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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all, glad I found you. I'm the proud new owner of a driveway, and being located in the Chicago burbs, it's a driveway that's gonna get snowed on. It's a pretty typical suburban setup - asphalt, and not real long - maybe 45'. It's two car widths at the street and it widens out into a three car garage. I also have probably 85' of 5' wide sidewalk to clear. I'm sure we'll get a windrow every time the plow comes by.

I'm thinking an entry-level two stage would be perfect, especially for cutting through the windrow at the end of the driveway, but here's the rub - I travel a lot for business, and my wife commutes to a normal 9-5. She needs to be able to use the machine after any particular snow without too much trouble. She's pretty small, and I'm worried that she'll have a hard time manhandling a two-stage. She uses our recoil-start 21" walk-behind mower without much trouble. I've never used a snowblower, so I have no point of reference here. Would a single stage be easier for her to use (even if it takes longer)?

I'm fairly mechanically inclined, so while I'm not looking for a project, I'm also not scared of a (lightly) used machine. Reliability is crucial. If she can't get the thing started at oh-dark thirty on a cold blustery January morning to get to work while I'm on a trip to the islands, I'm in for a serious earful. Budget is 600-800, but of course less is better.

Mike
 

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hello mike, welcome to SBF!! I think my old toro 521 two stage is one of the most user friendly machines of its size. because of the size and weight I got one for my GF. she has a single stage toro 2450E ( 5hp ) now, she had a powerlite-E which she sold
 

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my 1986 toro 38080 824 is very user friendly, and with an impeller kit it is one of the best on the street. its chassis is heavily built and parts are readily available. controls are simple-throttle, 3 forward speeds, 2 reverse, and a single lever to engage the auger. the machine is also equipped with a safety interlock like a lot of modern snowblowers, and the engine will immediatly stall if the interlock lever is released while the augers or transmission is engaged. it is a great compromise between easy to operate machines with modern safety features and a well built piece of machinery that will last for years to come
 

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Things I would consider, first is space for storage, second is weight of the machine and what the Mrs is comfortable handling on less than ideal footing, and third is electric start for the mornings that she does not want to be reminded of your current surroundings.

And welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies guys! My biggest concerns are reliability and handling. Storage isn't a huge issue; we have a three car garage and only two cars. No kids quite yet, so I've got plenty of room out there for at least the next decade and a half. When we have a kid, and that kid gets a car, I can sell the snowblower - at that point I'll have a teenager and a shovel! :D

Electric start would be nice, but it's not critical. I'm just beginning my research, and I was pretty surprised to see 120v starters on these things. Clever animals, those engineers!

Would anyone recommend a single stage? I do realize that I'm on a snowblower enthusiast forum, and you guys would probably tell me to get this if it were in my budget:



I can't decide if a single stage would be better or worse. On one hand, I've read that they get the pavement cleaner, is that correct? The driveway is on the north side of the house, so getting the last little bit of snow off is a bonus. Most of our snow events are only 3"-4", and historically we average about 36" per season. On the other hand, we got walloped with a bunch of big ones last winter for a total of 82". Do I get the smaller machine because it's easier to handle and is sufficient 90% of the time, or the larger machine because it's got the power to tackle the big winters with ease, but at the expense of usability for my wife?

Do any brands in my price range have any nice handling features? Single stage machines all seem to just be pulled forward by the blade running along the ground, but the two stage manufacturers all seem to have their own ideas about the proper way to address steering. Who's ideas are good and who's aren't?

Thanks for the education!
 

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Well, that's the million dollar series of questions. Without knowing your wife, but using my 165 lb, nearly 5' tall,11 year old, she is quite capable using my Honda HS622TA. But that would easily triple your budget. My MTD is a brutal beast that even gives me a work out, and I am 5-10, 250lb. The Toro 521 that Det Dr suggested, might be the happy medium. You have, roughly, 2,040 square feet to clear, plus sidewalks, then stepping up to a two stage machine may limit the Mrs exposure time in the arctic environment. (making your life more sedate)

And while single stage machines clean closer, it does depend on the surface to begin with, as most use a sacrificial rubber paddle edge to both clean and pull it forward. And they work great on snow, but not so much on ice or crusted snow.

It's not a easy call, as there are a few machines that fits your needs, but are they within you budget, and what can you find on CL?
 

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I would say no, dont consider a single stage..
if you have good chances of getting 12+ inch storms each winter, which it sounds like you do, you would want the 2-stage for for those events..
you dont want a snowblower than cant handle the job when you need it the most..

but your relatively light annual snowfall does mean you dont need a monster 2-stage..the smaller 2-stages will do you fine..
I would look at the Ariens Sno-tek 24E:
Sno-Tekâ„¢ 24 - Snowblowers - Ariens Sno-Tek
(dont consider the Sno-Tek 20, its single-speed transmission is probably under-powered for your needs)

or the Ariens Compact 22 or Compact 24.

Ariens Compact Sno-Thro series of two stage gas powered snow blowers

Scot
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
She'd kill me if she knew I was telling anyone, but she's 5'8" and 130-135lbs. So she's kind of tall and in good shape, but not much weight to throw around and not a ton of upper body strength.

I started looking at single stage prices. In the grand scheme of things, a nice single stage isn't all that much much cheaper than an entry level two stage, and as Scot said, I think it makes sense to buy a machine that can perform when we need it the most, even if it leaves a little residual snow behind. That's what they make ice melt for, right?

I didn't want to poison the well by telling you guys what I've been leaning toward, but I like the looks of the Compact 22 and 24. What is the difference between the Compact 24 and the Sno-Tek 24? Aluminum gear case, no headlight, anything else? It seems like the engines are branded differently, but they're both 208cc units designed by LCT and manufactured in China, right? So are they the same engine?

I like the remote deflector adjustment on the 24's, but I'm wondering if even a smaller 24 will be too much for her to handle. Again, I've never used a snowblower before, so I have zero frame of reference. I looked briefly at the Ariens 824 and even the Toro 824, but while I'm having a hard time finding weights online, I get the feeling they're going to be too big, too heavy, too much machine for her to handle comfortably.

Besides being newer, how does a Compact 22 compare to a Toro 521? Does the 521 have a pin lock steering setup? I imagine I'd keep the one wheel free for her to make steering easier, and she can just back it up and try again if she gets stopped by a drift. Any other good candidates in the 21" through 24" size?

I'm thinking I'll probably throw together or just buy an impeller kit right away to reduce the number of clogs. Happy wife, happy life.

Thanks again for all the guidance!
 

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your wife and my GF are about the same size. my GF decided she wanted a two stage machine and tried my toro 826. she didn't like the safety inter lock levers and said it was too big. she used my 521 on one of the neighbors property and like the fact that by releasing a lever the machine stopped moving so we found a 521 with electric start for her rather than taking one of my recoil start 521's to her house. she read powershif93's post about his brothers of destruction and says her little toro brothers can destroy some stuff too, the little brothers of destruction
 

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i would recommend a 2 stage mainly because they are capable of clearing more snow and clearing it faster. your wife shouldnt take to long to figure it out. a toro 521 might be a little 2 small for your driveway, but a 24inch toro would be a good size. tey made them in 5, 7 and 8hp configurations
 

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You have mentioned a 3 car garage with plenty of storage, a max of $800 for the budget and not afraid of buying used or possibly fixing minor issues.

Have you considered checking craigslist for used single and 2 stage machines? You will have 2 machines in case one breaks down, plus you will have the easier to use for small snow and the bigger for heavy snow.

This time of the year you should be able to get a decent Toro single stage in the $100 - $150 price range and a decent 2 stage in the $150 - $200 price range. If you get good deals or get ones that need engines replaced or other work you might even be able to get them as low as free - $50.

I have used an old single stage MTD which was better than shoveling, but not that great at snow removal. The single stage Toros are suppose to be much better, but I have never had one. Most new single stage machines are now copying the Toro design so it must work well.

For 2 stage machines I have used a Toro 3521 which is the same as the 521 with a smaller engine, an old Ariens 8/24 and a newer Troy Bilt 8/26. The Ariens is my favorite.

The Toro was pretty light and easy to manhandle, however it lacked the weight and traction for really deep snow and it was kind of slow.

The Troy Bilt was pretty light as well, but being bigger it was a pain in the rear to turn and just has the cheap plastic flimsy feeling.

The Ariens is the heaviest of the 3, however, it has a differential in the axle which allows effortless 1 handed spinning around in a circle. The weight is great for traction in the deep snow and the differential makes maneuvering a breeze. If you get a lot of ice or issues you can lock the axle to assist in going straight, but then it becomes a bear to turn.

A lot of the newer machines come with some sort of power steering options. Most Ariens have had the differentials since the 60's and 70's, new ones have auto turning. New Toros and MTDs have the steering triggers on the handles.

MTD brand machines are generally made cheaper and flimsier than other companies so unless you are getting an older one I would stick with Ariens or Toro.
 

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I think the best snow blower would be an old Toro 832 or 1132. They are nice and heavy and work great. There would be no reason for going to the gym in the winter/
If the Chicago winter is anything like it was last winter your wife will have the shoulders and upper body of a professional swimmer by the time Spring comes.
 

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That single stage is smaller and lighter but that doesn't equate with easier. Someone who is lighter with less upper body strength might benefit from something heavy that walks through snow on it's own and pulls you too !! (Two stage with good tires with or without chains)

I've ended up with a pretty sore back and arms from fighting the end of driveway pile after a heavy Minnesota snow fall with a single stage blower and wo be you if you don't get to it before it freezes !! If the EOD pile freezes it's a bit difficult but doable with a two stage but the single will just bounce off it.
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the thing i hate about single stages is I always find myself literaly ramming them into snowbanks and snow higher then 8-10inches. 2 stages save your back
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Shryp, while I appreciate the suggestion of getting two machines, I don't think that'll be necessary. I'm convinced I shouldn't waste my time or money on a single stage. Thanks for the rest of the information.

detdrbuzzard, a Toro 521 is high on my list.

db, thanks for the link.

JerryD, thanks for nothin! :D

I'd like to distill the questions in my previous post:

Real differences between the Ariens Compact 24 and Sno-Tek 24? Now the same LCT 208cc engine? Aluminum gearbox, no headlight, plastic chute, smaller tires than the new 920021. Anything else?

How does steering work on the Toro 521, and how does the Ariens Compact 22 feature set compare to the Toro 521?

Thanks guys!
 

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I will refer to the Toro 521 as an x21 in the following statements. It came with 3 different engine options which were 3.5 HP, 4 HP and 5 HP. The engine determined the model number and they were called 3521, 421 and 521. Mine was a 3521 that had a 6.5 HP Greyhound engine mounted on it. Some people have put the 212cc Predator on theirs as well.

A Toro x21 has no steering. There is a solid axle going through both wheels. To turn it you have to muscle it around. You might be able to pull the wheel pins and put it through the axle only and let the wheel freewheel on the axle. That will make turning easier, but then it will be 1 wheel drive.

The Toro x21 is an older design and has a crank to turn the chute and has a wingnut on the chute to change the height. There is no remote deflector control. The chute cranks are also mounted pretty low and require bending over to turn.

Some of the Toro x21s came with solid rubber tires and some came with pneumatic.
 
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