11/13/2019 6:00:00 AM
Do you know when to change your snow blower oil?
Why oil changes are important
One of oil's unique properties is that the degradation and contamination of engine oil is unavoidable regardless of its use in light, normal or extreme conditions. Its quick degradation means it's important to change regularly, because operating with dirty or degraded oil puts an engine at risk for inefficient operation, hefty repair bills, or even a trip to the junkyard. On the other hand, performing regular engine oil changes helps ensure reliability, strong performance and protection of your investment.
Detailed instructions for changing the oil in your snow blower are listed in the engine manual for your unit, but we condensed those steps into easy-to-understand highlights below. Changing snow blower oil is easy and inexpensive, but remember to first consult the instructions and safety information outlined in the engine manual for your unit before attempting the procedure on your own.
How to change engine oil:
- Run the engine for a couple minutes to warm the oil.
- Stop the unit, remove the key and move the unit to a flat, level surface.
- Wait for hot parts to cool, then disconnect the spark plug wire from the engine.
- Position an oil drain pan below the oil drain plug.
- Remove the oil drain plug and allow oil to drain.
- When oil stops draining, reinstall the drain plug and tighten.
- Remove the cap from the oil fill port and fill your engine with the correct oil type (usually 5W-30 for snow blowers) and quantity. Click here to buy snow blower oil.
- Reinstall the cap / dipstick.
- Remove the dipstick and confirm the oil level is adequate, according to the markings on the dipstick.
- Reinstall the cap/ dipstick and reconnect the spark plug wire to the spark plug.
- Start the unit and run the engine for a few minutes and observe the drain plug area to verify no oil is leaking.
Continue reading to learn what happens to oil throughout its lifecycle in your snow blower engine.
Small engine repair
Cars, trucks, motorcycles and outdoor power equipment – anything with an internal combustion engine needs regular maintenance. This equipment requires different maintenance throughout all times of the year, with one of the most important items on that checklist being completing regularly scheduled oil changes.
Good news for consumers is that small engine oil changes are much less involved than that of a vehicle, meaning there’s no excuse to neglect your snow blower engine.
What engine oil does
Oil is sensitive, and it has a very important purpose. For starters, oil’s viscosity, or slippery properties, allow the tight-fitting, precision engineered parts of an engine to slide past each other at thousands of revolutions per minute. Not only does oil allow that movement to occur, but quality, clean and fresh oil lubricates those fast-moving, intricate parts so the friction between them is reduced, requiring less effort from your engine and making it more efficient.
Oil also acts as a heat transfer. After cycling through the engine, it carries damaging heat away from those fast-moving parts and into the oil sump where it cools before recycling through the system.
First snow blower oil change
All brand new engines require an initial oil change that comes much sooner than the regular oil change intervals. The reason oil becomes extremely contaminated during an engine’s first few hours of use, or its “break-in” period, is because certain engine components, though engineered and manufactured to precise tolerances, aren’t a perfect fit. By design, the wall of a new engine cylinder has peaks; it’s not perfectly smooth at a microscopic level. As an engine piston moves rapidly up and down the walls of a new cylinder, the piston’s rings file those peaks into small metallic pieces deposits that enter the oil system and contaminate it.
Because the oil of a brand new engines gets contaminated very quickly, all engine manufacturers recommend an initial oil change within the first few hours of use. However, that requirement is different for all types of engines. For some engines, that's after the first two hours of operation. For others, it might not be until after the first 10 hours of operation. It varies. Some snow blower engine manufacturers say change after the first five hours of use, some simply suggest completing the initial oil change after the first month of use.
To learn when your snow blower needs its initial oil change, refer to the engine manual for your unit.
How does engine oil get dirty?
As shown in our video, oil going in looks a lot different than oil coming out. Fresh oil has a warm, unsullied, golden appearance, whereas oil coming out is blackened. So what happened to it?
Intake, compression, power, exhaust. Those are the four cycles of Ariens snow blower engines produced today. As an engine piston moves down, it intakes air and gasoline in to the engine cylinder. The piston then moves up to compress the fuel / air mixture, causing it to combust. That combustion superheats the air in the combustion chamber, causing it to expand and force the piston down the engine cylinder in the power stroke and then back up again where it expels exhaust produced from combustion. During the combustion phase, small amounts of soot are created and circulated throughout your oil system, darkening the color of the oil.
While oil discoloration and soot is normal and not a cause for concern, soot particles cluster and become larger with more use. Without draining that old, sooty oil, those contaminates can grow large enough to become damaging particulates and lead to engine wear.
Do snow blowers have oil filters?
Generally, snow blower engines, including those on an Ariens snow blower, do not have engine oil filters. Not an issue for a machine that is used less frequently than a lawn mower engine or a car, but that’s all the more reason to regularly flush the contaminates from your oil system with an oil change.
How does water get in oil?
While a snow blower is running, its oil heats to temperatures greater than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. After the engine stops, the oil eventually cools to the temperature of the area where the snow blower is stored. That may be an area kept at room temperature, or it could be an outdoor shed exposed to subzero temperatures. In any case, the warming and cooling across a broad range of temperatures allows water condensation to form inside the engine.
If your snow blower engine is running long enough each time it's used, its engine will heat to a temperature capable of burning moisture that may have collected in its oil system. However, if your snow blower is only used for short periods of time, your engine may not become hot enough to boil away all of that moisture, leaving water in your oil system.
Water that isn't flushed from your oil system with regular oil changes can corrode the steel components in your engine and dilute the rating and the effectiveness of the oil. You'll see why that's harmful in the following two paragraphs.
How engine oil degrades
Of the many factors that contribute to the deterioration of engine oil, mere contact with air, over time, can break it down or “oxidize” oil. Add heat to the equation and the process accelerates.
As oxidation occurs, oil becomes more viscous and eventually turns into a sludge. Oil viscosity, or its rating, may start at 5W-30 (as an example) but oxidation renders its viscosity below the engine manufacturer's specification. Oil change intervals recommended by engine manufacturers are based on calculations of when the oil is expected to deteriorate below its original condition. This is important because when engine oil degrades beyond its original rating, it's no longer within specification to adequately protect the engine.
When oil is out of its specification, your engine doesn't get the same protection that it does with fresh, clean oil.
Changing snow blower oil
The best solution for protecting your engine is by changing the oil at the frequencies defined in your engine manual. That's the initial oil change, followed by the regular intervals after that. Just don't let the manual limit you. There's nothing wrong with changing your snow blower oil more often than the manufacturer's recommendations if you're being used in more extreme conditions. It's better to change it more often than you have to than not enough.
If you prefer performing oil changes on your own, you can complete the procedure in as little as twenty minutes in your own garage at the bare minimum expense of a few dollars in fresh oil. Just remember to follow the instruction provided in your engine manual and dispose of or recycle old oil appropriately.
Remember that oil changes shouldn’t be approached with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Engines of different sizes and from different manufacturers require different oil quantities, types, ratings, filters (if applicable) and change intervals. In any case, the best practice in outdoor power equipment engine care is to follow the recommendations outlined by the engine manufacturer in the engine manual for your unit.
If you'd rather leave oil changes to the professionals, you can schedule service with your nearest Ariens dealer and have them do it for you. If you would like to purchase Ariens snow blower engine oil, you can find it at your nearest Ariens dealer or at our online parts store.