MTD: For a Growing World.

Single Stage Snow Thrower Safety

Before you start your engine for the first time this season, check out these general safety and maintenance tips. Remember to thoroughly review your operator's manual or engine manual before doing any maintenance work.

Winter Safety Facts:

  • Shoveling snow may cause a quick and sometimes dangerous increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Dehydration is just as big an issue in the winter months as it is in the summer. So stay hydrated.
  • Shoveling snow is like picking up weights, it's a lot of work.
  • When shoveling snow, cold air can make it harder to breathe, which adds extra strain on the whole body.
  • Shoveling snow can be considered vigorous activity even for healthy, college-aged people.
  • Researchers have reported an increase in the number of fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls.
  • The sooner you start clearing after a snowfall the better. As snow sits for several days, it compacts and becomes heavier.

    If the snow thrower was folded up for compact, convenient storage, unfold it and securely tighten all the hardware.

    Identify the type of snow thrower you have - whether it is a single-stage or a two-stage machine - and reference resources, such as your operator's manual, engine manual or this website, to maintain and prepare your snow thrower for safe operation throughout the winter.

    Gather your resources: Review your Operator's Manual and Engine Manual. These resources provide safety and maintenance information specific to your unit.

    General Tips

    • First time of the year starting: If the unit has been sitting for a long period of time with fuel in it, there is a possibility that the fuel is poor and needs to be purged through the system. Make certain fresh fuel was added and slowly and deliberately prime the unit as specified by the engine manufacturer. This should flush the broken down fuel and possible debris through and get the fresh fuel flowing.
    • Change your oil and spark plug at the beginning of each season.
    • Even if it doesn't snow, throughout the season, regularly run the unit once a month to circulate the fuel.
    • Proper Tire Inflation: To properly inflate your tire and prevent over-inflation, use a manual pump or portable electric tire inflator. Never use an air compressor. Snow thrower tires are low volume, low psi tires. Air compressors are high volume, high psi machines capable of over-inflating a tire possibly causing it or the rim to burst.
    • Never attempt to repair a unit while the engine is running. Turn off the engine and wait for the unit to come to a complete stop before you begin any repairs.
    • Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site to obtain industry-wide information and updates BEFORE you prepare and operate your snow thrower for the season. This is a place to identify if there are any safety releases or recalls that need your attention prior to, or in tandem with, preparing the snow throwers for the season.

    Snow removal from your driveway and sidewalks can be quick and efficient when you know how to approach it safely and with consideration.  Here are a few easy steps to keep you efficient and safe:

    1.   Know which way the wind is blowing.

    The first step in throwing snow safely and efficiently is to throw snow with the wind, never against it.  Implementing this practice will ensure safe visibility of what is in front of you and can prevent re-doing the same areas over again. Wind directions change as you are throwing snow so be sure to adjust your approach accordingly.

    2.   Plan in advance where the snow is to be accumulated.

    Snow accumulation may get very high over a winter season, depending on your area.  This height can present safety and security issues, so care needs to be taken to avoid any problems.

    • Take into account you and your neighbor's need to see street traffic when mounding snow at the end of driveways.  Consider mounding snow to other parts of the yard to prevent sight obstruction.
    • Be careful about mounding snow against your house. This could lead to foundation flooding problems when the spring season arrives.
    • Take into consideration the weight of the snow being accumulated when placing large amounts of snow on structures or plantings.
    • Do not to throw snow directly at buildings or vehicles. Snow throwers may pick up and throw out rocks and other debris.
    • Always keep children in mind when mounding snow. Large mounds are potentially dangerous, especially to small children. These mounds can become traps to fall into or fall from toward oncoming traffic and other potential dangers.  Large mounds of snow can also obstruct your view of children walking on sidewalks or across driveways.

    3.   Decide on a pattern to clear snow.

    Your best pattern should be determined by wind speed and direction, how powerful your machine is (how far it is capable of throwing the snow), and the moisture content of the snow. Bear in mind that your goal is to throw the snow one time only.

    • Avoid throwing snow onto an area that you'll be making a future pass-over on.
    • Make every attempt to get as much snow as possible off the area to be cleared and onto its final resting area with each pass.
    • Adjust the chute direction and chute height often as you are throwing snow. This will ensure the snow is directed to its final location with every pass.

    4.   Review the safe operating practices of your snow thrower at each snow season.

    As with any type of power equipment, carelessness or error on the part of the operator can result in serious injury.  Our operator manuals provide an Important Safe Operation Practices section that contains important training and preparation information. This section of our manual also provides safe practice information as it relates to proper operation, maintenance and storage of your unit along with safe handling of gasoline and other safety knowledge. These safe operation practices should be reviewed at the beginning of each snow season.





    • These smaller units are generally powered by 110 volt electric motors, and are best for clearing sidewalks, patios and confined areas. An extension cord is required to provide the electricity from the house to the snow thrower, and it is important to review the operator's manual(s) to identify the required extension cord gauge. Always use an extension cord rated for OUTDOOR USE.
    • Make certain the extension cord is removed from the unit and rotate the auger, or rotor, one or more rotations, making certain there is no obstruction or debris.
    • If equipped, make certain the rubber portion of the auger is not worn out and in need of replacement. If it is, review the operator's manual(s) for replacement.
    • Observe the extension cord and make certain it is in good condition for the season. Connect the extension cord to the unit and then to the house. Operate the unit in accordance with the operator's manual(s) to make certain it is ready for the season. Disconnect the extension cord and set it aside.
    • Snow Tip: If there was a noticeable change in performance the  prior year, chances are the rubber portion is worn to a point where the unit  will not throw the snow properly. In general, you should not see a gap of more  than 1/2 inch between the auger and the auger housing.



    • Gas powered single-stage snow throwers are ideal for areas that receive light to semi-moderate snow falls, and are good for clearing driveways that are no larger than a single-car, up to two-car width, and a few car lengths long.
    • Many of the gas engines powering these single-stage snow throwers today are 4-cycle and run on the same fuel you put into your car, making it convenient to pick up fuel while filling up your vehicle.
    • The engine oil, like your automobile, is separate of the fuel. It is filled and monitored at a separate location or by a dipstick. If you have not done so already, review the engine operator's manual for this procedure.
    • There are also single-stage units that are powered by 2-cycle engines that require the gas and oil to be mixed at a given ratio. It is very important that you make certain you do not use straight gas to fuel a 2-cycle engine since the engine will be permanently damaged if you do.
    • Many times the mix ratio is embossed on the fuel cap, but it is best to review the operator's manual(s) for clarity on how to achieve the correct ratio.
    • For 4-cycle single-stage units, put in some fresh fuel and check to make certain the oil is at the proper level.
    • For 2-cycle units, mix up the correct ratio of fresh fuel and oil in a separate fuel container and then fill the tank.
    • The spark plug should be changed before each season.
    • Review the engine manufacturer's manual and snow thrower manual(s) if necessary for spark plug maintenance. Generally speaking, remove the spark plug, make certain the spark plug gap is set properly and install the new spark plug.
    • To observe that the engine pulls over smoothly and no rodents have created a nest while in storage make certain the ignition key is removed, if equipped, the throttle is in the stop or off position and slowly pull the recoil starter. If you have unwanted visitors, clean the unit or contact your local dealer for assistance.


    • Make certain the rubber portion of the auger is not worn out and in need of replacement. If there was a noticeable change in performance the prior year, chances are the rubber portion is worn to a point where the unit will not throw the snow properly. Review the operator's manual for replacement instructions.
    • Observe the bottom scraper and make certain it is not worn out. Some models have reversible scrapers that can be removed, flipped 180 degrees and reinstalled. If not, review the operator's manual for scraper replacement instructions.


    • If your snow thrower is equipped with an electric starter, locate the electric starter cord and make certain it is in good condition for the season.
    • Connect the cord to the electric starter and then to the house. Operate the electric starter in accordance with the operator's manual(s) to make certain it is ready for the season.
    • Prime the engine as directed and fully choke the engine. If it is equipped, move the throttle to the fast position and either push the electric start button or pull the recoil. If the unit attempts to start, open the choke slightly. If the unit does not attempt to start, repeat the steps above.


    • Most single-stage snow throwers have a safety engagement bail that engages and disengages the auger. Slowly close the safety engagement bail to the handlebar and make certain the auger engages and rotates. Release the bail from the handlebar and make certain the auger disengages and stops completely.
    • While the safety engagement bail is engaged, test the auger by tipping the unit forward and tilting the auger to the ground. If the auger continues to rotate  and not slow down, it is working properly. If the auger slows down, adjust the  tension to the belt and repeat the above step. Review the operator's manual for  correct adjustment. If the auger slows down and the adjustment does not work,  the auger belt may be worn. Review the operator's manual for belt replacement.  If the auger does not stop rotating when the bail is released, the auger belt  or the adjustment is not working. Consult your operator's manual or a  professional repair technician for assistance. Never attempt any repair or  adjustment while the engine is on. Turn it off and wait for all moving parts to  stop.