Winter's coming: Tips for preparing your snowblower, parts to replace

The best time to get out the snowblower is long before the first flakes fall. In autumn, flip through the owner's manual. Read and follow all of the maintenance tips. In addition, we'll provide some tips to help you prepare your snowblower for the battle against Old Man Winter.

If you have a gas snowblower, hopefully you remembered to drain the gas and oil after last winter. If not, drain both now. One of the main reasons to drain the gas after winter is to keep it from draining and ending up in the oil reservoir. Gas in the reservoir could cause an explosion. Refill with the gas grade and oil weight recommended by the manufacturer. Also remember to refill the oil reservoir and gas tank based on the manufacturer's mix guidelines. Until you're ready to use it to clear snow, don't fill the gas tank full.

Most manufacturers recommend that the sparkplug also be changed annually. Use insulated tools to reduce the risk of shock. Before you fire up the snowblower and charge at your driveway, give it a chance to warm up, redistributing the newly-replaced oil. Be sure to change the oil after the first five hours of use when you have a new snowblower. During the break-in period, metal dust and shavings can end up in the oil. After that, change the oil after every 50 hours. Oil is the lifeblood of any machine. Simple maintenance is essential for snowblower motors.

The nuts and bolts

In your snowblower manual, you'll see the snowblower parts list. It'll include nuts and bolts. Put auger shear bolts on your shopping list; they help keep the gearbox from breaking when the auger comes into contact with hard objects, such as rocks. Tighten all the nuts and bolts. All that vibration as the machine clears away the snow loosens them.

While you are looking at the nuts and bolts, it's a good time to look at the snowblower belts. Some models may have only one. You'll have to loosen the nuts and bolts of the shield covering the belt or belts. Check for damage, including cracks and burns. Does it look shredded or otherwise worn? Replace it. Take care to install the belt correctly or it'll be shredded as soon as you turn on the snowblower.

If a snowblower's auger hits cement or asphalt, it'll be damaged. Skid shoes keep the auger lifted off the ground. They take the wear and tear of ground friction, saving the auger. Skid shoes are way less expensive to purchase and replace than the auger. Check for wear before winter. Replace as needed. Also remember to check the skid shoes after each use.

Do one last circle and get the little things prepared for your snowblowing season. Have plenty of sheer pins on hand. Check any snowblower attachment you use, such as a light. If you have an electric snowblower, make sure the plugs or generator is in working order; the snowblower won't work without electricity. With just a little effort, you'll have your snowblower ready to handle anything Old Man Winter dishes out.

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