What is the Ideal Snow Blower Height For A Gravel Driveway? (Solved)

Man clearing very snow drive with car in background

Getting the right snow blower height for a gravel driveway is important, otherwise gravel could end up getting thrown everywhere, including through a house or car window…

And that is something you don’t want.

On top of that there are a few important dos and don’ts you want to remember when using a snow blower on a gravel surface.

So without further ado, let’s find out more…

What is the Ideal Snow Blower Height For A Gravel Driveway?

Generally, you will want your snow blower set at somewhere between 0.75 inches and 2 inches to clear a gravel driveway. A good approach is to simply drive over the first couple of snowfalls of the season to create a solid base layer of packed snow. Then you can lower the skids down to around 0.75 inches to clear any subsequent fresh snow down to the base layer.

The Gravel Driveway Conundrum…

Generally, you will need to set the height of your skids to somewhere between 0.75 inches and 2 inches when using your snow blower on a gravel driveway.

But there are a number of factors that will influence this and there are ways of clearing snow from a gravel driveway that work better than others, in my opinion.

#1: Pack the Snow

When I lived up North and snow was an inevitable occurrence rather than a possible occurrence I had my own technique to make clearing snow from my gravel driveway as easy as possible.

When we had the first couple of snowfalls I would always set the skids of my blower as high as possible and ride over it to pack it into the gravel, so you have a nice layer of compact snow.

When I had that base established (and providing it stayed cold) I would then lower the skids to essentially scrape any fresh snow down to the base I had created.

The only drawback to this is if you suddenly get a spell of milder weather, the packed snow can turn to ice.

But if that happens, it is just a case of taking it slow and being more careful.

In short though, if you can pack the snow down early in the winter it will freeze deeper and harder and be much easier to drive on and much easier to maintain.

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#2: Consider Your Driveway

Car on drive with trees either side

That said not all gravel driveways are the same.

A solid gravel driveway will not be vastly different from concrete pavement, whereas a very loose gravel driveway will be.

The looser the gravel, the higher skid height you want to start with and then you can work it down accordingly.

Then there is the question of how flat the driveway is.

A flat gravel driveway is much more forgiving than a gravel driveway on a slope.

For a long, steep gravel driveway you might have to invest in both a tractor with a bucket to push snow downhill and a blower to move snow uphill.

If it is allowed where you live studded tires are a good option for a driveway like this.

And this takes us to the subject of the vehicles that use the driveway.

If you just have a 4WD pick-up truck then even if the snow is cleared to only around 4 or 5 inches there won’t be a problem.

If you have a sports car then just 2 inches of snow will be too much.

#3: Select Your Skids Carefully

Larger skids can be very useful if you have a driveway with particularly large and rocky bits of gravel.

Larger skids do mean there is some tradeoff in terms of forward progress and maneuverability, but they will keep the auger housing off the gravel better than smaller skids and will keep it from taking in too many rocks.

Armor skids or Arnold universal poly skids have a particularly good reputation.

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#4: The Dangers of Setting Your Skids Incorrectly

Broken windscreen

If you have your skids set too low it will mean the scraper bar and auger housing will be in contact with the gravel.

That means gravel could get into the auger and break sheer pins, and gravel could also be flung across the drive into cars and through windows!

By adjusting the skids higher your snow blower will not be resting on the gravel.

As an extra precaution it is always advisable to have the discharge chute facing away from the house and any cars, just in case any gravel is picked up!

In Short…

I have always found the best way to deal with snow on a gravel driveway is to forget about clearing the first couple of snowfalls.

Simple drive on the snow to compact it down to provide a hard-packed layer of snow, ready for you to use your blower on for the rest of the season.

Once that is established you can lower the skids so the blower can sit much closer to the snow base, without the same worry of it picking up gravel.

For me, this is usually around 0.75 inches to 1 inch.

If you are at all unsure, start with your skids at a higher setting and slowly lower them until you find the right balance between clearing the snow and picking up the minimal amount of gravel.

How High Should I Set My Snow Blower For Other Surfaces?

Looking through my old Ariens snow blower manual it suggests 1/8th of an inch clearance for smooth paved surfaces and 1.25 inches for gravel or rough surfaces.

But as we have discussed above this can vary depending upon a number of factors.

Top quality polymer skid shoes will glide over any uneven areas with ease, and mean you can have the scraper much closer to the surface without worrying about it contacting the surface and causing wear and tear or damage.

For very smooth, concrete driveways you will probably want your snow blower set at 1/8th of an inch.

For paved concrete driveways with a number of joins etc, you might want to set your blower to 0.25 inches.

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Snow Blower Height Adjustment: In Short.

Remember that the height can only be adjusted on two-stage and three-stage snow blowers.

Single-stage snow blowers use auger paddles that come into direct contact with the ground, and can’t be adjusted.

The height of a snow blower is altered by adjusting the skid shoes. Whenever you adjust the scraper blade the skid shoes will need to be adjusted as well.

As previously mentioned if you aren’t 100% certain what height you need to have your snow blower set at, it is best to start on a high setting and gradually lower it until you have found a height that removes the snow but doesn’t pick up any gravel or touch a paved surface.

Snow Blower Intake Height: How Important Is It?

One other consideration you need to take into account when buying a snow blower is its intake height, so it is worth quickly touching on that in this article.

The intake height simply refers to the height of snow a snow blower can effectively deal with on a single pass.

Without stating the obvious, if you live somewhere that gets lots of regular snow, you want a higher intake height.

If you live somewhere that gets sporadic light snow, a lower intake height will be fine.

  • The smallest electric snow shovels might only have an intake height of four inches.
  • Single-stage snow blowers usually have an intake height of up to 12 inches.
  • Two-stage snow blowers intake heights usually peak around the 24-inch mark.
  • Three-stage snow blowers intake heights are often comparable with those of two-stage blowers, but they have the added bonus of a 12-inch accelerator that can break down heavy, wet snow much more quickly.

It simply is a case of considering the area you live in, the amount of snow you get and which option is best for your needs.

Final Thoughts

Snow Blower Height For Gravel Driveway infographic

For me, the ideal snow blower height for a gravel driveway is around 0.75 inches to 1 inch as mentioned in the infographic above.

This is after driving over the first couple of snowfalls of the season to pack it down and create a compacted layer of snow that is much easier to drive on and maintain.

When that is done you can lower the skids to scrape snow down to the base later you have created.

There are variables that will affect this, including the type of gravel driveway you have, whether it is flat or on a slope, and the vehicles that will be driving on it.

If you aren’t sure caution is always a watchword.

Start with the skids at a higher level, maybe around 2 inches, and slowly lower them until you get the right balance where they clear the snow effectively and pick up the minimal amount of gravel.

Good luck!

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