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A Beginner's Guide to Snow Blower Maintenance

A Beginner's Guide to Snow Blower Maintenance Posted in Snowblowers by Todd Myer

Your snow blower is the one piece of outdoor power equipment that tends to have the most down time between seasons. Whether you had a harsh winter, or one where spring came early, don't forget to maintain your snow blower.

This article strives to cover many of the basics needed to get your snow blower ready for the next winter season.

Reviewing your owner's manual before performing any maintenance project will help you become more familiar with your specific unit.

Please read our disclaimer.

Here's a brief overview of what this article will cover:

  • Changing the oil
  • Inspecting and replacing the belts
  • Checking scraper bars and skid shoes
  • Changing the spark plug
  • Replacing a shear pin
  • Replacing the starter cord
  • Fuel system maintenance
  • Tightening the bolts

Changing the Oil

Check the owner's manual and make sure you have the recommended oil on hand before you begin this process.

Once you have your supplies, check the oil level. If it's within running range, start the snow blower and let it warm up a bit. This will let the oil flow easier, and stir up any dirt in the oil pan that needs to be flushed out.

Stop the engine and remove the oil plug to drain the used oil into a receptacle.

Replace the drain plug when all the old oil has drained. Tighten the plug, so it seals properly.

Refill the engine with the proper amount of the manufacturer's recommended weight of oil. Inspect for leaks around the drain plug to be sure that it's tight.

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to do an oil change on a snow blower.

Inspecting the Belts

Look in the owner's manual and find the location of the belt cover. Most two stage snow blowers have two belts, one for the auger, and another for the drive system.

Remove the cover, and inspect the belt for cracks and wear. Replace the belt if needed. If you're not sure you'll remember the placement of the orignal belt, take a picture of how the belt is routed before you remove it.

Most belts will stretch during operation. Occasionally check or adjust the pulleys to make sure the belt is tight.

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to replace snow blower belts.

Checking Scraper Bar and Skid Shoes

Checking Scraper Bars and Skid Shoes Scraper Bar and Skid Shoes

The scraper bar's function is to scrape the snow off your driveway into the auger. Over time, scraper bars will wear down and need to be replaced.

If it wears down too far, the snow blower housing can be damaged.

Take a look at our step-by-step guide on how to replace a scraper bar.

The skid shoes are located on each side of the auger housing. They are the adjustable pieces that set the auger height to keep it from scraping the surface and picking up stones.

Skid shoes are also a wear item and will need to be replaced over time. Replace them if needed by removing the bolts, taking off the old skid shoe, and bolting on a replacement to the proper height.

Some skid shoes are reversible, so you can just flip them over if one side is worn. It is never a good idea to run your snow blower without skid shoes being properly installed.

See our step-by-step guide on how to adjust skid shoes.

Changing the Spark Plug

The spark plug should be inspected after every season, and replaced as needed. Start by disconnecting the spark plug lead from the spark plug. Be sure to remove any debris from around the spark plug to prevent it from getting in to your engine.

Remove the spark plug with a spark plug socket wrench. Use a wire brush and spray plug cleaner to remove light deposits on the plug.

Look closely at your spark plug and check for heavy damage or deposits. If there are any, the spark plug should be replaced. Refer to our How to Read a Spark Plug guide to see what a worn spark plug may look like.

Reinstall or replace the spark plug, and attach the wire. Be sure not to over tighten the spark plug when you reinstall it.

Want more details? View our step-by-step guide on how to change a snow blower spark plug.

Replacing the Shear Pins

With the snow blower turned off and on a level surface, look at the auger. The shear pins (shear bolts) are used to connect the auger to the gear case. They are one of the few parts on any outdoor power equipment that is meant to break. It's a safety feature that breaks when the auger and gear case become over torqued.

Inspect the shear pins. If they are broken or missing, replace them. In most cases they fall out on their own after they break.

When installing new shear pins, be sure that you only use exact replacement (OEM) shear pins. Anything else could damage your gear case if it gets jammed.

We suggest you have a few spare sets of shear pins on hand for easy replacement during the season. You wouldn't want to get stuck in the middle of a snow storm with a broken shear pin and no replacement.

If you want more information. Here is an in-depth article on how to replace a shear pin.

Replacing the Starter Cord

Replacing the Starter Cord Replacing the Starter Cord

Check the pull cord to make sure it's not cut or frayed. If it looks like it should be replaced, now is the time to do it.

Remove the recoil starter assembly and untie (or cut) the knots that secure the cord to the handle and recoil pulley.

Rethread the new starter cord through the handle and the recoil assembly. Hook the cord in the pulley slot and begin to wind the pulley.

Once the pulley is wound, slowly release the cord and let it rewind around the pulley. Finally, test the new starter cord to see if it's working smoothly.

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to replace a snow blower starter cord.

Fuel Maintenance

Let's talk about fuel. Due to the addition of ethanol in fuel, small engines have acquired a whole new set of problems in recent years. Feel free to view our article on the issues of ethanol fuel.

Draining the fuel from your tank and carburetor is a safeguard against the formation of varnish deposits that can occur when old fuel is left in a small engine. Learn about snow blower fuel system problems and prevention.

Tightening the Bolts

Finishing up the visual inspection, check and make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight. A snow blower can vibrate quite a bit during use. This can cause the nuts and bolts to become loose. Tighten up any loose nuts and bolts, so nothing falls off while it's operating.

Best Time for Snow Blower Maintenance

It's recommended that maintenance be done before you store your snow blower for the off season. So when the weather service starts talking about a storm front coming in next season, you'll be ready.

If you didn't service your snow blower at the end of last season, get your snow blower serviced before this years winter season starts.

Learn more about maintaining your snow blower by following the helpful links below.


Jack's Safety Tips: Before servicing or repairing any power equipment, disconnect the spark plug and battery cables. Remember to wear appropriate safety glasses and gloves to protect against harmful chemicals and debris. View our Disclaimer.