What the best snow blower has

  • Sufficient power. Whether you need a snow blower for light powder or heavy snowfall, your machine must be strong enough to efficiently scoop the snow and throw it clear of your driveway or sidewalk. Be realistic in terms of your expected snowfalls so that you don't wind up with a snow blower that can't handle the load.
  • Easy pushing and steering. Snow blowers no longer need to be cumbersome machines you wrestle down the drive. A well-built snow blower will track in a straight line, not slip on an icy driveway and turn tight enough to maneuver smoothly around your property. While always important, good handling is especially critical with larger machines.
  • Accessible controls. Controls should be within easy reach, and you should be able to adjust them without removing your gloves. The best snow blowers also let you change the direction of the chute using handlebar-mounted controls without stopping the machine.
  • A reliable starter. Cold temperatures can often make it difficult to start gasoline-powered engines. That's why the best snow blowers are equipped with electric starters.
  • Well-designed chute and auger. The best augers cleanly sweep down to the blacktop and move snow through the machine without clogging. The chute should include adjustments on how high and in which direction to shoot the snow.
  • Multiple speeds. More than one setting is important to shift between speeding through light snowpack and slowing down for heavy snowdrifts. The best models have a variable-speed transmission for precise control.
  • Durable construction. The best snow blowers are built to last many seasons, running reliably in brutal winter conditions without rusting or breaking down.
  • Warranty coverage. Select a snow blower with at least a two-year warranty and a reliable brand reputation. Warranties for commercial usage is typically shorter, and commercial use can void the warranty on some models.

Know before you go

Where will you store the snow blower? Snow blowers range in size from small units that fit against the garage wall to large machines the size of a riding lawn mower. If your storage space is tight, look for a snow blower with a folding handle and an overall compact design.

How level is your property? Standard snow blowers rely mostly on your effort to move forward, so tackling icy slopes can be challenging. If your driveway is sloped, consider a snow blower with a strong self-propelled drive system.

Clear clogs only with a tool or broom handle. Snow occasionally freezes in the snow blower and must be removed before you can continue on. Some snow blowers include a special clearing tool to scoop out clogs; you can also purchase a tool separately or use a broom handle in a pinch. Don't ever stick your hand into a snow blower to clear a clog -- this is one of the most common types of snow blower injuries. Turn the machine off before you attempt to loosen packed snow.

Most snow blowers require ear protection. Whether gas-powered, which are the loudest, or electric, experts recommend earmuffs or earplugs to protect your hearing from a snow blower's damaging decibels.

Use only a heavy-gauge extension cord. For an electric snow blower, you'll need to purchase a separate power cord that could be 100 to 150 feet long, depending on your property size. Use only a 12-gauge or heavier extension cord that's rated for outdoor use.

Snow blower maintenance. Beyond keeping the engine tuned up, every snow blower needs occasional maintenance. Periodically check the tires and drive belt, and keep extra shear pins on hand; they protect the machine by breaking when the auger hits something hard. Gas snow blowers need to be made ready for summer by running it until it is empty, or filling it with fuel and adding a fuel stabilizer, depending on its manufacturer's recommendations. You should also change the oil, inspect and clean or replace the spark plug, and clean and lubricate the machine, applying a light coat of oil to areas that might rust.

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