I Got My New Snow Blower Home, Now What?

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Hello Paul,

First thank you so much for your web site. If you ever add a paypal to give “tips”, I would gladly chip in.
If I could ask you a question: I’m in the northeast. Bought a new Craftsman 88173 over the summer when Sears was having a good deal. Haven’t done anything with it other than taking it out of the box.

My question is: should I be doing the summer/fall maintenance right now – change oil, etc.? It seemed to have shipped with some oil but not a lot – should I just drain it and put in the synthetic oil I bought along with it? Any other things I should do for good care and feeding? Feel free to just point me to a spot on your web site and say “DO IT!!!”

Again thank you so much.


If you take about 30 minutes now to finish the set up of your snow blower and learn a few things about it, you will be able to use it and repair it for many years to come.

Grab your manual. For a Craftsman, if you can’t find it go to managemylife.com. Click on the manuals tab and put in the model number (it’s on the silver plate on the bottom right corner in the back of the snow blower) You can read it there or print it off. (For other brands go to their website, find the support tab and click through to the manuals and parts section.)

Must Do:

1. You can change the oil to synthetic. And then change it every spring before you put it away. If you don’t change the oil make sure the oil it came with is between the high and low marks on the dipstick. 5W-30 is the correct weight.
2. Check the tire pressure. If they are not even the machine will pull in the direction of the low tire.
3. Get an extra package of shear pins. Hang them on the wall where you can find them. Remove and replace one now so you now how to do it with snow and gloves. You can tip your snow blower back on the handles to inspect and change the pins.
4. Use a fuel stabilizer in the gas. I like SeaFoam at 2 tablespoons per gallon in your storage container.
5. Adjust the skid-shoes. I lay the operator’s manual under the front scraper and then lower the skid-shoes until they touch the ground. That gives you about 1/8 inch clearance. That keeps the scraper bar from wearing out quickly and keeps the snow blower from catching on most cracks in your driveway and sidewalks. If you have a gravel drive, raise it up a little higher.
6. Play with the controls. The levers on the handles and the chute control should move easily. The gear shift will be very stiff.
I also suggest:
1. Remove the belt cover. It is the plastic cover between the engine and the chute. Look at the belts and move the control levers to see how the tensioners work. Feel the tension of the belt (press in the middle of the belt)  with the control levers down and with them released. Look at the parts as they move when you move the control levers. Do this so you can troubleshoot your snow blower if it ever stops moving or quits blowing snow. It is easy to change these two belts if one ever breaks. (Myself I would get an extra set now and hang them with the shear pins) Put the cover back on.
2. Cables. Move the controls on the handles and watch the cables that go from them to snow blower. See how much tension is on them and look where there are pulleys and connections. Get used to how they look and feel now. Very few owners have problems with these cables, but if the snow blower won’t move or it won’t blow snow these are one of the items you should check.
3. Engine Controls. Craftsman engines have a choke, throttle, primer bulb, safety key and electric starter push button.  Other brands will not have a throttle but will have a fuel shut-off. Make sure the safety key is fully inserted in the slot. Play with the other controls to see how they feel. For example the choke will have notches and the throttle has an off position.
4. Fuel. I buy about 6 hours fuel. For your new Craftsman 88173 that is about 2 gallons. I always put the 2 tablespoons per gallon of SeaFoam in the gas can before I go get the gas. If you have E-15 in your area, be sure not to buy it. E-15 WILL RUIN YOUR SNOW BLOWER ENGINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Note: Snow engines are not designed to run when it is over 45 degrees. For the next steps don’t run your snow blower for more than 5 minutes.
5. Starting the engine. When the engine is cold.
     a. Make sure the safety key is in the snow blower.
     b. Move the throttle to rabbit (fast)
     c. Set the choke to full
     d. Push the primer bulb 3 to 6 times.
     e. Pull the starter handle until the engine fires, and then adjust the choke until the engine runs smoothly. You can use the electric starter if you like, but also get used to starting it with the pull start.  NOTE: You may not be able to run the engine with the choke completely off. You may also not be able to idle the engine. This is normal with a winterized engine and there is nothing wrong with it if it won’t idle or it won’t run with the choke completely off! 
If the engine is warm (had been running in the last 15 minutes) you will not need to push the primer bulb, or set the choke to full. It will probably start by just moving the throttle to fast and pulling the starter rope.
6. Play with it and get used to it. (Yes you can use it out on your lawn. Running grass and a few leaves through it won’t hurt the machine) ALWAYS RUN THE ENGINE AT FULL THROTTLE. If you don’t you will plug the snow blower when you try to blow snow.
7. Marking obstructions. My wife has rocks around her landscape beds. I mark the ones next to the driveway with driveway markers. Sears has some great, cheap ones here:
8. After you put your snow blower away sit down and read the entire operator’s manual. You’ll be surprised what you learn.


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