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TMB
10-31-2010, 06:01 PM
I need help, of the snowblower variety.

My wife is putting pressure on me to buy a snowblower this winter and I know nothing about them. I looked at them a number of years ago and never did buy one, which means that I have never had to try and figure out where to store the darn thing for the other 9 months of the year.

However, sometime this spring I tore a rotator cuff, and in spite of dedicated effort to get it behind me, I still get a lot of pain from the darn thing. Combine this with a La Nina winter and the long term forecast that says we are likely in for a 100 year snowfall - Mrs. TMB is telling me my preferred snow removal method - a shovel - is out.

So ...

First off, our snow here is generally pretty light. Not of the wet and heavy variety.

Are electrics any good at all? If so, any specific recommendations for makes or models??

In the gas powered camp - please tell me I dont have to go to the 36 high wheel monsters. Do the smaller ones with a 20 or 24 inch maw still do the job reasonably well?

I admit I covet my Father in Laws - but only because its the biggest SOB on the block - no wheels - it has tracks (!), and two headlights and a weather cab. Probably overkill for what I have to deal with, but still .....

So good people - I presume some of you have these infernal things, any directions??

TMB
10-31-2010, 06:02 PM
Bear in mind kind fellows - dollars spent on snowblower are dollars unavailable to invest in bike stuff!!!

Pete Serotta
10-31-2010, 06:38 PM
:) Bear in mind kind fellows - dollars spent on snowblower are dollars unavailable to invest in bike stuff!!!

Tell where you live.

In northern NJ 20 years ago I used a gas TORO and it worked well for the amount of snow we usually got. IN NC there is no snow blower for if I cleared the drive the road would still be covered. WAKE does not use a plow out in the north county where I live.

parris
10-31-2010, 06:38 PM
How big is your driveway? and how big are the "normal" winters? I live in the Northeast where we can and do get hammered. My driveway collects decent size drifts due to the wind. I've had no problems clearing everything out including some really nasty heavy dumps with an old 21" 2 stage Airens machine.

One of the things to think about is which brands to consider. It's generally best to go with some of the better quality makes. Airens, Toro, Honda. I would tend to stay away from store brands as these can tend to have more problems than the better quality brands.

Parris

sjbraun
10-31-2010, 06:43 PM
I faced this decision 20 years ago. Our Minneapolis driveway sloped down to an alley. Our neighbor's garage edged one end of the drive way, so there was only one way to clear snow, uphill.

We considered getting a snowblower, but moved to Arizona instead.


Steve
Tucson-where it is 79 and sunny today. :)

gone
10-31-2010, 06:43 PM
I live in SW Wisconsin and have a driveway that's 1/4 mile long so I get a lot of experience moving snow. I don't use a snowblower, I have a BFT (big effin tractor) with a blade on it that I use but lots of neighbors blow snow and I'll second parris' advice: Toro or Honda, dual stage, at least 21" and bigger if you have a long driveway. Also an "aimable" discharge chute (doesn't have to be hydraulic but does have to be easy) is convenient but not a must.

Winter sucks, hard.

TMB
10-31-2010, 07:00 PM
Thanks folks,

In the Okanagan Valley in Southern BC, in the mountains, but it is a desert.

So the snow is usually quite dry. I live up against the side of the mountains that run south of town and there is a micro-climate band right over my driveway. So if they get a foot of snow in town, I get 4 feet.

We get snow for about 3 months of the year, but when it snows, it snows for 3 days in a row and we get 3 or 4 feet of it. Not uncommon for me to be out with the shovel 4 times a day.

The driveway is only a couple of hundred feet, but it's all uphill and the worst part is the damn snowplows that come along and leave a wall 4 feet high and 4 feet wide across the bottom of the driveway.

I guess, reading that, that I need to get a unit with steel cutter blades?

I bought a new lawn mower this year because I was just sick of screwing around with the B&S engine on my Toro mower. Bought a little Cub Cadet which I like. The dealer has CC snowblowers in but they really look like more than I think I need.

dancinkozmo
10-31-2010, 07:29 PM
I live in SW Wisconsin and have a driveway that's 1/4 mile long so I get a lot of experience moving snow. I don't use a snowblower, I have a BFT (big effin tractor) with a blade on it that I use but lots of neighbors blow snow and I'll second parris' advice: Toro or Honda, dual stage, at least 21" and bigger if you have a long driveway. Also an "aimable" discharge chute (doesn't have to be hydraulic but does have to be easy) is convenient but not a must.

Winter sucks, hard.

im in michigan , we have a 1/4 mile driveway...i plow lots of snow , and after reading the description of your situation , i would third the above advice....gas , dual stage, ....electric units are too toy like to be of any real use imho...steel blades are great for slicing through chunks of ice and especially the piles of stuff the plows leave behind.

parris
10-31-2010, 07:37 PM
it does sound like you would be well served by a better quality snowblower. Get a 2 stage machine with a chute than can be easily aimed. Also given the amount of snow you get a model that can have drift cutters would be a very useful feature to invest in. Given your injury electric start wouldn't be out of line either.

I've had good luck with Airens, my neighbor's have had good luck with Toro and Honda. That's my reasoning for listing those by name. I've heard and seen some other neighbors and friends who've had issues with MTD and Craftsman. I haven't heard good or bad as far as Cub Cadet, JohnDeere, or Husqvarna are concerned.

God this has me thinking mainly due to the weather being cold and windy today. I'm really not ready for the winter to hit just yet.

Parris

dave thompson
10-31-2010, 07:44 PM
If you've got to work on the berm the plows leave, you will need a 2-stage machine, you will need an aim-able chute. Buy the best unit you can afford. It will save your back, shoulders, arms and your disposition.

11.4
10-31-2010, 07:47 PM
You won't even be able to blow that depth of snow without one of the larger units. Avoid wheels because they slip and won't move the blower blades into the snowbank; you need tracks. Generally a unit with a width of 26 inches or higher will have the capacity for heavy dry snow in a driveway; if you have a lot of square footage, go for one 30 inches or wider. Intake heights on the decent units tend to start at 16 inches or so (so you can plow into a 16-inch high fall) and go up from there. More height is definitely better when you have a lot of depth. A snowblower will handle deep snow as long as you don't let it completely ice over and as long as the snowblower isn't undersized. It isn't like trying to shovel the thick stuff. Those cheaper and smaller units, however, are for a couple inches of snow.

You're talking a gas unit at this point, and there's not a huge difference in price among most of the decent units. Service is imperative since they get used erratically, they have to take quite a bit of load, and then they get forgotten til next fall. Find who is well-supported locally -- whether that's a Sears or a Deere or whatever, go with what has good local support. Loading a heavy snowblower into a vehicle to get it fixed is not fun.

It's entirely the wrong time of year to be shopping for a used unit, and be aware that the fuel systems on older snowblowers don't handle the new ethanol-containing gasolines well. So just plan on a new one. Plus, you get the warranty that way. Most snowblowers come with at least a 2-year warranty; Hondas come with 3-year. Unless you're using them extremely heavily, they don't really break. Instead, you end up with old fuel that causes the injector to varnish, or similar problems ... i.e., user-issues that you just don't take care of when you're covered in blown snow and want to get indoors.

Mostly you go for a particular size, which usually comes with a motor sufficient to drive it, and then you are simply going for options. You definitely want power driven treads because otherwise you literally can't push it into a snowbank hard enough to engage, plus you really don't want to push a 250 lb snowblower up a hill. Heated hand grips are a frill. Drift cutters are useful if your snow tends to cake up a bit. Medium sized units have plastic glides; bigger ones have steel ones. Your snow chute controls get more sophisticated as you spend more, but you don't frankly need all that much if you aren't snowblowing a whole park.

Brand-wise, Hondas are definitely well made but a bit expensive. If you get good local service, they are a safe bet. Toros are a bit overpriced but well made, but often stocked by hardware stores and the like who can't really provide the service level you may need; be sure your dealer can provide good support. Sears is one of the best deals for the money (not the best equipment but for a driveway you just need the capacity to handle the snow levels) and their service is pretty good if it's available nearby. I'd avoid the cheaper brands. You do get what you pay for and except for some lowball units out there, most are priced pretty close together for a certain equipment quality level.

AngryScientist
10-31-2010, 08:12 PM
just bought one myself for the northern NJ winter. here was what i considered:

-sears model, because you can ALWAYS get parts for them. My parents have a sears model thats over 38 years old, still runs, and my dad can still get parts ordered for it at the local sears.

-wheels - they sell chains for the wheels, very inexpensive option but makes the machine an absolute tank in the slippery stuff, you want to get those chains for the wheels.

-electric start - all of the decent models have this, its really a non-option

i went with the middle of the line, 26" machine, havent used it yet obviously, but it fires right up with the electric start and i expect it will serve me well.

endosch2
10-31-2010, 08:39 PM
Here is my recommendation. 32 Horses, 4WD 59" with each pass, 1/4 mile driveway in 8 minutes. Hoo Rah!!! Before this I had a Ariens 8 Horsepower 24 " wide walk behind that was great. I live in northern NH with rougly 100 inches of snow per year, quite a few 1 foot dumps. The Ariens was good but I decided to upgrade.... Honestly I bought the tractor and found the blower used for the front and it just worked out. I have a lot of other attachements for the tractor and we use it a lot year round.

godfrey1112000
10-31-2010, 08:51 PM
I have three shovels to sell you but if you want to guarantee no snow for 3-4 years buy an expensive snow blower, I purchased my SB and then it did not snow for 3 years,

now back to your problem, do not buy a cheap one

so buy the John Deere, I have the 6hp two cycle, have gotten it tuned up once and that bad boy will throw wet or dry snow as far as you can see or into your neighbors drive

second rule to live by, never lend it to anyone, blow their drive but never lend it to them,

you might get dirty looks and not have friends in the summer but your blower will always be in good shape

endosch2
10-31-2010, 08:56 PM
The other word of wisdom about snow blowers is dont ever put your hands anywhere near them. I know more people that have lost fingers to snow blowers than anything, even saws, knives, you name it. People stupidly try to clean the chutes out with their hands - I have no idea why....

veloduffer
10-31-2010, 09:10 PM
Spend the extra money to get a two-stage self propelled blower. I'm in northern NJ and we use it all the time for our 150 ft driveway. I got a Sears and it has worked flawlessly for the past 10 years. But you will be well served by a Toro or Honda too. Just get a big one - otherwise it is money down the drain.

And about clearing the auger and chute, you need to be careful. Newspapers on the ground can clog up the auger but it is under TENSION. So even with the motor off, you could get your hands cut off by the auger releasing the tension, particularly if something is caught. Last year, a guy in town lost his hand doing just that. As soon as he freed the newspaper....

rdparadise
10-31-2010, 11:01 PM
A few years back, I bought a 21" 2 stage, 12 hp Airens blower. My driveway wasn't necessarily long, however, it was wide (3 car garage) and I had over 150' of sidewalk I had to tend to. The blower worked great with no problems except for the metal pins that kept breaking due to heavy/wet snow.

I left the unit and house behind in the divorce. :rolleyes:

Bob

oliver1850
10-31-2010, 11:59 PM
.

akelman
11-01-2010, 12:03 AM
here's what I use

Dude, I can't believe you're running Shimano on that thing.

CNY rider
11-01-2010, 06:44 AM
Dude, I can't believe you're running Shimano on that thing.

But it's going to make mounting the Di2 so simple; the wiring harnesses are already in place.

dancinkozmo
11-01-2010, 06:51 AM
....changing the tubulars on that thing must be a real bitch...how many tubes of glue does it take ?

gomango
11-01-2010, 07:53 AM
We have two:

A Toro Snow Pup for 1-3 inch snowfalls, such as an Alberta Clipper.

An Airens two stage 8 horse power self propelled when we get nailed.

Both are fine machines, and there really is no replacement for horsepower when the snow is wet!

We live in St. Paul, MN and are usually more concerned with black ice though.

godfrey1112000
11-01-2010, 08:17 AM
please enter our showroom by clicking below

http://sfj70.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834515ddf69e20120a83381f1970b-500wi

we can get into one of these with easy lifetime payments

let me know if you want the cd player or the 8-track tape

here is a pic of my drive way

jmoore
11-01-2010, 09:35 AM
get your shoulder fixed

TMB
11-01-2010, 11:53 AM
get your shoulder fixed

Agreed, best course of action.

IFRider
11-01-2010, 02:02 PM
I live in southern New Hampshire (outside Manchester) and often have some serious snow to deal with. Seems my location makes for a 50/50 chance of heavy wet snow and light fluffy stuff.

I am a firm believer in Honda snowblowers have had 2 over the last 20 years. My original was a 9hp 28 inch model and the current is an 11hp 32 inch model. These are track drive units with hydrostatic drive and will plow through anything. In fact, I have had them pull me up an ice driveway (steep hill) where I could not stand on my own. I also live in a cul-de-sac and often have to dig out of the town plows. This is alway heavy compacted snow and the tracks really push into the bank.

I will echo what others have said here, you need a 2 stage to do anything. Buy from a dealer that has been around and provides good service. I would stay with Ariens, Toro or Honda. I am sure some other are fine but would not recommend the MTD's or other units from big box stores. They are hard to get parts for. I know some people like sears. I know too many people who have had problems with non-replacement parts (cracked drums, frames). Like many Sears power tools, the old stuff was amazing and still supported. The newer stuff is not much different than the MTD's at Home Depot or Costco.

For me, it has to always work and start. It is one of those things were I can't shovel my driveway due to the area to be cleared (I have fit 13 cars in that area). With the Honda's I had, they always started unless it was an operator error such as bad fuel. I have had to use the electric start twice in 20 years and that was when I left the unit uncovererd outside and the pull cord froze in the released position.

The wheeled units are fine if you are on flat surfaces or not dealing with loose gravel. The Honda track drive units hold the front end a couple of inches off the ground so it is easy to clean a path to the oil/propane. When my kids were 2 we had over 4 feet of snow outside. I cleared a play area in the yard with maybe 3 inches for them to play. I know people doing the same for dogs.

Warren

DonH
11-01-2010, 03:37 PM
I love the Honda snowblowers, but ended up buying an Ariens 926 5 years ago from my local hardware store. I went with the Ariens because of availability at the time and partially because my father has had one for 15 years, and its been excellent. At first I thought I should have gotten a smaller one, but im very happy with it. My driveway is 100 feet long and the snow tends to drift at the end. This dual stage blower chugs through it, and it always starts on the 1st or 2nd pull.
It takes up a bit of space in my garage, but its worth it to me.

TMB
11-01-2010, 04:01 PM
Thank you for all the responses everyone.

I stopped in at Sears this morning to take a look at the machines, as has been said here, the price differential is for "features". Once you get past the 2 stage with a gas engine, it's pretty nebulous after that.

For instance for $200 you get one with a speed selector up by the handgrips, instead of down at knee level.

As I thought / remembered from the last time I looked at these - they are big. Going to take up a lot of room in the garage. That is the reason I didn't buy one 10 years ago.

I'll stop at Home Hardware tonight and see what they have.

yakstone
11-01-2010, 07:10 PM
Great information here. After living in Colorado and shoveling mountains of snow for the past 7 years I decided to bite the bullet and get a machine.
I researched these for the past 2 years and I opted for the Honda HS928TAS.
It is a beast but I believe in overkill. Plus this thing will out last me. My Honda lawn mower is 12 years old and still runs beautifully along with my Honda String Trimmer. Change the oil, air cleaner and spark plug every year and you are set.

Bradford
11-01-2010, 07:37 PM
As I thought / remembered from the last time I looked at these - they are big. Going to take up a lot of room in the garage. That is the reason I didn't buy one 10 years ago.
I have the same problem...I just don't have room for a big unit. So last year I bought Toro Power Curve.

It worked just fine for the light, fluffy stuff we usually get on the front range on Colorado. It worked well enough for the one storm we had with heavy wet snow. I don't think it would handle Northeast snow well at all.

If I had the room, I would have gone for a big machine, but the Toro works well enough that I'm glad I have it.

Dekonick
11-01-2010, 08:12 PM
The other word of wisdom about snow blowers is dont ever put your hands anywhere near them. I know more people that have lost fingers to snow blowers than anything, even saws, knives, you name it. People stupidly try to clean the chutes out with their hands - I have no idea why....

Absolutely NEVER, EVER put your hands anywhere near the opening of the auger. Even if the snow blower is off, there can be stored energy that will readily sever your hand as soon as you free that paper or chunk of ice caught in the blade.

NEVER EVER EVER EVER put anything you want to keep anywhere near the auger... Every winter I see folks missing fingers because they did not listen. There is a reason they give you a big plastic stick to clear the blades... use that instead.

More advice: put stabil in the gas you use. Change the gas every year at a minimum. BUY EXTRA SHEAR BOLTS - before the snow comes. Once it hits, you won't be able to find any...

And don't let anyone else use your snow blower. How will you feel when they try to flip you off and can't because they are missing 3 fingers? Great machine to own. Make sure you understand how to operate it, and do basic maintenance before the storm.

Agree on 2 stage. Only way to go.

Did I mention that you should NEVER put your hand in the auger?!? ;)

bigman
11-01-2010, 09:57 PM
I have been very very happy with my Ariens - purchased from the Home Depot - 11 hp, a bunch of forward speeds, 2 rear, headlamp and best of all heated grips.

I have owned it for a number of years, add fuel stabilizer at the end of the season and check the oil before each use. I have never needed to add any.
Live on a pretty steep driveway and have been able to operate it pretty smoothly in all the storms to date.
I never let my kids around when I use it, should I loose control going downhill despite the dead-man switch someone could get seriously injured.

Was not to pricey either.

parris
11-01-2010, 11:48 PM
Good call on the shear bolts. I picked up spares of those as well as a replacement drive belt and spark plug should anything happen.

My year end ritual is to run the gas out of the machine as I store it in a back shed and figure if things are totally run out that's less chance for varnish to form. So far I've been lucky with this. At the start of the season I change the oil and gear lube as well as the spark plug. My machine was an auction buy many years ago and it doesn't have any safety features. Like the other posters I don't allow my son or wife anywhere around where I'm using the machine. In addition to staying clear of the auger be aware that the better machines can and will pick up and throw stones, pavement chunks, as well as sticks. I learned that lesson cleaning out a neighbors driveway who wasn't as... "careful" about picking that kind of stuff up. It's impressive and a little scary to see a rock the size of a golf ball go sailing through the air towards your car.

Ahneida Ride
11-02-2010, 12:12 AM
A Honda on tracks is a beast !!!!!