In a recent post, we discussed the importance of off-season lawn mower maintenance. Since we are currently in that seasonal limbo we call "fall", where 80-degree days and snow are both in play, we thought it would also be a good time to discuss some snow blower tips to ensure that your snow blower is ready for the season. We'll even include some basic operating tips that can help prevent injuries to operators or bystanders.
Basic Snow Blower Safety
Like a lawn mower, a snow blower has fast-moving mechanical parts that can easily cause injury if you are not paying attention to what you are doing.
For instance, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), one recent year saw nearly 600 finger amputations in snow blower accidents. Further, there are nearly <i>6,000</i> emergency room visits attributed to snow blowing accidents. Every. Single. Year.
The lesson here: Treat your snow blower with respect and pay attention to what you are doing at all times.
To that end, here are some basic operating tips for snow blowing.
Snow Blowing Best Practices for Safety
Some of these tips might seem a bit remedial to you, but they always bear repeating.
If it's cold enough to be blowing snow, it's cold enough to wear warm clothing. Be sure to choose items that allow a good range of motion and keep your line of vision open. While you'll want to keep your head and face protected from the elements, cinching a hood so tight around your face that it obstructs your peripheral visions is just an accident waiting to happen.
Make sure you boots are also warm and that they provide good traction. Snow-blowing conditions also tend to be slip-and-fall conditions, so be prepared.
When it comes time to refill your snow blower's gas tank, refill it outside! Don't refill it in the garage or shed. Also, never refill the tank when the engine is still running or hot. All it takes is just a little bit of gasoline on a hot engine to have one heck of a fire... and fast.
You should also keep your gas can outdoors and at a safe distance from your house. Keep it sealed when you are not using it; this can prevent accidents. If you are worried about it freezing in winter, don't. In northern climates, the air temps, not wind-chill, would have to get to about -70degrees. If it's that cold out, it is likely not snowing and, even if it is, you shouldn't be out blowing snow in temps that cold, anyway.
Don't leave your snow blower running in an enclosed space. This is for the same reason you don't leave your vehicle running in an enclosed space: carbon monoxide. It's a silent killer.
Handling the Snow Blower
This might seem basic, but we would be remiss if we didn't say it: keep your hands and feet away from moving parts... always! If the snow blower gets clogged, turn it off and use a stick or shovel handle or some other reaching device to break up the blockage.
Pro Tip: Using cooking spray on the impeller, auger, and chute </i>before<i> you start snow blowing can help to reduce clogs even in the wettest snow.
Finally, watch where you have your discharge chute positioned. Never point it in the direction of bystanders or nearby objects. On occasion, solid objects (e.g., rocks) can get picked up and thrown out of the chute with significant enough velocity to cause injury or property damage.
Snow Blower Maintenance
One of the best things about snow blowers is that they really don't require a whole lot of upkeep. Still, as with any investment, you'll want to take proper care of it to ensure productive use for many years to come. Following these simple tips should lead to easy starts at the beginning of every new season.
At the end of winter, which can usually be mid-spring in these parts, when it's time to finally put the snow blower away, you'll want to drain the gas from the tank. An alternative is to add a gas stabilizer. This ensures you are starting with the best quality gasoline as the next season commences. While you are at it, drain the engine oil, as well. Then add fresh oil. Don't wait until the start of the next season to add the oil, because it can be too easy too forget when that time comes.
Spark plugs should be replaced regularly and every other year seems to be the optimal time to do it. That said, spark plugs are cheap and changing them annually never hurt any snow blower ever.
Take some time to lubricate the moving parts, which includes the auger, the impeller, and the drive mechanism.
Check your tires for wear and make sure they are properly inflated. Tires can wear slowly over time, so it can be difficult to notice that they are wearing. At the end of every season, give them a look over and if the years have taken their toll, consider replacing them.
Finally look for any drive belts that are stretched or worn. Fraying is a telltale sign of wear. Replace any belts that have seen better days. The last thing you want is for one to go in the middle of a storm that is dropping a foot of snow, because getting out to buy a replacement at that time will be next to impossible.
When the snow starts to really fly, having a snow blower gives you great power against the elements. With great power, however, comes great responsibility. By following some of the basic tips for snow blower maintenance and operation listed above, you can be confident no matter what the forecast predicts.
Of course, if you are looking for commercial snow removal services, we'd sure appreciate it if you would give E.P.M. LawnScape and Supply an opportunity. Simply contact us online or call us at (517) 990-0110 today!