, we’ll rest 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:
Check and pump both tire pressures (about 20 psi)
Move machine to a flat, level surface
Place a 1″ shim on the ground (a piece of measured timber)
Park the scraper bar on the timber
Loosen both skid shoe bolts, both sides
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, some things 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 need to replace the shear pins.
It’s not a big issue, but you should be aware of it. 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 may find the following pages helpful:
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.