13 Snow Blower Features And Myths That Matter

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This article goes over the best snow blower features and a few myths. Over the last 12 years, you have told me you want the best snowblower to clear the snow from your driveway, sidewalk, and walkways. You want one that works well, works fast, leaves a clear path and starts every time. You want the best snow blower for your area of the country. You want the best price – and – you want extra features that make clearing snow enjoyable or at least quick and efficient.

Snow blowers still look basically the same as they did 10 years ago but there have been major improvements to the machines made in the U.S.A. Most have higher clearance intake housings, better engines and throw farther. Many now offer extra features like LED lighting, automatic steering and hand warmers that work well. Most of the brands also offer high capacity snow blowers that won’t clog on heavy/wet snow. 

Each area of the country and every property has specific needs and there are snow blowers that will work best. For example: 

  • Live in the Northeast? There are snow blowers that will quickly clear that “SnowMaggeden” snow and not clog.
  • Live in Des Moines, Chicago or Pittsburg? There are many snow blowers that will work for you. 
  • Have a long driveway? Many snow blowers offer hand warmers. Wider widths and large engines let you walk as fast as you want. 
  • Have lots of sidewalks that the city snowplow dumps snow on? There are high capacity snow blowers with tracks that quickly push through that dense snow.
  • Have a short driveway but live in the Sierras? There are 24-inch snow blowers that will handle that Sierra-Concrete. 
  • Live in St Louis and don’t want a gas snow blower? There is a new Cordless Single Stage that’s perfect for you. 
  • Want it to start every time? There are now models with EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) 
  • Don’t have a lot of money to spend? There are snow blowers for under $1000 that work well for your “typical” suburban driveway. 

MovingSnow is here to help. Start with this list of Snow-Blower Features And Myths That Matter. Then go to the Top 20 Snow Blowers. (List will be updated September 1st)

13 Snow Blower Features and Myths That Matter

1. Myth: I can just go down to my local big box store and take home the snowblower I need today.

Most snowblowers available to take home today at your local big-box store may not the best choice for you. In particular, the cheapest priced machines are most likely made overseas and have very limited service and parts networks. Do your research here at MovingSnow and ask in the comments sections below.

When you ask, let me know where you live, how large of an area you have to clear and what type of area you are clearing. (pavement, patio, gravel, turf, sidewalks, etc) I’ll help you find the best snow blower for you. 

2. Feature: Self-Propelled or Auger Assist Single Stage Snow Throwers

All of the electric and most of the cordless electric single-stage snow throwers have no self-propel feature. At the moment, all but one have plastic paddles and you have to PUSH the snow thrower through the snow.  Gas single stage snowthrowers and one cordless electric have “auger assist.” The auger is designed to grab the snow and helps to pull the machine through the snow.

The Toro SnowMaster is the only single-stage snow thrower that is self-propelled. 

3. Feature: Two-Stage Snow Blowers with Multiple Speeds 
Some cheap two-stage models have only one forward speed. Multiple speeds allow you to go faster in light snow, finish in less time, or go slower for tougher jobs, such as cutting through a tall snowdrift or plow pile. Being able to change speeds can also prevent the machine from clogging in deeper snow.  Good 2-stage snow blowers have 4-6 forward and two reverse speed.

Some high-end 2-stage snow blowers have a variable speed hydrostatic transmission. 

4. Feature: Single-Handed Operation
Two-stage snow blowers have a lever on one handle that engages the drive wheels and a lever on the other handle engages the auger. Single-handed operation lets you hold down both levers then take your hand off the auger engage handle – and the machine keeps going. With your free hand, you can then adjust the chute, deflector and/or scratch your nose without stopping the snow blower. 

All but the cheapest two-stage snow blowers now have this feature. 

5. Feature: Chute Controls and Hanging Chute
Being able to adjust the chute and deflector from the dash is an important feature. That combined with single-handed operation allows you to works a lot faster in areas that require you to place the snow in a certain spot. Today, most two-stage snow blowers have a crank or lever for the chute and a separate lever for the deflector. Toro has a unique single joystick control that works very well. All of the good snow blowers have chutes and gearboxes that hang from a bracket. That system makes them easy to turn.

Beware of snow blowers that turn the chute from the bottom or have a large springlike screw down at the bottom of the chute. 

6. Feature: Headlight
Headlights let you clear snow in the dark. A bright halogen bulb gives you the light you need and many brands have now switched to high intensity LED lights that won’t burn out. A few even install a second LED light on the top of the auger housing for even more light. 

7. Feature: Electric Start
Jerking a snow blower’s pull cord multiple times in a cold, dark garage is a miserable experience so most gas-powered two-stage (and many single-stage) snow blowers now come standard with a 110-volt electric start. Just plug a heavy-duty extension cord into the snowblower and push a button to start it. 

A few high-priced snow blowers now offer electric start using an onboard battery just like your car. The newest models also have an automatic choke and electronic governors for effortless starting. 

8. Feature: Easy-Turn, Power Steering, Automatic Steering or Auto-Turn Capability
Two-Stage Snowblowers need power to both wheels to give you the traction you need to push through heavy snow. To do this the cheapest snowblowers usually have a solid locked axle. Easy-Turn, Power Steering, Automatic Steering or Auto-Turn, also referred to as freewheel steering releases one wheel to allow the snow blower to turn easily. This feature is essential on larger snowblowers (28 inches and wider) because it really helps with handling.

If you are of smaller stature or have a bad back, you’ll appreciate it on smaller 24-26 inch machines, too. Some brands use a set of triggers under each handlebar, others use an automatic locking differential, it allows the outer wheel to turn faster than the inside wheel for sharp, easy turning.

9. Myth – Three Stage “Accelerator” is better. 
One of the major consumer review magazines keeps perpetuating the myth that a three-stage snow blower is better than a two-stage. That is simply not true. Let me explain:

A three-stage snow blower is not better – it’s just a different way to blow a lot of snow. A three-stage from one brand is not always better than a two-stage from a different brand. Yes, if you go to your local big-box store and look at the same brand, i.e., Cub Cadet 2X versus Cub Cadet 3X the three-stage 3X snow blower will be better. But, if you compare the 3X with an Ariens Deluxe/Platinum, Toro PowerMaster HD, Honda HSS, or Husqvarna 300/400 series the other brands have more capacity, throw farther and have less moving parts to break. Three-stage snow blowers tend to be “dirty” when clearing 2-6 inches of snow and many owners complain that they splatter snow out the sides when clearing lighter amounts of snow. This same argument applies to MTD,  Craftsman, Troy-Bilt, and other three-stage snow blowers. 

10. Feature: EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) and Electronic Governor

EFI or Electronic Fuel Injection eliminates almost all starting issues with your gas-powered snow blower. As long as you store your extra fuel in an approved, sealed gas can you won’t have starting issues. (E10 or less. I also add Seafoam or K100 for winter use)  

Electronic Governor (Ego) adds automatic choke and gives you more power faster for heavy loads (snow) 

11. Feature: Heated Handgrips are nice but not critical
A good pair of winter gloves will keep your fingers from freezing, but if you live in an extremely cold area or you’re often out blowing snow for a long time, you’ll appreciate heated handgrips. Heated handgrips heat the bottom of the auger and drive handles and help to keep your fingers warm. Snow blowers with hand warmers have a switch to turn them off if they get too warm.

The two snowblowers I use the most often don’t have hand warmers so for extended outings I use Hand Warmers in my gloves. 

12. Feature: Larger Impeller
Most of the 2-stage gas snow blowers you find at the big box store have a 9-12-inch-wide impeller, (the second stage that throws te snow.) That’s fine for most of the Midwest and other areas of the country that average 30-60 inches of snow a year. But you live in areas that get deep snow, heavy/wet snow, if you want to get done as quickly as possible or you want to throw the snow a very long way purchasing a snow blower with a larger 14-inch-wide impeller is the way to go. If you want to get done quickly and you don’t mind your neighbors stopping to watch in awe a model with a 14-inch impeller is the best choice.

Ariens, Toro, Troy-Bilt, Husqvarna, and Cub Cadet Pro all have machines with 14-inch impellers. 

13. Feature: Tracks
Track drive snow blower replace the drive wheels with rubber tracks. The tracks give a lot more traction for steep driveways and pushing through heavy, packed snow piles. If you have a large, steep driveway, clean sidewalks that the city snow plow throws snow on, or live in an area that gets dense, heavy snow consider a track drive. 

Track drive snow blowers tend to have a slower top speed than wheeled units. If you have a long driveway a track drive may not be the best choice. The only exception is the Ariens RapidTrak. The homeowner and Pro models use a large main drive wheel to give the speed of a wheeled unit and the traction of tracks. 

Track drive snow blower can have friction disk or hydrostatic transmissions. Track drive snow blower also can be purchased with power steering that uses triggers or automatic steering.  

What other snow blower features do you fell are important? Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments sections below.

When you ask, let me know where you live, how large of an area you have to clear and what type of area you are clearing. (pavement, patio, gravel, turf, sidewalks, etc) I’ll help you find the best snow blower for you. 

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