How to Get a Snow Blower Ready for Winter

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If you're like many homeowners who tired of the long winter snow season, when spring finally arrived you just put your snow blower away and forgot about it. But as cold weather approaches again, you'll want that snow blower ready to work before the first snowfall. That leaves you with two choices -- you can simply hope that your blower starts the first time you need it, or you can perform some basic maintenance to prepare your snow blower for another winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh gas
  • 5W-30 oil
  • Old coffee can or drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Plastic storage container with lid
  • Spark plug and spark plug wrench
  • Wire brush
  • Spark plug gap tool
  • Screwdrivers and wrenches
  • Remove the wire from the spark plug before doing any work on the machine. The wire and boot usually are in plain site either on top of the machine or on the back. Pull the boot off and away from the spark plug to eliminate any chance for the engine to start accidentally.

  • Start by changing the snow blower's oil. The oil drain pipe typically is either on the back or side of the machine. Just unscrew the end and tip the machine to allow the oil to drain out into an old coffee can or oil drain pan.

  • Add new oil (usually 5W-30, but check your owner's manual) by inserting a funnel into the hole where the dipstick goes and pouring the fresh oil in. Pause occasionally when you're adding the new oil to insert the dipstick and check how much oil is in the machine. You only want to fill up the "Full" mark on the dipstick -- overfilling with oil can cause major damage to your engine.

  • Drain the old gas from the tank since gas left to sit for months won't work well. Some machines have a drain valve on the bottom of the gas tank, but if your machine doesn't, removing the rubber gas line on the bottom of the tank will allow the gas to drain out. Be careful; the gas will come out fast when your remove the fuel line. Store the old gas in a heavy-duty plastic container that can be tightly sealed for disposal later. When the snow blower's tank is empty, don't forget to close the drain valve or replace the fuel line, then add fresh gas.

  • Remove the spark plug, using a spark plug wrench (there's usually one in a socket wrench set). Alternatively, you could use a crescent wrench or locking pliers on the metal part of the plug to remove it.

  • Inspect the spark plug for damage and wear. If the electrodes are not corroded and you find no signs of cracks on the ceramic body or other damage, you can reuse the plug. Just clean the contacts with a wire brush and check the gap with a gap tool before reinstalling the plug. Be careful not to over-tighten it. If the plug is heavily corroded or has any signs of damage, replace it with an exact replacement (plugs come in a range of sizes and are numbered for identification). Gap the new plug according to the snow blower manufacturer's specifications, then install the plug. Leave the spark plug wire disconnected until your maintenance is complete.

  • Check the belts, if your machine has them, to be sure they aren't cracked or frayed. Two-stage snow blowers have two belts, one to turn the wheels and one to drive the auger and throw the snow. You may need to remove a metal or plastic cover or sheath to see the belts. If there are signs of wear you should replace them, but if they aren't cracked, just replace the cover.

  • Check the auger assembly to see if it's a sealed unit (no lubrication required) or needs to be lubricated. If it does require lubrication, use the oil or grease recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Check the treads or the air in the tires. Tires can go soft or even flat over the summer, so you want to get them properly inflated. If your machine has treads instead, make sure the tracks are aligned and move freely.

  • Reconnect the spark plug wire to the spark plug. Start the snow blower and let it run for a few minutes to confirm the engine is running properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure the wire to the spark plug isn't attached when you're working on the auger assembly.

References

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