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How to Improve Snow Blower Performance

1/10/2020 6:00:00 AM

How to Increase Snow Blower P​​erformance

Adjusting snow blo​​wer skid shoes, scraper bar and more.​



Are you getting good snow blower performance, or do you want your snow blower to drive faster, grip better, scrape snow better or throw snow better? Those functions probably worked perfectly when you got your new snow blower, but after a season or two, that performance can fade. That's not because the performance of a snow blower simply diminishes year over year because it's no longer brand new, but rather because some of its components or features go out of adjustment. So before you get too frustrated and rush to the snow blower repair shop, try making a few easy adjustments to make your snow blower work better. In many cases, snow blower performance issues can be solved by making a few easy adjustments with some wrenches in your own garage.

As always, review the safety information and the instructional details in your operator's manual before performing snow blower service or adjustments.

1.    Making a snow blower scrape better

Every snow blower, both single stage and two stage snow blowers, feature a scraper blade at the bottom of the auger housing. This is the part that scrapes snow off the pavement and other surfaces being cleared. As it's used, the friction between the blade and the pavement slowly wears away the scraper bar material, and depending on frequency of use, could wear the scraper bar after just one or two seasons. When the blade wears too much, your snow blower doesn't scrape all the snow from the clearing surface and leaves snow behind. Spring-loaded scraper bars, which are common on single stage snow blowers, are self adjusting and usually compensate for wear on their own, but two stage snow blower scraper blades will need manual adjustment.​

If the material of your two stage snow blower scraper blade is worn, reposition it so to contact your clearing surface more effectively. The following instructions are an abbreviation of the procedural and instructions and details in the operator's manual for your unit:

  1. Carefully tip your snow blower back so its weight rests on the handlebars. Secure the unit so it won't tip back to its original position unexpectedly.
  2. Loosen the scraper blade hardware at the bottom of housing.
  3. Pull the scraper blade down as far as possible.
  4. Tighten the scraper blade hardware.

Snow blower scraper blade

After adjusting your scraper blade, review how to adjust your skid shoes and complete that procedure. Skid shoes will always need to be adjusted after a scraper blade adjustment.

If your scraper blade has worn too far and can't be adjusted any farther, it will need replacement. New snow blower scraper blades can be found at your local Ariens dealer or online at parts.ariens.com.

2.    Adjusting snow blower clearing height

Two stage snow blower clearing height can be changed by adjusting the skid shoes, which are the two steel plates attached to the snow blower housing exterior. Adjust snow blower for gravel driveways by lowering the adjustable skid shoes to raise the height of your snow blower housing and the scraper bar. Higher snow blower clearances are best for clearing gravel surfaces or other surfaces with loose material that you wouldn't want to pick up with your snow blower. Raising the snow blower skid shoes lowers the auger housing and decreases the height between the scraper bar and the clearing surface. Lower snow blower clearances are best for clearing paved surfaces like asphalt and concrete.​

Skid shoes are adjusted to simply raise or lower your snow blower height, but they'll also need to be adjusted each time an adjustment is made to the scraper blade so an effective clearing height is maintained. To adjust snow blower skid shoes:

  1. Position a spacer under the left and right sides of the scraper bar.
    • Use 1/8-inch-thick spacers if clearing paved surfaces
    • Use 1/2-inch-thick spacers if clearing gravel surfaces
  2. Loosen all skid shoe hardware.
  3. Position skid shoes against clearing surface.
  4. Tighten skid shoe hardware.
Snow blower skid shoes

To be more gentle on delicate surfaces like brick or pavers, consider using non-abrasive skid shoes instead of conventional steel skid shoes. Some snow blower users even suggest polymer or composite skid shoes make a snow blower turn better. Both can be found online or at your nearest Ariens dealer.

Snow blower polymer skid shoes

3.    Making yo​​​ur snow blower drive straight

Adjust snowb​​lower wheels

Underinflated tires can affect how well your snow blower drives and grips. If your snow blower won't drive in a straight line, it could be because of a tire pressure difference between its left and right tires. Check the tire sidewall for the pressure recommendation, which is listed in PSI (pound-force per square inch). Inflate both tires to their correct pressures and ensure they're inflated to equal pressures.​

Adjust snowblower tr​​acks

If there's a difference in track tension between the left and right snow blower tracks, your unit could pull to one side when driving. Snowblower track tension on the left and the right sides should be taught and equal, but if not, your snow blower may pull to the left or right and need adjustment using the track adjusters at the rear of a snowblower track carriage.

  • If your snow blower pulls to the right, tighten the left track adjuster, loosen the right track adjuster or do a combination of both.
  • If your snow blower pulls to the left, tighten the right track adjuster, loosen the left track adjuster or do a combination of both.​

Snow blower track adjustment

4.    Making your​ snow blower throw further

If your snow blower doesn't throw as well as it once did, this could be from one or two issues. It could be because the auger drive idler isn't applying enough tension to the auger drive belt (inside the machine) for the belt to grip the auger pulley and make the pulley turn fast enough. The other reason could be that the auger drive belt is worn, which can lead to the same result. In any case, a snow blower not throwing well is usually a symptom of a belt that doesn't grip the auger drive pulley effectively.

To fix the issue, either adjust the auger clutch cable, the auger drive idler, or replace the belt. Belts wear gradually, so try making the adjustments before replacing the belt. Adjusting the amount of tension applied to the auger drive belt can be done in one of two ways:​

Tighten the auger clutch cable

If the auger clutch cable is loose, engaging the auger clutch lever won't make the auger drive idler apply enough pressure against the auger drive belt. To make the idler apply adequate pressure against the auger drive belt, tighten the auger clutch cable:

  1. Check for slack in auger clutch cable. (The auger clutch cable extends from the right clutch lever to the rear of the frame.)
  2. Loosen the jam nut on the cable adjustment barrel and turn the barrel down until slack is removed.
  3. Tighten jam nut against adjustment barrel.​

snow blower auger cable

Adjust a​uger idler position

If the auger cable is already taut or has just been adjusted, you may need to reposition the auger drive idler on the attachment arm under the belt cover. By simply moving the idler closer to the belt, it could create an adequate amount of belt tension when the clutch lever is engaged. Just be aware that the idler arm roller clearance inside the tractor needs to be checked before adjusting the attachment idler position. Though it sounds complex, the pictures and details in your Ariens snow blower operator's manual make the adjustment procedure much clearer.

Snow blower auger idler

If neither adjustment works, you'll likely need to replace the auger drive belt with help from your local snow blower service center or the instructions in the service manual for your unit.

​​​5.    How to make your snow blower drive faster

If it seems like there's been a power loss to your snow blower drive wheels, it could be because the friction disc inside the machine is wearing. Like belts, friction disc wear is normal and should be expected. As the friction disc wears, it doesn't contact the wheel drive pulley as firmly as it did when it was new. To compensate for friction disc wear and to make it contact the drive pulley more effectively, tension can be added to the traction / wheel drive clutch cable.

Adjusting the wheel drive clutch cable is similar to adjusting the auger drive clutch cable. In fact, the only difference is that the wheel drive clutch cable extends from the clutch lever on the left side of the snow blower handlebars to the back of the snow blower frame. To adjust the wheel drive cable:

  1. Loosen jam nut on the adjustment barrel of the drive cable.
  2. Turn the adjustment barrel down to shorten cable slack.
  3. Tighten the nut against the adjustment barrel.
Snow blower drive cable

If adjusting the wheel drive cable doesn't improve your snow blower's drive performance, you may need to replace the friction disc. Click here to watch a short video showing how to replace a snow blower friction disc on newer Ariens models.​

6.    Adjust snow blowe​​r speed

Snow blowers are engineered with pre-set drive speeds, so a snow blower owner can't adjust the gear ratios of their snowblowers. However, it's possible for those speeds to break out of their fine-tuned adjustments. If it seems like your snow blower is driving slow or too fast in one of its gears, there's a simple adjustment that can be made to the adjustment pin at the end of the shift rod:

    1. Disconnect the shift rod from the shift arm through the rear of the snow blower frame.
    2. Position the speed selector lever, or shifter, in the fastest forward position.
    3. Turn the shift arm down as far as it will go.
    4. Turn the adjustment barrel around the shift rod until it aligns with the hole in the shift arm.
    5. Reconnect the adjustment barrel / shift rod to the shift arm with the original hardware.

snow blower shift rod

This adjustment varies from model to model, so as always, consult your operator's manual for details.

​​7.    Adjust snow blower chute

Adjust snow blower chute​​ cap

Newer Ariens Sno-Thro models are equipped with an identical chute cap lever that controls a snow blower's throwing height. If the chute deflector doesn't stay in its selected height, try tightening the nut on the chute deflector lever under the dash panel. If the deflector doesn't follow its full range of travel, adjust the chute cable nuts on the deflector.

  • To adjust the deflector lower, loosen the lower nut and tighten the upper nut.
  • To adjust the deflector higher, loosen the upper nut and tighten the lower nut.

Snow blower chute cap

After adjustments are made, test the lever to ensure the deflector follows its full range of travel.

Adjust snow bl​​ower chute rotation

If a snow blower discharge chute doesn't remain in the desired direction while throwing snow, it can be adjusted in one of two ways. This depends on the Ariens two stage snow blower model:

Ariens Classic, Compact​​​​​ and Delux​​​e models:

  1. Tighten the nut under the discharge chute gears.
  2. Test discharge chute rotation and repeat adjustment, if necessary.


Ariens Platinum and Professional models:

​If discharge chute does not stay in position:

  1. Remove chute gear cover.
  2. Loosen rear adjustment nut and tighten forward adjustment nut until lock arm engages gear teeth.
  3. Test discharge chute rotation and repeat adjustment, if necessary.
  4. Reinstall gear cover.
If discharge chute does not rotate freely:
  1. Remove chute gear cover.
  2. Loosen forward adjustment nut and tighten rear adjustment nut until there is no cable slack and lock arm engages gear teeth.
  3. Reinstall gear cover.​
Adjust snow blower chute

If these adjustments don't correct the issues you're experiencing, you can always get help from your local authorized Ariens servicing dealer. Replacement parts like new scraper blades or skid shoes can be ordered online at parts.ariens.com or from a snow blower repair shop like your local Ariens dealer.​

How to Keep your Snow Blower Chute from Clogging

1/10/2020 6:00:00 AM

​Snow always looks pretty when it falls from the sky. For some people, snow incites the feelings of peace and calmness. For others, the first thought is how fast can the snow be cleared away? If that snow is heavy, wet and maybe even a bit icy, snow clea​​ring may take longer than anticipated if the chute on your snow blower is getting clogged. That's not ideal for anyone. Luckily, we put together the common causes for snow blower clogging and tips on preventing snow blower cute clogging.

What causes a snow blower​​​​ chute to clog?

Unless you're using your snow blower to remove something other than snow, there are two main reasons your snow blower chute will get clogged – heavy, wet snow and clearing snow too slowly.   ​

Heavy snow​​​

Heavy snow with a high moisture content can clump together more easily than light, fluffy snow. The same snow that was perfect for making snow forts and forming snowballs as a kid has now betrayed you. Now that you're responsible for clearing it, the better that snow packs or clumps means the more difficult it is to move through the snow blower auger and the chute. The more difficult snow is to move, the more likely it will get stuck somewhere in your snow blower cute and cause clogging to occur.​

Walking too​ slow

No matter what type of snow you remove, if you have your snow blower in a slow drive setting and are clearing snow too slowly, you increase the odds of the snow clogging. Moving more slowly may make you think your clearing surface will get cleaner, but it's giving the snow more time to bind together and clog. If your snow isn't being processed through your snow blower fast enough, it could clog.​

How can I prevent​ my snow blower chute from clogging?

You have a much greater chance at saving time snow blowing by preparing for potential issues before they happen. Save time clearing snow by following these easy suggestions to keep the auger and chute ready for snow blowing:

1.     Use a snow blower non stick spray on your auger and chute

This works like cooking spray does ​on a skillet. The snow-blower non-stick spray protects your machine against dirt, snow and even grass from sticking inside the auger housing, the discharge chute and other components. Most specialized sprays only need occasional application, which is nice when you just need to get the job done.​

non stick snow blower spray

If you don't have snow blower spray available and you need to get the job done today, try using a cooking spray or WD40.

2.     Clear snow​ faster  

If your snow blower won't drive any faster to help prevent snow clogs inside it, then you might want to explore your options. Consider getting a more powerful snow blower that moves faster and processes snow more quickly if clogging continues to occur, even in the best of snowy conditions.

A super high output snowblower might be an option to consider if you need something that works faster.​

My snow ​​blower is clogged. How do I unclog my snow blower?

The most important thing is to NEVER use your hands, feet or any other body part to clear a clog in your snow blower. Doing so may result in a serious injury. ONLY clear a snow blower clog with the clean-out tool provided with the unit. You can read more about safe snow clearing practices in a snow blower safety blog we published earlier this winter.

If your snow blower is clogged, turn the machine off before doing anything. Too many make the mistake of thinking, "I will be careful" or, "This will just take as second," but not turning the machine off, removing the key and waiting for all moving parts to stop could have tragic results. It's always worth your time to wait for the engine and all moving parts to stop to ensure it's safe to clear the augers, housing and chute from packed snow and clogs.

Use a tool. Most snow-blowers come with a tool to help with unclogging, and often there's even a handy place on the machine where it can be stored. If you don't have a tool that came with your machine or you misplaced it, a broom stick or another similar, adequate tool will do the trick.

Fixing snow blower clogs

With the tool, loosen the debris, remove the tool and then try to snow blow again. Once you have it clear, use the snow blower non-stick spray to make sure your chute and auger are well lubricated. This can help with reducing the chance for future clogs.​

Snow Blower Maintenance Tips

1/7/2020 6:00:00 AM

There's no point in owning a snow blower if it's not being taken care of. Like all outdoor power equipment, snow blowers need to be maintained regularly to continue operating at peak performance and clearing driveways for ye​ars to come. Snow blowers that aren't taken care of can lead to expensive repair bills, painful trips to the junkyard and an unnecessary amount of time spent shoveling out from the next snow storm.

Follow the maintenance tips we listed below to keep your shovel in the garage and your quality snow blower performing as well as it did the first time you used it.

​Two Stage vs. One Stage Snow Blowers

Snow blowers can last several years, even decades, if they're maintained regularly and correctly. Snow blower maintenance varies based on the type of snow blower you have, either a two stage snow blower or a single stage snow blower.

A single stage snow blower uses auger paddles that both ingest snow into the auger housing and throw the snow out of the discharge chute. The wheels of a single stage snow blower aren't self propelled, but as the paddles scrape the ground, the machine is pulled into more snow. Single stage snow blowers are best for short driveways, narrow walkways and other small areas that receive light to moderate snowfalls.

Two stage snow blowers are usually larger than their single stage counterparts. A two stage snow blower uses an auger and impeller combination to chew through snow and throw it. As the self-propelled wheels drive the machine into more snow, its augers cut through snow, direct it to the center and back into the machine's impeller fan where it's ejected out of the discharge chute. Two stage snow blowers are best for clearing large surfaces of varying terrain like pavement or gravel on flat and hilly areas in regions with moderate to heavy snowfalls.​

Maintenance also differs depending on if you have an electric or gas powered snow blower. Electric snow blowers require less maintenance compared to gasoline powered machines because electric units don't have engines that need regular oil changes and the occasional spark plug replacement​. However, electric equipment doesn't necessarily mean zero maintenance. Worn down parts like auger paddles, belts and batteries will still need to be checked regularly and replaced when necessary.​​​

1.    Chec​​​k ​the Auger

The blades or paddles that rotate inside the snow blower housing are called the augers. Single stage snow blower augers are rubber paddles. These paddles scrape the ground, so unlike two stage snow blowers, they wear. Most rubber paddles have wear indicator holes. When the rubber paddles wear down to the holes, it's time for them to be replaced. Single stage snow blower auger paddles can be easily replaced by anyone with an auger paddle replacement kit and the existing hardware – all it takes are a few minutes and the right sized wrenches.

Two stage snow blowers use serrated steel blades or augers to cut through moderate, heavy, wet or icy snow. Though they can be damaged if they strike an object like a large rock, two stage snow blower augers generally don't wear because they don't contact clearing surfaces and they're made from strong material. However, though they don't wear, they still need to be maintained.​

Two stage augers are connected to auger shafts. It's metal on metal, and because moisture can get between those parts, they have the potential to rust together if they're not maintained. If that happens, the augers can't be separated from the auger shaft if the auger gets damaged and needs replacement. Help prevent the augers from rusting together by regularly pumping grease into the grease fittings or "zerks" on the augers.

grease snow blower​​

2.    Replace the Shav​e Plate

Shave plates, or scraper blades, are attached to the bottom of snow blower housings on both single stage and two stage units to help scrape snow and remove it from clearing surfaces. A snow blower scraper blade needs replacement every few seasons, sometimes more, depending on frequency of use and how much it wears. Scraper blades on single stage snow blowers are usually a plastic or composite material and scraper blades on two stage snow blowers are usually a strong metal, like steel.​

Worn scraper blades won't clear snow as well as they did when they were new. Friction between scraper blades and their clearing surfaces causes the blades to wear and leave more snow behind. If you start seeing more snow left behind your snow blower, it's a sign you'll need to adjust your scraper blade. If your scraper blade is adjusted as far down as possible and isn't scraping all the snow from the ground, install a replacement.

Snow blower scraper blade

3.    Exam​​ine the Skid Shoes

Two stage snow blowers have a skid shoe on each side of the auger housing to regulate the height of the augers and the scraper blade above clearing surfaces. Like scraper blades on a two stage unit, the steel skid shoes are also made from steel. Though strong, contact by the skid shoes with abrasive clearing surfaces scrapes paint from the shoes, exposing bare metal to moisture, causing rust and corrosion. Skid shoes on Ariens snow blowers can be flipped to the other side, but once both sides wear through, they'll need replacement. 

Snow blower skid shoes

4.    Store Extra Sh​​ear Pins

Shear pins, also known as shear bolts, secure a two stage snow blower auger to its auger shaft and break if the auger encounters too much resistance. This is by design. Shear bolts are a feature which protect the gearcase if an object stops the auger, such as if a large rock were to become wedged between the augers and the housing. When this happens, the shear bolt breaks or "shears" and the auger shaft continues rotating – preventing the auger gearcase from incurring damage.

Even the smallest and most unexpected objects can cause a shear bolt to break and leave an auger idle, which is why it's important to keep a healthy stock of extra shear pins on hand. When one busts, you can replace it quickly, and continue clearing. Without spares, you're left with an auger that won't turn.

Snow blower shear pin

​​5.    Inspecting Snow Blower Belts

Snow blower belt breaks are normal, which is why it's important to frequently check them for signs of wear or damage. If the belt wears through and breaks, it won't damage your unit, but it will leave your snow blower dead in its tracks.

snow blower belts

Two stage snow blowers have a belt that controls auger and impeller rotation and another that controls the power assisted wheels. Both belts can be​ easily accessed​​ by removing the belt cover from the unit so they can be inspected for signs of wear:​

​​​Sidewall damage

Snow blower belt edges should be smooth and even throughout the entire length of the belt. If even a small portion of the belt is worn, it's at risk of breaking and should be replaced.

​​Glazed or burned sidewall

Look at the belt edge that contacts the pulleys. If it appears shiny, glazed or burned, it should be replaced.

​Cracking and fraying

If the belt appears brittle or is deteriorating and has cracks, even shallow cracks or fraying, it's at risk of breaking and will need replacement.

Ariens snow blower belt replacements can be completed by anyone with help from the service guide for your unit. A snow blower belt change video for certain Ariens Deluxe and Platinum series models can be found here.

6.    Change the ​Oil

Snow blower oil needs to be changed at least once per season because oil breaks down with each use. Whether your snow blower is used in heavy or light load conditions, its oil will deteriorate and become less effective at protecting its engine. Operating an engine with old oil can lead to engine damage and cause an engine to have a much shorter lifespan than an engine that has had regular oil changes.​

Snow blower oil needs to be changed at least once every season, and possibly more frequently if used in areas or conditions where a snow blower is used more. Though it sounds like a burden, oil changes are easy and can be accomplished by anyone with a few hand tools. Start by running the engine for a couple of minutes. This incorporate contaminates that settled to the bottom of the oil system throughout the rest of the oil and warms the oil so it flows better. Once things cool down a bit, follow our step-by-step instructions on how to change snow blower oil.

 ​7. Snow Blo​wer Lubrication

Snow blowers need to be greased in a few locations to help prevent rusting, parts from seizing and to keep everything moving as designed, season after season. Though single stage snow blowers generally don't have any grease points, there are a few critical areas of a two stage snow blower that need to be lubricated:​

  • The axles
    Rust can easily develop on bare metal in moisture-rich environments. At least once per season, remove the wheels from the axles and spread a thin layer of grease or anti-seize compound along the length of the axle shafts. If rust is present on the axles, file it away with sandpaper, wipe clean with a thin layer of oil and then apply lubricant.
  • The augers
    This reiterates what we covered in the auger section near the top, but again, metal on metal can cause issues, so grease the auger shafts.
  • The tractor
    A few drive gears, a shaft or two and sometimes a chain inside the tractor (the box to which the engine is mounted to) all need to be greased or oiled to keep a snow blower's wheels turning. Simply tip the unit onto the front of its housing, remove the bottom cover to access the unit's insides and lubricate according to the instructions in your operator's manual.
lubricate snow blower

​​​

8.    Use Q​​uality Fuel

Not all gasoline is the same. There are different grades, blends and even types of gasoline pumps that can affect snow blower engines. The best gasoline to use in a snow blower is 100% gasoline, however, E10, which is a 10% ethanol / 90% gasoline fuel blend, is technically acceptable for use in snow blower engines.

Fuel is also sensitive and can deteriorate in as little as two weeks from the time it was pumped, which is why it's important to always add a quality fuel stabilizer to help gasoline stay fresh longer between uses. In some areas, snowfall frequencies are unpredictable. You might need a snow blower every two days, or as little as every four weeks. Since gasoline can deteriorate in as little as two weeks from the time it was pumped, it's important to be in the habit of stabilizing the fuel used in your snow blower immediately after it was pumped. Deteriorated fuel can clog your carburetor, your fuel lines and could prevent your engine from starting. If your unit is experiencing starting issues, try draining the fuel system and adding fresh gasoline. If you're still having issues starting your snow blower, we suggest contacting your local service dealer for diagnosis and repair.

Click here to learn more about snow blower gasoline and why it's important to use the right grade of fresh gasoline in your outdoor power equipment.​

9.    Replace the Spark​ Plug

Do you know what the spark plug does? It's the small mechanism in your engine that creates a spark, igniting the fuel that creates combustion in the engine, which makes the engine work. If your spark plug is "fouled" with oil or carbon deposits, it could prevent a spark from being generated, keeping the engine from starting.

If your snow blower has trouble starting, the spark plug is one of the first places you should look. Remove the spark plug and inspect it for cracks, corrosion or residue build up. If your inspection reveals a dirty or fouled spark plug, you can try cleaning it with a wire brush, or you can replace it for no more than a few dollars. You can also use a spark tester to confirm that your spark plug is working correctly. The spark plug needs to be kept clean and replaced after every 100 hours of use.​

For Snow Blower Mainte​​​nance Help

If you like to do your own snow blower service, always remember to complete your service according to the instructions outlined in the operator's manual and the engine manual for your unit, and to follow the safety instructions in your manual. If you prefer your local snow blower repair shop do the work, you can find a snow blower dealer near you with the Ariens dealer locator tool. Replacement snow blower parts and snow blower accessories can be found online at parts.ariens.com or at your local Ariens dealer.

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