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Getting a Snow Blower Ready For Winter

10/8/2019 5:00:00 AM

​Why it's important to​​ start your snow blower long before the first flakes fly.

We're approaching on one of our favorite times of the year, snow season! Maybe not the favorite for those who prefer warm temperatures, but for the Ariens® team, it's an opportunity to share our knowledge to help ensure y​ou have a fun, safe and hassle-free winter. Part of that is getting you prepared for the snowfalls ahead, and if the Farmer's Almanac is anywhere near close to its prediction, getting your snow blower ready ​for winter is going to be more critical right now than ever before.

How to start a snow blower

​Start your snow blower now. Seriously, TODAY.

No matter how silly it may seem to drag your Ariens snow blower into the driveway and start it up on a mild fall day, you'll thank us for this advice. The first step in preparing your snow blower for winter is starting the engine. Far too often, homeowners don't discover that their snow blower has​ an issue until it's needed most – in the middle of a blizzard. It's the biggest reason why we urge our customers to start their snow blowers right now. Knowing the status of a snow blower's working condition today, before it starts snowing, guarantees you're ready for the first snowfall. Because if you happen to uncover an issue with your unit today, you still have plenty of time to get it repaired by your authorized Ariens dealer without fighting the rest of your neighborhood for an available mechanic.​

​​

Why won't my snow​​ blower start?

If the above warning proved worthwhile and you discover that your snow blower won't start, there's a few things you can do. First and foremost, tha​nk us for warning you. Second, don't worry too much. This could be due to one of several easy-to-fix issues – especially if your engine was running just find at the end of last season. For whatever it is, let's troubleshoot this together and fix the issue now so your snow blower is ready for the snowfall in the coming weeks.

​How to start a sno​​​w blower

The sky is falling just because your snow thrower won't start. Again, it could be one of a few small issues:

a.     How to start a snow blower
Your snow blower might not start because you simply forgot a step in the starting procedure, which is really nothing to be embarrassed about. There's no shame in a refresher course in learning how to start your snow thrower. After all, you haven't used it in a while, so let's make sure you're doing what you need to do:

H​​​ow to start an Ariens carbureted / non-EFI (electronic fuel injected) snow blower:

  1. Move the unit to a well-ventilated area.
  2. Turn the fuel valve on the engine to the on position.
  3. Turn the engine key on the engine to the run position.
  4. If equipped, move the throttle control lever or knob to the on position.
  5. If the engine is cold (hasn't run in the last 30 – 60 minutes), push the primer bulb on the engine two to three times.
  6. If the engine is cold, turn the choke to the on position.
  7. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.
  8. If the engine starts and you used the choke, gradually return the choke to the off position.

How to start an Ariens EFI snow blower:

  1. Ensure the battery is connected and fully charged.
  2. Turn the key on the dash panel to the on position.
  3. Pull the recoil starter handle or connect a power cord between the electric starter and a 120V, 3-wire grounded outlet and push the electric starter button until the engine starts.

For more details on starting an Ariens snow blower engine, refer to the instructions in the Operation section of your operator's manual.

b.    The unit may not have fuel

You'd be surprised, but this happens to the best of us. You possibly forgot to add fuel to the tank after running it dry last season, so open the tank to check that it has stabilized fuel. To check your fuel tank correctly, remove the fuel tank cap, move your unit back and fourth and listen for fuel sloshing around the tank. Never put your nose up to the fuel tank opening to smell for fuel.

c.     The spark plug may be bad

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 do its thing: 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.

Checking a snow blower spark plug

Accessing a snow blower engine spark plug is easy. As always, stop the unit, remove the key from the ignition and wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool before attempting service. Also, review the safety information in the operator's manual for your unit and its engine manual. Then, locate the wire, or the spark plug "boot" on the engine and pull it away from the spark plug and unscrew the spark plug from the engine.

Ariens snow blower spark plug

If your snow blower spark plug is fouled, or coated with oil, the spark plug will need replacement, but there's also a greater issue at hand. This could be an indication that oil is getting into the combustion chamber or that the fuel mixture is too rich. In either case, this will require you to take your snow blower to your nearest Ariens dealer to get the issue resolved. Again, be happy that you caught it early so you can fix it before it snows.

If your spark plug looks clean, a no-start issue could be a result of a faulty spark plug or one that isn't "gapped" correctly. Try replacing it with a brand new one from your local Ariens dealer or the Ariens parts site online. Remember, spark plugs are different sizes for different engines and are not a one-size-fits all component. If a new spark plug doesn't resolve the issue, check the next item in our list.

d.    Snow blower has a clog in the fuel line

Unfortunately, this is the most common reason for a snow blower to not start. Snow blowers of any brand that didn't have their fuel systems drained and / or stabilized at the end of the last season have a high risk of not starting because old fuel can either:

  • Det​eriorate and lose its flash point – meaning it won't ignite
  • ​Oxidize, causing it to gel and clog the fuel lines and the carburetor

Though old fuel can easily be drained from the fuel system, clogs can't be resolved as easily.

Fuel in carbureted (non EFI) snow blowers passes through the microscopic hole shown in the photo below. It doesn't matter what brand of snow blower you use – if there's even the smallest particle blocking the carburetor jets or the fuel lines, it prevents fuel from reaching your engine and will keep an engine from starting or running.

Snow blower carburetor jet

Use of ethanol-blended fuels and emissions regulations in outdoor power equipment has made clogging issues more frequent in recent years. Though E10 is technically the highest acceptable ethanol blend (90 percent gasoline / 10 percent ethanol) for use in small engines, its characteristics increase the possibility for clogs.

Ethanol is a solvent. When used in older engines that have varnish buildup, ethanol can dissolve those varnish deposits, which can clog fuel lines and carburetors. Additionally, ethanol contains a higher oxygen content than pure gasoline, meaning ethanol-blended fuels can deteriorate more quickly. When left untreated for long periods of time, oxidized fuel can leave gummy deposits in your fuel system and clog it.
 

If your unit is experiencing starting issues and it wasn't drained or stored at the end of last season with a fuel stabilizer or ethanol treatment, it's quite possible the no-start issue you're experiencing is a result of a fuel clog. If that's the case, you will need to take your unit to your local Ariens dealer for diagnosis and repair.

Snow blower maintenance for winter

Since you already have your snow blower out of storage, maximize the task by completing a few other maintenance checks that will help ensure strong operation all winter long.

​Everyday snow blow​​​er maintenance

  • Check that all nuts, bolts and screws are present and tight
  • Check the tire pressures
  • Check the engine oil level

Lubricating a snow b​lower tractor

Before lubricating the snow blower tractor, or the inside of the snow blower, drain the fuel from the fuel tank and the carburetor, tipping the unit onto its housing and remove the bottom cover. Click here to watch the video that shows much of this procedure.

  • Apply a thin layer of grease to the gears and the hex shaft
  • Apply a thin layer of oil to the chains
  • Remove the wheels and lubricate the axles

If rust is present on the axle shafts, remove it with sandpaper and wipe clean with a thin layer of oil and a rag.

Lubricating a sno​w blower

  • Pump grease into the fittings on the auger shaft and rotate the augers by hand

Snow blower engine ma​intenance

  • Change your snow blower engine oil regularly according to the maintenance schedule in its engine manual and with the correct oil weight and volume listed. Click here to watch how to change the oil in an Ariens snow blower.
  • Check the spark plug as scheduled and replace as necessary.​

Fuel to use in a snow b​​​lower

As we talked about earlier, outdoor power equipment today is especially sensitive to the fuel that feeds it for two reasons. We can't stress enough how important it is to be aware of the fuel you're putting into your outdoor power equipment. Inexperience and lack of awareness with fuel-related issues could lead to problems and frustration, but knowing about these issues and getting in front of them will give you a better chance of going through the season without any issues. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about gasoline.

​Ethanol-blended fuels in snow blowers

Arounds 20 years ago, ethanol blends started quietly mixing into the gasoline at gas stations. For the most part, construction of small engines stayed the same, but the fuel put in them was different. This is fine if you're pumping E10, which is a weaker, 90% gasoline / 10% ethanol fuel blend, but anything greater, such as E15, E20 etc., can do serious harm to a snow blower or lawn mower engine. That's not just our engines – that's engines across the board of the outdoor power equipment industry. This certainly doesn't mean the sky is crashing down, but it requires greater awareness when filling up at the pump.

Stay away from single-source pumps at gas stations. These are pumps that use one single hose to pump a variety of fuel types. Avoid these if possible because their hoses can hold high volumes of fuel selected by the last person to use that pump. Did they use 100% gasoline, or did they use an ethanol blend? You'll never know, and because of that, you risk adding an unacceptable fuel blend to your power equipment when using that pump.​

Know you're always in the best shape pumping E10 or 100% gasoline from a hose that's dedicated to that type of fuel.

Stabilizing snow blo​wer gasoline

Gasoline doesn't stay fresh forever. In fact, gasoline can deteriorate in as little as two weeks from the time it was pumped into a fuel container. Fuel that goes bad is less efficient and could deteriorate so much that it clogs the fuel lines. And though putting your snow blower into storage is a long time away, always add fuel stabilizer to a snow blower fuel tank or to portable fuel tanks used to fill your snow blower tank during the season. Reason for this is because you don't know how often or how little that fuel will be used up. Could be a month where it snows every other day, or January could be dry as a bone. If that's the case, having stabilized gasoline in all your winter fuels provides the assurance that the fuel is fresh, greatly reducing the possibility for engine issues that arise from using bad fuel.

Snow blower fuel stabilizer

To protect the reliability of your Ariens snow blower, always add a quality fuel stabilizer or an ethanol treatment to each fresh tank of fuel. That's the external fuel tanks in your garage or the fresh fuel that was just poured into your snow blower fuel tank. Just remember that bad fuel can't be rejuvenated. The only way to keep fuel fresh is by adding stabilizer right after it's pumped.

For more details on snow blower storage and adjustments, maintenance and more, subscribe to the Ariens channel on YouTube.​

Preparing your Lawn for Winter

9/25/2019 5:00:00 AM

​​Tips for helping grass survive cold w​eath​er


How to prepare your lawn for winterIt’s not welcome news, but it’s inevitable: winter IS coming. To put that into perspective, it’s only about six more Saturdays until the northern regions of the United States and Canada start seeing snowflakes. And if the long-term 2019 / 2020 winter forecast for the United States is anything like the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting, it’s going to be a doozy. Cold and snowy is the fate that awaits, and after intense summer sun, heavier foot traffic, too much or too little water and invasions by weeds, pests diseases and fungi, welcoming winter is like beating your lawn when it’s already down.

Fortunately, autumn’s transition from one extreme to another allows lawns to recover. Less-abrasive temperatures often favor top growth and root strength among cool-season grass breeds that grow in the United States’ midsection and into Canada. Additionally, this period is a great time for you to grab a pumpkin spice latte, put on some flannel and work outdoors comfortably to prepare your lawn for the long, cold winter. But why is it so important right now?

Why it’s important to​​ prepare your lawn for winter

Your lawn is no use when it’s brown or covered by a blanket of snow, but a lawn’s transition to fall and winter is one of the most critical seasonal changes to its health. Preparing it for dormancy by checking the following items off your lawn care list today will help it spring to life more quickly and grow more healthy when spring returns.

Steps for preparing you​​​r lawn for winter

​​​​1. Avoiding snow mold in your lawn

Thatch is the layer of ​dead grass that falls to the soil bed. Some thatch is good, especially for winter insulation, but lawns overrun with thatch are prone to winter injury. Thatch shelters disease-causing organisms like snow mold. Snow mold occurs when excessive moisture (from snow) gets trapped in a lawn bed and creates a fungus. Like other harmful fungi and bacteria, snow mold can kill grass and leave behind large brown patches and can be a source for disappointment when spring brings life back to the rest of the lawn. However, as with many lawn issues, there are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of snow mold – one being dethatching.

Dethatching is pulling the layers of dead grass from a lawn bed. This can be done in one of two ways: raking is a cost-effective measure in reducing thatch from a lawn bed, but depending on the size of your lawn, this could take several hours. For faster results, look into renting or buying a dethatcher, which is almost like a powered rake. A dethatcher uses thin, flailing tines to pull thatch from lawn beds quickly.

Though using a dethatcher will save hours and hours of time, homeowners should be aware that inexperienced use of a dethatcher could do more harm than good. Aggressive dethatching could remove too much thatch from a lawn bed, leaving it less insulated for winter’s cold temperatures. If you’re not comfortable using a dethatcher, hire a professional in your area.

In addition to helping reduce the potential for snow mold, dethatching helps lawn soils breathe better, promoting stro​nger roots​ and helping grass survive winter more effectively. 

Homeowners can also aerate their lawns to help avoid snow mold. Core aeration pulls cylindrical plugs out of the lawn, loosening the soil and stirring up the microorganisms that help break up thatch.

Aeration also has benefits beyond preventing snow mold and the spread of lawn fungi. In nearly every region of the country, fall is prime time for core aeration because fall is also the best time to seed a lawn. Seeding and aeration together is the most effective for growing new grass. See step 9 for more information. Additionally, aeration relieves soil compaction resulting from lawn mowers, foot traffic and even just the weight of the soil. The more compact the soil is, the harder it is for water, air, and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass. Lawns that go years without aeration are bound to become overcome with weeds, which fare better in compact soil than grass does.

2. ​Improv​​ing soil pH

A soil’s pH level is its measure of acidity or alkalinity, and if it’s within its pH range of 6.5 to 7.0, which is in the slightly acidic to neutral range, its chances of surviving winter are much stronger.

Testing your lawn's pH level can be done on your own with a kit from a gardening store. Test your soil by taking three to five soil samples from about 4 – 6 inches below the soil surface in different areas of your lawn. Remove the grass so you're sampling soil only. Mix the dirt together and spread around on a disposable surface so it can dry out over a 24-hour period and test according to the instructions of your kit.

If the soil is too acidic (pH 0 – 6), add wood ash to your lawn. If the soil is too basic (pH 8 – 14), add sphagnum peat to your lawn. Just be aware that it may require some tilling to fully incorporate the sphagnum peat into the soil and for it to take effect. Another option is to add fine mulch and compost to your lawn.

3. ​Eliminate weeds before winter

​​​How to remove weeds

Steps can be taken before and during the winter to help prevent weeds next spring. An interesting fact about weeds and cold weather is that weed control is more effective in the fall. When perennial weeds feel winter approaching, they move their food storage from their leaves to their roots. So, as you shower those weeds with an herbicide or vinegar spray, they move their own poison to their central nervous system – their roots – which kills them more effectively.

If you live in a region with warm-season grasses, which grow in the midsection of the United States and south, continue mowing to help stifle weed growth. Though that grass is less tolerant to cooler temperatures and will go dormant when temperatures start falling below 55 degrees on a consistent basis, winter weeds will continue growing. Though it may seem silly to cut over grass that’s approaching its dormancy stage, weeds in warm-season grasses can’t survive repeated cuttings.

Mow the weeds at the same height you would normally cut grass to eradicate those pests from your lawn. For best results, mow with a bagger to help prevent the weed spores from spreading throughout your lawn and germinating in other places.

4. Remove Leaves Before Snowfall

So what if leaves cover the grass? Leaves are just organic material and it doesn’t matter if they’re raked or not, right? Well, there’s actually purpose in raking leaves from a yard beyond aesthetics. It’s for the health of your lawn.

Why raking leaves is important

Leaves block sunlight, smother the grass and prevent moisture from evaporating from a lawn. If fallen leaves aren’t just depriving your lawn from sunlight, they’re also creating an environment that promotes lawn disease. This can be especially impactful in regions with snow, because as with excessive thatch, leaves can trap snow’s moisture and cause disease and fungi like snow mold.

Raking leaves is a good start and allows you to balance hours sitting on the couch watching Saturday college football, Sunday professional football… and some more football on Thursday and Monday nights. However, if your schedule is busy enough and you’d rather exchange hours of chores with hours of more free time for yourself and your family, consider one of the following options:

Mulching kits for leaves
This is by far the fastest way to clear leaves from a yard. Installing a mulching kit to your Ariens zero turn lawn mower recycles those leaves into tiny pieces of mulch that allow your lawn to breathe while absorbing the nutrients released by those leaves when broken down. Zero turn mulching kits for Ariens lawn mowers are available at an authorized, local Ariens dealer or online at the Ariens parts and accessories website.

Click here to learn more about zero turn mulching kits from a blog post we wrote earlier this year.

Lawn mower baggers for leaves
Compared to using a rake, bagging leaves is once again a much faster solution, but has some tradeoffs with mulching. Bagging will take a bit more time than mulching because the leaves will need to be dumped somewhere on your property, the curb or at a local dump site. However, the benefit of a bagger over mulching is that they’ll wipe lawns clean of leaves and leave them in pristine shape for an extended entertainment season. As an added bonus, you can dump your bagger in two piles to cushion each backyard football end zone for healthy and safe family fun.

Best lawn mower bagger

5. Keep off the grass!​

For the first time ever, there might be some sense behind the scolding from your cranky neighbors. Grass is much more vulnerable in it’s dormant state, and while it may seem harmless, consider your grass’ short, brown and uninviting appearance as your own queue to keep off the grass. Even if the ground is completely frozen in northern regions and think it’s impossible to hurt it in that state, it’s still possible.

Dormant grass has none of that elasticity that it did when it was warm. Step on it in the warm months and it’ll spring back to life. Step on it during its dormant period in the fall or winter and it could break – requiring extra recovery time in the spring, meaning it stays brown longer as the healthier areas turn green faster.

Even if the grass is completely snow-covered, diversify your walking paths across the yard. Trekking over the same locations compacts the soils in that area, restricting the ability for the roots to absorb water and nutrients come springtime. Help discourage others from walking across your lawn and harming it by keeping your driveway and sidewalks clear of snowfall. Find your snow-clearing solution by viewing the complete Ariens snow blower lineup at ariens.com.


​6. Remove annual plants

Annuals die every year, and if left behind, these dead plants become luxury condos for lawn- and garden-killing insects to thrive and reproduce. Before winter starts, pull up the dead plants entirely – including their roots. Remnants can be discarded in the trash, or better, in your compost pile.​​​

7. Mulch the perennials

Like grass, other perennials in your yard might appear to be dying when cold weather moves in, but they’re merely going dormant. Be confident that they’ll return again to brighten your yard in the spring, even if they’re trimmed down to the surface level. Trimming dormant perennial vegetation is actually suggested because it helps keep its roots intact through the winter.

If your lawn is blanketed with insulating snow in the winter, perennials should survive into next season. If there’s little to no snow cover in your region, consider protecting the perennials with two or three inches of mulch, such as shredded leaves or pine needles.​

8. Remove items from y​our yard

So many of us are guilty of it. Storage space in the garage runs slim and we’re forced to keep junk in the yard. Even as sunlight hours quickly disappear, grass that’s covered by junk and other objects can go brown and die in just a few days. And when spring brings everything to life next year, those spaces will be left in the dust – demanding time and money spent to correct the issue that was 100 percent avoidable.

​​9. Fixing bare spots in your lawn

Fall isn’t too late to think about overseeding, which is filling in bare spots of your lawn with grass seed. In fact, fall is one of the best times for cool-season grasses in the midsection of the United States and north, to grow and thrive. By overseeding now, you’ll help ensure a full-lush appearance in your lawn when spring returns.

To improve the effectiveness of overseeding, sprinkle grass seed around your yard right after aeration. When grass seed falls into holes created by aeration, they sprout more effectively.


If you liked these tips and want to share them with your friends, copy the web link to the Ariens blog and include it in a post from your Facebook profile.

Ariens Sponsors NASCAR Driver Josh Bilicki

8/26/2019 5:00:00 AM

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro
For the second year in a row, Ariens®​​ sponsored NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Wisconsin native, Josh Bilicki, at his (and our) home track at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the CTECH Manufacturing 180. Last year, the Ariens logo took real estate on Bilicki’s trunk lid and left and right rear quarter panels, but this year, the Ariens name was wrapped from bumper to bumper as the primary sponsor.

​​
NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

“I’m proud to have had the opportunity to represent Ariens at our home track, Road America,” said Bilicki. “It’s fitting that our race car, which is custom built from top to bottom, is riding with a brand that prides itself in handcrafted durability and reliability.”

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki and the number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

As pre-race wound down, race teams pushed their cars to the starting grid where they checked tire pressures, stocked their pit boxes with fuel and tires, and hooked up their high-pressure air hoses to impact guns. Drivers too were making preparations. After an introductory lap around the 4.048-mile racetrack, photo ops, an invocation and the national anthem, Bilicki strapped on his helmet and was assisted into the cockpit of the number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro.

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

By the time the tires got enough heat in them, the green flag dropped on the 38-car field and the engines roared open. Track conditions on a mostly sunny and dry day with temperatures in the mid 70s provided the cars with more grip than slick, high-banked oval tracks, but the tricky part about this historic, 14-turn track is braking. Top speeds up to 170 mph allow more air to enter the brake cooling vents, but Road America features very heaving braking zones that superheat the cars’ brake rotors to abusive levels. With each touch of the brake pedal, heat builds into the brakes and makes them increasingly less effective.

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

Through the first half of the race, Bilicki picked off a few drivers from his starting position in 16th place and worked his way up to the 12th spot. But as brakes started wearing, turning became difficult for other drivers, triggering crashes and caution flags, which bunched the field together and caused more aggressive racing on restarts.

“We had a great car during the race and probably our strongest run of the year. We were shaping up to have a great finish when we got taken out with only two laps to go. I was able to limp the car home to a 20th place finish, but I truly believe we could have fought our way to a top 10,” said Bilicki.

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

Though disappointed in the way this act played out, Bilicki still has 10 races left in the season to edge out a win, and we’ll be rooting for him the whole way through.

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

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