Snow Thrower Buying Guide

Shoveling snow is difficult and time-consuming work. There is an easier way to clear snow from areas around your home. A snow thrower can clear most surfaces in a fraction of the time required by shoveling with much less effort.

When choosing the right snow thrower for your home, consider the size of the area that will be cleared, the time you have to do the task and the amount of snowfall you normally have each year. You will find many varieties of snow-removing machines. There are two main types of snow throwers, single-stage and two-stage.

Single-Stage Snow Throwers

Single-stage snow throwers use an auger assembly made from a combination of metal and plastic or hard rubber. The auger spins at high speed to chip ice and snow, collect it, and direct it out of a discharge chute. Though not propelled by engine-driven wheels, the spinning auger contacts the clearing surface and pulls the assembly forward. This results in some degree of self-propulsion, but the operator must still guide the machine. Because the auger directly contacts the clearing surface, single stage throwers are best used on pavement or other smooth surfaces.

Single-stage snow thrower.

Single-stage throwers vary in clearing width from about 12"-22". Narrower widths work well on sidewalks but require more passes to clear driveways.

Many models have multi-directional discharge chutes that can be aimed from the operating position while the thrower is in use. These snow throwers have wheels and can throw snow 25’-35’. These units are intended for residential use after light to moderate snows of 3"-5."

Two-Stage Snow Throwers

The main difference between single-stage and two-stage throwers is the spinning impeller behind the snow collection auger. The impeller functions like a pump. It collects the snow churned by the main auger and pushes it from the discharge chute at increased speed. More snow is moved a greater distance (up to 45’ with some models) allowing the thrower to handle deeper snow and larger clearing areas. Clearing width is also larger, from 20" to more than 36" depending on the model.

Two-stage snow thrower.

The basic design of two-stage models necessitates engine-driven wheels or tank-style tracks. Unlike a single-stage model, the clearing auger doesn’t contact the clearing surface. Instead, the front of the thrower rides on adjustable metal plates or skids. The skids control the clearing height of the main auger and can be replaced when they become worn. Due to the adjustable clearing height, two-stage snow throwers can be used on almost any surface. Each model uses some form of multiple speed, reversible transmission. Some transmissions allow the operator to apply power to each wheel independently to aid in turning, while others require the operator to turn the machine manually.

Most two-stage snow throwers have 4-cycle winterized engines specifically designed to operate in extremely cold temperatures. Their starting mechanisms are freeze-resistant and cooling systems are designed for use in cold temperatures.

Many two-stage machines intended for residential users and professionals provide additional features. Options include heated handgrips, hydrostatic variable-speed transmissions, electric start mechanisms, headlamps, drift cutters for deep snow, and vinyl cabs for protection from the cold. Options vary by model and manufacturer.

Snow Thrower Safety

A snow thrower operator should follow all the instructions and safety precautions in the owner’s manual.

Listed below are some guidelines to follow.

  • Wear warm, nonrestrictive clothing and shoes with good traction.

  • Never attempt to unclog the thrower when it’s running. The auger and impeller can seriously injure a hand or foot.

  • When unclogging a snow thrower, use a broom handle or similar wooden item. The auger and impeller can injure your hands even when the thrower is shut off.

  • Never point the discharge chute at a bystander or nearby object. A solid item hurled from the discharge chute can shatter glass or injure a bystander.

  • Always set the parking brake (if equipped) and stop the snow collection mechanism when leaving the operating position.

  • Be careful of solid objects hidden under the snow. Striking a hidden object can do significant damage to the object, the snow thrower and the operator.

  • Slopes should be cleared by moving up and down the face, not across. Do not attempt to clear a slope that is steeper than recommended in the snow thrower’s operating manual.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended storage procedure when storing your snow thrower during the off-season.

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