Auger well: Point drill at ice. Cut hole. It seems simple enough, but every season faulty augers ruin far too many hardwater trips. To keep your machine purring, follow the maintenance procedures in the manual and pay special attention to these common problem areas.

Fuel: Small engines can be finicky at the best of times, let alone at -20°C, so always feed them clean, fresh gas. For two-strokes, use the recommended gas-oil ratio; fully mix the blend before filling the auger’s tank. Most manufacturers recommend adding a fuel stabilizer when packing your machine away for the season, but many experts suggest using it at all times.

Blade: If your auger cuts slowly or jumps on the ice, sharpen or replace the tip and blade. Razor-sharp cutting edges save fuel and prevent wear and tear on the engine. To keep blades from corroding, dry them after every trip and lube them with oil, which can be as simple as a spray of WD-40. And always cover the blade when it’s not in use.

Technique: No matter how eager you are to cut your holes, warm up your auger for a few minutes before stressing the engine. And finally, Outdoor Canada’s ice-fishing guru Gord Pyzer, who has cut thousands of holes without ever burning out an auger, says to never, ever drill a hole from the ice surface down to the water in just one blast—it’s too hard on the machine. Instead, he says to stop halfway down and lift out the auger to remove the slush from the hole. Then drill down again until the auger is just above the water before lifting it out once again to clean the hole a second time. Now you’re ready to punch through.