We’re starting our series on snowblower maintenance with the auger gear oil/grease top-up because it’s a critical, yet often overlooked maintenance component. While everyone (or at least most) will do a regular oil change, and some even do regular belt inspections & maintenance, the auger gear is often forgotten until it inevitably seizes.
There are two main types of auger gear lubrication; gear oil and ‘hard’ grease, gear oil being by far the most common on later models. The steps for regular maintenance and inspection are very similar for both types and only takes about 5 minutes for either type. We’ve already covered how to service a gear-oil filled auger in another guide.
Before starting this task, and before working on any small engine, always isolate the hazard by removing the spark plug wire from the spark plug and securing it such that the engine cannot unintentionally start. It is possible to start the engine by turning the auger blades – without removing the spark plug wire you’re risking serious injury.
Every snowblower is different and while this guide is designed to cover most scenarios it is important to check the manufacturers user-guide which should be followed in the event of any discrepancies.
Lets get started:
- Remove the spark plug wire as indicated above
- Inspect the casing for any visible leaks or cracks. These can often be seen by a staining or build-up of dust or debris at the beginning of the season.
- Clean the area around the grease port (also called grease fitting, grease nipple, Zerk fitting, or Alemite fitting) and any drain plug(s) with a stiff brush to prevent outside debris from contaminating the new oil during filling.
- Shake each input/output shaft to check for excessive play. Excessive play is indicative of worn bushings and/or bearings and should be further investigated before it leads to a failure of the auger pinion gear.
- Place a rag or piece of cardboard below the auger casing to catch any dripping grease.
- Loosen the drain plugs, if equipped. Drain plugs on grease heads are rare but are still sometimes found. The purpose of a drain plug is to allow the new, incoming grease to displace the existing used grease without damaging a low pressure oil seal. This allows more of a ‘grease change’ than simply topping up the grease. Though this doesn’t guarantee a full swap-out it does help to remove some of the contaminated grease.
Ensuring the grease port is clean, clip a high pressure grease gun to the port and
slowly begin pumping. As the void within the casing fills it will be increasingly more difficult to pump. Take note of how long it takes to fill the casing as a very low or empty casing is indicative of a leak.
- Continue pumping the grease until one of two things occurs:
- The grease being pushed from the drain plugs changes colour from the used (darker) grease to the colour of the new, unused grease. Once the grease runs completely clear stop.
- The grease is being squeezed around the seals on the shafts. Depending on the design of the casing it may be possible to push the old grease (indicated by the darker colour) through and fully replace it with new grease. Keep filling the casing with grease until the grease runs clear on one or all of the seals.
- Re-tighten any plugs and clean excess grease from the outside of the casing. Dispose of the excess grease responsibly at your local dealer.
- Replace spark plug. The auger casing should be inspected for leaks before every use and topped-up approximately every 10 hours of use or as directed by the manufacturer.