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How to select a snowblower

When the temperatures start to dip, you know it's time to prepare for the snow. The best tool to have on your side is a snowblower. Here are some tips to help you choose the right one.

Gas or electric snowblower: which is better for you?

When shopping for snowblowers, your main decision will be between an electric snowblower and a gas snowblower. While either type can be a great choice, the best snowblower for your needs will depend on factors such as how large of an area you need to clear and how much annual snowfall your locale typically receives.
Electric snowblowers, as the name would suggest, run off electricity. They can either be corded or cordless. This will typically be your go-to option for clearing snow from smaller areas such as patios, decks, walkways, stairways, and even shorter driveways. Electric snowblowers are also popular in areas that don't get too much snow.
Gas snowblowers tend to be more heavy-duty and are useful for clearing more snow from larger areas, such as multi-car driveways. They come in single-stage, 2-stage, and 3-stage designs that are successively capable of clearing larger amounts of snow.
While you may have a good idea of whether an electric or a gas snowblower is better for your property, you still need to consider which model of each will do the best job. Take a look at each one in detail below.

Types of snowblowers

Here is an overview of the unique benefits and drawbacks of the five main types of snowblowers to help you make a quick and informed choice.

How snowblowers operate

Snowblowers function differently depending on the number of stages involved in their operation. Here's how snow is gathered and thrown by single-stage, 2-stage, and 3-stage snowblowers.

Single-stage snowblowers

Inside of a single-stage snowblower there are two rotating rubber blades that touch all the way down to the ground and gather up snow in the snowblower's path. The blades push the snow into the chute, gathering it and launching it in one single motion.

2-stage snowblowers

In the first stage of a 2-stage snowblower's operation, two serrated, high-resistance augers gather the snow inside of the snowblower. In the second stage, a high-speed turbine pushes the snow up through the ejector.

3-stage snowblowers

A 3-stage snowblower also uses two steel augers to gather and push the snow into the machine. Then, before the snow is pushed into the turbine, it goes through an accelerator. This allows 3-stage snowblowers to launch snow as far as 50 feet away at a rate of about 50% faster than a 2-stage snowblower.

Snowblower features to consider

Snowblowers come with a variety of different features that can be very useful depending on the job you need to do. You may find some of the following features beneficial.

Variable speed

Multi-stage snowblowers often have multiple forward speeds and one or two reverse speeds as well. This can come in handy by preventing clogs when clearing heavy snow. It also provides more control over your pace.

Power steering

For even greater control with 2- and 3-stage snowblowers, choose a model that offers power steering. You'll be able to manoeuvre the snowblower with minimal effort, turning left or right on the dime.

Self-propulsion

Select 2- and 3-stage snowblowers also offer self-propelled drive, which keeps the snowblower moving without you needing to push. It also makes for easier steering and provides greater power in large snow drifts.

Chute control

A snowblower that comes with an adjustable chute, whether controlled by a remote tilt, a crank, or a switch, will allow you to direct the discharged snow exactly where you want it.

Headlight

An LED headlight can be useful when you need to clear snow early in the morning or after the sun has set on those short winter days.

Heated grips

Sometimes, even a good pair of gloves can't keep back the winter chill. Heated handle grips will keep your hands warm during longer snow-clearing sessions.

Accessories

There are numerous additional snowblower accessories that you can get to make clearing snow quicker, more convenient, and more enjoyable. Snow chains, for example, will provide greater traction on icy surfaces. Skid shoes are a must-have on uneven ground, while drift cutters are essential for areas that see heavy snowfall and strong winds.

Using a snowblower properly

Once you've picked the right snowblower, it's time to get to work. Here are some tips for using a snowblower properly and efficiently.
  • Make sure that you are using a snowblower that is sized to your height and that you can manoeuvre effectively.
  • Clear slopes in an up and down manner. Moving across the snow face can damage the snowblower.
  • If you are using a single-stage snowblower, try to clear the snow as soon as possible, before it has a chance to compact.
  • For smaller driveways, balconies, or walkways, use a single-stage snowblower
  • For driveways that can accommodate about two to four cars, use a 2-stage snowblower.
  • For large driveways that can accommodate over four cars, use a 3-stage snowblower.

Pro tip

Never finish using your snowblower on snow that is dirty from road traffic. Always plan to end off with clean snow. This will effectively clean the interior of your snowblower and help prevent corrosion.

Proper maintenance

Ensuring that your snowblower stays in good operational condition for many years to come requires proper maintenance. Follow these tips and you'll keep your maintenance issues to a minimum.
  • Do not attempt to use a single-stage snowblower on snow banks, as this may cause damage to the rubber auger.
  • For gas-powered snowblowers, you'll need to inspect the spark plugs at the beginning of the season, replacing them if needed. Gas-powered snowblowers also require an annual oil change.
  • Keep extra drive belts and shear pins on hand to ensure that your snowblower can always run when you need it the most.

Storage tips

When it comes time to put your snowblower away, proper storage will help keep it in good condition and ready to work next season. Here are three important tips to take note of.
  • Store your snowblower away from sources of moisture to keep corrosion at bay. A snowblower cover can help.
  • As winter winds down, try to use up the rest of the gas so that you can store your snowblower with an empty or near-empty tank.
  • Make sure the motor is empty before storing your snowblower. You can do so by allowing it to run until it shuts off, repeating until the motor doesn't start anymore.

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