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Snow Blower Recommendations

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by jadm, Jun 13, 2009.

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  1. jadm

    jadm New Member

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    I know it is not the season to be asking this question but, depending on what I find, I am looking to maybe get one at a lower price this time of year.

    Looking for one with auger blades. (We have a long drive way and sidewalks to clear.) Current blower gets bogged down in anything over 6" of snow and hates wet snow.

    Have researched Toro, Simplicity, Snapper and Craftsman - both with gears - self propelled- and without.

    Width up to 26 - 28".

    User friendly - something a 13 year old boy can handle safely. (Or that his mother will feel comfortable with him using. :ahhh: )

    Quiet - if that is possible,,,,

    Wondering what others here use and why?

    Pros and cons of different models.

    Thanks for your ideas.

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  2. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    We get heavy wet snow. 10 hp/two stage works well especially when you hit the plow drifts. I've used the MTD for 12 years. As long as you brush it off and keep it under a roof, it works well. I like the electric start as well. It is anything but quiet and definitely a basic machine but gets the job done.
  3. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Definitely a two-stage machine, IMHO you don't need one of the tracked models, as the wheel-drive units will do for any but the worst of conditions. I am also a big fan of the older Arien's units - I don't like ANYBODY's new machines, as IMHO they have put excessive numbers of convenience gadgets on them that are little more than problems waiting to happen... I want a hand-crank chute control with push the top manual deflection scoop, none of this plastic joystick stuff. Electric start is nice, but frankly I've never really used mine.

    However, regardless of the machine, I think the BIGGEST single improvement one can make is to add a "Clarence Kit" this is essentially a set of rubber flaps that go on the tips of the second stage impeller to fill the gap between the impeller and the housing. Closing the gap makes the impeller more effective both by eliminating "alternative paths" and by effectively increasing the diameter and tip speed of the impeller. It makes a tremendous improvement in performance - I added 5-10 feet of height and distance when throwing dry snow, and throw the heavy wet "cement snow" like I used to throw dry stuff before putting on the kit... It also cuts down on clogs by 80-90% or more, as there is much more air getting blown through the machine and less space for slush to pack into. It is a bit of a PITA to install, but well worth the effort - I've seldom had as big an improvement in a machine's performance - and it's relatively cheap as well...

    Gooserider
  4. jadm

    jadm New Member

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    I have never heard of the Arien brand before. How does it compare to the brands I mentioned?

    I agree with your comments on newer models of ANYTHING these days for the same reasons you stated but finding a good used snow blower that will be reliable without knowing the previous owner is not something I want to venture into.....Too many unknowns. Just want a reliable - trouble free machine that works like it is supposed to FOREVER.....Is that too much to ask? :)

    Thanks for the info. on the impeller kit. Definitely something I will look into once I decide what to do about a snowblower.
  5. jadm

    jadm New Member

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    Another brand I have never heard of. Will have to do some research on it too. It comes from a company that sure has been around for awhile. Wondering if their new machines are as durable as their older ones are????
  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Ariens (the "s" is part of the name) is one of the oldest companies in the snowblower business - they started building machines back in the 40's or 50's as I recall. This site has a pretty decent history on the company in the 60's - 70's

    Simplicity and Toro also have good reputations, though I did not like the control setup on the Toro that I owned once... Craftsman is built by somebody else, like all K-mart / Sears product lines, usually to a low budget spec, I would not go there. MTD is another company with very mixed reputation, they have purchased many different outfits and make machines under a bunch of different names, often with a tendency towards being high in plastic content and light on quality...

    Remember that in most areas, snowblowers don't actually see all that much use, so they will last a LONG time, even with relatively little maintainance. They are also pretty simple machines without a lot to break. FWIW my current machine is an Ariens of uncertain model, but probably built in 1977 or 78... It essentially runs as good today as the day it was made - the engine uses a bit of oil, but it still starts first or second pull. All the mechanical parts are still in good shape, though I have had to replace a couple of wear items (that might have been original!)

    I purchased my machine through my local OPE repair shop, who isn't a dealer for any particular brand - this can be a good source for older machines that have had at least some level of going through and upkeep.

    At any rate, I would not be overly hesitant about purchasing a used Ariens or Toro - see if the machine looks to be in good shape overall, start it up, go through the gears, etc. and if it runs OK, you should be fine...

    Gooserider
  7. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    MTD is the generic low end machine maker that gets rebranded by many. I agree that the new ones with the cheap gimicky features are likely to be more trouble prone. Even my older one has a crude underbuilt handcrank. This crank and the chute are the reason to keep it brushed off and at least under a roof. The electric start means you can run her hard and put her away wet and not have to pay for it the next time you use it which might be months away. If you can keep it in the garage that gets/stays above freezing, you avoid a lot of hassle as well. I am also a big fan of older equipment in general, my JD lawn mower and Ford tractor are both almost as old as I am, but the 10hp MTD is a very common machine, gets the job done, is available everywhere and quite frankly isn't going to get that many hours put on it.
  8. jadm

    jadm New Member

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    Found a shop 5 min. from my house that sells Ariens. THey are not a well know brand out here yet but he said they are big out East. HE has one 624E left that he will sell to me for $799.00. Won't get any more until the fall and they will be pricier.

    Have done comparisons on line and his model seems to be adequate to my needs. 6 HP and a 24" 'cut' - auto. start. Pretty basic. Will check it out on Monday and ask if he will install the impeller kit you recommended - not something I want to try on my own.....

    The Toros that were comparable were pricier.

    One concern I have is that the engine in the Ariens is a Tum. (I am not going to attempt spelling it all out because I know I can't...) and a repair shop I frequently call with questions said they aren't in business anymore. I am not sure if that is true or not and will have do some more research. Toro has the Briggs and Stratton engine and they are still around.....but in today's market who knows how long for....

    One other concern I have is safety since my 12 year old son - soon to be 13 years old - will be using it a lot on our house and neighbors' houses. Afraid of him getting a hand mangled in the blades.....Would you feel comfortable with someone his age using one? (He has been using our lawn mower for several years on his own and is pretty good with machines but I still worry when moving up to something new...) :ahhh:
  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    If you want to go new, that sounds like a reasonable approach...

    Ariens did use Tecumseh (usually referred to as "Tec") engines on their machines, and Tec has gone out of business, however I would not let it be a major concern, as the company was bought out, and the new ownership has promised to maintain parts availability (and if they don't there are lots of aftermarket suppliers that will) - these engines tend to be pretty reliable and solid anyways, just change the oil at the end of every season, and don't let the carb sit for extended periods full of gas (I run my carb out after every use) If you give them that minimal level of care they will last for years... Tec and B&S;were the two big names in US made OPE engines, just about everyone used one or the other, so parts are readily available, and any decent shop will have plenty of expertise in fixing them... Even if it does break, the worst case scenario is that you might have to repower with any one of a dozen or so different engines - pretty much any horizontal crank engine in that size range will be a direct bolt in replacement. (HF is currently selling a 6hp "china clone" engine for about $100, so we aren't talking big bucks here either) - I would say a person owning a Tec engine OPE machine is in no worse shape than someone owning a G(overnment) M(otors) car...

    As to safety, I started using my parent's snowblower when I was in Jr. High, and it had a lot fewer safety interlocks than the new machines... Yes snowblowers are dangerous, but so is any OPE. People that get hurt with snowblowers are ones that due "dumb stuff" with them, like trying to clear clogs with their hands and not waiting for the machine to stop... Most machines come with a "snow-stick" plastic tool to clear jams with - USE IT! You are the only one that can judge your kid's strength and skill level, but if he can use a lawnmower safely, he should be able to handle a snowblower from a safety standpoint. Note though, that it can take more muscle to control a snowblower - it's a heavier machine that takes a bit more "oomph" to horse around turns and so forth. The other item that might be an issue depending on your neighborhood is that you may need to deal with traffic when clearing the end of driveway (EOD) snow deposits, something that you don't usually need to worry about with a lawn mower.

    Gooserider
  10. jadm

    jadm New Member

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  11. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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  12. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I borrowed my company's 5 year old craftsman 10hp, 28" 2 stage blower last year to clear my path that had just gotten ahead of me. It was a real comedy of errors trying to do the job. The chute kept binding up on the plastic worm gear every time I tried to adjust it, the cutting edge kept riding up over the top of the snow and just did a lousy job. Too much plstic, too light, too chintzy.

    Got myself an old fixer upper Ariens 824 (8hp, 24") at the tail end of winter and got it running before the snow was gone and it wasn't even funny the difference it made. Sucker weighs close to 300lb and it cuts right into the snow, even the terminus I left with my plow and it just started tossing it like nobody's business. Only plastic on it is the gas tank.

    Ariens is a real premium brand snowblower. Take care of it as Goose suggests and it wont let you down. Very reliable, well made and effective.

    Your son should be fine, but I'd say do it with him a couple times to be sure he's able to deal with it properly. Make sure he knows to respect the auger and chute...and use the tool to clear it out.
  13. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    I have a Simplicity 9.5 hp. It's a real nice machine. I'd say the things I'd definitley want in a snowblower would be...

    Briggs/Stratton engine, it's an OHV and quieter.

    Cast Iron auger housing.

    Remote steering, mine has a hand switch that allows me to disengage one drive wheel, making turning around easier. (there are other systems that are out there to help with steering the big machines)

    And definitley a headlight, I wouldn't want to be without my light.

    Oh, my electric start feature is awesome too, it cranks that bad boy over real easy.

    Also, make sure there are grease fittings present on the machine for lubing the auger shaft.
  14. Later

    Later New Member

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    As far as I am concerned the John Deere 1128DDE is the best blower made. The big wheels do not climb up on heavy wet snow like some tracked units do, and don't need chains. I bought mine 5 years ago to replace a 1974 John Deere that needed engine work (low compression) and we bought a new house with a bigger driveway. The machine handles 24" of snow in second gear, I drop to first if it's wet.
  15. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    I have a Honda with tracks. I find it throws wet snow very well. Way better than my neighbours Craftsman, Yammy, and Arlens (sp). I had an Arlens (wheeled) and it bogged down in 30cm of wet even though it had more hp than my Honda.
    I do find if you spray the chute with silicon it really helps.

    I would have no problem buying another Honda. The thing will even climb stairs.
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I am not terribly surprised your Ariens bogged in that heavy an amount of wet snow, especially if it was stock... Note my recomendation for a "Clarence Kit" very early in this thread - with the kit I'm willing to bet it wouldn't bog, as I know what installing the kit did on my Ariens... (On "The Worlds Best Snowblower and Lawnmower Forum" that I also mentioned previously, EVERY person that reported trying it liked the results, including some users that were in the snowmoving business... It is one of the most enthusiastically reccomended products I've ever encountered)

    My feeling is that if you are in an area that gets a lot of frequent, heavy snow then the track machines are probably worth it. They are also good for "problem" drives, i.e. steep, gravel, etc... However they are more expensive, somewhat more upkeep and repair intensive, and at least by some accounts a bit harder to operate and / or move around. They also seem like serious overkill for those of us that mostly get light to moderate storms, and not a huge number of them. For most of us I don't think a track machine is worth the extra expense and hassles, as a wheel machine (with a Clarence Kit) will do the job as well.

    Gooserider
  17. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    Gooserider I would agree with you. My previous house had a steep driveway so I needed the tracks. Plus we get fifty fifty wet/dry snow with sometimes very large dumps (last winter we got 1m over 48 hours). Other times it is 1cm. The track machine is harder to turn. And now my driveway is long and level.

    I still love my Honda though. Extra maintenance on the tracks is minor in my opinion. But it does cost more to buy.
  18. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well I figure close to zero on the wheels - check the tire pressure once a year or so, and thats about it... The machine has a hand full of grease fittings that each need a hit, but that is minimal... I don't know just what extra maintainance is involved with the tracks, but what I've gathered is that they have more points of failure due to having a more complex transmission, and if something in the tranny lets go, it gets REAL expensive...

    A wheel unit tranny is incredibly simple, and the only real replacement part is the friction disk every few years, which is under $20...

    Gooserider
  19. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    Yeah your right. I am going to remove the tracks and install skis. Will be like a pushmower. Pushblower.

    At least the Ariens had heated grips. Those were real nice.
  20. dvellone

    dvellone Feeling the Heat

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    I've been using the honda hs1132 for several years here in the western adirondacks where we get considerable snowfall and I don't have a lot of good to say about it.
    Honda motors start easily and reliably, run beautifully and have among the lowest emissions, but honda equipment is also expensive. The 1132 is around 3k I believe. Parts are also expensive. This particular model with tracks is difficult to turn making a cleaning route with several turns a chore for someone who might find it a bit challenging to bull the machine around. My wife would have a tough time clearing our drive. I've had icing issue with the carb - as have others with this same unit- and honda did issue a bulletin and de-icing kit to address the issue...my expense of course as honda doesn't have the same reliability with customer support as they do with their engine reliability. For the price tag the machine just doesn't impress. Ariens can offer the same features and performance less investment.
  21. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    YES i second the honda!!!!!!!!
    I have one with tracks and it IS THE BEST HANDS DOWN!
    all my friends just drool at how quiet it is and how much farther it throws than there ariens
    http://honda.ca/HPower/Models/ModelOverview?L=E&Type=SnowBlowers&Series=HS928&Model=HS928TCD
    this is my baby!! 7 years going strong
  22. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    i never had the icing issues and yes wheels turn easier ....
    but i must say i drove about 10-12 hrs roundtrip for my honda as it was fron CANADA which has more features than the american version... and here in the US ity was 2300 new but up north at the time the currency rate was 1.63 to 1.00 so it was only 1700 us dollars maybe less..
    however i am gonna get another small one on wheels as i have moved and would really like to only use bIG bABY FOR 6 INCHES OR MORE...

    FOR THE RECORD THOUGH IT WAS GONNA BE EITHER HONDA OR ARIENS 1332 PROFEESIONAL SERIES
  23. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    We have an Ariens 2 stage and a Toro 2 cycle single stage.
    You can't use a single stage on gravel. We use it for the deck, but that's another story. It's surprisingly powerful, but I don't think it would do a driveway plug too well.
    I think my Ariens is 24" and we have a 400 foot driveway with a big turnaround for the 3 car garage.
    It gets the job done, but of course is tedious at times since the small snows take just about as long as the big ones.


    I'm gonna check out that Clarence Kit-sounds interesting.

    Anybody hear about some aftermarket ones, 'cause I don't think Ariens sells them.
  24. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    That is a lot o bones for a snowblower. The difference between that and an $800 10 hp 2-stage mtd would buy a lot of things that would make one's life a lot easier. While not the most elegant snow removal solution, it has no problem with Syracuse winters/plow drifts and it will last a long time if kept in the garage.
  25. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    Just hire the snow removal out to a kid in the hood... at 2300 + for a snow blower WTF your kidding me right!!. A simple MTD will do all thats needed for 400 bucks.
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