Whether you’re buying a new snow blower for the first time, or simply starting to maintain one you own, my various guides will use a lot of these terms so it’s always good to know the basics before you start going through the process.
I’ve tried my best to make this one of the most complete glossaries of terms for snowblowers you’ll find anywhere on the web, so get yourself comfy and let’s begin.
A snowblower auger is the blade at the front of a snow blower (or snow thrower), which rotates and cuts through the snow. On a snow thrower (also known as a single-stage snowblower), this rotating auger is responsible for both cutting through the snow and also throwing it out of the discard chute. On a two-stage snow blower, the auger is generally serrated steel, which passes the snow to an impeller.
An auger is also commonly referred to as a snowblower blade, for those that are unaware of the correct terminology.
Auger housing is the plastic or metal surround that covers the auger blade. It is responsible for cutting the snow into sections and direct the snow towards the auger. Auger housings also serve as a great safety feature to keep the blade only facing forward.
A loud backfire on a gas-powered snowblower is caused by unburnt fuel in the exhaust system. The noise you hear is that fuel exploding in the exhaust itself, rather than in the cylinder. There are quite a few common causes of snowblower backfires which I cover here.
On most gas-powered two-stage snow blowers, you will generally find two rubber belts. In most cases, one belt is responsible for spinning the auger, and the other for forward and reverse which is responsible for the self-propelled drive system.
As with all small gas engines, a choke allows you to increase airflow and create a richer fuel mixture to pass through the carburetor. This is especially useful when trying to start an engine in colder weather. Most two-stage snow blowers will have a manual choke somewhere that you can adjust with your fingers.
Chute / Discharge Chute
Chutes, or discharge chutes are found on both singe-stage and 2-stage snow blowers and are the exit area for the the snow. They are nearly always directional, controlled by either a lever on the handle or manually adjusted, and when combined with a deflector allow you to alter the altitude and direction that the snow is thrown.
Measured in inches, the clearing width of a snow blower is the maximum width of snow that the auger housing can cut through in a single pass. This is not adjustable, so it’s important to decide what clearing width before you purchase.
Clogging / Chute Clogs
Clogging refers to when either your auger, impeller, or chute regularly becomes full of snow and requires manual clearing. This is often caused by worn areas in the housing or chute, or lack of lubricating spray. Read my guide on how to keep a snowblower from clogging for various home remedies or dedicated sprays to help reduce clogs and help make your snowblower throw further.
A deflector is attached to the top of the discharge chute and allows you to control the distance the snow is thrown. For a further distance, the deflector will be more upright, and for a shorter throw, vis versa.
Drift cutters are 45-degree bars that can be attached to the auger housing and help direct snow that is higher than the auger housing forwards into the auger, this helps prevent the snow falling backwards onto the machine.
An electric start is a modern alternative to a pullcord start mechanism on gas-powered two-stage snowblowers. It uses a battery to turn the engine over, rather than human muscle. Most modern snow-blowers will feature both an electric start as well as a backup pull-start.
Electric Snow Shovel
An electric snow shovel gets its name from having a similar handheld design to a traditional snow shovel. However, an electric version uses a motor, either powered by a battery or power cable, to spin a rotating auger similar to those found on larger snow blowers. Unlike snow blowers, electric snow shovels cannot direct snow in any direction other than forward.
Four-Stroke Engine (4-Stroke)
Nearly all modern two-stage snow blowers feature 4-stroke engines, which means you do not need to premix the gas and oil as you do with 2-stroke engines. The engine ensures the correct mixtures, which results in less emissions and better fuel economy.
Gear Case / Casing
An auger gear case helps prevent heavy ice and snow impacts on the augers gearing system. This essential area of protection helps avoids costly repairs to the auger drive system in heavier, or thicker snow.
A snow blower’s handle is the section you hold to push and control the snowblower. On electric snow blowers, the handles tend to be simpler, with a simple on-off button or speed control, but on gas-powered two-stage machines, you will likely find extras such as hand warmers, lighting control, speeds, forward, reverse, and more.
Hand warmers are normally an extra addition to two-stage snow blowers and provide heated grips for the user. Whilst many consider them a gimmick, on a freezing cold morning handle warmers can provide some relief from the bitter cold.
Ice melts are manufactured chemicals that specialise in melting ice via various chemical reactions. They can be a good short-term solution to icy steps or sidewalk, but their chemical makeup is often very damaging to the environment, and potentially unsuspecting pet paws.
An impeller is the 2nd stage of a two-stage snow blower. Rather than relying on the auger to both collect and throw the snow, this fan-shaped addition is the driving force for blowing the snow out of the chute. It’s because of this that two-stage machines are considered snow blowers, rather than snow throwers.
Impeller Modification / Impeller Mod
An impeller mod is a DIY method of installing rubber wipers to the edges of the impeller to reduce the amount of space between the impeller and the housing. This dramatically reduces your impeller clogging but also makes your snow blower throw considerably farther. Here’s a before and after video of a snow blower modification.
Joystick controls for a snowblower refer to the handle controls that allow the user to control chute rotation, deflector angle, and on some models, the auger height. They are are typically only joystick controls on two-stage models.
Lights / LED Lights
Lights on a snowblower are fitted to the front of the machine and allow the user to operate the machine safely on dark mornings or evenings. However many users prefer to use a headlamp or fit their own ultra-bright LED lights rather than purchase the manufacturers add-on.
Max Throwing Distance
The maximum throwing distance on a snow blower is the maximum distance that it can throw snow. It is usually measured in feet (ft), but is always a ‘best case’ scenario’ based on the manufacturer’s in-house tests.
Oil / Snow Blower Oil
Snow blower oil is very similar to regular engine oil, however has certain properties that make it suitable for use in extremely cold temperatures. It’s important to use the correct type of oil in your snow blower otherwise your engine may seize. For most modern snow blowers, it’s recommended you use an oil with a 5W-30 viscosity.
One Hand Interlock System
One hand interlock is a snowblower feature that locks the drive system and auger controls to give the user a free hand to adjust the chute & deflector angles while in motion. It’s a feature that’s typically only found on 2-stage snow blowers.
Slightly different from standard snowblowers and typically only found in commercial environments, Power Brush machines rely on a rotating brush to clear snow, rather than forcing it through the machine’s chute. Power Brush machines are good for sidewalks and areas where throwing the snow any distance is not suitable due to people or infrastructure (such as roads).
See ‘electric snow shovel‘.
Most modern two-stage snow blowers come with power steering built-in. The drive system slows one wheel whilst in motion, making these heavy machines much more maneuverable in the snow.
Remote Chute Control
A remote chute control allows the user to rotate the chute whilst on the move without having to stop. They are typically joysticks or on smaller models, a crank handle.
A roof rake is a purpose-built tool for raking snow from angled roofs. It typically features a wide blade and a long telescopic handle, allowing users to pull snow from hard-to-reach areas on their roofs.
A scraper blade is fitted to the bottom of the auger housing and scrapes any surface snow left behind by the auger. These are important and the auger spins at high-speed and cannot come into contact with the ground to prevent damage.
Shear Pins / Bolts
A shear pin on a snow blower connects the auger to the auger shaft and is designed to break when under excess torque. This is a safety mechanism to protect the user, auger and shaft when it encounters a hard object such as a large rock or solid ice. Shear pins are cheap and easy to replace and are installed solely to protect the machine and user.
A snow shovel resembles a typical yard shovel but is typically made with a much larger plastic scoop designed to be more lightweight and effective at shovelling light and fluffy snow.
Skids / Skid Shoes
Snow blower skids are made from either metal or a plastic polymer and are often adjustable in height. They fit to the bottom of the auger housing and allow the user to adjust the height of the auger from the ground. This is especially important when using a snow blower on uneven ground such as grass or gravel.
Single Stage Snow Blower / 1-Stage / Snow Thrower
A single-stage snow blower, referred to as a snow thrower uses a single auger for both collecting and throwing the snow in one single action. The main difference is that a two-stage snow blowers use an additional impeller mechanism to physically ‘blow’ the snow out of the discharge chute.y
Snow Blower Cab
A snow blower cab is an add-on protective cover that connects to the snow blower and allows the user to remain undercover away from heavy snow. Whilst not often needed, they can be extremely useful when clearing large areas.
Similar to those used on car tires, snow blower tire chains are fitted to the tires to provide additional traction on ice and thick snow. Many users have tire chains permanently fitted due to how much extra traction they can provide.
A track-driven snowblower used tank-style tracks rather than wheels to provide movement to snow blowers. Track-driven models are considered among the most rugged of designs and excel at clearing snow on steep inclines or uneven terrain.
Two-stage snow blower designs use an auger to collect the snow, as well as an additional impeller to throw the snow farther distances. The addition of the impeller means that the auger is not responsible for both collecting the snow and attempting to discharge it at high speed, such as how single-stage snow blowers work.
Unpaved surfaces are considered uneven terrains such as gravel and grass. Unlike concrete or asphalt, gravel can be particularly dangerous when using a snow blower as it can discharge the gravel at high speed through the discharge chute.
A snow blower weight kit is an accessory that is installed to the front of the auger housing to provide more weight for digging into deep or compact snow. Weight can also be used to counter-balance a snow cab if installed.