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Things to Know Before You Buy

Snow Thrower

Despite its beauty as it falls from the sky and coats the ground in a blanket of white, snow can be far less poetic and far more back-breaking trouble--especially if you live in an area where winter can bring moderate to heavy quantities of snow. That's where a snow thrower/blower comes into the mix to save time and relieve your aching back and arms from hours of shoveling.

But before you buy a snow thrower, you'll need to make some decisions--here are some basics to consider before tackling some of the more technical specifics.

• Gravel or paved surfaces: One of the most important considerations in purchasing a snow thrower is the surface you'll be clearing. If you just have paved walkways or driveways, a single-stage snow thrower will suffice. However, if you have any unpaved surfaces, you'll need a two-stage machine that doesn't touch the ground, and thus doesn't throw any gravel or small stones.

• Amount and type of snow: Another consideration is how much snow you'll need to clear. If your area typically gets snowfalls of less than 6 inches at a time, a single-stage snow thrower will do the trick. However, for medium to heavy snowfalls (6 to 12 inches and beyond), a two-stage snow blower is recommended. Additionally, if your snowfalls tend to be wet and heavy, consider a larger horsepower engine or a model with a serrated auger.

• Size of area to be cleared: For larger areas, such as driveways over 40 feet long, a two-stage snow blower is recommended.

• Clearing path: Pay attention to the width of the auger, the spinning part of the snow thrower that collects the snow before sending through a chute or impeller. The wider an auger is, the wider the clearing path you'll create and the sooner you'll finish.

• Sloped driveways or walkways: If you'll be needing to push a snow thrower uphill at all, consider getting a model with gear-driven wheels for power steering, typically a two-stage machine.

• Your budget: Snow thrower prices fall across a wide range, so determining how much you'd like to spend is important.


Choosing the Stage: Single or Double

Snow Thrower

As mentioned above, snow throwers come in two different types of machine--the single-stage and the two-stage.

Single-stage throwers use the spinning auger at the front of the machine to break apart snow and then throw it directly through the discharge chute on the top. Because the auger blades are in direct contact with the ground, helping to propel the machine, single-stage throwers are not recommended for clearing unpaved areas. Additionally, due to their smaller size, single-stage throwers are more easily maneuverable and are best for use in areas with lighter snowfall.

Two-stage blowers augment the auger with an impeller--a fan-like piece of machinery that sucks snow out of the auger and discharges it through the chute with more speed and force. Because they typically have more powerful motors and a wider clearing paths, two-stage blowers are more adept at handling higher accumulation and wetter snowfalls as well as at clearing larger areas, such as driveways longer than 40 feet, in less time. Also, two-stage machines will typically have driven wheels that can better help you clear sloped areas.

Unlike single-stage machines, the auger on two-stage blowers doesn't touch the ground, making it acceptable for use on gravel surfaces. Additionally, with two-stage snow blowers, you'll typically get multiple forward speeds, as well as reverse.


Gas or Electric?

Snow Thrower

If your needs are pointing to a two-stage snow blower--larger area to clear, heavier snowfall--your only choice is a gas-powered machine. But for those who need just a single-stage machine, you can choose between electric and gas models.

• Electric-powered single-stage throwers: More compact, akin in size and weight to a lawn mower, electric snow throwers are ideal for use in areas that only get occasional, light snow as well as for smaller homes where you'll primarily be clearing walkways, patios, decks, and/or porches. More lightweight than their gas-powered counterparts, electric throwers are easier to navigate while clearing snow as well as easier to store.

Electric throwers require little maintenance, however their range is limited by the length of your electrical extension cord.

• Gas-powered single-stage throwers: A bit heavier than electric models, these mid-sized machines still offer easier maneuverability than two-stage blowers. Additionally, they offer larger front augers for more clearance area and can handle moderately heavy snowfalls.

There’s a bit more of a maintenance requirement for gas-powered throwers. Depending on the type of engine, you might need to mix the oil and gas for 2-cycle engines or perform periodic oil changes if using 4-cycle engines.

Comparison Chart


Special Features

Now that you've got the basics down, you can decide if you'll want a model with one or more of these special features.

• Electric starting: For effortless starting without having to yank on a pull cord, consider a thrower with an electric starting feature. Typically, an electric-start thrower will need to be plugged into an outlet via an included extension cord. After that, just push the start button on the unit to get the engine going, unplug the cord, and you're ready to throw some snow.

• Headlight: For optimal use at night or in poorly lit areas, look for models that include a headlight.

• Serrated auger: Providing a more aggressive cut, serrated augers can more easily tackle heavily packed snow and ice.

• Tracks versus wheels: While most snow throwers come with rubber traction tires, some models, typically more powerful two-stage machines, replace wheels with tracks for an even surer grip on the snow and ice.


Glossary

Snow Thrower

Blower vs. Thrower: Depending on where you grew up, you may be more familiar with "blower" versus "thrower," or vice versa. Essentially, the two terms can be used interchangeably, but many would reserve the "thrower" terminology for single-stage machines that throw snow from augers, as opposed to two-stage machines that blow snow from impellers.

Auger: The spinning portion at the front of the thrower that breaks snow loose and collects it for throwing via the chute or impeller.

Chute: This is where the snow gets discharged after being collected by the auger, and it can typically be turned to direct the snow where you want it.

Impeller: While a chute is found on both single-stage and two-stage machines, an impeller is only part of two-stage snow blowers and is what gives them a second stage. After snow is broken up and picked up by a two-stage snow blower's auger, the fan-like impeller spins at a high speed to throw snow through the discharge chute.


Staying Safe

Every year, there are thousands of emergency room visits that are related to injuries suffered while using a snow thrower. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Injuries most frequently occurred when consumers tried to clear the auger/collector or discharge chute with their hands." These days, most snow throwers will come with a plastic tool to clear snow out of the discharge chute or auger, and it's important to use that instead of your hands. If a clearing tool isn't available, a broom handle will suffice. Also, make sure to stop the engine before trying to clear any snow, and keep both hands and feet away from any moving parts.

Make sure to choose the right snow thrower for the surfaces you need clearing. Remember that single-stage snow throwers essentially scrape the snow right off the surface of the ground, and thus can pick up gravel, ice, or other small debris. But no matter the type of snow thrower you choose, it's always wise to keep people and animals away from the area you're clearing.

Other tips include:

• Never leave the machine running in an enclosed area.

• Don't add gasoline to a running or hot engine.

• If running an electric snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.


Snow Removal at Amazon.com

Now that you know what kind of snow thrower you need and the features you’re looking for, shop our full selection of:

Single-stage snow throwers

Two-stage snow blowers

Gas snow throwers

Electric snow throwers

Snow-thrower accessories

Snow shovels

Snow rakes

Snow and ice melting products