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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is my first post here. I'm hoping to get some good feedback on a new snowblower purchase.

First I'd like to share some some history: I've been in "agony" trying to find a decent snowblower. I live in N New England where storms often dump well over a foot of snow. Currently I have a 15+ year old Craftsman model 536.887751. Nearly every year I've had to service it, which I do mostly on my own (kudos to repairclinic.com). I will not be buying another Craftsman based on my horrendous experience with it, as well as other Craftsman lawn & garden, and power tool equipment.

I've looked at several new models but I'm still very wary. My budget is around $1000. I'd prefer a 250+ cc engine as my 7.75hp 536 never really had enough power to move the snow well enough. I plow my gravel driveway which is about 35ft long. I also plow to and from my shed, over my lawn where there are areas with dips and inclines. It catches my sb if I'm not careful. So I need a snowblower that performs good on uneven surfaces, not just flat surfaces. I also wonder if I should opt for a 3-stage sb, but those are rather pricey.

These make&models are so far what I'm considering:

Ariens Deluxe 24 or Deluxe 28
Cub Cadet 2X 26" HP
Husqvarna ST228
Poulan Pro 961920091 27" (rebadged MTD)
Toro ???


I know there are other posts on these individual models, but I want to get a comparison of them here as well as what you all may suggest considering my specific needs.



I'd like a snowblower that is both well-engineered and relatively easy to maintain. Though overall well-engineered, I've heard some Ariens models can be hard to service. I don't want something with a plastic that cracks or breaks in sub-zero temps (Husqvarna dash?). I can at least say that the plastic on my old 536 has held up well (though metal components certainly didn't).

I tend to skip over online reviews that have nothing but praise for a product as I don't see them as unbiased or realistic. I like Consumer Reports but their reviews seem to be more tailored to those who have deeper pockets. Unlike their car ratings, they don't measure user feedback and long-term reliability. IIRC, I originally purchased my 536 based on a CR review.
 

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Hi John,
welcome to the forum!



So I need a snowblower that performs good on uneven surfaces, not just flat surfaces.

There wont be any meaningful difference between models as far as that is concerned..
There wont be any specific 2-stage snowblowers or brands that are "better for uneven surfaces" and others that are "worse for uneven surfaces"..they all have two wheels (or tracks) and a flat bucket..they will all act the same on all surfaces..So that's a non-issue when picking a specific machine for your needs.

Plus, with a gravel driveway, you will need your bucket raised an inch or two anyway..which will also help with the bucket clearing uneven surfaces.

I also wonder if I should opt for a 3-stage sb, but those are rather pricey.
Nope..you dont need it. The general consensus here is "they work as well as normal 2-stage snowblowers, but not better."
Its just a marketing gimmick. plus they are MTD's..Write them off your list.

These make&models are so far what I'm considering:

Ariens Deluxe 24 or Deluxe 28
Cub Cadet 2X 26" HP
Husqvarna ST228
Poulan Pro 961920091 27" (rebadged MTD)
Toro ???
Ariens Deluxe 24 or Deluxe 28 - yes, keep them on the list.

Cub Cadet 2X 26" HP - rebadged MTD. I never recommend MTD, I would recommend taking Cub Cadet off your list, because you can do better.

Husqvarna ST228 - Dont know much about Husqvarna, reviews are mixed.

Poulan Pro 961920091 27" - actually a Husqvarna, not a MTD. The "Pro" label is not deserved or earned.

Toro ??? - Yes, keep on the list.

The "top three" are generally considered to be Honda, Ariens and Toro.
Personally, I no longer like new Toros because they are made in Mexico now..but there is no evidence that has impacted quality at all.

So for me, your list reduces to the Ariens models only..

Used Honda, Ariens and Toro can also be a great consideration.

Though overall well-engineered, I've heard some Ariens models can be hard to service.
I have never heard that..ever. I have never seen that discussed on this forum.
I would write that off as probably one persons opinion.. in my opinion, there is no reason to believe that is true.

Scot
 

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Welcome to forum. I snowmobile, and have seen plenty of big snow over the years.

Yes, craftsman isnt what it used to be, I worked for Sears years ago when it was a good product. And now that they are bankrupt and selling off parts of the buisness, not sure if it will get better or not .

The Ariens Deluxe is a great machine. I actually like the ice drill chute controll, like the old fashion chute controls. Being in downeast maine, and long winters with plenty of snow, You get the engine size you want, but if you could get a deal on a Deluxe SHO, you get a big bump in engine and snow output.

I find Ariens easy to work on, and parts readily available. I have parts on order now for a Platinum 30 getting overhauled.
 

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All I can tell you is that my Husqvarna ST-224 hasn't had any problems that I can blame on the machine itself.

It's eaten a few rocks that were hidden under the snow and that bent up the impeller, but that's not the machine's fault. Another rock actually made it up the chute and cracked the plastic auger base. But again, it wasn't made to throw rocks.

I also had a spark plug seize in it once, but I blame that more on myself for not changing the plug after a mild winter during which the machine didn't get much use. That poor decision cost me some cussing and ~ $20.00 for a Helicoil.

Richard
 

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There wont be any specific 2-stage snowblowers or brands that are "better for uneven surfaces" and others that are "worse for uneven surfaces"..

Do all tracked blowers have the ability to quickly adjust the tilt of the unit in a forwards/backwards plane, with multiple locking positions?


Mine has this feature (controlled with lever under the handgrip), and I find it incredibly useful on undulating terrain. It makes it very quick to adjust the height of the bucket to the optimum height, in different areas of your yard, without using spanners. After a while you get to know which parts of your yard you need to raise the bucket for, and by how much.
 

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$1000 buck will land you a clean used Honda HS machine in your area. That will certainly meet your expectations.

On the new end of things, I’d focus on Ariens of Toro.

Personally, Husqvarna does nothing to impress me.
 

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In your price range Id consider Ariens and Toro. I haven't been on this forum much since last winter and then there was some on going controversy over a new feature call auto-turn on the Ariens.
 

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Welcome to the forum, John. As others have already said, of the blowers on your list, I'd go with Ariens or Toro. My advice would be to not be concerned about Auto-Turn - my Deluxe 28SHO tracks as straight as can be and turns very easily at the end of the driveway, etc - just the way Auto-Turn is supposed to work. Based on others' comments, I tossed the factory skid shoes and replaced them with Armor Skids as soon as I bought the blower last winter. Either Armor Skids or poly ones are supposed to make Auto-Turn behave properly and I would agree.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks for the feedback everyone. :) I work right next door to a Sears Hometown (not the same as Sears BTW). They carry the ST224 and PPro, but not any Ariens models, at least none on display. The Husq looks fairly well built, but I'm skeptical of all the plastic in and around the control panel.

What bothers me on my Craftsman 536 is that the chute doesn't stay in the place I set it when plowing. It eventually works its way back to one of 4 positions where the adjustment handle ends in "down" position. The force of the snow moves the chute out of place, and sometime the gravity of the handle. I tightened up the tensioner but it only makes things worse--it stays in position a bit better (in very cold sub-10F temp) but then it's REALLY hard to adjust when it warms up again. I'm hoping not to have an issue like that with a new unit. The Ariens seems to use a similar mechanism to adjust the chute as my 536, so I'm kinda leery. The Husq has several cables attached to adjust the chute, and I've heard that after a few years use those cables can seize or malfunction in various ways. The chute on it has a lot of play (3-4") but I've read that this can be eliminated by adjustment.

I've heard both pros & cons about Ariens Auto-turning. Do you guys think it's worthwhile? It could possible help me in areas of my driveway that are uneven. I lean towards turn triggers than anything auto because it seems to be that much less that can go wrong (less maintenance). But I'm by no means anything remote of being an expert on such things.

Though I've read that some Ariens models can be hard to work on, I've read the same or worse for Huskys. Easy of maintenance can be a very subjective matter. What my primary concern is that regular maintenance won't be a very time-consuming task. I don't have the luxury of a heated garage, or even a garage at all. The work I do I typically have to do outside in my shed where I store my lawn&garden equipment.

I still shiver remembering the time I had to gut my 536 to replace the trunnion clutch, wheel bearings, clean both friction and drive discs, file c-clips to fit the hex shaft, and bend the fingers on the shift yoke so the [email protected] yoke wouldn't keep coming off the clutch when I shifted gears. Don't even get me started on my pos Craftsman. :RantExplode:
 

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Thanks for the feedback everyone. :) I work right next door to a Sears Hometown (not the same as Sears BTW). They carry the ST224 and PPro, but not any Ariens models, at least none on display. The Husq looks fairly well built, but I'm skeptical of all the plastic in and around the control panel.

What bothers me on my Craftsman 536 is that the chute doesn't stay in the place I set it when plowing. It eventually works its way back to one of 4 positions where the adjustment handle ends in "down" position. The force of the snow moves the chute out of place, and sometime the gravity of the handle. I tightened up the tensioner but it only makes things worse--it stays in position a bit better (in very cold sub-10F temp) but then it's REALLY hard to adjust when it warms up again. I'm hoping not to have an issue like that with a new unit. The Ariens seems to use a similar mechanism to adjust the chute as my 536, so I'm kinda leery. The Husq has several cables attached to adjust the chute, and I've heard that after a few years use those cables can seize or malfunction in various ways. The chute on it has a lot of play (3-4") but I've read that this can be eliminated by adjustment.

I've heard both pros & cons about Ariens Auto-turning. Do you guys think it's worthwhile? It could possible help me in areas of my driveway that are uneven. I lean towards turn triggers than anything auto because it seems to be that much less that can go wrong (less maintenance). But I'm by no means anything remote of being an expert on such things.

Though I've read that some Ariens models can be hard to work on, I've read the same or worse for Huskys. Easy of maintenance can be a very subjective matter. What my primary concern is that regular maintenance won't be a very time-consuming task. I don't have the luxury of a heated garage, or even a garage at all. The work I do I typically have to do outside in my shed where I store my lawn&garden equipment.

I still shiver remembering the time I had to gut my 536 to replace the trunnion clutch, wheel bearings, clean both friction and drive discs, file c-clips to fit the hex shaft, and bend the fingers on the shift yoke so the [email protected] yoke wouldn't keep coming off the clutch when I shifted gears. Don't even get me started on my pos Craftsman. :RantExplode:

I think the Husq 300 series has plastic covered metal at the control panel. Good improvement over the 200 series,
 

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purchasing even the smallest Toro Snow Master single stage will get you out of a jam with its personal pace design and single stage simplicity.
 

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Your trying to hard. Try one of these. Can be had for around 300. These have been moving snow for 30 or so years. Tried and true. Take that extra 700 and buy yourself some beer and cool tools. Trust me I service small engine and I have used a lot of brands newer and older models minus a Yamaha and have yet to find a better all around machine.
 

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Most I talk to say stay away from the “auto steer” needs perfect flat terrain as not to steer back and forth quick on its own. Some Ariens and toro have it, husq has the trigger steering.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Most I talk to say stay away from the “auto steer” needs perfect flat terrain as not to steer back and forth quick on its own. Some Ariens and toro have it, husq has the trigger steering.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Well you need to talk to other people then
my driveway sucks i have the orig higher down force axle location even with the metal skids it was fine its butter all adjusted correctly with poly skids
those other people you talk to cant set up a machine and leave bad reviews or someone like you repeats it

and it becomes this awfull thing spread on the iternet
folks on here dont seem to be having that issue hmmmmm wonder why
ariens does not have trigger steer
they had a version that did not work so well yrs ago that was replaced with auto turn
 

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Even though you needed for some reason to attack the post instead of stating an honest opinion I will keep your info in mind when I buy a new one Ina couple weeks, thanks


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I have had an Ariens 24" Deluxe for 7 years now, it's a great machine. However, it does not have auto-turn. From what I've read about auto-turn, for it to work properly the pavement needs to be fairly flat. If one side of the machine "senses" a shift, it will try to turn. This makes me question how well it works on grass. Maybe you should ask around?

Sent from my SM-J320V using Tapatalk
 

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I have had an Ariens 24" Deluxe for 7 years now, it's a great machine. However, it does not have auto-turn. From what I've read about auto-turn, for it to work properly the pavement needs to be fairly flat. If one side of the machine "senses" a shift, it will try to turn. This makes me question how well it works on grass. Maybe you should ask around?

Sent from my SM-J320V using Tapatalk

In fact, I blew paths through about 15" of snow across my back lawn to my storage shed and bird feeders yesterday. Auto turn worked great with no tracking issues at all on the grass. There is plenty of negativity on the web regarding auto turn, but my experience has only been positive. Auto turn works well - I like it.
 

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Thanks for the feedback everyone. :) I work right next door to a Sears Hometown (not the same as Sears BTW). They carry the ST224 and PPro, but not any Ariens models, at least none on display. The Husq looks fairly well built, but I'm skeptical of all the plastic in and around the control panel.

What bothers me on my Craftsman 536 is that the chute doesn't stay in the place I set it when plowing. It eventually works its way back to one of 4 positions where the adjustment handle ends in "down" position. The force of the snow moves the chute out of place, and sometime the gravity of the handle. I tightened up the tensioner but it only makes things worse--it stays in position a bit better (in very cold sub-10F temp) but then it's REALLY hard to adjust when it warms up again. I'm hoping not to have an issue like that with a new unit. The Ariens seems to use a similar mechanism to adjust the chute as my 536, so I'm kinda leery. The Husq has several cables attached to adjust the chute, and I've heard that after a few years use those cables can seize or malfunction in various ways. The chute on it has a lot of play (3-4") but I've read that this can be eliminated by adjustment.

I've heard both pros & cons about Ariens Auto-turning. Do you guys think it's worthwhile? It could possible help me in areas of my driveway that are uneven. I lean towards turn triggers than anything auto because it seems to be that much less that can go wrong (less maintenance). But I'm by no means anything remote of being an expert on such things.

Though I've read that some Ariens models can be hard to work on, I've read the same or worse for Huskys. Easy of maintenance can be a very subjective matter. What my primary concern is that regular maintenance won't be a very time-consuming task. I don't have the luxury of a heated garage, or even a garage at all. The work I do I typically have to do outside in my shed where I store my lawn&garden equipment.

I still shiver remembering the time I had to gut my 536 to replace the trunnion clutch, wheel bearings, clean both friction and drive discs, file c-clips to fit the hex shaft, and bend the fingers on the shift yoke so the [email protected] yoke wouldn't keep coming off the clutch when I shifted gears. Don't even get me started on my pos Craftsman. :RantExplode:
I haven't experienced any problems with the cables or chute on my Husqvarna other than the crack in the plastic chute base from one of our Delaware County rocks. I also had to tighten the drive cable a couple of times, presumably due to the cable stretching and/or the friction ring wearing down; but I think that would be true of any machine using a friction disk. Other than that, I just lube everything as specified in the manual.

Hard to work on? I don't know. I've been farting around with engines and machinery since I was a little boy, so I guess it just becomes kind of second nature after a while. I've changed the belts, the impeller (several times), installed a helicoil in the spark plug hole, changed the oil... None of it struck me as difficult.

I think changing the carb might be a pain because of the location, but still only nuts and bolts, not rocket surgery. But that would also be true of any other machine using that LTC engine. So no, I really can't say that I find Husqvarna stuff any more difficult to work on than other machines.

Not that I'm pushing Husqvarna, by the way. I started buying their stuff because of coincidence. When I first moved here I hired a plow guy to clear the driveway. I always paid him in cash on-the-spot because I work at home and am almost always here, offered him coffee and donuts, and all that jazz.

Then one day he just stopped showing up or answering his phone.

After a few weeks, not knowing whether he was on vacation, sick, retired, dead, or whatever, I decided to buy a snowblower; and the nearest place I could get one happened to be a Husqvarna dealer.

I asked around, and the locals said the dealer was honest and the machines were good. I also applied for and received a Husqvarna credit card with a line big enough to buy anything in the store. So I bought the ST-224.

I liked the machine, I like the dealer, and over the years I've bought a lot of other Husqvarna stuff (lawnmower, chainsaw, string trimmer, and leaf blower). All of the equipment has been reliable and does what it's supposed to do, which is all I ask of a tool.

So basically, I'm not pushing Husqvarna. All I'm saying is that their stuff has worked well for me. If the nearest dealer had sold Some Other Brand, I'd probably be saying the same things about that brand.

As a funny aside, A FULL YEAR after I bought the snowblower, my plow guy showed up while I was clearing snow as if nothing had ever happened. He seemed quite insulted by the fact that I'd bought the snowblower. Go figger.

Richard
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I tried the Husq ST224 on some snow the city plows through up on the walkway in front of the Sears Hometown store where I work on occasion. I really didn't like the feel of the shift lever as is seemed like it was rather stiff, and sometimes flexed the plastic control panel. The engine was no more powerful than my 16-yr old B&S 7.75 hp. It bogged badly when attempting to plow anymore than 6-7 inches of wet snow. My overall impression was that it was somewhat flimsy, and didn't leave me with any notion that it would yield any sort of long-term reliability. I need something better than my Craftsman, and it just didn't convince me it would be.



I am looking around at some used snowblowers, but I'm so wary of buying someone else's junk, something that's been abused, or just worn out. I live in an area where we get a lot of snow. We get snow anywhere from early Oct to the end of April. It may seem that I'm being particular, but I don't think I'm the 'average' US consumer when it comes to a snowblower. If I only need to use it a dozen or so times a winter then the decision would be a much easier one. I use it at a minimum of about 30x each winter (depending on the severity of the winter, of course).


At least I've made some progress in my decision. I will not buy anything less than a 250cc equipped unit, and I actually lean towards 280cc+. I want something that's powerful enough to be able to move wet snow. If I can squeeze the budget some more, I may go to $1200.
 
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