Start-of-winter snowblower care
When the leaves start falling, haul out your snowblower and give it a once-over while you still have time to make repairs—before the first snowstorm hits.
Depending on what powers your snowblower, fueling up can be as easy as making sure the extension cord is in good shape or as complicated as mixing two-cycle oil with gas:
If you have a four-cycle gas-powered snowblower (and almost all are) and emptied it at the end of last winter, fill the gas tank with gasoline that's less than a month old. Don't fill the tank to the top—leave about 1/2 inch of space for the gas to expand as it warms up.
If you have a 2-cycle snowblower fueled by a gas/oil mix, add a mix of fresh, unleaded gasoline and fresh, clean two-cycle oil, usually in a 40:1 ratio (1 gallon of gas and 3.2 ounces of oil). Don't use boat or automotive oil. Don't use gas blended with ethanol or methanol, which become acidic and can damage your engine if left in the tank during storage.
If you have an electric snowblower, find the extension cord and replace it if it's damaged. To minimize energy loss between the outlet and the snow blower, the cord should be no more than 100 feet long.
Check for storage damage
Even though you put the machine away in good working order, bumps and thumps can happen in the shed during the summer. Work the chute to the left and right and, if it doesn't rotate fully, adjust the chute crank. Check the auger and discharge chute for errant tennis balls, chipmunk nests or other obstructions.
Check the owner's manual for lubrication points and apply the recommended grease.
Start it up
Move the machine outside and let it equilibrate with the outdoor temperature for 10 or 15 minutes. Then start the machine, listen for rattling or vibrating parts and tighten any loose fasteners.
Engage the auger and check whether it's turning. If it's not, the belt is damaged. Check the manual for instructions for replacing it. If you're uncomfortable handling this repair, take it to a service center.
Change the oil, filters and spark plug
To prolong the life of the engine, change the oil after each winter. Your owner's manual includes detailed instructions, but here's the basic procedure:
Warm up the engine for a few minutes so the oil will drain better and then remove the spark plug to prevent accidental starting.
Place a drain pan under the drain plug and remove the drain plug.
When the flow of oil stops, reinsert the drain plug.
Fill with the recommended oil, taking care not to overfill.
Replace or clean the air filter. Replace the fuel filter, if your machine has one.
Install a new spark plug. After removing the old plug and before inserting the new one, add a few drops of engine oil to the cylinder. While holding a rag over the spark plug hole to prevent spatters, pull the starter rope to spread the oil inside the cylinder.
Fill the tires
If your snow blower has pneumatic tires, check their pressure and fill as needed.
Replace the fuel filter on your snowblower if it's clogged or damaged.
To prevent snowblower auger and shave plate damage, adjust the skid shoes regularly to keep the shave plate ¼-inch high. It's an easy adjustment that you can handle yourself.
This video shows how to adjust a snowblower's auger control.
Learn how to set up and use drift cutters on your snowblower or snow thrower.