November Project: How to Pick and Maintain a Snow Thrower

To those of us living in the northern states, fall means winter is waiting around the corner with three feet of sticky, heavy snow.  If you live in a climate with heavy snowfall, going into the winter season with nothing but plastic shovels is like mowing a football field with a couple of scissors.  Snow throwers are easy on the arms and back as well as much faster.  Knowing which snow thrower is right for you, however, is not so obvious.  Choosing the right thrower will make clearing your driveway easier and not clear out your wallet.

Know What You Need
If you live in a small house with no driveway and a 6-foot walkway, you don’t need a V8 snow thrower that hurls snow a half-mile.  Snow throwers come in single and two-stage models, gas or electric.  For the smallest workloads, use an electric single-stage snow thrower.  Clearing swaths 20-22 inches wide, these are perfect for flatter paved driveways.  If you’re driveway is hilly then a single-stage gas-powered snow thrower is recommended.  For longer, hilly and unpaved driveways a two-stage gas-powered snow thrower is necessary.  Two-stage throwers are self-propelled and don’t make contact with the ground, so you won’t have to worry about sucking up gravel and hurling it through a car window.  Single-stage throwers make contact with the pavement but need more user-force to push.

Take It For A Test Drive
Odds are it won’t be as exciting as test-driving a brand new vehicle, but it is important nonetheless.  Many stores have floor models for their products so feel free to try them out.  Get a sense for how heavy they are and be sure to note how tall the handlebars are.  Push it around and see how well it rolls and turns.  Also, be sure to check out the chute controls.  After all, you don’t want to be hurling snow across the neighborhood or back onto your own driveway (doh!).

Maintain Your Snow Thrower
Gas-powered snow throwers require regular engine maintenance just as you vehicle’s engine does.  For two-cycle engines, gas must be mixed with oil to fuel the motor.  Adding only gas can burn up your thrower’s engine.  Four-cycle engines run on just regular gasoline but still need oil so be sure to check before each use.  Each year you should also check the air filters to ensure they aren’t dirty, which will cause the engine to perform poorly.  Also, be sure to spray WD-40 on the machines moving parts.

**Safety Precautions**
If you own a gas-powered snow thrower, start it up outside to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  Gas-powered throwers can also get pretty loud, so be sure to wear earplugs.  Do not wear loose scarves, pants, jackets or any clothing that can get caught in the machinery.  NEVER use your hands or feet to clear a clog in the machine.  Turn off the engine (or unplug an electric blower) before attempting to clear any blockages and always use the clearing tool that came with your thrower.  If a clearing tool did not come with your blower, use a wooden broom handle for clogs.

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