Advice on snowblower

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

How much snowblower do I need for my situation?

Single or two stroked?
How many CC's or HP?
Safe to buy used from Craigs List if seller demonstrates starts up right away and everything working?
How many inch clearing path? 21, 22, 24, 26, 28 etc?

Location: Northern, MD
Annual Snowfall per google: 32 inches per year
Driveway: Very long, STEEP, often icy shared driveway (might even snowblow annoying neighbor's short part of driveway too)
Space for snowblower: We do have a considerable amount of space for storage

Here's one that I found on Craigs List in my area that seemed reasonable:
http://baltimore.craigslist.org/grd/5776169776.html

Thank you!
User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 10215
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by cheese_breath »

I wouldn't want to presume my snowblower in MI would match your needs in MD. Have you asked your neighbors with snowblowers for their opinions?
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.
PlagueOnWheels
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:12 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by PlagueOnWheels »

Get one, thats my advice.
Last edited by PlagueOnWheels on Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Da5id
Posts: 2407
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:20 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Da5id »

Asking locally is a good bet, very different in different areas. I had no idea Northern MD got so much snow.

I'm on my second snowblower in MA, my only advice would be to get more powerful than you need for the "average" snowfall. You really really want the blower to work in the bad snowfall. Having an underpowered snow thrower that doesn't work on slushy heavy snow is really not fun. My second is more powerful than the first, if I ever replace it when it dies my 3rd will be even more powerful still. Of course, having had some 100+ inch winters contributes to that desire...
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Holy hell- I had no idea there was a three stager. After additional research, I am thinking I will probably need the two stage at least and at least 24 inch width.

That Cub Cadet is a good option for sure and will keep it in consideration. I bet that thing gets through snow fast! I haven't really firmed my budget range for this, but $1100 new for the cub cadets might be a bit rich.

My dad has one and I'll ask him. I'll probably need more heavy duty as he has a relatively flat driveway and part of mine is quite steep (probably 30 degree angle or so.
Da5id
Posts: 2407
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:20 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Da5id »

Gardener wrote: My dad has one and I'll ask him. I'll probably need more heavy duty as he has a relatively flat driveway and part of mine is quite steep (probably 30 degree angle or so.
You sure you don't want to just pay someone? Seriously a 30 degree angle?!?! I like to do things myself, but don't know that I'd be up for snowblowing on an icy driveway that is that steep.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Thanks Da5id.

That annual snowfall is the total limit. I actually thought we got a bit more than 32 inches a year, but maybe that's some recency bias as the last two winters we've had serious snowfall (24-36 inches in one snowfall)

Seems sensible to get something that can handle more than the average. With that in mind, I want my snowblower to be able to handle the 36 inch snowfall should we get it. Probably means Im looking at least 7 or 8 hp (now i see they use CC's), so maybe at least 270is in CC's.

Do you think going used is okay? Are these things prone to mechanical failure?
Da5id
Posts: 2407
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:20 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Da5id »

Gardener wrote: That annual snowfall is the total limit. I actually thought we got a bit more than 32 inches a year, but maybe that's some recency bias as the last two winters we've had serious snowfall (24-36 inches in one snowfall)

Seems sensible to get something that can handle more than the average. With that in mind, I want my snowblower to be able to handle the 36 inch snowfall should we get it. Probably means Im looking at least 7 or 8 hp (now i see they use CC's), so maybe at least 270is in CC's.

Do you think going used is okay? Are these things prone to mechanical failure?
My two snowthrowers have lasted well (first I ditched due to it being underpowered after about 6-7 years, but is still working OK at the neighbor I gave it to). That said, I don't tend to buy stuff used so I don't have any real opinion there. You could check out Consumers for reported brand reliabilty/etc.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Yeah, Da5id. I'd estimate 30 degree angle. If I'm off, maybe 25 degree angle..its fairly steep.

I'm okay doing it myself and in my early 30's so it shouldn't be too taxing for me. We live in a rural area and sometimes it takes a long time for snow plows, tractors to get to our driveway. Last time, we paid a guy $100 to clear our driveway for just one car to get in/out. We've paid a couple guys from time to time to help clear the driveway and unfortunately they haven't always been reliable (not their fault, tractors have broke down or simply can't get to our driveway in a timely manner.
TRC
Posts: 1913
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:38 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by TRC »

Nothing beats a Honda. You'll pay more, but it will last a life time and will require MUCH less effort on your part.
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

A two stage blower with a good-sized engine will be fine.
Check out http://www.snowblowersdirect.com. I bought my 27" Ariens from them.
You will definitely need CHAINS on your drive wheels with that slope.

I'd likely go with a 24" to 28" blower. Wider ones may have trouble getting between parked cars.

And with significant snow, the horsepower of the unit is the limitation. With 8" or more, you'll have to slow down the forward speed of the machine to allow the auger to do its work properly.
The name brands will have engine HP decently matched to the size of the machine...
Last edited by The Wizard on Mon Sep 19, 2016 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Attempted new signature...
gd
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:35 am
Location: MA, USA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by gd »

I would- and did- go to a small power equipment store near me. They gave me a reasonable assessment of my needs, probably upsold me slightly from what I had expected-- which I have since been very happy about-- and have been available for minor issues since. You won't get that with craigslist or big-box stores carrying custom-made high volume, low margin lines.
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

Also, RIGHT NOW is a great time to shop for and buy a snowblower, while nothing is sold out and you have lots of choices...
Attempted new signature...
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

The Wizard-

Thanks for the link- snowblowersdirect is a great website.

And agreed about buying early. I want to buy now so that I can do it relatively leisurely and have it ready to go come winter.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Thanks gd.

Living in the country as I do, I am limited to really just a Sears,Home Depot and Lowes about 15 minutes away. No other power stores near me. HD and Lowes both sell them around 6-800ish. Not really sure on quality from these large box stores?
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

Gardener wrote:Thanks gd.

Living in the country as I do, I am limited to really just a Sears,Home Depot and Lowes about 15 minutes away. No other power stores near me. HD and Lowes both sell them around 6-800ish. Not really sure on quality from these large box stores?
Home Depot sells Ariens snowblowers among others.
I would be fine with buying an Ariens model from HD...
Attempted new signature...
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?

If I remember correctly, my neighbor who also has a steep driveway had a belt that broke and he had to replace.

Unfortunately, I am not very mechanically inclined and so would be SOL if the repair fix was not obvious.
User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 5652
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by lthenderson »

I live in similar snow conditions and have a two stage Cub Cadet with an (I think) eight horsepower Briggs and Straton Engine. I would definitely go with two stage for a driveway simply because it has enough umpf to get the snow thrown clear of the driveway so you aren't moving twice as much snow when you get to the edges. The only drawback is that when I get extremely wet snow to the point you can squeeze water out of it, it does occasionally plug up the discharge shoot. However, they have a plastic tool clipped to the back of the machine and one poke to clear the snow and you are back in business. I've only had it happen perhaps two different snowfalls in the last five years I've had the thing so I don't really consider it an issue.

As far as size, I have a 24 inch and I think it works well with my driveway which is about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide. It is also small enough that I can clean the sidewalk too and horse it around without straining my back or starting it up and using the self propelled part if I have to move it around in the garage during the summer months. I can clear my driveway and sidewalk in about 15 minutes. I think how large of one you should get should probably be determines on how much time you want to spend clearing your driveway and how much driveway you have to clear.
User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 5652
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by lthenderson »

Gardener wrote:Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?
I find the most common thing is that people can't get them started. Using fresh gas, and draining old gas out before storing it can greatly reduce this problem as well as other simple service type items with any small motor. I should also mention my cub cadet has electric start which eliminates yanking on a cord. Worth every penny!
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

Gardener wrote:Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?

If I remember correctly, my neighbor who also has a steep driveway had a belt that broke and he had to replace.

Unfortunately, I am not very mechanically inclined and so would be SOL if the repair fix was not obvious.
Snowblowers need more maintenance than lots of other tools.
The most common thing is SHEAR PIN replacement when a rock or similar gets into the intake.
Have a bag of spare shear pins where you can find them, along with a hammer and a 16d nail to punch out the old shear pin with.

The belts on the blower should be good for the first few years.

You need to lubricate certain things each fall to get ready. Cable adjustments and skid shoes also. The steel scraper bar along the bottom will need replacement after several seasons, typically. The user manual has a list of things to check and do...
Last edited by The Wizard on Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Attempted new signature...
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

lthenderson wrote:
Gardener wrote:Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?
I find the most common thing is that people can't get them started. Using fresh gas, and draining old gas out before storing it can greatly reduce this problem as well as other simple service type items with any small motor. I should also mention my cub cadet has electric start which eliminates yanking on a cord. Worth every penny!
Going back to 1985, spanning two snowblowers, I've never drained the gas from them and never had issue starting them in December.
But I store mine indoors when not being used.

Electric start is practically mandatory, I would say...
Attempted new signature...
User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 10215
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by cheese_breath »

The Wizard wrote: Electric start is practically mandatory, I would say...
I suppose it depends on the size of the blower. Mine has electric start, but I find it more trouble to drag out and plug in the extension cord than just pull the rope a couple times.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Ithenderson-

Thanks- I'm actually looking at a 24 inch one now from Briggs and Stratton now. Great reviews, reasonable price. Wondering if 254 CC's will be powerful enough? What do you think?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMMCP8W/re ... B00LHN4MVW
Still considering used as well. Would love to save a bit of money.

And I realize now that I'll definitely need two stage. And certainly getting the electric start option.

Understood about draining the gas before storing. I'll be sure to do that!

TheWizard-

Sounds good about having a hammer, handy shear pins, and nail at the ready. I will do that!
Last edited by Gardener on Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
SpringMan
Posts: 5422
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:32 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by SpringMan »

I agree electric start is a requirement. My preference is for one that plugs in to standard home 110 volt outlet rather than a battery. I have ac plug in the garage that is handy and leave my extension cord plugged and ready to go in during the winter season. I have always had good luck with Ariens brand two stage. Single stage with paddles do a good job removing snow right down to pavement but don't have the muscle for deep heavy snow. They may suffice if you are willing to use multiple times during a snow fall.
Best Wishes, SpringMan
PlagueOnWheels
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:12 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by PlagueOnWheels »

I'd go with this one.
Last edited by PlagueOnWheels on Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

I'm also going to be picking up some snow spikes (~$11) for my boots this year to make sure the hill does not give me any problems.

Hoping my snow blower does not need the chains as this seems like it'd be a bit of a pain in the ass to take on and off.
User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 5652
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by lthenderson »

The Wizard wrote:
lthenderson wrote:
Gardener wrote:Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?
I find the most common thing is that people can't get them started. Using fresh gas, and draining old gas out before storing it can greatly reduce this problem as well as other simple service type items with any small motor. I should also mention my cub cadet has electric start which eliminates yanking on a cord. Worth every penny!
Going back to 1985, spanning two snowblowers, I've never drained the gas from them and never had issue starting them in December.
But I store mine indoors when not being used.

Electric start is practically mandatory, I would say...
It depends a lot on the gas. Where I'm from, ethanol is blended into about everything and it goes bad after a few months. If you stick with premium with no ethanol, it does much better in retaining its volatility. Another way around it is to put in a gas additive before storing. I like to drain my tank (or fill it completely with a gas additive for preserving fuel) before storage to eliminate condensation in the tank from hot summers in the garage.
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

PlagueOnWheels wrote:I'd go with this one. You would be surprised how much the headlight helps. My Troy Bilt has run for years, no issues.

http://www.lowes.com/pd/Troy-Bilt-Storm ... t/50324133
Good call. This meets all of my criteria and has great reviews. I also forgot to add that I get 10% off from lowes and HD.
radiowave
Posts: 2579
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:01 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by radiowave »

+1 on electric start.

Consider tracks rather than tires to get up the long driveway.

Note, even in the biggest snow, you can blow in layers. Yes, takes twice as long but does get the job done.
Bogleheads Wiki: https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Main_Page
btenny
Posts: 5557
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:47 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by btenny »

I live in Tahoe and we have big snow every winter, at least 150 inches. The go to blower here is a Honda 28 inch tractor tread drive so it will go up and over and through big snow berms and steep drive ways and so forth. It has a 8-10 HP motor and starts with electric battery but has a pull cord backup. They can be bought used if you look around. Several other brands like Ariens and Yardman and Cub Cadet offer blowers that are similar. I have a 28 inch Yardman that I bought used for $600 years ago at a summer yard sale that looks like new and works great. Mine has wall electric start but I have only used that once. It starts easy with the pull cord. See below for a link to what I am talking about.

http://powerequipment.honda.com/snowblo ... -hss928atd
http://www.ebay.com/bhp/track-snowblower
https://www.amazon.com/Yard-Man-31AH7L3 ... op?ie=UTF8

Good Luck
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

Thanks Btenny

Those are some pretty hardcore snowblowers. I really like that Yardman shown in Amazon.

Tracks is something I haven't considered until now. My neighbor does not have tracks on his and he seems to get along okay w/out from what I can tell. But, it does not seem to have any down side to have tracks (except maybe a bit of a premium on price?)

Anybody have an opinion on ones from a place like Wal-mart like this one...https://www.walmart.com/ip/Yard-Machine ... r/44982046
coulombre
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:15 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by coulombre »

I went through this two years ago. I had a 20 year old Ariens that still worked, albeit not with the power I wanted. FYI I gave it to a friend who is still using it today.

I recommend Ariens or Honda. Honda is substantially more expensive. Ariens produces a great piece of equipment.

If possible buy from a local, servicing dealer rather than a big box store. I took mine in with a small, albeit somewhat frustrating problem. They fixed it on the spot under warranty. Try that at Home Depot.

A snowblower will break when you need it most. It's true. Get a good machine, particularly with the snow falls your area experiences.

Change the oil annually. Put some grease in the fittings. Check the spark plug. You can do these things yourself in well under an hour.

And run it out of gas at the end of every season. Put Stabil or other gas stabilizer in the gas to be safe.

If you buy early in the season they often have incentives. And after the first solid storm they will have no inventory left...

Good luck

Rich
lazydavid
Posts: 3595
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by lazydavid »

I wouldn't agree that tracks have no downside. They're far more difficult to maneuver when not under power, as in when taking out of the garage, or putting back in. But in a situation where traction is at a premium like the OP's steep driveway and ice, the benefits definitely outweigh the downsides, by a substantial margin.
barreg
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:49 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by barreg »

Do you have a large lawn as well? We have about a 1/2 acre of grass and a long/steep driveway, so we use a Simplicity lawn tractor which acts as a mower in the summer and has a snow thrower attachment for the winter.
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

Gardener wrote: TheWizard-

Sounds good about having a hammer, handy shear pins, and nail at the ready. I will do that!
They give you like two spare shear pins in the bag containing the manual if you buy new.
You can buy 6-10 more, of the proper size, on Amazon.com for a reasonable price.

Also, November or thereabouts is a good time to walk the area you plan to clear of snow later and pick up or move things well out of the way.
This includes hoses, decorative rocks, hand trowels, and garden gnomes. Any of these going into the snowblower will be Not Fun...
Attempted new signature...
The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by The Wizard »

radiowave wrote: Note, even in the biggest snow, you can blow in layers. Yes, takes twice as long but does get the job done.
Yes, if by layers you mean: go out and blow the first 8" away before the second 8" comes down.
That might not actually take much longer than trying to blow the complete 16" in a single slow motion pass.

But once the snow is all on the ground, you can't blow it in layers anymore.
If it's deeper than your intake is tall, it will be a long day, even with drift cutters...
Attempted new signature...
User avatar
Ged
Posts: 3931
Joined: Mon May 13, 2013 1:48 pm
Location: Roke

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Ged »

TRC wrote:Nothing beats a Honda. You'll pay more, but it will last a life time and will require MUCH less effort on your part.
+1. I have a Honda 724. It's 22 years old and has only had belt and spark plugs replaced. Still starts on first or second pull. No loss of power from when I got it new. If you do have a loss of power it's a good chance the belts need tightening or replacing.

I have the tracked model and a quite flat driveway. If I had it to do over I'd get wheels instead of tracks. The tracks make it hard to turn and with no slope there isn't much benefit from the increased traction.
Boglegrappler
Posts: 1327
Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:24 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Boglegrappler »

Bigger is better. Being underpowered is no fun.
Also, is there something that commonly tends to go wrong with these things? Who fixes snowblowers when they need repair- is this same people who fix lawn mowers, tractors, etc?
The shear bolt comment above is on point. You will break shear bolts regularly. I break four or so every season. (They hold the augur to the shaft, and are made to break on moderate resistance. This keeps you from bending and destroying the augur when you hit a large stone, curb, or a decent sized branch under the snow.) Get a dozen or so shear bolts for your machine, and learn how to change them. It requires a wrench and some pliers, and a nail or punch to punch out the broken shear bolt if its still in there. Do this in the summer once so you know what you're doing. Its different in 10 degree weather and at night. :)

I have a honda machine now, and it starts well and does a good job. Had an Ariens before which was also decent, but harder to start.

Edit to add: I bought my first snow thrower used, but from the perfect seller. A guy who was moving to FL who just wanted a fair price. One of the problems with most used snow throwers, IMO, is that they're offered by yard guys and contractors who paid $1000 ten years ago, used them aggressively, and now want 80%+ of the original price. You might want to look at a new one.

Also.....despite their being powered in the wheels or treads, you still have to "horse it" a bit to get it aimed where you want, and keeping proper down-pressure on the leading blade. Just be prepared to be more tired from running it that you'd expect. Far easier than shoveling, but far more strenuous than letting someone else do it. :)

Good luck.
Last edited by Boglegrappler on Mon Sep 19, 2016 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
btenny
Posts: 5557
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:47 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by btenny »

Turns and tracked snow blowers. My Yardman and the Hondas I have used all turn great IF you learn to use the single track brakes. These small hand switches on each grip make it easy to turn by stopping a single track while the other track keeps running. This turns the machine. No need to put in manual muscle power. Yes the machine takes maybe 3 feet to turn versus two feet for a wheeled machine. But they turn great.

As far as maneuvering out of the garage this is how I do it. I start my blower in the garage. I park it near the door behind the car in the winter. I use the machine power to maneuver it around. The thing is heavy and big and no way am I strong enough to turn it much with pure muscle. So I start it inside. I back it out of the parking space with the drive power only. Then I turn it and drive it out of the garage. I engage the auger at the garage door to blow the first snow. If the machine is not running the tracks stick and make it very hard to turn or move around. Plus those tracks make it climb and move in icy conditions with ease.

If you get one of these good blowers it will go through 12-18 inches of snow with no trouble. No need to blow twice for each storm in Maryland. They have huge front chutes and can handle deep snow with ease.

Snow blowers are dangerous. They can hurt you bad. Sheer pin installation and removal requires being very careful. Snow blowers have huge torque and can lock up under pressure on news papers or big weeds or rocks or other stuff hidden in the snow. The trick is to keep your drive way clear of "stuff" that will clog your blower. I check my drive often when I think it will snow to make sure there is nothing to get tangled in the machine. I have only had to replace one sheer pin in 16 years and that was scary as it was torqued up and locked up with a news paper half way inside the front auger and center auger. I had to use a shovel handle and a big stick and a small shovel to get stuff cleared and loose so the machine was not locked up. Then I found the sheer pin was broken and had to be replaced. That took another hour (never did that task before) while I was outside in a blowing snow storm. Not fun. So clear your drive and be safe.

Good Luck.
btenny
Posts: 5557
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:47 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by btenny »

In our town there are several "mechanic shops" that fix all kinds of stuff with medium and small engines. They fix snow blowers and snow cats and snow mobiles and motorcycles and other stuff all year round. The local ACE hardware store also sells blowers and fixes them as well.

Good Luck.
User avatar
dratkinson
Posts: 5273
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Centennial CO

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by dratkinson »

Briefly used less capable machines before settling on current: Craftsman Trac II 5 hp 24". Bought off CL. I'm guessing its ~20+ years old now. Only has pull start and starts quickly every year. Thinking electric start would be nice... one of these days.

Mine weighs ~150 lbs and does require some manhandling to move, but it's doable. And since it's stored near a garage door, I only need to move it a few feet. Doesn't have assisted steering, but it's easy enough to steer when in use.

For a snowblower, I believe these to be mandatory: track drive (maximum traction for steep, icy driveway), teeth on the auger (for chewing through icy berm left across driveway by city snow plow... I had to add my own), spare shear pins. Everything else is optional.

Removing snow in layers. A track drive snowblower has enough traction to drive up onto the top of a snow berm. Think: 2-3' of snow thrown by city plow onto sidewalk. I have used my snowblower to crawled onto top of berm and shave it down a layer at a time. It's a little difficult to keep snowblower level (think: must keep oil level to lubricate engine) driving across the top of an uneven berm, but it can be done. (Doing this puts more strain on track drive system so may break a shear pin. But replacing a shear pin is less work than shoveling icy berm from sidewalk.)

Shear pins. Get replacements before you need them. A newspaper forgotten under the snow will break a shear pin... if you're lucky. (Will twist an auger in half if you're not lucky.)

On being a nice guy. I've spent more time/money fixing my snowblower from "being a nice guy" helping my neighbors clear their driveway/sidewalk, than from clearing my own. Why? Because I knew to check that they were clear before the snow started. Non-snowblower-owing neighbors don't think about newspapers/kids toys/water hose/tools left under the first snow. And they don't remember the stuff being there when I ask before starting the job. They only remember after I hit something and my snowblower is damaged. They are always apologetic. They never offer to pay for the repair, even though shear pins are cheap and I do my own welding. They sometimes want to know if they should pay someone to finish the job. You are forewarned.

Your shared driveway. Tell neighbor you will do the shared part... because you are a nice guy. Walk it before it snows. He is happy with what he is doing; let him continue doing it.

Work light. If needed, can wear a headlamp if your snowblower doesn't have a work light. (If I'd had a headlamp then, could have replaced shear pin in track drive where it broke, instead of lugging snowblower back to lighted garage. Good times. Not.)

Electric start. Can be added later, if wanted.

Cleaning width. Your choice.
--A wider/heavier tracked snowblower will clear faster, but be more difficult to maneuver around vehicles, and when moving unpowered out-of/into storage. Assisted steering is available on larger models.
--A narrower/lighter tracked snowblower will clear more slowly, but be more maneuverable around vehicles, and easier to move unpowered out-of/into storage. Think: broken shear pin on track drive and you must manhandle it a block back to your garage. Not fun with a 24" snowblower, more difficult with a larger snowblower. If space is an issue, 24" snowblower will store sideways against garage wall so only protrudes ~24" into garage.

Gas stabilizer. I keep Stabil or Seafoam in my lawnmower/snowblower gas cans year round so I never forget.

Storage. Store lawnmower/snowblower in garage to keep critters out of the engines.

Bottom line. I believe these are required snowblower capabilities: track drive, auger teeth, replacement spare shear pins. A headlamp can be used if you need a work light. Fuel stabilizer and routine maintenance during the off-season. Garage storage. A used machine is okay if it works well when demonstrated.

How wide a machine and what other options (assisted steering, heated hand grips, partial snow cab,...) to get are optional choices.
d.r.a., not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.
User avatar
powermega
Posts: 1188
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 12:07 am
Location: Colorado

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by powermega »

You should be able to find a 5hp, 24", two-stage snowblower on Craigslist, eBay, etc, for a great deal. You should not need more than that.
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
killjoy2012
Posts: 1177
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:30 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by killjoy2012 »

I'd suggest thinking through why exactly you're ruling out a single stage, or at least appearing to favor a 2 or 3 stage.

- You don't live in a snow belt, or even a state known for snow.
- 2 stage machines are bigger, heavier and harder to maneuver. Esp when the machine is taking up valuable garage floor space for 8 idle months.
- If you have family in the area that need help when that big storm hits, odds are you will not be able to lift a 2 stage blower by yourself into your truck.
- You said you were not that handy with maint & repairs. Can you load your 2 stage blower into your truck when needed? Do you have a truck (as it surely is not going to fix in your car or small SUV).
- 2 stage blower will likely cost 2x as much.
- All 2 stage blowers I've used leave a thin coat of snow on the drive that requires scrape-shoveling down to cement after blowing. That gets old quick. Single stage don't have this problem.

You might want to think about the odds of a snowstorm hitting that solid performing single stage couldn't handle - something like a Toro 721e available at HD for $500.

If this is more about justifying expensive toys, I get it. But would suggest a Polaris Sportsman 4x4 ATV w/ 5' plow blade. You'll get your drive done in < 5 mins, and could probably do your block in the same time it'd take the 2 stage blower to do your drive.
Last edited by killjoy2012 on Mon Sep 19, 2016 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Fletch
Posts: 757
Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:25 pm
Location: USA

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Fletch »

I'm in the same general area and climate as the OP. My suggestion: 24" minimum width. Two stage. Minimum 8hp. Electric 110 volt starting. I have an Ariens and have been quite pleased with about 14 years of use. Oil changes, lube, spark plugs, and one shear pin (buy a couple of spares) only. If I were buying again, I would splurge and get one that has heated handles.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
User avatar
ClevrChico
Posts: 1973
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:24 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by ClevrChico »

My vote is for an Ariens. Mine is 42 years old, still going. To deal with the ice, go for chains on the tires. (Or tracks if those handle better.)

Honda's are better, but more expensive
krannerd
Posts: 117
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2011 12:05 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by krannerd »

Minneapolitan here. Have a 2 stage Ariens and it's almost overkill. I've got a corner lot in the city and a 2 car drive....about 1000 sq ft of surface.

Comments about my machine:
--it's too heavy for me to transport for repair
--it leaves a small layer of snow on the concrete that I shovel...sometimes
--it completely mows down the plow berm in my driveway and on the corner
--it will destroy chunky snowpiles and throw them across the street (if necessary)
--it turns in a pretty tight radius but still requires a lot of effort to move around.

In retrospect, I'd rather have a stout single stage machine that I can use more regularly. I only breakout the monster for 4" or more because it's just a beast.

Not sure what type / amount of snow you get in Maryland....we're mostly lighter stuff here in MN and about 50-60" a year.
User avatar
Toons
Posts: 13947
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:20 am
Location: Hills of Tennessee

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Toons »

32 inches per annum?
I would shovel.


:mrgreen:
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee
Topic Author
Gardener
Posts: 450
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:03 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Gardener »

http://www.lowes.com/pd/Troy-Bilt-Storm ... t/50324133

I've gone back and forth between snow blowers, but this one above that was suggested seems reasonable $720 (with 10% discount from lowes).
Should I be concerned that it says this product does best with snow 12 inches or less? I know 32 inches annum does not sound like a lot, but I know the last two winters have easily had snowfalls of 24-36 inches in a single snow fall. I'm north enough to be right on the MD/PA line and we do get some pretty significant snowfall from time to time.

As for single stage. Fair point about the single stage being lighter and less expensive. Especially if I need to take in for repairs in the future. I really don't think that will be enough snowblower for me though. I'm all about saving money and sometimes get myself in trouble in doing so, but I'm guessing that two stage will be worth paying the premium for it.
lazydavid
Posts: 3595
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by lazydavid »

Gardener wrote:As for single stage. Fair point about the single stage being lighter and less expensive. Especially if I need to take in for repairs in the future. I really don't think that will be enough snowblower for me though. I'm all about saving money and sometimes get myself in trouble in doing so, but I'm guessing that two stage will be worth paying the premium for it.
If not for the steepness of the grade, I'd disagree completely. I live in Chicago and get quite a bit more snow than you, and have almost never had an issue with a mid-sized Toro single-stage. I'm typically done with my driveway and all sidewalks before my neighbors with two stages finish half of their drive, and that's not counting the time they spend shoveling afterwards (for those that do). In really heavy snowfalls, the times get much closer (they slow down, but I slow down more) unless I do it a couple of times.

That said, if you really have a 25-30 degree slope:

Image

You really shouldn't be clearing the driveway by yourself ever. But if you must, a self-propelled two-stage with chains or tracks is a requirement from a traction perspective, purely so you don't kill yourself.
Da5id
Posts: 2407
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2016 8:20 am

Re: Advice on snowblower

Post by Da5id »

lazydavid wrote:
Gardener wrote:As for single stage. Fair point about the single stage being lighter and less expensive. Especially if I need to take in for repairs in the future. I really don't think that will be enough snowblower for me though. I'm all about saving money and sometimes get myself in trouble in doing so, but I'm guessing that two stage will be worth paying the premium for it.
If not for the steepness of the grade, I'd disagree completely. I live in Chicago and get quite a bit more snow than you, and have almost never had an issue with a mid-sized Toro single-stage. I'm typically done with my driveway and all sidewalks before my neighbors with two stages finish half of their drive, and that's not counting the time they spend shoveling afterwards (for those that do). In really heavy snowfalls, the times get much closer (they slow down, but I slow down more) unless I do it a couple of times.

That said, if you really have a 25-30 degree slope:

Image

You really shouldn't be clearing the driveway by yourself ever. But if you must, a self-propelled two-stage with chains or tracks is a requirement from a traction perspective, purely so you don't kill yourself.
I raised the 30 degree slope issue upthread, I'm hoping he is wrong about how steep it is, because I totally agree that doing that in snow/ice/slippery conditions is really hazardous. I've slipped on the ice snowblowing on a level driveway myself, and sometimes have to put some junky but functional crampons on my boots for traction.

I have a single stage Toro that is pretty powerful, and would upgrade next time myself. Mind you, we had over 100 inches of snow in the Boston area last year. I found the Toro had the following issues:

1) clearing packed snow at end of driveway. Plows packed in a 3 foot high tight berm at the end of my driveway,was very painful to remove with my Toro. Required lots of stop and go. Folks with stronger 2 stage throwers could do it much more easily.

2) throwing the snow over my retaining wall after there was about 5-6 feet piled on top of it didn't work well. Was hard to find place my Toro could reach from the driveway...

3) heavy slushy snow often clogs the Toro's chute and/or has a very short throw distance

Toro starts nicely (I rarely bother with electric start myself, though it has it), and is great for smaller and medium storms though. Not always great for the issues I see above...
Post Reply