If you live in an area with cold winters, you’ve no doubt had fantasies of owning a snow blower regardless of whether it is a 2 stage vs 3 stage snow blower. These wonderful devices are great for clearing walkways, driveways, porches, and sidewalks during the coldest days when high precipitation has resulted in inches and even feet of snow. When you’re dealing with particularly nasty winters, such as the ones in the Northern and Midwestern United States, then you need to invest in a heavy-duty snow blower. Instead of coming in single stages, most models will instead have two or even three levels designed to handle a broad range of situations. But just what is the difference between a 2 stage vs 3 stage snow blower? This guide will help you distinguish between the two and explains the pros and cons for each one.
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What Are the Stages of a Snow Blower?
When you hear about stages of a snow blower, it is normal to question just what this term means. The “stages” mentioned refer to how many levels are present in the snow clearing operation of the device. For example, a 2-stage model uses a double serrated auger and an impeller to clear walkways, while a 3-stage has three augers in addition to the impeller.
What Is an Auger?
The auger is a rotating metal tool shaped like a spiral. It has the same name as the tool used for boring holes in wood. In a snow blower, the augers are responsible for pushing snow into the central chute so it can be thrown to another location. The more augers a snow blower has, the more material it can handle at once, the faster it will process snow, and the further it will throw it
What Is an Impeller?
The impeller is a rotor which forms part of the central mechanism of a snow blower. It is responsible for the continuous flow of the snow and is what primarily throws excess material away from the device. The augers are responsible for pushing snow into this impeller so it can be blasted away from the area you are cleaning.
Do a 2-Stage and a 3-Stage Have the Same Design?
When it comes to snow blower design, all models will have at least one auger and one impeller. When you get into more advanced devices like the 2-stage and 3-stage, you will have more than one auger but will still have a single impeller.
They both function similarly, although the 3-stage has slightly more equipment. In some cases, a high-velocity 3-stage snow blower is capable of throwing unwanted material up to 75 ft. away, making it ideal for commercial enterprises, businesses, and anyone who lives on a large plot of land. A 3-stage option is also far better at dealing with large plots of ice mixed with snow, since the augers chop it up before it is blasted away.
The Differences between the Two Types
Bigger is not always better, which is why it’s important to know whether a 2-stage or 3-stage snow blower will be more valuable to you. The primary difference between the two is that the 3-stage has far more horsepower than a 2-stage because of the augers and often the size of the engine. While both are capable of extreme snow removal and can blast snow up to 50 ft. away from your target zone, only the 3-stage features an accelerator.
The accelerator in the snow blower is responsible for speeding up the entire snow removal process. While both models will have an intake segment with augers for pushing around the material, it is only the 3-stage which is capable of making the process go faster through the presence of the third auger. Using this logic, the 2-stage will also be faster than a single-stage option.
The other primary benefit of the 3-stage model is the evenness of use. Unlike the 1-stage and 2-stage, a 3-stage snow blower experiences few stops and is capable of plowing through massive mountains of snow without becoming clogged or needing time to adjust to the flow. These models are primarily used by businesses for a reason since they make it simple to clear a parking lot when a plow isn’t available.
The biggest problem people run into with the 3-stage is maintenance. Mechanically inclined people will be able to do their own maintenance on smaller snow blowers, but the 3-stage requires professional assistance to take apart the machine and properly care for each part.
Part of this has to do with the sheer power of the engine, which needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. The other problem is the complexity of the mechanism, which can be difficult to take apart and put back together without a guide or experience.
How to Maintain a 1 or 2-stage Snow Blower
For context, the average snow blower requires surprisingly little maintenance considering how well they function. You only need to follow eight basic steps that can be performed from the comfort of your own garage. Unfortunately, these steps can be difficult with the average 3-stage model since many of the parts are unreachable unless you deconstruct the entire machine.
- Change the spark plug
- Inspect and replace the belts if necessary due to cracking and general wear
- Check the paddles: If they no longer touch the ground or are damaged, you need to replace them
- Identify the shave plate and replace it if worn
- On a 2-stage blower, check the skid shoes and flip them if one side is worn but the other is not. If both sides have been damaged, it is time to replace them with new ones.
- Examine the shear pins. These are the pins designed to hold the auger in place. They are meant to break when placed under too much strain to prevent damage to the machine. If yours have cracked or shattered, you need to get replacements.
- Change the oil that has been left in the machine during the offseason. It is usually a good idea to allow the snow blower to be on for a few minutes so the oil warms up before it is removed. Be sure to drain the entire canister before putting new oil inside
- Empty out any of the gasoline which has been left inside the machine over the summer and be sure to replace it with fresh gasoline.
When you use a 3-stage snow blower, these basic steps still need to be followed. However, it will be difficult to reach all of the parts, and many people struggle to get around the third auger when trying to perform regular maintenance.
The Pros and Cons of Each Model
2-Stage Snow Blower
The 2-stage snow blower is ideal for individuals who have a moderate amount of snow in their area. It works best in regions that tend to get an accumulated 3-15 in. of snow and moderate ice. It could be considered the middle ground for individuals interested in snow blowers since it is not as lightweight as a single-stage option but not as heavy-duty as the 3-stage.
- Moderate strength
- Fewer stops and starts
- Two augers to funnel snow
- Able to blast 50 ft.
- Moderate price between $1,000 and $2,000
- Can be maintained at home
- The auger does not touch the ground, leaving a thin layer of snow
- Price might be too expensive for some people
3-Stage Snow Blower
The 3-stage snow blower is meant for individuals who need to move a lot of packed snow as soon as possible to go about their activities. These can be utilized in even the heaviest of snowfalls, capable of moving up to an accumulated 25-30 in. and packed ice. These are the most high end options on the market and certainly the largest in terms of horsepower. These are not intended for someone who only gets light to moderate snowfall or owns a small yard.
- Incredible horsepower and strength
- No stops
- Able to blast up to 75 ft.
- Three augers to better funnel snow
- Expensive – these blowers can cost between $2,000 and $3,000
- Heavy and hard to use for smaller individuals
- Requires a professional for maintenance
A common issue the average person runs into with the 3-stage snow blower is that it might be overpowered for a basic driveway or walkway.
The 2 stage vs 3 stage snow blower share the same basic mechanism and are often self-propelled. They differ in terms of horsepower and the number of augers present in the design, which affects how strong each one is. If you live in an average neighborhood that receives moderate snowfall, then the 2-stage model will work best for you. If you truly have heavy snowfalls each year and need to clear an impressive amount of ground quickly, then consider the 3-stage. Just remember you will need to invest more money at the outset and will be unable to perform maintenance on your own.