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How Does A Snow Blower Work? 6 Things You Should Know

Snowblowers are handy tools that are quite common in regions that experience regular snowfall during winter. Though snow blowers may differ in size, brand, look, power, and so on, they are used for the same purpose, which is clearing snow or ice.

How Does A Snow Blower Work?

Snowblowers use a gas or electric motor to power some spinning blades (auger) that chew on snow and throw it away on the side. Depending on the size of the blower you have different types of augers and the way by which the auger lifts snow and discharges results in three different types: single-stage snow blowers, two-stage snow blowers, and three-stage blowers.

By Jared C. BenedictCC BY-SA 2.0

It is safe to say that many people don’t really consider how snow blowers work, all that matters to them is that these equipment manage to blow snow effectively. However, understanding the inner workings of your snowblower is as important as the performance of this unit. This will provide you with the necessary information that you need in order to purchase the best snow blower required for your kind of job, to operate your machine properly, and to do the right things to ensure its longevity. In the rest of this article, we will be showing you the different types of snow blowers as well as their properties, to help you understand how they operate. Once you can understand how different snowblowers work, you will also have a better understanding of the machines, enabling you to make a better decision when choosing the right snow blower for your needs.

What is a snowblower?

A snow blower is a machine that helps you to remove large amounts of snow and ice. When they are pushed through snow and ice, they chew on the ice and dislodge the snow as they move, eventually discharging the snow and ice through a chute. The major purpose of this equipment is to clear a path that contains snow as they work. They can be used to clear out pathways, driveways, steps, porches, patios, decks, and other areas that we like to use during winter. Snow blowers can be powered by both gas and electric engines. Larger snowblower often use a gas-powered engine, while the smaller models usually use an electric motor. For an electric unit, the power source can either be cordless (battery-powered) or corded (using an electric cord that is connected into an electric outlet).

How Does a Snow Blower Work?

A snow blower is simply a piece of equipment that makes use of a spinning auger to chew on snow and push it into a discharge chute where it will be thrown to another side and out of your way. Snowblowers are effective tools that are used to clear snow and ice from pathways, driveways, and sidewalks. They consist of an auger, which is a set of rotating blades located in front of the snowblower. The augers are made from a variety of materials such as plastic, steel, or other pieces of metals like aluminum. For smaller snow blowers that are light weighted and are designed for clearing light to medium snow, plastic augers are usually used. On the other hand, heavy-duty snow blowers that are designed for clearing heavy snow and ice usually make use of a metal auger.

Blade designs of each auger also vary depending on the type of snowblower. However, the most common design you’ll find is that of a helix. Here, the augers are designed to have horizontal blades that twist into a helix pattern and run across the length of the auger. Other designs include the corkscrew design, and some make use of independent blades that chew through dense ice and compacted snow.

When considering the auger, there are two factors to also consider. The first one is the length of the auger, which will determine the width of its clearing path. A longer auger (usually found on larger machines) will clear a wider path easily. The second factor is the diameter of the auger, which determines how deep the cut will be. Normally, an auger has a shaft that connects to the center of an outer disc which is responsible for propelling the auger. Since only the bottom half of the auger makes contact with the snow, then the cutting depth will slightly be half the diameter of the auger. Hence, an auger that has a diameter of 12” will cut through snow that is about 6” deep.

The way most augers work is that they lift the snow from the ground, chop it into smaller particles, and then throw it upward. The snow then moves through a chute and becomes blown away far from the machine –up to 50 feet away. The way by which the auger lifts snow and discharges it can be achieved in different ways, and these differ with the three different types of snow blowers. Hence, snow blowers are divided into three categories; single-stage snow blowers, two-stage snow blowers, and three-stage blowers.

Considering the single-stage snow blowers, you’ll see that they can easily be referred to as snow throwers because they don’t actually blow the snow from the chute. On the other hand, the two-stage and three-stage units can accurately be called snow blowers, as they blow the snow from the chute. This means that the snow is deposited much further away from the machine. Now let’s see how these three different types of snow blowers work.

1. Single-Stage Snow Blower

Of all the stages, single-stage blowers are the lightest, smallest, and easiest to handle. They come with a single high-speed auger that is able to scrape the snow off the ground and sends it out through the discharge chute. These types of snow blowers have some basic features and accessories that make them great for suburban areas with a moderate amount of snowfall. Although they vary from one brand to another, most single-stage blowers are typically 18-22 inches wide and can handle snow of about 6 inches, clearing them from your sidewalks, steps, and short driveways. While they have a great amount of clearing power, many single-stage snow blowers are smaller and lighter in weight, making them great options for many homeowners to keep their driveways, steps, decks, and patios clear. Additionally, they can break up and clear compacted snow, but you must attack it early before it solidifies, and for an easy job, break down the larger areas into chunks using a shovel. Because the auger is used to discharge the snow, they also don’t deposit the snow as far away from the chute as the others.

2. Two-Stage Snow Blower

Two-stage snow blower units make use of a slow turning augur that gathers enough snow and moves it to the center of the housing. Here, this gathered snow is forced into a high-speed impeller that propels the snow out through the chute. These models are specifically designed to handle heavy snowfall with depths of more than 12 inches on large driveways (up to 2 cars wide and 3 cars long). These strong machines have heavier and sturdier designs that can easily handle up to 18 inches of snow, helping users to handle heavy and deep snow without stopping or slowing down. The two-stage units have a horizontally positioned auger that gathers snow and pushes it towards a separate, rotating impeller, that in turn ejects it through a chute. This machine can throw snow up to 50 feet from where it gathers, making it easier for you to clear out large areas without having to pile up snow only to move it again.

Most of these units are self-propelled, having multiple forward speeds from which you can select. They also have a larger engine and auger, which allows them to be able to chew into compacted ice and snow easier and faster than their single-stage counterparts and handle more amount of snow within a short period.  The auger, responsible for sucking up the snow does not make any contact with the clearing surface, which means that you can easily clear snow even on gravel driveways or crushed stone surfaces. Also, they come with taller buckets, which are capable of chewing through snowdrifts and pile-ups, like those on the end of your driveways or mailbox. When it comes to clearing large and deep expanses of snow, the wider and more powerful two-stage snow blower is your best bet.

3. Three-Stage Snow Blower

Three-stage snow blowers as you can already guess, are the most powerful and efficient snow blowers available on the market. Unlike the others, they have two metal augers that are responsible for scooping up snow and ice.  After scooping up ice and snow, they push it towards the center of the unit where an accelerator chops the snow and pushes it through the impeller, sending it out of the chute at a high speed. These units are very powerful and efficient in clearing out snow. In fact, a three-stage snow blower can remove heavy snow or ice almost 50 percent faster than a two-stage blower of the same size. Three-stage snow blowers are also designed to handle heavy snowfall of up to 18 inches in depths, on driveways of about 3 cars wide and 4 cars long. If you’re worried about the snowplow leaving frozen walls of snow at the end of your driveway, the three-stage machine will plow through up to 20 inches of snow heaps, while throwing it as far as 50 feet away.

Final remarks

Now that you have a better idea of how snow blowers work, you can make a well-informed decision on the right snow blower that works best for you.

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  1. Marjorie Evans says:

    What should one do if the auger gets clogged while using a snow blower?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Hi Marjorie, if your auger gets clogged while using a snow blower, turn off the machine, disconnect the spark plug, and carefully clear the clog using a stick or broom handle. Stay safe!

  2. Veronica Bell says:

    Interesting article, I never knew there were different types of snow blowers

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Veronica! I’m glad you found the article interesting. Snow blowers are indeed fascinating tools with different types to suit various needs. Stay warm this winter!

  3. Beatrice Stanley says:

    How long does it take to clear a driveway with a snow blower?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      It typically takes about 15-45 minutes to clear a driveway with a snow blower, depending on the size and power of the unit. Stay warm out there, Beatrice!

  4. Warren Howell says:

    Do snow blowers require a lot of maintenance?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Snow blowers do require maintenance, such as engine oil changes, spark plug checks, and regular cleaning to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Regular maintenance will keep your snow blower running smoothly.

  5. Dan Meyer says:

    Is it better to buy a single-stage or a two-stage snow blower for a small driveway?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      For a small driveway, a single-stage snow blower should suffice. It is lighter, easier to handle, and suitable for clearing moderate snowfall effectively.

  6. Alicia Little says:

    Thanks for explaining the importance of understanding how a snow blower works before buying one

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Alicia! Understanding how snow blowers work is crucial for making an informed purchase. Appreciate your feedback!

  7. Jackie Taylor says:

    I feel more confident now in choosing the right snow blower after reading this article

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Jackie! I’m glad this article helped you feel more confident in choosing the right snow blower. Happy snow blowing!

  8. Barry Watson says:

    I like how the article breaks down the different types of snow blowers and their capabilities

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Barry! I’m glad you found the breakdown helpful. Understanding your snowblower can make all the difference in its performance and longevity. Happy snow blowing!

  9. Cherly Brown says:

    I never realized how powerful three-stage snow blowers are, very informative

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Cheryl! I’m glad you found the information on three-stage snow blowers helpful. Stay warm this winter with your powerful snow blower!

  10. Patsy Gordon says:

    I appreciate the detailed explanation on how snow blowers work

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Patsy! I’m glad you found the explanation helpful. Snow blowers are essential tools for clearing snow effectively during the winter season.

  11. Perry Franklin says:

    Very thorough explanation of the inner workings of snow blowers

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Perry! I’m glad you found the explanation helpful. Understanding how snow blowers work is key to choosing the right one for your needs.

  12. Madison Hopkins says:

    So informative! I had no idea about the differences between single, two, and three-stage snow blowers

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you for the positive feedback, Madison! I’m glad you found the information informative. Snow blowers can be quite complex, but understanding their differences can help you choose the right one for your needs.

  13. Lillian Pierce says:

    I appreciate the video links provided in the article, makes it easier to understand

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Lillian! I’m glad the video links were helpful in understanding how snow blowers work. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  14. Timmothy Ross says:

    Can snow blowers be used for commercial purposes?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Snow blowers can indeed be used for commercial purposes, with larger two-stage or three-stage units being best for heavy-duty tasks. Consider the size, power, and efficiency needed for your commercial snow removal needs.

  15. Hugh Bell says:

    Can a snow blower work on wet snow as well?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Hi Hugh! Yes, snow blowers can work on wet snow as well. The spinning auger helps to chew through and clear the wet snow effectively.

  16. Penny Larson says:

    What are the differences between electric and gas-powered snow blowers?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Hi Penny! Electric snow blowers are generally quieter, eco-friendly, and require less maintenance than gas-powered ones. However, gas-powered snow blowers tend to have more power for heavy-duty tasks. Hope this helps!

  17. Virgil Mccoy says:

    Are there any safety precautions to take when using a snow blower?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Hi Virgil, when using a snow blower, it is important to wear protective gear, avoid loose clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe operation. Stay safe!

  18. Herminia Chambers says:

    Do snow blowers work well on steep slopes?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Snow blowers may struggle on very steep slopes as they rely on gravity. Consider a snow shovel for steep areas. Stay safe!

  19. Lance Coleman says:

    Great article, very well explained about the auger and how it works

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you, Lance! I’m glad you found the explanation helpful. Understanding how snow blowers work can definitely enhance your snow-clearing experience.

  20. Kurt Carter says:

    This article has made me consider getting a snow blower for next winter

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thank you for considering getting a snow blower! Understanding how they work is key to making the right choice for your needs. Let me know if you need more information.