34 Facts About Zamboni Machines You Should Know [Video]


When it comes to ice resurfacing, Zamboni is arguably the most well-known name in the marketplace. If you want to find out more about these legendary machines, you’ve come to the right place.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the most frequent questions about Zamboni ice resurfacers here under one roof!

Contents show

Basic Facts About Zamboni Ice Resurfacers

1. What is the machine Called that Cleans the Ice Rink?

The machine used for cleaning ice rinks is officially called an ice resurfacing machine.

However, the brand name of the market-leading manufacturer, “Zamboni” is also often used as synonymous with these machines. The first Zamboni ice resurfacing machine appeared on the ice in the late 1940s.

2. Who Invented Zamboni Ice Resurfacers?

The Zamboni ice resurfacer was invented by Frank J. Zamboni, a child of Italian immigrants.

Not long after his birth, his family moved from Utah to a farm in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, where Frank picked up his technical skills.

In 1920, Frank and his brothers opened an auto repair shop in Southern California, but they soon switched into the refrigeration business.

When electric refrigerators hit the market, they realized that their company had a dark future. To utilize their refrigeration equipment, they decided to open an ice rink in the city, and named it “Iceland.”

But at that time, clearing and smoothing the ice was very time-consuming, so in the late ‘40s, Frank Zamboni started to develop the world’s first ice resurfacing machine.

3. When Was the First Zamboni Used?

The first Zamboni ice resurfacer was introduced in the summer of 1949.

The “Model A Zamboni Ice Resurfacer” was able to provide a pretty smooth ice surface, so the inventor decided to apply for a patent and establish his company, Frank J. Zamboni & Co.

4. Where was the Zamboni Machine Invented?

The Zamboni ice resurfacer was invented in Paramount, California. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, Zamboni is not a Canadian invention!

5. Why is a Zamboni Called a Zamboni?

The Zamboni ice resurfacer is named after its inventor, Frank J. Zamboni.

When Mr. Zamboni founded his company, he originally wanted to choose the name” Paramount Engineering Company,” but since that name was already taken, he decided to use his family name instead.

6. What Company Makes Zamboni Machines?

Zamboni ice resurfacing machines are exclusively designed and manufactured by the Zamboni Company USA, Inc. Over the decades, several competitors tried to enter this industry, but most of them have not achieved lasting success.

7. Where are Zambonis Built?

Although Zamboni is headquartered in Paramount, California, the company also has manufacturing facilities in other countries, which are as follows:

  • Paramount, California (U.S.)
  • Brantford, Ontario (Canada)
  • Österfärnebo, Sweden (Europe)

The manufacturer also has an extended dealer network and service providers worldwide.

8. How many Zambonis are There in the World?

According to the manufacturer, more than 12,000 Zamboni machines have been produced so far.

However, this number refers only to the original Zambonis and doesn’t include other ice resurfacer machines manufactured by other companies.

9. How Many Zambonis are Made Each Year?

As a rule of thumb, approximately 200 Zambonis are manufactured each year.

It’s also good to know that these machines are custom built to the wishes of customers. Therefore, they have to be ordered about a half year in advance!

10. How Much Does a Zamboni Cost?

The cheapest Zamboni ice resurfacer, the “Zamboni Model 100,” costs about $10,000. This tiny unit can be pulled by a small tractor and is recommended for smaller ice surfaces up to 5,000 square feet. In contrast, the prices of “full-sized” Zamboni machines start in the low six figures.

11. Is a Zamboni Street Legal?

According to Forbes, Zamboni machines are not street legal as they are not considered “motor vehicles.”

Surprisingly, there are rumors about Zambonis that were driven through Burger King drive-through lanes as a joke.

As you can imagine, the operators were fired immediately!

12. How Long Does a Zamboni Last?

Considering that Zambonis run only about 2,000 miles yearly, they can run for decades with proper maintenance.

For example, one of the most famous machines, the “Model E34” had been in use for more than 40 years before it was restored and displayed in Iceland in Paramount. Over these decades, this Zamboni traveled approximately 45,000 miles!

13. Are All Ice Resurfacers Zambonis?

Although Zamboni is one of the most well-known names in the industry, not all ice resurfacers are made by this Californian manufacturer.

It’s safe to say that the biggest competitor of Zamboni is the Canadian Resurfice Corporation, which offers its ice resurfacing machines under the brand name OLYMPIA. As the name suggests, OLYMPIA ice resurfacers often pop up at the Winter Olympics!

14. How Much Does a Zamboni Driver Make?

According to Indeed.com, Zamboni drivers make about $11-$18 per hour, while Comparably reports that the median salary of Zamboni drivers is $27,119.

15. How did They Clean Ice Before the Zamboni was Invented?

Before the Zamboni machine was invented, ice cleaning was a huge hassle. At that time, ice cleaning meant towing a heavy scraper by a tractor on the ice. Once the surface was shaved, three to five men had to remove the ice shavings and clean the surface manually. Finally, they had to pour some clean water onto the surface, which was allowed to freeze.

The entire process required more than an hour and a lot of hard work!

How Does a Zamboni Work?

16. What Does a Zamboni Actually Do?

The Zamboni is considered a mechanical ice resurfacer, meaning that it’s designed to clean and smooth the top layer of ice. The working steps of a Zamboni machine can be split up into three major steps:

  1. Shaving: The machine shaves the top of the ice with a sharp blade while it loads the shaving into a separated snow tank.
  2. Washing: At the same time, the machine cleans the surface with water jets that flush the remaining shavings, dirt, and debris into a vacuum hose.
  3. Layering and smoothing: A towel-like unit spreads hot water on top of the ice. This water melts the top of the ice to iron the smaller skate grooves and adds an extra layer to the surface.

Once the Zamboni machine has done its job, it’s time for the refrigerant system to freeze this layer of water to create a new layer of ice.

17. Does a Zamboni Melt Ice?

Yes, a Zamboni machine melts the ice by spraying hot water onto its surface. This hot water melts the top layer of ice and allows it to flow into the small grooves, which helps smooth out the unevenness.

Does a Zamboni use Hot Water?

Yes, Zambonis use hot water, typically at a temperature of 60°-63° Celsius or 140°-145° Fahrenheit. This water is dispensed onto the ice at the rear of the machines and smoothed by a towel.

18. What’s the Top Speed of a Zamboni?

Let’s face it, Zamboni machines are not built for high speeds or thrilling accelerations. How fast are they?

The top speed of a Zamboni is about 10 mph, while it can run a quarter-mile in 93.5 seconds.

19. How Long Does It Take to Zamboni the Ice?

The manufacturer claims that the average Zamboni needs about 12 minutes to resurface a standard North American ice rink.

However, it always depends on the type of machine, the operator’s skills, the pattern, and the condition of the ice. The biggest machines with an experienced rider can Zamboni the ice in just 7-10 minutes!

20. What is the Zamboni Pattern?

The typical Zamboni pattern is concentric overlapping ovals that measure about one-half the width of the rink.

These ovals should slightly overlap while the driver does new laps towards the other side of the ice. The majority of Zamboni drivers do the process clockwise, but the direction is not set in stone. Zambonis typically need 15 passes down in an average (17,000 sq. ft.) ice rink to resurface the whole rink.

Here’s a great video about Zamboni’s patterns:

21. Is Driving a Zamboni Easy?

If you are considering becoming an official ice resurfacer driver, don’t worry, as driving a Zamboni is not extremely difficult. As reported by South West Journal, most people can learn how to operate them in 2-3 weeks of training.

However, keep in mind that operating a Zamboni professionally requires a lot more than just driving the machine back and forth on the ice. Instead, the operator has to consider a lot of other things such as:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Condition of the ice
  • The driving pattern
  • The speed of the vehicle
  • The depth of the cutting blade
  • How much water to apply
  • How to remove ice build-ups near the boards
  • Other factors (potential refrigeration unit malfunctions under the ice, etc.)

One of the hardest points in the operation of a Zamboni is that the driver has to develop the confidence to drive closer to the boards.

22. How do Zambonis Drive on Ice?

Thanks to their 4-wheel drive and studded tires, Zambonis can run on ice without any issues. The studs grip into the ice, so the machine doesn’t slide, not even when cornering. Before the introduction of studded tires, Zambonis used special tires with a mixture of walnut shell pieces and rubber on their surfaces.

Using chains on the tires would not be a good idea as they would damage the surface of the ice.

Zamboni Specifications

23. What are the Average Sizes of a Zamboni?

Generally speaking, a Zamboni machine is 159-182 inches long, 87-104 inches wide, and 87-93 inches high. Opening the snow tank adds about 35-40 inches to the overall height.

24. How Wide is a Zamboni Blade?

The shaving blade of Zambonis is 77-96 inches long, 5 inches wide, and ½ inch high.

25. How do You Set the Blade on a Zamboni?

As a rule of thumb, a properly angled Zamboni blade is set at 10°. The best way to set the blade on a Zamboni is by using a “blade angle tool,” which helps to ensure that the blade is level and set at the proper angle.

If you want to drill into the details, here’s a great tutorial on how to set a blade on a Zamboni:

26. Why are Zambonis so Big?

The reason Zambonis are so big is that these machines feature a large snow tank to collect ice shavings and two large water tanks. Besides these tanks, the machines house many other features such as the cutting blade, conditioner, drivetrain, controls, operator seat, engine, and fuel tank. The latter can be found only on regular gas-powered models.

As you can imagine, these features take up a lot of space, that’s why Zambonis are so big!

27. What are the Tanks on a Zamboni?

There are no less than five tanks inside a Zamboni that are designed for different purposes:

  • Snow tank: collects the ice shavings
  • Clean water tank: holds the clean water
  • Wastewater tank: holds the wastewater generated during cleaning
  • Fuel tank: holds the gas for the machine (available only on the gas-powered models)
  • Hydraulic oil tank: with about 20-30 gallons of capacity

28. How Much Water Can a Zamboni Hold?

The water tanks in a Zamboni are mounted under the snow tank and hold the fresh and wastewater separately.

Regarding capacities, a Zamboni can hold about 200-440 gallons of fresh water and 70-110 gallons of wastewater, which translates to a total water capacity of 270-560 gallons.

29. How Much Snow Can a Zamboni Hold?

The average Zamboni can hold about 94-145 cu. ft. (2.66-4.1 m3) of snow, but the capacity can increase by about 25% with compaction.

The towable models, namely the Model 100 and 200, can hold 10 cu. ft: (0.283 m3), and 200 50 cu. ft. (1.42 m3) of snow, respectively.

30. How Heavy is a Zamboni?

When filled up with water, the typical Zamboni weighs about 7,000 to 14,000 pounds, while their dry weight is no less than 6,000 – 10,000 pounds.

The lightest Zambonis are arguably the towable units (Model 100, 200) as their dry weight is “only” 600 and 1250 pounds, which doesn’t include the tow vehicle’s weight.

31. What Engine is in a Zamboni?

Simply put, Zambonis are available with both electric and gas-powered engines. The engines of the most popular fuel-powered models are as follows:

  • Model 546: Kubota® 1.6 L / 50 HP at 3000 RPM (Four-Cylinder Liquid Cooled)
  • Model 446/526: Mitsubishi® 2.4 L / 59 HP at 2500 RPM (Four-Cylinder Liquid Cooled)
  • Model 710: VM Motori® Industrial Diesel 3.0 L; Four Cylinder 79.2 kW / 106 HP at 2350 RPM
  • Model 700: GM® 4.3 L Six Cylinder Engine 75 kW / 100 HP at 2800 RPM

When it comes to electric Zambonis, the smaller models are powered by a single electric engine, while the high-end models utilize four smaller units (each engine drives one wheel).

32. What Fuel Does a Zamboni Run On?

It’s safe to say that most modern Zamboni machines use alternative fuels like natural gas, propane, or electric power.

Therefore, each of them provides a clean operation which makes these machines perfect for indoor operation. What’s more, they are environmentally friendly!

Are you wondering why Zambonis use propane instead of regular gasoline or diesel? Keep reading!

33. Why do Zambonis Use Propane?

The six main reasons why Zambonis use propane are as follows:

  1. Low emissions: There’s no question that the main reason why Zambonis use propane is its clean operation. Propane Zamboni engines have low emissions, so they are ideal for indoor use. As long as there’s enough oxygen, propane engines emit only water and carbon dioxide.
  2. It’s clean: Since propane is a clean fuel, it can keep the engine and the entire machine clean.
  3. Efficiency: Compared to other fuels, propane is really efficient, which results in lower operating costs. What’s more, since it has a better energy density, a tank of fuel lasts much longer.
  4. Safety: Fuel leaks could be a huge issue on the ice, but it’s something you don’t have to worry about with a propane engine. This is because propane is stored as a liquid in a low-pressure tank that evaporates into a gas in the engine. Therefore, a fuel leak on a propane engine doesn’t cause any cleanup problem!
  5. Simpler design: Since they don’t have to vaporize the fuel, propane engines have a simpler design, which translates to less maintenance.
  6. It’s more self-stable: Compared to diesel or gasoline, propane is much more self-stable. Therefore, if the machine is not in use for a while, the fuel won’t gum up in the tank!

34. How Much Horsepower Does a Zamboni Have?

Gas-powered Zamboni machines have about 50-106 HP, while the electric-powered models utilize 24-46 HP engines.

The horsepower ratings of the most commonly used Zamboni engines are as follows:

  • Model 546: Kubota® 1.6 L – 50 HP
  • Model 446/526: Mitsubishi® 2.4 L – 59 HP
  • Model 700: GM® 4.3 L – 100 HP
  • Model 710: VM Motori® 3.0 L – 106 HP

References:

Zamboni.com, Pure Hockey, RiverGrandRapids

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