By: Author John Cunningham. Published: 2021/06/15 at 10:11 am
Snowblowers can last years; in my shop, I’m still maintaining 15 and 20-year-old models, and they still have a ton of life in the tank. They may be old, but they perform their job as well as ever, and many of my customers are sentimental. When you own a machine that long, you get a little attached to it.
A correctly maintained and stored snowblower can last twenty-plus years before requiring major mechanical repairs. At the very least, changing the engine oil once per season and using a gas stabilizer when storing will help protect your snowblower’s vital components.
In this post, you’ll learn the secret to a long snowblower life (maintenance), and you’ll learn how to store your snowblower. You’ll also learn mechanics and top tips for trouble-free snowblower winter starts.
How To Maintain A Snowblower
How long a snowblower lasts is proportional to how well it’s maintained; lots of maintenance equals a much longer life. Ok… It’s not really a secret, but it is true. I’m a mechanic, and a maintained machine costs less to run over its lifetime; skipping maintenance is foolish economics.
Snowblower maintenance isn’t challenging and doesn’t have to cost a ton; a homeowner can easily take care of it with common sense and some basic tools. Running regular maintenance is proven to prevent breakdowns, and it’s generally cheaper to find a mechanical problem before it finds you.
A large part of good maintenance is simply using your senses, checking over the machine using your eyes and ears to spot potential problems before they develop.
Simple stuff, like checking for oil or gas leaks under the machine, or when operating, are there any unusual sounds or excessive vibration? This type of simple observation is crucial to proper maintenance.
What Type of Maintenance Does Snowblower Need?
Maintenance may be described as ongoing preventive works. Snowblowers are generally reliable machines; to function efficiently and reliably, we’ll need to run the following checks. These checks and tasks aren’t difficult and don’t take much time or effort.
Here’s a rundown on what should be checked before and regularly during the on-season:
- Air filter – Check & clean (if fitted)
- Battery terminals – Check clean and tight (if fitted)
- Battery – Use smart charger when not in use
- Check – Check for loose components
- Check – Check for gas/oil leaks
- Check – Lights working Ok?
Snowblowers obviously spend a good portion of their life just sitting idle; as a result, they are prone to three common issues. Flat batteries, fuel system contamination, and corrosion.
These are all serious problems that will require effort and money to fix, but the good news is they are easily prevented, and they won’t cost a packet either.
I know for many, a flat battery isn’t a concern as many blowers are started not with a battery but off the mains. If that’s the case, I am jealous, and you can skip this section altogether. Batteries hate being discharged and left in that state. They’re designed to be charged and discharged continuously. Leaving a good battery to discharge and sit will kill it.
The solution is a smart battery charger. It’s smart because it senses the battery state of charge and turns on only when needed. The smart charger is, therefore, safe to leave on your snowblower all summer until next season. As it’s a trickle charger, it uses very little power and is not a fire risk.
You can check out the charger I use here on the “Snowblower maintenance tools page.”
Fuel System Contamination
Ethanol gas is ubiquitous now, and I guess we’ll need to embrace it. The problem with this gas is it damages small engine plastic and rubber components. I’m sure engine manufacturers will deal with this problem in time. But for now, we need to protect our kit.
Manufacturers want us to use the best gas we can, but at min, they recommend E10 with 89 octane.
The next issue with ethanol – it doesn’t store very well in open fuel systems. Cars and trucks have closed fuel systems and so don’t present an issue. Small engines have open systems, and this causes the gas to go stale. When the gas goes off, it leaves a residue inside the carburetor, which clogs it.
Removal and cleaning usually do the trick, but on lots of occasions, I’ve had to replace the carburetor. There’s a solution for preventing both of these issues; it’s called a gas stabilizer. It’s an additive for the fuel; when mixed and added to the gas tank, it will protect from carb contamination and the corrosive effects of ethanol.
Check out the “Carburetor cleaning videos” here, they cover mower engines, but their carbs are identical.
Corrosion can be an issue for snowblowers in some states. Salt is, as you know, a metal killer. Salt dragged onto your driveway can cause trouble for your snowblower if not thoroughly cleaned at the end of the season. Moisture and salt will happily eat your snowblower over the storage period.
Power wash (low pressure) at the end of the season and allow dry, then coat the metal components with Dupont Teflon coating (or try WD40). These work to protect from dampness and not just the metal; dampness can affect the electrics of the engine.
Needless to say, the snowblower should always live in a garage or, at the very least, be stored under a breathable cover.
Mechanics Tips For Trouble-Free Snowblower Operation
Snowblowers have a difficult job; moving snow is tough work. On top of that, they must deal with the cold temperatures. For small engines, the lower temperatures present challenges.
Starting a cold gas engine, as you know, requires extra gas. Your car or truck engine does this automatically, or rather the onboard computer does. Your snowblower doesn’t have a computer, and although some use thermostats to auto on the choke, most models still employ a basic cable-operated manual choke and a primer bulb.
It is super important that the choke is properly adjusted; without a choke, your snowblower won’t start in colder temperatures. And that’s because a snowblower engine is at its happiest with fuel to air ratio of 14.7 parts air to 1 part gas (AFR 14.7:1).
At colder temperatures, your snowblowers carburetor sucks in a lot more oxygen; that’s because cold air is denser.
The oxygen-heavy ratio means the mix lacks enough gas to start the engine; applying the choke, as you know, brings that ratio back into line, and the engine fires up.
You may find these posts helpful:
If you’re considering buying a used snowblower, check out “Used snowblower buyers guide.”
Top Snowblower maintenance tips:
Tip number one: As a snowblower is used in cold temperatures, the choke system must be checked ahead of the new season.
Tip number two: Add a gas stabilizer before storing your snowblower for summer. Check out the “Gas stabilizer video” here.
Tip number three: If your blower has a battery, use a smart charger to keep the battery in top condition.
- About the Author
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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.