Modern snowblowers are incredibly powerful machines with many features and options. In comparison to the backbreaking chore of clearing snow by hand, a snowblower can clean your driveway and sidewalk quickly, and it has the added bonus of being pretty fun to use. But these large machines can also be dangerous and cumbersome if you don’t know what you’re doing. This guide will help you understand how to use a snowblower safely and efficiently for the best results.
Know Your Machine
First and most importantly, familiarize yourself with your equipment. Most snowblowers today are self-propelled, and it’s crucial to know your machine’s handling characteristics before you get started. Spend some time reading the manufacturer’s safety and operating instructions, and do you homework on the machine’s features and controls. Before tackling your first huge snow removal job, practice on a smaller area until you’re comfortable operating your machine.
Snowblowers use an auger, which looks like a large coil or series of attached blades, to pick up and throw snow. Even the smallest machine has very sharp augers and impellers that spin between 1,200 and 2,000 rpm. Before you begin, make sure your auger and the snow chute are clear of any debris. Never use your hand to clear away chunks of snow or any other clogs — this is one of the most common ways to injure yourself when you use a snowblower. Instead, use a specialized clearing tool or broom handle to remove any blockages.
As with any other piece of motorized equipment, check the fuel and fluid levels before you start, topping off any low fluids before you begin. For an electric snowblower, use only heavy-gauge extension cords. Plan to wear safety gear, including gloves and ear protection, at all times. Select shoes or boots designed for extra grip in rough terrain. In a pinch, an old pair of golf cleats will provide extra traction in slippery conditions.
Efficiently clearing snow is also about timing. If a storm is expected to bring several inches of snow, plan to wait until it’s over. Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to clear again in an hour. Conversely, if a large blizzard is in the forecast, plan to clear frequently to prevent snow from building up beyond the capacity of your snowblower.
Chart a Course
Before you use a snowblower, survey the area you’re clearing and plan what path you want to follow. Look for any obstructions or obstacles in your way, moving anything that could impede your progress or damage your machine.
Here a few other key pointers:
- Aim the chute so that you’re blowing the snow in the same direction as the wind.
- Try not to direct your snow to where a neighbor or snowplow will have to clear it later.
- Avoid blocking sight lines of drivers by not piling the snow too high near the street.
- Be conscious of your landscaping — too much snow on top of plants and shrubs can crush and seriously damage your greenery.
- Don’t allow an excess of snow buildup against your house — as warmer weather melts the snow, this could cause issues with excess water around your foundation and walkways.
Chances are you won’t be able to clear all the snow in your way with a snowblower. For stairs, tight corners and other similar areas you still need to move that snow the old-fashioned way.
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As a freelance automotive writer, I create articles, how-to guides, web content and white papers for online magazine site and automotive companies. I passionately believe that cars and motorcycles should be appreciated for the works of art they are, and fantasize about owning a white Ducati 899 Panigale to display in my living room. I am currently the Corvette expert at About.com, cover alternatively-fueled vehicles and technology at HybridCars.com, and hold the imaginary title of Formula One test driver on the back roads surrounding my Oregon home.