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How To: Maintain a Snow Blower for Peak Performance

How you maintain a snow blower directly correlates with how prepared you are for this season's snowfall. Follow the advice ahead to keep your snow blower in tip-top shape.

7 Tips for Snow Blower Maintenance

Photo: istockphoto.com

There is a definite chill in the air, and the first snow flurries are flying… that means it’s time to get the snow blower prepared for the winter.

Basic snow blower maintenance is fairly simple and straightforward, involving steps similar to those you’d take for your car (changing oil, inspecting belts, and so on). The first step is to dig out the owner’s manual so that you know exactly what replacement parts, oil, and lubricants are right for your specific model of snow blower. The following general guidelines should have you up and running before the first heavy snow.

RELATED: Solved! What to Do When Your Snow Blower Won’t Start

1. Inspect and tighten or replace parts as necessary.

Check all of the nuts, bolts, screws, belts, and cords to make sure that nothing is loose. Two-stage snow blowers have two belts, one for the auger and one for the drive; single-stage snow blowers have only one belt. If the belts are worn or cracked, they should be replaced. Otherwise, make sure they are tight. The starter cord also should be inspected and replaced if there is any evidence of fraying.


Changing the Oil During Snow Blower Maintenance

Photo: istockphoto.com

2. Change the oil and gas on fuel-powered snow blowers.

A two-cylinder engine uses mixed gas and oil; a four-cylinder engine uses straight gas with a separate crank case for the oil. In both cases, you should completely drain the old oil and gas from the engine and properly dispose of them, then replace with new fluids. To change the oil, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes to warm up. Stop the engine and remove the oil plug, draining the old oil into a waste receptacle. Once all the oil has drained, replace and tighten the plug and refill the engine with the appropriate weight of oil. Turn the engine on again and check the oil level. Also, check to make sure that the drain plug is tight and there are no leaks.

3. Replace spark plug, fuel, and air filter.

Check your owner’s manual to ensure that you have the proper replacements on hand. To change the spark plug, remove the lead wire, then use a socket wrench to remove the plug. Replace with a new spark plug, being careful not to over-tighten the new plug, and re-attach the lead wire.

4. Lubricate the drive and chassis.

Again, check the owner’s manual to ensure that you use the proper lubricant. If possible, turn the snow blower on its side so that you can easily reach all of the components.

While the snow blower is on its side, inspect these additional parts:

  • The scraper bar, which is the piece that rubs against the ground and scrapes the snow off. If this is worn, replace it (leaving it alone could result in damage to the snow blower housing).
  • The skid shoes, which are located on each side of the auger housing. The skid shoes adjust the height of the auger in order to keep it from scraping the ground or picking up stones. Skid shoes should be replaced if they are worn.
  • The rubber on the auger. If your finger fits between the rubber and the housing, it is time to replace the rubber.

5. Check tires and chains.

Check the tire pressure and add air if needed. Visually inspect the tires for wear; replace if necessary. If you have chains for your tires, either put them on in advance or make sure they are readily accessible.

Keep Up with Snow Blower Maintenance with Spare Shear Bolts

Photo: lowes.com

6. Keep new shear pins on hand.

The shear pins (also known as shear bolts) on a snow blower are actually designed to break. Shear pins are important safety features, because they break when the auger and casing are over-torqued and prevent serious damage to the unit. The shear pins are located between the auger and the gear casing. If any pins are missing or broken, replace them. It is a good idea to buy extras from wherever you purchased your snow blower—be it a big box store like The Home Depot or Lowe’s or Amazon—so you have them can handle replacements quickly.

7. See that all snow blower accessories are in working order, too.

Different makes and models of snow blowers come with various accessories, such as power steering, headlights, and electric starters. It is a good idea to inspect all of these items and replace any accessories that are broken or worn.

Just a few minutes of simple maintenance will keep your snow blower in tip-top shape.

Keep these best practices in mind during the season so your blower is always ready for winter’s worst:

  • Always run the snow blower on a cleared surface to remove any leftover snow from the auger, before you put it away, wipe snow from the throw chute and the housing.
  • Tighten any loose bolts or fasteners after each use.
  • Check for worn or damaged parts and replace them as soon as possible.


Will 2013 Values Support Improvements?

How you maintain a snow blower directly correlates with how prepared you are for this season's snowfall. Follow the advice ahead to keep your snow blower in tip-top shape.

Home Improvement and Real Estate Value

Photo: bostonrealestateblog.bushari.com

2013 is likely to see home values stabilizing—but not because of sale prices. A strengthening labor market is the rising tide that will lift property values, says Abbe Will, research analyst with the Harvard Joint Center on Housing.

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Bob Vila Radio: Mirror Placement

If the end of the year is a time for reflection, don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed mirror to enhance your home in the new year.

Large Mirrors

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Bob Vila Radio: DIY Waste Removal

One of the biggest challenges of any remodeling project or basement clean-out is figuring out how to get rid of construction waste, old appliances, and other big unwieldy stuff without paying through the nose.

Free Stuff Sign

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Bob Vila Radio: Laminate Floors

You can’t beat the low cost and easy installation of a laminate floor. It’s a great do-it-yourself project that can really transform a room. Here are some tips from the pros to help you get the best results.

Laminate Flooring

Photo: gradcmu.net


Listen to BOB VILA ON LAMINATE FLOORS or read the text below:

Installing laminate over a bumpy subfloor can compromise it. Make it worth your effort by running a straight edge all along the floor before you start to check for dips or high spots. You can grind down seams in the plywood with a coarse-grit sandpaper on a belt sander. Build tips by troweling on some vinyl floor patch and letting it dry.

This is the time to check for squeaks and screw them down. Always use the manufacturer’s recommended underlayment and the tape that’s made for it. Lay the sheets crosswise to the direction you lay the flooring, and only lay a couple of sheets at a time so you don’t rip the underlayment while you work. For big jobs, you might want to buy or rent a laminate sheerer. These make quick and quiet work of cutting the boards to length without even getting off your knees.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on flooring, consider:

Trending Now: Cork Flooring
Choosing the Right Floor Covering
Wood Flooring 101

How To: Store Holiday Lights, Decorations, and Accessories

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Holiday Lights

Photo: diapersandheels.com

I’m one of those who believes you can never have too many holiday decorations. A tree dripping with ornaments? Love it. You want a yard full of inflatables? Go for it. A house covered in lights that sync to your own radio station? I’ll definitely stop curbside to take it all in.

What about the other ten and a half months, when all that holiday-related stuff needs storage? Big box stores will be happy to sell you bins and other containers. But with a little planning and ingenuity, you can create your own DIY solutions that will work just as well.

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Carboard Boxes

String Lights
Face it, you’re never going to get those strands back in the box they came in. So save your gift and shipping boxes and make your own storage panels. Just cut a slot on either side of the cardboard, stick the plug in one, wrap the lights around the center and secure the end in the opposite slot. In a larger box, you can store all your string lights vertically. This approach also works for garlands, beads, and other long, tangle-prone decorations.

Wreaths and Garlands
Insert into a heavy-duty garbage bag, then store by hanging on a wall in a garage or basement (or even under the stairs). Your wreath or garland won’t get crushed, and you’re free from having to spend extra money on a unitasker.

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Wrapping Paper

Photo: Flickr / frankfarm

Wrapping Paper and Supplies
Store wrapping paper rolls in that unused space at the top of a closet—its ceiling. See how Frank created this smart storage solution using only anchors, screws, and some galvanized wire. You can keep ribbon smash-free in the closet, too, with a tie hanger.

Plastic Cups for Christmas Ornament Storage

Photo: lifehacker.com

Hang onto gift and shipping boxes and use them to store tree ornaments. Delicate glass and ceramic pieces can be stored in reused tissue paper or packaging materials. Egg cartons or the apple/pear bins you can get at membership discount stores make for excellent bulb storage. Alternatively, you can hot-glue clear plastic cups to cardboard sheets, placing the sheets into a larger bin for a zero-risk solution.

Everything Else
Once you’ve got everything stashed away and protected, consider building one of these sliding storage systems to take advantage of your previously unused garage ceiling space.

For more on storage, consider:

Optimize Your Attic Storage
10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions
Bob Vila Radio: Holiday Decoration Storage

Bob Vila Radio: Mock Ups

It may seem like an exercise, but mocking up your cabinetry or furniture building project can save you a lot of wasted energy and coulda-shoulda-woulda down the line.

Mock Up

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MOCK UPS or read the text below:

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9 Pro Tips for Installing Ceramic Tile

How to Lay Ceramic Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

There are many ways to invite problems when you lay ceramic tile. Avoid such problems and a tile floor can last for decades—crack-free. Ignore these problems and your floor tiles and grout lines can begin cracking shortly after the job is complete. Here are nine pro tips to bear in mind when performing installation.

1. Tile not rated for floors
Tile grades 1 and 2 are recommended for floors or walls. Grade 3 tiles are too thin and likely to crack with traffic. Use grade 3 tiles for walls only.

2. Wrong substrate
Tile is typically set in thinset mortar over cement board, which in turn has been set on 3/4″ plywood. If the cement board was not set in thinset mortar, or if the plywood was the wrong grade, you may have a problem. Movement between the plywood and cement board can cause cracking. Similarly, compression due to voids in CDX plywood can also cause movement and cracking.

3. Non-modified thinset mortar used
The addition of polymer to thinset mortar greatly increases strength and bond, with minimal shrinkage, which reduces the chance of cracks forming.

4. Untaped seams
Cement board seams should be taped for the best results. Embed an alkali-resistant fiberglass mesh tape in thinset over all seams. Press tape into thinset with a trowel, then spread more thinset over the tape. Spread thinset over screw depressions as well. Allow thinset to cure according to the manufacturer’s directions.

5. Tiles grouted to walls
Walls can move slightly with changes in temperature. If you filled the joint between the wall and the last row of tiles, the wall may push against the tiles and cause cracking, typically in the middle of the floor.

6. Span or spacing of joists result in deflection
A floor may not be stiff enough for ceramic tile. For example, the joists may span too long, or the spacing between joists may be 24″ on center instead of 16″. A subfloor of inadequate thickness (and the added weight of the tile) can result in a “spongy” floor, not to mention cracked tiles and grout lines.

7. Inadequate thinset coverage
Thinset coverage depends upon using the recommended trowel notching, wielding the trowel at the correct angle, and making sure the thinset doesn’t dry before being covered with tile.

8. Walked on tile too soon
Recommended wait times range from 48 to 72 hours. If it’s imperative that you get back into your kitchen, stepping on plywood sheets to disperse your weight over a greater area is an option, but check with your tile contractor first.

9. Foundation movement
Cracks in tile floors may be symptomatic of far bigger problems. If your home’s foundation is built upon weak soil or expansive soils, you may have your answer. Weak soil results in uneven foundation settlement and leads to cracking floors and walls. If your neighborhood is known to have expansive clay soils, soil pressure may be causing foundation walls to bow while putting pressure on floors.

For more on ceramic tile installation, consider:

How To: Choose Tile
5 Reasons to Love Subway Tile
Floor Tile: Which Is Best for Your Bath?

Bob Vila Radio: Foam Core

It used to be that foam-core board was only useful to architects building models. Now that foam technology has taken off, foam-core boards have made it to the building site.

Foam Core

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Bob Vila Radio: Holiday Decoration Storage

Once the holidays are over, how do you fit all those decorations back in the garage and make them easier to unpack next year?

Holiday Decoration Storage

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SUNROOMS or read the text below:

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