Snow blowers are convenient for removing snow in wintertime. But, they aren’t magic and do have certain limitations. While you can use a snow blower on almost any surface, there are some things to be aware of. This is especially true in regards to dirt driveways.
So, is it possible to use a snow blower on a dirt driveway? Yes, they actually work fantastic on a dirt driveway. But, you can’t use any snow blower and it has to sit a certain distance above the ground. If it gets too close, it can create a host of undesirable problems.
What Is the Best Type of Snow Blower for a Dirt Driveway?
If you’re looking to use a snow blower on a dirt driveway, you cannot use a single-stage. It will have to be either a two-stage or three-stage. This is because of the design of these machines and their capacity not only to sit higher above the ground but also to handle a surface’s unevenness.
Two-Stage Snow Blowers
Generally, a two-stage should be sufficient. But, it should be of a higher quality model with an adjustable skid shoe. While three-stage snow blowers are most ideal, especially for rigid and uneven terrain, they may be too big and provide more force than you need for a smaller driveway.
Therefore, you will have to gauge which will be best based on what you need for the intended space. Narrow and short driveways that comprise dirt should go with a two-stage snow blower unless you have other areas you want to use it on. Then, go with a three-stage.
Why Shouldn’t You Use a Single-Stage Snow Blower on a Dirt Driveway?
Single-stage snow blowers aren’t ideal in clearing snow from dirt driveways for several reasons. First, because it’s nearly flush with the ground, the rubber auger will pick up chunks of dirt along with the snow. Not only will this destroy the snow blower, but it will also create potholes in the driveway.
These snow blowers are good for flat surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Plus, it’s only good for clearing about ½ foot of snow. So, if you have heavy snowfall and a dirt driveway, a single-stage will create more problems than it will solve.
How Far Off the Ground Does a Snow Blower Have to Be for a Dirt Driveway?
For two-stage and three-stage snow blowers, you should keep the machine about ¾ to one inch from the ground. You may pick up a small pebble or rock, but it won’t be significant. As long as you have the chute pointed in a safe direction, this shouldn’t present too much of an issue.
If you have a topnotch snow blower that advertises being able to handle gravel, then even the biggest stones shouldn’t negatively impact the blades. However, this isn’t foolproof. So, you want to ensure you’re careful and inspect the blades if you think they hit larger gravel pieces and rocks.
What Is the Best Way to Use a Snow Blower on a Dirt Driveway?
The best way to use a snow blower on a dirt driveway is by allowing a layer of snow to freeze over it. Some people will use a hand shovel after the first snow and pack it down into the dirt. This way the surface will remain unaffected by the blower and any potential chunks that it could dig up.
Skid Shoes Adjustment
Always be sure to adjust the skid shoes. Set them high enough to clear the ground. As the season rolls on and everything freezes, lengthen out the top link to drop the cutting edge closer to the ground, if that’s what you want to do.
Push the Blower Backwards
When you push the snow blower over the driveway, make sure you use the back blade and turn it backward. Carefully push the snow away from the surface. This means you will be operating the machine in reverse. But this helps to ensure you don’t gouge chunks of dirt comprising the driveway.
What Are the Potential Problems with Using a Snow Blower on a Dirt Driveway?
While there are many advantages with using a snow blower, especially on a dirt driveway, there are some potential issues that can arise. Most of these happen because of either carelessness or not having the right type of snow blower for the job. But anticipating issues and ensuring a few things can keep them to a minimum.
Start with a Frozen Layer over the Dirt
Even if you have something like a two-stage snow blower, the blades and shear pins can sustain damage. While a two-stage should process small rocks easily, these can get jammed.
So, achieving a nice, flat frozen base on the surface of your dirt driveway at the start of the season will be very important. If you can pat down that first snow, when it slightly melts and refreezes, it will create a protective barrier between the blower and driveway.
Pay Attention to the Driveway
Also, during operation of the snow blower, always inspect the ground from time to time. You want to make sure you’re not unintentionally creating holes and digging up chunks of dirt. What’s more, you should listen for rocks and other hard objects that come through the chute.
Listen for Strange Sounds
If you notice something amiss with the sound of the motor, turn the machine off. Once it stops, inspect the blades, chute and other components for damage. Restart the machine and see if it still continues. When in doubt, turn it off and take it in for repairs.
Always Clean After Using
To ensure you keep your snow blower in good condition, always wipe and/or rinse off the blades after using it. Because of dirt’s notorious fine-grain texture, it has the potential to clog the entire inside of a snow blower. If enough of it builds up, it will prevent the blades from working and backup in the chute.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.