Which snowblower?

softfurnDecember 20, 2009

Hi all. After last nights 24+" snowfall I am ready to bite the bullit and purchase a snowblower. Normally I wouldn't state this, but it may have a bearing on your reccommendations. I am a 60yo female and although I am in decent shape,it IS getting more difficult to do physical things. I have a somewhat difficult property to manouver, and a gravel driveway. In my research so far I think I need powersteering, reverse, and a two stage for gravel. Am I correct and are there other things I should be looking for? How difficult are these to push or navigate? Also , I could use some reccommendations for a one. I looked at the online reviews and Craftsman 8830 and 88791, as well as Troybilt 3090XP were well rated. I need some feedback here. Thanks for your help.

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There are single stages - like the Toro PowerCurve that work really well. On gravel, they do OK if you let a layer of snow freeze and remain on the drive. The plow stuff at the end is a bit more of a challenge than with a two stage. Two stages can have the skids set up so you toss less gravel. Generally speaking, a 5/6 HP mid size 2 stage will be easier to handle than a 30 monster. They all do the job, but the smaller will take longer- but will be easier to handle. I tend to like machines with solid controls rather than cables that may have issues. I would recommend a dealer that will take time to know your needs and be there to assist you with repairs and maintenance later.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 11:05PM
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stinkytiger(z5 - z6)

Hi Softfurn,

You did not say how large an area you have. I bought a Honda HS1132 TAS (a tracked blower) to do a 300 feet x 10 feet driveway. I am small 5feet 3inch, a guy in OK but not super dooper shape. Yes I go to Mcdonalds, my daughter loves the place, I'm 46, middle tire etc. Also I ahve a parking area maybe 40 feed by 30 feet.

My driveway is also quite steep at 1:14 in some places (the max allowable by code).

Some people think that tracked snowblowers are better for gravel, because the weight of the blower sits on the tracks and hence will not rest on the scraper (the bit at the front that scoops up the snow). A wheel unit has the weight on the wheels and on the front scoop. If you have gravel, then the front scoop may scoop and blow your gravel as well.
This may or may not be an issue if your driveway is firm and has ice to hold the gravel in place. My driveway is tarmac.

Some people say tracked blowers are harder to turn. True. But I would try it out and see. The thing I noticed was that in the shop they are hard to turn, but in real life when there is snow on the grouund they are easier because the tracks can side-slip a bit.

A good video and report on the net is "Happiess is a Warm Snowblower" by Gwendolyn Bounds on the Wall Street Journal website. She has a gravel driveway and she reviews 5 snow blowers.

I think Honda's are the best snowblower out there, but they are also the most expensive. If I were to recomend a blower for you I would recomend a tracked two stage. I would not recomend a single stage because they tend to pick up the gravel alot. They work on a sweeper mode with a very fast sweeping action. This tends to pick up all your gravel.

Best, Mike.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 7:19AM
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With the holidays and all, I forgot to come back with a reply. Thank you both for your insite. Now I have to wait for everyone to get in their new shipments. Everyone sold out! Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 5:54PM
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Well Girly I guess we have two future New Blower Candidates , I too have intentions of buying a new unit. I current have a second hand Craftsman (MTD) which I purchased a few yrs back for $300 here in the Great White North . The unit was in great shape for its yr (1995) Unfortunately I have a 5 Acre Rural Homestead and large circular drive (gravel) and numerous Sheds and Pole Barn for storage. I really nead a small tractor (Kabota Diesel) since I sold my Plow Truck (dam) but until then I need a New Blower Unit I will give my Sears to my Son. Hondas or Yamahas Tracked Models I understand are the best out there if you can afford and justify the $$$$ . I believe Ariens or Toro are currently the Best of the #3 Choices , I would like to have this confirmed ? Is John Deer unit that Lowe's sell in the US any good or are they remanufactured by Murray or Mtd etc. I know that Can Guy or Tom Plum or Rcmoser can help us both out on this dicision Come on guys what Unit would be my or Girlies best choice ? I have no serious physical limitations other than Old Age (55) and a heck of a large annual snowfall here North of Superior lol .

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 10:24AM
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It definitely knows how to snow where you are! I've been out of the snow belt for a while. Toro throwers were among the best. The Toro 2stages are made by MTD now- which is the same base unit as Yardman, Troy, White, Cub Cadet. There have been some discussion of Ariens products on this forum worth looking at. With all that being said, here's what I know. A medium size 2 stage is typically easier to handle and better suited for a lot of people. They do get the job done, but will take longer and more effort at the end of the drive where the county plow left you it's gift. The same applies of large snowfalls. I assumed from the OP that her 24" snowfall is quite an abnormality. So, if one is in an area where they are clearing snow 6, 8, 10" at a time with maybe a big blast a year- the mid sizes will be fine. If you deal with more consistent large snow, lots of drifting and the plow driver is still sore about that $50 you beat him out of at the new years poker game back in '86, buck up and get a larger machine.
Track drives for me have a special purpose. They are great for traction, handling is somewhat an issue- but it beats not having traction if you are dealing w/ slopes etc. Tracks themselves will also tend to change the weight distribution making the front end feel lighter. There are many users that bought a track drive and never look back however. Did anyone review the article that Mike referred to and did it help?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 12:05PM
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Tom Plum which new unit would you purchase I use to work on John Deere and Jacobson units in the 70's these units were tanks but had mechanical controls not cheap plastic etc. Are all new Manf. using the bic disposible lighter technology ? your advise would help in decision prior to actually testing . I need adjustable or tensioners on the axle drives etc. not endless chains without master links etc. Thanx !

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 6:27PM
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Tom : Checked out the Wall Street Journal Article that Mike advised . It was just routine info about Blowers vs Elect. Brooms interesting but not exactly showing the Pro's or Con's of Toro vs Ariens or John Deere vs Cub Cadet. I guess what I have deducted is that all the above units are basically Mtd units under another name like Sears has been ? Only Manf. of difference is Hondas and Yamaha is that what you inferring ? None of the current Manfacturers really sell a Commercial or Industrial Grade Wheeled Unit ? Guess I'll just have to hit the Dealers & eyeball their Product was hoping for some 1st hand advice , hate to put out $$$ then find out their was a superior Brand for a little xtra.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 9:52AM
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Hi again. My driveway is approx 10 x 120'. What makes it difficult is this... the house abuts the drive on one side, and a hedge abuts on the other. There is no place for the snow to go, except straight down the length of the drive and into the street. In addition, there is a fire hydrant at the end of the hedge so no snow can go there at all. As a result, I have to literally carry all of the snow out to the street... I can not just scoop and throw. At one point many years ago, I would shovel into a wheel barrow and take to the street, but this last storm left the snow too high to do that.The drive is also on the north side of the house so it doesn't get any sun to help speed the melt! Soooooooo, you are correct that I do not get huge snowfalls, but I would have to move out a decent amount of snow as it accumulates when plowing and blowing straight ahead, unless the blower is able to throw the snow out a great distance. For really small amounts I will probably still shovel just to get some exercise!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 10:56AM
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Hi softfurn. Re-throwing snow does make a good case for a larger machine and one with better throwing distance. It sounds as though that you have no thrower now- correct? Besides your back that is. A snowthrower is one of those things that needs regular maintenance and is susceptible to fuel system problems rendering it not ready when you are. This becomes more true if pre-season service isn't done and if the fuel used is not treated or the machine isn't run very often. In the perfect world, a plow service could pack up your snow and haul it away. I urge you to consider the full package of what you are really buying. If you do buy, keep the fuel treated and run the machine every couple of weeks in snow season to be sure it is ready when you need it.
To both posters: On brands, I cannot give brand recommendations anymore on snow equipment as this world has changed since I dealt with it. Honda, Areins would certainly be worth investigating. I don't know who builds Deere throwers if they even offer them. The MTD built machines were good middle of the road machines. I'll be watching this thread to see what way you both decide to go.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 6:18PM
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Thanks Tom for the candid reply ! I agree with you on the advise to Girly . Unless she has someone to keep here snowblower prepped , she may well be better to have a plowman do her work for her. She has a bad drive for blowing . I will check out the top three as advised. I only really need a walk behind for another yr. or two since I'am serious about the Kabota. I have hip surgury in April so do not intend snowblowing long term. The Lowes Dealer in Michigan only a few hrs from me in Ontario does have JD but will have to investigate their origin. Thanks again for your assistance Bro ! This is a good site with great folks !

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 9:26AM
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Had to do some armchair investigating, but it looks as though the Deere and Snapper are cousins. I don't know if they are spec'd exactly the same, I'll leave that research up to you. Deere and Snapper are in bed on Deere's walk behind mowers so it makes sense. A quick check w/ the Sears website shows the Snapper throwers if you are lacking a dealer. Snapper builds nice equipment and at least used to make capable throwers. Hopefully they don't farm them out like Toro does w/ their 2 stages....

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Wow your fast Tom , sounds like were both Old School ! I never had a Blower until my used Sears Product. I have always worked on friends units and in the past swore never to own one. Always had a Tractor (Farm) or Plow Truck until recently on my Rural Homestead. These Newer Wheeled units really don't impress me so far as to strength of design. I'am not in any real hurry but shall investigate further since I will be buying new prior to next yr. Keep me posted(Email) if something interesting hits you as note worthy Bro ! Thanx again for your imput !!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 12:38PM
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Tom, could you please explain to me what type of fuel problems and pre season maintenance you are talking about? Is this emptying the gas at the end of season, and putting in the gas additive(I forgot what it is called but it is to keep water out of the gas). What else should I learn?? The snowthrower is my only option. I am not afraid of tools as I use them on a fairly regular basis, but I just need a clue as to what I will need to encounter. Whenever a plow for hire comes down the street, they take one glance and keep on driving past!! Only once did someone attempt to do my driveway... and it was by using his plow blade to PULL the snow out. So I'm back to square one.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 12:40PM
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tom2112(z5 NY)

John Deere stopped manufacturing their own snowblowers long ago. Don't recall who makes them now. Hondas are nice if you can afford a new one or can find a used one. I would suggest that you can't go wrong with Ariens. They're generally considered to be dependable, and plenty of places sell them. I suggest buying from a dealer if you have questions or want long term help with service and maintenance.

softfurn - I second the advice about getting a larger snowblower, meaning 10 hp or so. You might be able to clear the hedge with it, or, if not, it will scoop up more snow per pass. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 12:42PM
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Hi softfurn. I'm unsure how long your mower sits over the winter. If you let a mower sit for a few months w/o starting, the fuel quality has deteriorated to a point to where it may start hard, not run well. Many of us are familiar with that. A snowthrower gets a much longer vacation and on top of that is in warmer weather that speeds up the deterioration process,and is subject to more condensation problems etc. Fuel stabilizers can protect the machine from the damage this process causes and can help maintain the running quality of the fuel. It will be much more important to use them in your fuel in the years to come. There is a bit more to it- but you get the drift. I believe that one has to be cognizant of their fuel quality as the season passes and also to maintain a schedule of periodic running and testing of a snowthrower if they need to depend on it. Even if a piece of equipment doesn't get used much, it still needs a good once over, oil change and fuel system care annually. Could be a DIY project for you or an added expense for the service. Really what I meant was it was just another thing for the list. Admittedly, I'm a bit obsessive on educating folks on these things. Glad you asking the right questions.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 8:43PM
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Tom21: Thanks for your imput also , I normally do my own wrenching , but like TomPlum I have not worked or owned these newer units. I wwuld invest in a Honda or Tracked Model if I were to have it long enough. I just wish I could ascertain if any of the current wheeled Model Manf. have a
Commercial Grade unit which does not rely on the cheap platics and cables were mechanical levers once sufficed. Also adjustible chain drive or tensioners on axle and jack shafts would be nice . Chains stretch even when properly lubricated and buying a new chain to prevent gear wear is stupid when all that is required is a simple adjustment lol .

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 9:37PM
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stinkytiger(z5 - z6)


One question is what is he other side of the hedge? Is it somewhere you can put some snow? I.E. is it a street, or is it a neighbour's yard, hence off limits?

A honda can blow snow quite far. Even the wet slushy stuff it can blow up about 15 feet, and length about 15 feet away. If you have soft light stuff it will blow up about 25 feet and lenght about 80 feet.

If I were you I would try and blow over the hedge if possible. That would solve alot of issues.

If you have to blow straight in front you could, but you would be sort of re throwing the snow you have blown before. If you have a narrow ally, which I think you have, then maybe this is the only option.

As far as fuel is concerned, all my mower and snow blowers and car are hondas. (Honda civic). All I do is to put STABIL, available at any Home Depot, into the empty plastic container first. Then go to the petrol station and fill up with petrol (sorry petrol=gasoline). The stabil keeps the fuel in good condition and so far I have had no issues. Never had to take apart stuff due to clogged carberttors. Some people has major issues with bad fulel, others like me so far have been lucky and no issues....

I also think you may have missed the main snowblower season. Snowblowers are seasonal items, and they only build so many a year. They try and make sure they sell out by December. No one really wants to have inventory sitting around a whole year. I would keep calling around, maybe something will show up.

Warmest regards, Mike.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:39PM
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We own a 24 inch Ariens, purchased in December 2008. Its a two stage, with steel augur. It can grind up and throw the ridge of snow & ice that the city leaves at the foot of our driveway, which is why we bought it. This machine starts on the first pull, without exception. My wife wanted to learn how to use it, & it started on the first pull, for her, also. It has a "plug-in" electric start feature, that I have yet to use. The Ariens will throw ordinary snow 15 to 20 feet. Heavy wet slush might be thrown three feet. When the job is done, I turn off the fuel valve, and let the machine idle for a few minutes until the fuel in the carburetor is all gone. That helps keep the carb clean and free of residual gum. Maintenance so far has been to change the oil, and grease the augur. I am pleased with the Ariens, & I am sure that there are other brands and models that would do the job. However, I don't see how the driveway can be cleared of snow, if there is no place to throw the snow....

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 12:19PM
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Eric : Yep seems like you have a handle on the issue . Softturn has a bad drive for snow removal . Either way she goes will require a High Quality Blower used properly , other wise she will be replacing a lot of Belts lol . Your solution to Gas Issues is sound. I have done same in the past with both my blower and Mower at seasons end. The Chainsaw same , but I remove the diaphram and let it soak in Gas and Conditioner in Empty Baby Food Jar over the Off Season. Oh for the other forum members I have found that Johndeere is Manf. buy Toro as is Simplicity . So I think next season Ariens will be my Choice since it seems to be the most technically sound unit ! I would love to buy a used Honda or Yamee but their never available lol !

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 12:37PM
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