How Do I Use My New Snowblower Safely?
I received a new two-stage snowblower for Christmas, but I have to say I'm a little intimidated by how powerful it is. What do I need to know to use it safely? —Nick Orth, Syracuse, N.Y.
I'm actually glad to hear that you're a bit scared of your new present. You have good reason to treat it with cautious respect. Each year, more than 5,000 people end up in the emergency room, many with amputated fingers, because they got careless and unthinkingly reached into the chute or auger to clear a clog.
My advice? Don't ever do that!
The only safe way to clear a clogged snowblower is to first turn off the engine and then dislodge the ice and snow with a stick or a clean-out tool, like the one I'm using at left (available at snowblowersdirect.com). It comes with a clip that mounts on top of the snowblower body, so the tool is always right at hand when I need it.
But there are also things you can do to avoid getting clogs in the first place. Start by spraying the chute, the impeller, and the auger with Snow-Jet, a lubricant that keeps wet snow from sticking to the cold metal. Spray three coats on your new machine now, letting each coat dry before applying the next; then spray those surfaces again before heading out to throw some snow. Just make sure that the lubricant doesn't get on the belt that powers the impeller.
You can also minimize clogs with good snow-blowing technique. When working in wet, clog-prone snow, crank up the throttle all the way to keep everything moving up the chute, take smaller bites out of the snowpack, and maintain a steady pace so that the snow doesn't get a chance to solidify into ice.
— This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook