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Benefits of EFI Snow Blowers

12/4/2019 6:00:00 AM

 

EFI snow blower engine

​Decades ago, a revolution driven by rising gas prices and stricter pollution standards swept through the automobile industry. Carburetors were out and more efficient electronic fuel injection (EFI) technology w​​as in. Snow blowers are now experiencing that same changeover with EFI engines and offering a host of user benefits like increased power, reliability, efficiency, ease of use and more.​​

So what engines are in an Ariens snowblower? In addition to our traditional carbureted models, users now have the choice of EFI engines. Which is the best snow blo​wer? Tha​​t all depends on your application and if you think the benefits of EFI are a good fit for you.​

What is electronic fuel injection?

Certain conditions and a precise sequence of events are required for combustion to occur ins​​ide an engine. Among those are the correct mixtures of fuel and oxygen. For years, regulating that sensitive fuel-to-air ratio in snow blower engines was reliant on carburetors. But with advances in technology, that job is also accomplished with EFI technology.

The air and fuel mixture inside EFI engines are regulated by a small computer known as the engine control unit, or ECU, which is the brain of the EFI system. The ECU receives information from sensors throughout th​​e system to keep the engine running at a consistent power level with optimal efficiency, while also logging data that can be used in diagnosing problems quickly and accurately when service is needed.

EFI snow blower engines offer numerous benefits to consumers. We listed six of EFI’s top advantages an​d described them below:

 

​EFI engines are​ e​​asier to start

 

A major benefit of EFI systems is their cold- and hot-starting performance. When carbureted engines are cold, meaning they haven’t been run for about at least 30 minutes to one hour, they need to be choked​​ and primed. With no fuel left in the carburetor, this requires the user to choke the engine, which restricts airflow to the carburetor, and to push the primer bulb to add fuel to the carburetor manually. It’s not a difficult task, but it’s sometimes tricky knowing the right amount to choke and prime the engine for it to start. EFI systems remove this complexity completely. 

Due to the ECU’s ability to calculate the optimum air-to-fuel mixture for hot or cold starting, there’s no choking or priming with an Ariens EFI engine. That’s why it’s called EZ-Launch™, because it’s easy for the user. All you need to do is turn the key and pull the recoil starter handle or push the electric start button – no matter what temperature or altitude your engine is sitting at.

How to start an EFI snow blower

 

 

​​​EFI engines are ​​more po​werful

 

 

Electronic fuel injec​ted engines can provide more power and torque than their carbureted counterparts. As we already discussed, they optimize fuel and air ratios, and ignition timing while compensating for other factors to maintain continuous optimum performance. This makes EFI snow blowers some of the best snow blowers for wet snow.

EFI engines save fue​​l and have lower emissions

The snow blower engine ECU constantly monitors and adjusts the air-to-fuel ratio to maintain optimal combustion conditions and determines the precise amo​unt of fuel that the injector needs to deliver. In simple terms, it only uses as much gasoline as it needs. Fuel consumption varies from engine to engine, but fine tuning the delivery reduces fuel consumption of an EFI engine compared to a carbureted engine.

EFI engines work better in t​​he mountains

How carbureted engines work in high a​​ltitudes

Carbureted engines are naturally aspirated, meaning their oxygen intake is unassisted and controlled by atmospheric pressure, which changes at varying altitudes. This means that a carbureted engine’s air intake ability is entirely dependent on the oxygen content of the environment it’s working in. Atomic density, or the quantity of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other gases in the Earth's atmosphere, decreases as elevation increases. In fact, air density drops by one-third every 10,000 feet above sea level. This makes a snow blower engine work harder to create combustion in places like Denver (elevation: 5,280 feet) than it would at Boston’s elevation of 141 feet.

Think of engines like humans. As a mountain climber ascends Mount Everest, they​​ breathe harder to compensate for the reduced amounts of oxygen pulled in with each breath. Carbureted engines work the same way. Engines compensate for less air by using more fuel to work harder, making them less efficient and causing them to run rich (use too much fuel) – bogging the engine down, causing it to stall or not start at all in higher elevations.

How EFI engines work in hig​​h altitudes

The ECU of an EFI engine knows the atmospheric pressure of its surroundings. When working in higher elevations like Appalachia, the Rockies, the Alps, the Sierra Nevada, e​​​tc., it adjusts its air intake to make the engine not only operate, but operate as efficiently as possible. This allows the engine to provide consistent power delivery and better fuel economy at varying altitudes with different oxygen densities.

 

​EFI engines are m​ore rel​​​iable

 

Carburetors can go ​​out of ​​adjustment

The possibility for random engine stops are greatly reduced in an EFI engine. If a traditional carbureted / non-EFI engine is primed too much before attempting a cold start, fuel can drip onto the spark plugs and foul them. ​​This is commonly referred to as “flooding.” When flooded, spark plugs become grounded and don’t fire, meaning they can’t create the spark to ignite the fuel in an engine.

Flooding a carbureted engine can also result from a carburetor that’s out of adjustment. Though carbureted engines are set from the factory and usually don’t go out of adjustment, there’s always the chance they can, causing them to run rich with too much fuel.

Because there is no carburetor in an EFI engine, the potential for this issue to occur in an EFI engine is zero, providing users with more reliability and more assurance their machine won’t require the time and expense of maintenance or adjustments.  It will help you answer the question of what is the most reliable snow blower brand.​

 

​EFI engines have le​​ss chance​​​​ for fuel issues

 

We highlight this​​​ with every seasonal change. Whether you go from mower to blower or vise versa, Ariens emphasizes the importance of storing the fuel in your tank and fuel system correctly. If that critical step is avoided, fuel can oxidize, turn to a gel-like substance, clog the fuel lines and cause your engine to not start. It’s a common issue that far too many of our users learn the hard way, but it’s an issue that typically only applies to carbureted engines. As discussed above, carburetors mix air and fuel. But that oxygen, though necessary, is what causes fuel to go bad over a relatively short period of time.

EFI systems are different. With the absence of a carburetor, EFI fuel systems are sealed, meaning air doesn’t get into the system. Without air, fuel doesn’t oxidize, and if it doesn’t oxidize, the fuel system doesn’t g​et clogged. Just be aware that this isn’t a guarantee that fuel in an EFI system can’t go bad, it just means it has much less chance of oxidizing, clogging your fuel lines and costing you time and money in repairs.

 

​EFI engines require le​​​ss mainte​​nance

 

Any combustion engine, carbureted or EFI, needs regular oil change​​s. That doesn’t change, but what does change is the amount of time spent preparing your unit for seasonal storage. As highlighted above, fuel in carbureted engines have a greater chance of deteriorating because oxygen gets into the fuel system. Users can help avoid fuel oxidation and clogging from happening in their carbureted engines by adding a quality fuel stabilizer to their fuel tank before storage, but it’s a careful process that takes time.

With EFI engines, there’s no need to take these precautions because EFI engines have sealed fuel systems. Air doesn’t get in, and if air doesn’t get in, fuel can’t oxidize and clog. Again, just remember that it’s not ​​guaranteed. It is, however, much less likely to occur, and that cuts down on the times you take your engine in for service to resolve those fuel clogs that have greater chances of happening in carbureted engines.

Tips for Mowing Your Lawn During the Winter

12/3/2019 6:00:00 AM

​​It's important to take care of your lawn during the winter months for a lush and healthy lawn come spring. Grass may grow slower or go completely dormant in colder temperatures, but lawn care doesn't completely disappear in the winter. In certain areas, the grass is still alive and absorbing nutrients that are stored and used in spring. Maintaining a healthy lawn during the winter will also make things easier by minimizing the onset of diseases or pests once things warm up. To ensure a healthy lawn year-round, you'll want to address the following steps.​

Mowing lawn in the winter

1.    How long should my grass be during the wint​​​er?

Grass height should vary based on the season as well as the type of grass. Warm season grasses are kept shorter compared to cold season grasses. During w​inter, a warm season grass length should be kept at 1.5 to 2 inches tall, where cold season grass lengths can be kept closer to 2.5 inches tall.

Winter lawn length

Do you know your grass type? Read our post from earlier this year that describes the growing areas, characteristics and care instructions for the most common grass types, some of which are listed below:

​​Warm Season Grasses

  • Bermuda Grass
  • Bahia Grass
  • St. Augustine Grass
  • Centipede Grass
  • Zoysia Grass
  • Carpet Grass
  • Buffalo Grass

Cold Season Grasses

  • Kentucky Blue Grass
  • Creeping Bent Grass
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Creeping Red Fescue Grass

​Why grass shouldn​'t be too tall in the winter

For whatever grass type grows in your yard, avoid letting that grass grow over three inches during cold months. If grass is too tall, it will wilt, restricting airflow and causing it to collect moisture which can lead to fungal diseases. Long grass can also attract mice and other unwanted critters looking for warm places to stay, and these unwelcome visitors can damage your yard.

Why grass shou​ldn't be too short in the winter

Cutting grass too short can also affect the health of your lawn. If grass is too short, it has a harder time absorbing sunlight and nutrients. This causes the grass to turn yellow or brown in appearance and will make it spend most of the spring trying to work its way back to a healthy green color.

It's important to never cut more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. This means that if your lawn is three inches tall, only one inch should be cut. If your lawn ends up getting longer than you'd like, cut it to the desired length gradually by mowing more frequently, while still remembering to cut off no more than a third with any one mowing.

​2.    How of​​​ten should I mow my lawn during the winter?

The good news is that winter lawn mowing is much less frequent than at peak times of the year. Instead of mowing your lawn once a week like you're used to during the summer, you can cut back to once every 3 to 4 weeks, depending on where you live. Since grass grows slower when temperatures drop to 50 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit, grass doesn't grow at the rate it does when there's ample warmth, water and sunshine, meaning there's no need to cut it every week. If the weather gets too cold, the grass may completely stop growing, eliminating your need to mow it altogether.

3.    Only Mow When the Grass is Dry

Mowing less is great for your spare time budget, but the tricky part is finding a good time to mow because the weather usually isn't on your side. Whenever you find time in-between messy weather, make sure the grass is dry before mowing. Cutting wet grass can damage the roots and the weight of the water can make the grass wilt, resulting in an uneven cut.

That's not just with rainy days, either. Pay attention to snow, ice and even morning frost. A few cold frosts will cause warm season grass to go dormant. However, cool season grass is more resilient and continues to grow (slowly), requiring the need for maintenance. Either way, avoid mowing too early i​n the morning when frost is still present from an overnight freeze, keeping both your lawn and your neighbors happy.

​​​4.    Avoid Walking on Frozen Grass

It's OK to walk on grass during the warm summer days since it's flexible and supple, but cold weather doesn't offer that same luxury. Grass becomes more brittle and fragile in colder temperatures, causing grass blades to be damaged more easily. The grass will eventually recover, but it takes time to heal. So, minimize foot traffic across your lawn by keeping sidewalks, walkways, and driveways clean. Having a clear path to and from your house encourages visitors to avoid walking on the grass.

Mowing lawn with frost

​​5.    Keep Your Lawn Clean

Keep your lawn clean by removing leaves, branches and other organic matter. Leaving organic matter on your lawn can lead to the growth of bacteria or fungus.

Lawn mower bagging leaves

If you are unable to rake the leaves before the first frost, use a leaf blower to avoid damaging your brittle grass with the rake. If the weather stays favorable, install a grass bagger or a mulching kit to your zero turn lawn mower or lawn tractor and mow over the leaves. Bagging saves you loads of time over raking, and mulching minces organic yard material and leaves into super-fine pieces that break down easily and return usable nutrients back to a lawn. Just don't bite off more than your yard can chew. If you have too many leaves covering your grass, bag instead of mulch. If you mulching them, you risk smothering your yard in mulched debris.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of mulching.

It's also important to remove summer toys or fall decorations from your lawn. These items can suffocate your grass by restricting its air supply, and they block sunlight.

​​6.    Take Care of Your Lawn Mower

The slower lawn mowing months are the best time to fine-tune, service and maintain your lawn mower for the more vigorous work that begins when it w​arms up. This involves changing the oil, sharpening the blades, cleaning debris off the mower and from under the deck, replacing the engine air filter and maybe even replacing the spark plugs. Lawn mowers need regular maintenance to work effectively and efficiently year after year.

When it comes time to store your lawn mower during the offseason, keep it indoors to protect it from the harsh weather. Make sure to keep it somewhere dry and where it doesn't get too cold. Click here to learn more important details on how to correctly store your lawn mower for the season.

How to Change Snow Blower Oil

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 engi​​ne oil:

  1. Run the engine for a couple minutes to warm the oil.
  2. Stop the unit, remove the key and move the unit to a flat, level surface.
  3. Wait for hot parts to cool, then disconnect the spark plug wire from the engine.
  4. Position an oil drain pan below the oil drain plug.
  5. Remove the oil drain plug and allow oil to drain.
  6. When oil stops draining, reinstall the drain plug and tighten.
  7. 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.
  8. Reinstall the cap / dipstick.
  9. Remove the dipstick and confirm the oil level is adequate, according to the markings on the dipstick.
  10. Reinstall the cap/ dipstick and reconnect the spark plug wire to the spark plug.
  11. 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.

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