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I've been buying, refurbishing and reselling 2-stage snowblowers since I retired about four years ago. I thought it might be fun to share and compare tips, lessons learned and processes with others who do the same thing.

I don't make much money doing this but it's been a great way to stay active once the hot summer months wind down. In the past I've completed 10- 14 units each season but I've gone completely overboard and now have 25 units I'll be selling this fall and winter. Here are some of my observations. Tell us about your experiences and I'd love to hear your feedback on my observations.

* I've narrowed my focus almost exclusively to 2-stage snowblowers. I've concentrated mostly on Ariens because parts are easily available and the build quality is typically above average. I can find the Operator's Manual, Parts Manuals and (sometimes) the Service Manual on Arien's web site. Limiting my focus has made my parts inventory more standardized and lowered the learning curve to making repairs. I avoid MTD and the other economy brands. At least in my part of the world, Ariens units are easy to find but Toros are far less common. Besides Ariens, I currently have 1 Snapper and 2 John Deere (Murray/Briggs), 2 old Gilsons and 1 Cub Cadet. Yes, I know Cub violates my "no MTD" rule but I couldn't resist this big old bruiser (1333SWE).

* Most of my units are 5- 25 years old as buyers don't seem to be interested in the much higher quality Ariens units from the "good old days". I love the older 924's but buyers don't. I'll never work on another "932" with the plastic wheel rims (what was Ariens thinking?) or a "926" that requires 4 factory modifications (double drive belts, drive pulley travel limit, sealing plate and chute). Granted, the 926 is a decent machine with the mods but making those mods eliminates almost any margin for profit.

* I've developed a 35 point "checklist" of tasks I do for each unit. Since I usually have 2 - 4 machines in some stage of refurbishment, the checklist helps me remember what I've done and what's remaining.

* I use an old IBM laptop running Windows 10 to store all of the manuals and reference materials. I don't have reliable Internet access in my barn and I was weary of printing everything.

* The vast majority of my machines have carb problems. I now have a "one attempt" policy for cleaning an original carb before a $10 Chinese carb is installed. I disassemble the original carb, use carb cleaner, torch tips for the orifices and compressed air. Then it goes in my Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner for 3 heat cycles. If that doesn't do the trick, I'm not wasting any more time messing around with it.

* Speaking of Harbor Freight, their 1000 pound lift table is an absolute must-have. I've made some modifications to my table and I'll include some photos later if anybody is interested. Getting a machine up to eye level has made this so much easier that I just couldn't live without it now.

* Aside from replacement carbs, I try to buy Ariens / Stens original equipment parts when possible. I buy common things like spark plugs and fuel lines in bulk. I buy a lot of parts from Jacks and eBay. I prefer Jacks when I have a large order and eBay when I need one or two things quickly. I'd like to find other good parts sources aside from Jacks and eBay but haven't taken the time to research the alternatives.

I have much more but I'll stop here since I'm not sure if this thread will be terribly useful to many readers. I'll add more if there's demand.
 

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interesting stuff, love to see your shop and the lift.
 
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Can you publish your checklist? Send me a copy by email please?

I agree with everything you say though I do sell all makes but no money in single stage. I sometimes raise my price on two stage and include a single stage.

Like to see your lift modifications you've made.

eBay, Amazon, and Jack's are the Best.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Can you publish your checklist? Send me a copy by email please?

I agree with everything you say though I do sell all makes but no money in single stage. I sometimes raise my price on two stage and include a single stage.I

Like to see your lift modifications.

eBay, Amazon, and Jack's are the Best.
Here's a quick look at my checklist. I'll send a .pdf version (or any other format you'd like) in email to you. I'll take some snapshots of my lift table this weekend.

Check and Set Tire Air Pressure
Remove wheels, clean rust from axles and apply anti-seize
Check wheel bearings and replace if needed
Test and lubricate Differential Lock
Check and replace shear bolts if needed
Grease Auger
Check auger bearings and replace if needed
Check auger gearbox oil; add or replace if needed
Adjust or Replace Scraper Bar if needed - (Stainless Steel hardware and Anti-Seize)
Replace or Adjust Skid Shoes (Anti-Seize on bolts)
Check and adjust valve lash (cold engine)
New Spark Plug with Anti-Seize
Drain old fuel, add small quantity of ethanol-free fuel
Replace Fuel Line, Shut-off Valve, and Filter if needed
Check primer bulb and hose, replace if needed
Check Carb, Clean, Adjust or Replace if needed
Change oil
Lubricate all controls, springs and friction areas
Test auger interlock
Adjust auger cable tension
Test drive interlock lever
Adjust drive cable tension
Clean friction plate and friction wheel
Adjust Friction Wheel; replace if needed
Clean and lubricate hex drive axle
Lubricate chain
Grease fitting on side of tractor near wheel if present
Check Traction Belt wear and tension; replace if needed
Check Auger Belt wear and tension; replace if needed
Adjust Belt Fingers if needed
Check headlight bulb; replace if needed
Grease chute mechanisms
Clean and degrease housing, shell, wheels and control panel
Test traction force and speeds by spinning wheels in place
Long-term storage- fuel starve and drain carb bowl
 

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Here are a couple of additional random thoughts-

* I use Reese aluminum ramps to load snowblowers into the 6-1/2 bed of my F-150. If you buy ramps, be sure to get ones that have a safety strap to secure the ramp to the tailgate of your truck. The last thing you want is a 300 pound snowblower crashing onto the ground because the ramp moved. I can get two good sized units in the truck bed if I turn one sideways. If the unit runs, I just drive them right up the ramps while standing to the side of the ramp on the ground. If they don't run, I load them with the help of a Warn winch powered by a cordless drill. Always shut off the fuel valve during transport to avoid damage to the carb needle and seat. Use tie down straps to secure the unit in your truck bed. When unloading, don't let the snowblower freewheel back down the ramp or you may wind up in the hospital. Drive it down in the slowest reverse gear or winch it down the ramps.

* My single biggest frustration? Freeing wheel rims rusted to the axle. What a colossal pain! I spray liberal amounts of PB Blaster on the axle, give it a little soak time and then start tapping with a ball peen hammer on the axle. When that doesn't work (it usually doesn't), I break out the MAAP torch and get everything red hot (make sure there's no fuel in the tank / fuel lines and don't burn the tire). Then I use a pry bar behind the tire rim while hitting the axle with a 4lb hammer. I may repeat these cycles several more times but I always find it helpful to take a brisk walk, swear up a storm or chug a beer between sessions to relieve the frustration. Once the rim is off, I use a wire brush on my Milwaukee drill to get rid of the rust on the axle. Emory cloth on a large dowel rod helps clean up the inside of the rim. I always clean up the locking pins as well. Then, I get my revenge on rust by applying a nice, messy solution of Permatex anti-seize on the axle. I hope the next owner appreciates this. So far, I've only had one rim defeat me and I've vowed to never let it happen again.
 

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you should be able to get more money for your machines than average. all people have to do is see your set up ( would like to see your shop ) and your checklist and the potential buyers are 90% sold.

It doesn't hurt for you to get paid a fair wage for your efforts. there is a lot more to it than an hourly wage; inventory , special tools , electricity , space, etc. there are many costs that some peopel do not take into account and then wonder why they are doing all this work for next to nothing.

I understand that you do this to stay busy and it may just be a hobby. But don't sell yourself short.

sounds like you have a good operation. I actually d o the same thing but I turn down work because of word of mouth.
 

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I'm sure you check the rpms at fast throttle and idle . I'm surprised to see so many machines I work on ( Honda ) that are in the 2900-3100 range when they are supposed to be around 3600 give or take. also the recoil mechanism is usually rusted/corroded and the pull start is not snappy.
 

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you should be able to get more money for your machines than average. all people have to do is see your set up ( would like to see your shop ) and your checklist and the potential buyers are 90% sold.

It doesn't hurt for you to get paid a fair wage for your efforts. there is a lot more to it than an hourly wage; inventory , special tools , electricity , space, etc. there are many costs that some peopel do not take into account and then wonder why they are doing all this work for next to nothing.

I understand that you do this to stay busy and it may just be a hobby. But don't sell yourself short.

sounds like you have a good operation. I actually d o the same thing but I turn down work because of word of mouth.
I appreciate your kind words...my wife said the exact same thing. I may have to rethink my pricing philosophy. It's also nice when you can sell a good quality machine to someone who just doesn't have the financial means to buy a new one. It was heartwarming to get a call from an elderly woman last winter who told me how happy she was to use it during a couple of big storms.
 

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I'm sure you check the rpms at fast throttle and idle . I'm surprised to see so many machines I work on ( Honda ) that are in the 2900-3100 range when they are supposed to be around 3600 give or take. also the recoil mechanism is usually rusted/corroded and the pull start is not snappy.
I do and will certainly add both items to my list. I use this tach / hour meter with the unit's wire around the spark plug wire. I think it was about $25 on Amazon.
 

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I appreciate your kind words...my wife said the exact same thing. I may have to rethink my pricing philosophy. It's also nice when you can sell a good quality machine to someone who just doesn't have the financial means to buy a new one. It was heartwarming to get a call from an elderly woman last winter who told me how happy she was to use it during a couple of big storms.
I do the same thing. I go on a case by case basis. if the owner or buyer has 2-3 homes then they get one price. if it's a working person working 2 jobs and living paycheck to paycheck then they get a better deal. today I gave away our 17th snowblower for ( in last 3 years ) free to a family in need. I get these for 50 bucks or usually for free . word gets around and people give them to me . If i can repair then i give them away. some have to go to the dump.

it's amazing how word gets around and all the repair work I get from this or free machines. very satisfying to help people.

Every tool and part I have in my garage was earned by doing this. and lots of beer and pizza LOL , the rest usually goes to the grandkids. as a side note ; when my prices were very low people were taking advantage in some cases. I found out what local shops were charging and I come close to them. I can pick up and deliver and turnaround in a couple days while the dealer charges $75 for pu/del and it may take them a couple months to return machine.

I have to keep a low profile because this is a hobby /sideline and have actually been turning down work or barter instead like for tools , welder , etc. . ( all from word of mouth )
 

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I have to keep a low profile because this is a hobby /sideline and have actually been turning down work or barter instead like for tools , welder , etc. . ( all from word of mouth )
I also budge on my prices when it's apparent someone is financially struggling.

I'm intrigued with your repair business. I've intentionally avoided that aspect although there's a lot of opportunity. As you point out, the local shops are very expensive, somewhat arrogant and take weeks to perform simple fixes. I limited my activity to buying, repairing and reselling so I can do it on my terms. In other words, if I want to work on them all day long for 3 or 4 consecutive days, I can. Likewise, if I want to spend 3 or 4 days with my grandkids I will do that instead. Or, I'll find something else to do if it's just too darn hot or cold in my barn. But, with repairs, do you feel pressure to turn it around as quickly as possible? What happens if you need a specific part that takes a week or more to obtain? How do you go about setting a customer's expectations for time and cost?

The point you make about a "low profile" is something important to me as well. My wife owns her own small business and I have NO desire to deal with the accounting, tax, legal, government, supplier, advertising, employee and competitive pressures she deals with every day. This has to be fun and rewarding and not a "job".
 

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I also budge on my prices when it's apparent someone is financially struggling.

I'm intrigued with your repair business. I've intentionally avoided that aspect although there's a lot of opportunity. As you point out, the local shops are very expensive, somewhat arrogant and take weeks to perform simple fixes. I limited my activity to buying, repairing and reselling so I can do it on my terms. In other words, if I want to work on them all day long for 3 or 4 consecutive days, I can. Likewise, if I want to spend 3 or 4 days with my grandkids I will do that instead. Or, I'll find something else to do if it's just too darn hot or cold in my barn. But, with repairs, do you feel pressure to turn it around as quickly as possible? What happens if you need a specific part that takes a week or more to obtain? How do you go about setting a customer's expectations for time and cost?

The point you make about a "low profile" is something important to me as well. My wife owns her own small business and I have NO desire to deal with the accounting, tax, legal, government, supplier, advertising, employee and competitive pressures she deals with every day. This has to be fun and rewarding and not a "job".
I can turn around a machine in 2-3 days unless i have to go to dealer and get part. over the last couple years I have an inventory of common parts and have bought many parts machines ( I only deal with one brand snowblower ) for used non critical parts.

as of what to charge ; that takes a little experience and trial and error. I go by the base charge that the local shops charge but I do a lot more than they do so owners get their moneys worth . sorta like your 36 task checklist. i add in a carb cleanout that the dealer does not do and I add free shear pins . i aslo grease the augers and auger tranny shafts that the dealer does not do. i make sure the owner knows all this upfront.

before I accept a machine, I inspect with the owner there. obvious problems like cables , belts ( which you have to split the machine for an auger belt replacement ) , cracks that may need welding, parts that may need replacement and so on so I can give a reasonable estimate. have learned a lot of the the hardway. the last thing I want to do is call an owner and say the cost doubled because of something I missed.

The dealer told me it should only take 45 minutes to an hour and a half to do a service. I have worked on some of their machines and have seen that shortcoming. It usually takes me 4-5 times that long to do a very thorough job. As with you I do this for the fun of it and do NOT want a job. I have turned down very lucrative commercial accounts. I will not work on snow removal machines unless it is a one man show. I like helping every day Joes.

I only do a couple jobs a month and usually by referral from a previous owner. It's hard to say no. I really like buying , repairing and selling like you do. I take before and after pictures and the finished product picture gets enlarged and put on my wall of fame. ya , I'm a little nutty . I listen to music and can take a break anytime. No time retraints. i absolutely love doing this.
 

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Great posts Rod!

How often do you find that valves are in need of adjustment? (are they usually loose or tight?)

And how often do you have to deal with mice nests under the shrouds and/or in the trans cavities?

Paul

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.

How often do you find that valves are in need of adjustment? (are they usually loose or tight?)

And how often do you have to deal with mice nests under the shrouds and/or in the trans cavities?

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Confession time.... I don't always check valve lash. If there's good resistance on the pull rope and the machine runs strongly after I perform the engine services on my check list, I skip that step on flathead engines. It's so easy to check and adjust lash on an OHV engine that I do them almost every time. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I find myself making some adjustment to lash on almost every engine except ones that appear to have low hours. I'd bet the farm that dealers never check lash on a routine maintenance job.

I don't find too many mice nests but it's like unwrapping a Christmas present when I pull the belly pan....you just never know what you're going to get. I've found big nests in cosmetically nice looking machines and nothing in units that look like they sat outside for 25 years. I normally wear disposable nitrile gloves for all of my work but immediately put on a mask if I find a nest. I take the machine outside to dig out as much material as i can with a stick and clean up with compressed air. Mouse urine is highly corrosive so I try to scrub those areas with a Scotch-Brite pad and apply Fluid Film. Nasty!
 

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Hello Rod330, interesting post. What kind of winters do experience in NE Ohio? Do you battle any Lake-Effect snow storms and what type of machine to you use personally?
 

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Hello Rod330, interesting post. What kind of winters do experience in NE Ohio? Do you battle any Lake-Effect snow storms and what type of machine to you use personally?
We're about one hour south of Cleveland and 45 minutes west of Akron, Ohio so we seldom get the dreaded Lake Effect snowfall. Our son is in the heart of the so-called snow belt and he's routinely clobbered. He has an Ariens 921 Platinum 24 SHO and I have an Ariens 921 Deluxe 28 SHO.

In the past few years we're hit with just 1- 3 big snowstorms each winter. However, we have a lot of 1" to 2" snow days coupled with several freeze and thaw cycles. We live on a private road with six other families and contract with a plow service to keep it clear. However, I personally maintain our very long concrete driveway, an extended parking pad for our 4 stall garage, a concrete driveway to our 60x60 pole barn and very large asphalt pad in front of the barn. Here's a photo of my main snow fighters: a 59" front mount snowblower when the SHTF and a little International Cub that I use more than anything. I also have a 7' rear mounted Land Pride blade for the Deere but I seldom use it.

I've got the Cub listed for sale because I'm thinking about putting a plow on our John Deere Gator or Polaris ATV. That would speed up work for those 1" to 2" snow days.
 

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Like you Rod, I don't take in many repairs, for the same reason as you. For old friends and neighbors only. I've only had to adjust valves on a flathead once out of more then 100 blowers I've done over.....a 1978 old toro with a Briggs engine...mostly I did it for the experience..LOL
 

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I try to be selective as to what I buy to flip. Usually only like paying $50, to $100 on the high side. But at $100, it would have to be a sure bet money maker and in nice condition. Lately being buy mostly on Facebook Market place. Picked up some really good deals this spring, most at $50,and will sell for around $400. I try to steer clear of 2 strokes, not good money makers around here. As others good thru the machines and check everything, repair or replace items. And usually need carb rebuilds and tune ups. Chute skids and scrappers are pretty commonly replaced. I have around 9 machines waiting for the snow to fly and sell.
 
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