A tractor-mounted snow blower can be a great tool for clearing snow. Up here in northern Wisconsin, where annual snowfall is measured in feet, a tractor-mounted snow blower can simplify and speed up the process of digging out after a winter storm.
But operating a snow blower attachment isn’t as easy as it looks. To maximize safety, avoid pitfalls, and achieve optimum snow-clearing performance, here are four tips to keep in mind.
Read more: Snow plow, snow blower … or both?
1. Wider snow blowers aren’t always better.
You might assume a wide snow blower (say, 7 feet wide) is better than a narrow one (2 feet or 4 feet). Certainly a 7-foot snow blower can clear a lot more snow with each pass.
But there are downsides to operating such a wide snow blower. When operating on uneven ground, a wide snow blower may struggle to clear away all the snow. As one end bottoms out on high ground, the other end floats above low ground, unable to drop any lower.
A narrow snow blower is better at negotiating these dips and rises, as a result clearing more snow and leaving behind a cleaner path.
2. Avoid backing into snowbanks.
So you’re out snow blowing and you’ve cleared a path all the way to the barn doors. Great! Now it’s time to turn around and head for home.
Depending on the depth of the snow, that may be easier said than done. It’s tempting to execute a three-point turn. In doing so, though, you’re bound to back into an area of undisturbed snow. And this can be a recipe for getting stuck.
If your tractor is properly equipped with tire chains and weights, it may be possible to push through the snow and execute the turnaround. But why risk it?
Instead, try backing up along your cleared path until you have room to resume forward progress in a different direction. This allows the snow blower to clear a suitable path for turning around.
3. Frequent height adjustments may be needed.
On my tractor, the snow blower attachment sits a good distance ahead of the front wheels. This means the snow blower reacts belatedly to changes in ground elevation.
If there’s a dip in the ground, the snow blower doesn’t dip down to follow until the front wheels enter the dip. If there’s a rise in the ground, the snow blower will strike it head-on because the wheels haven’t climbed the rise yet.
If you’re trying to clear uneven or undulating ground, you’ll need to pay close attention to the height of the snow blower. My snow blower attachment can be raised and lowered by the tractor’s hydraulics. I drive slowly and keep one hand on the hydraulic controls so I can raise and lower the blower as needed to compensate for elevation changes.
4. Careful not to pick up rocks.
In my experience, a self-powered snow blower with a single axle rides pretty smoothly over the ground. The auger section pivots up and down nicely thanks to the single axle. And when clearing snow from my gravel driveway, it’s not overly inclined to scoop up rocks.
That’s not the case with my tractor-mounted snow blower. Since the snow blower sits in front of the tractor, it’s free to raise and lower independently of the four load-bearing tractor wheels. And it’s possible to lower the blower aggressively so it scrapes the ground and throws small rocks out of the discharge chute.
This is dangerous (and potentially damaging to the blower), so when clearing gravel or rocky ground, it’s important to raise the snow blower high enough that it clears the snow without scooping rocks from the ground underneath.
By keeping these four tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to clearing snow safely and effectively with your tractor-mounted snow blower.