With the arrival of spring, it’s time to start thinking about storing winter items such as snowblowers for the season.
A lot of snowblower owners get through the part of the owner’s manual that covers how to operate these machines, but often neglect the section that deals with snowblower maintenance, says Gavin Duong, owner and founder of On Spot Repair, based in Stouffville, Ontario.
That can be especially damaging after winters that demand a lot from these machines, repairing these snowblowers can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Electric snowblowers, either corded or battery-powered, which suit smaller outdoor spaces and less snowfall, are pretty much maintenance-free. But if you’re looking at clearing snow more than a foot deep, you’ll need a heavier, gas-powered version.
Lack of care can mean costly repair
Sitting idle and improper storage are the leading causes of problems with gas snowblowers. The most common reason snowblower owners seek services from Alberta Small Engine Services Ltd. in Edmonton is clogged carburetors, says Tim Letourneau, who works in sales and service for the company.
That’s usually the result of gas being left in the tank during the off-season. A sticky residue gets left over as the gas evaporates, which can clog-up the carburetor and doesn’t allow the engine to start. Letourneau says it depends on the carburetor, but the cost to clean one is around $130 and rebuilding or replacing it costs even more, so a little preventative maintenance goes a long way to ensuring your snowblower functions properly and lasts for years.
Snowblower maintenance tips
- Use the right products in your gas tank. When you fill up the tank with gas at the start of the season— which should be premium fuel, with no ethanol, such as 89 octane and higher, and which will burn cleaner in the engine —make sure you include fuel stabilizer. Add this to the gas can when you fill it up. This will ensure your snowblower runs cleanly, preventing clogs in the tank, fuel lines, injectors and carburetor.
- Empty the gas tank when the season is over. “The most important thing is to drain the fuel from the tank and run the carburetor dry, then shut off the gas valve,” Duong says. That’s especially important if you filled the tank with regular gas, he adds. Regular gas contains ethanol, which can separate after three to six months inside your fuel tank. Ethanol, a type of alcohol, can cause corrosion inside the carburetor.
- Store your snowblower properly.
- It’s important to keep the snowblower out of the elements when you store it. The electric starter is sensitive to moisture. Duong says he gets a lot of calls about snowblower starters not working because it was exposed to moisture during storage.
- If you’re storing it in the garage, don’t cover it with anything, since that traps the moisture. “The less moisture, the better,” he says. If you’re going to cover it, buy a snowblower cover, as opposed to a plastic tarp, since covers breathe better, reducing the likelihood of moisture buildup.
- Buy a rubber mat to park the snowblower on, since the machine can leak fuel.
- Keep the snowblower away from fire hazards such as water heaters, furnaces or clothes dryers. Emptying the fuel for storage also helps to lower the risk of fire.
- Check the spark plug. Disconnect it from the lead, and look for any damage, or salt and grit, and replace it if there’s buildup or if the machine’s engine is misfiring or having trouble starting.
- Check the belts on the engine for wear and tear and replace if necessary.
- Change the oil. First, start the engine to get the oil flowing. Then turn the engine off, drain the oil and fill the machine back up with new oil.
- Wash the machine. This is usually most easily done over the spring or summer and will remove any salt, sand and grime, to help reduce buildup on the machine’s moving parts.
An ounce of prevention …
When a driveway is covered in snow, no one wants to learn their snowblower doesn’t start or won’t work properly, forcing them to grab a shovel instead. Prevention is worth a pound of cure and, with a few simple steps to store and properly maintain the snowblower yourself, or by calling in professionals for a yearly tune-up, you can avoid costly repairs, increase the life of your investment and save your back from manually shovelling snow with a shovel.
Disclaimer: This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.