If there’s any doubt that last winter was – it rhymes with "well" – a glance at Mutton Power Equipment’s Illinois Road repair shop should dispel it.
As of last week, about 150 snowblowers were waiting there for fixes, says sales specialist Evan Klerner. "Last winter was really hard on snowblowers," he says. "It kinda chewed them up."
Although not every snowblower will require an overhaul, the machines do need annual maintenance, dealers say. But folks tend to forget that until they’re knee-deep in Stuff No One Wants (SNOW) with a blower that won’t work, says Gayle Shuster, general manager at Crescent Avenue Gardens in Fort Wayne.
Here’s what owners should do now.
Get out the owner’s manual. Maintaining a snowblower isn’t something you never forget how to do. Can’t find the manual? Check www.manualsonline.com for free, downloadable manuals, even for older models.
Replace the oil. Don’t run a snowblower on old oil. "It’s really bad for the unit," Klerner says. Because some machines, known as two-cycles, require mixing gas and oil, check the manual first. It also will tell you how to drain oil and how much and what kind of oil to use. Or ask a dealer. Recycle the old stuff.
Take care of the gas. "Gas goes bad in about 90 days," Shuster says. You should have drained it at the end of last winter, but if you thought that would never come, you need to do it now or risk carburetor damage or replacement. Refill with gas with no more than 10 percent ethanol, warns the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. Or find no-ethanol gas for small engines at CountryMark, 1105 Production Road.
Check the spark plug. Replacement doesn’t need to be done every year. If the blower starts, the plug’s OK. But a new one costs less than $5, and it can dramatically improve the ability to start a blower, Klerner says. "They get worn over time and don’t send out as good a spark."
Check the paddles and scrapers. Paddles throw snow and the scraper, on the bottom of the machine, lifts it. Shuster says last winter took a toll on them because of heavy snow and snow on top of ice. If the snowblower throws snow back on your feet, you’ve got a problem, Klerner says. While you’re looking at them, check to see if you’ve cracked a wheel or need new tires.
Lubricate and clean. Wheel, impeller and auger bearings can use a little liquid attention, according to Repairclinic.com. Degreaser makes your blower shine, to the envy of neighbors.
Shops often offer a preseason tune-up; Mutton’s costs just under $50, without parts. Expect a two-week wait, Klerner says. Shuster says her shop is running at record levels. After last winter, "it’s fear," she says.