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Discussion Starter #1
As you may have seen from other threads, I'm looking for a snowblower. I'm trying to work out what the actual quality differences are between brands for new snowblowers - not so much brand reputation, but what are the technical or construction differences between brands that make them excellent, mediocre or sub par?

Country of manufacture is pretty meaningless to me because because most companies outsource production these days. Brand reputation can be hard to judge because may brands - be it jeans or tools produce both premium products and cheap mass-market stuff.

So here's what I have been able to find out so far in terms of what to look for as being better or mediocre. Would you please add your views.

So what is better, not so good, or neutral?

Better: Larger cast iron gearcase
Not as good: Aluminum gearcase

Better: Steel chute
Not as good: Plastic chute

Better: Larger tire size

Better: Larger engine size = more HP

Better: Dual augur drive belts
Not as good: Single augur drive belts

Better: Larger augur size

Better: Power steering
Not as good: No power steering

Better: Hydrostatic drive
Normal: Friction gear drive

Neutral: Engines - most of the reviews I have read suggest that the major brands are pretty comparable in terms of quality.

What I haven't been able to find specs on are:
- thickness and quality of metal body components
- bushing size and quality for holding the augurs
- thickness and quality of metal used for augurs and impellers

What are your views?
 

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Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things! :)
I agree with most of your ratings..
the only one I wouldnt be concerned about is:

Better: Hydrostatic drive
Normal: Friction gear drive

I would rate them as:

Good: Hydrostatic drive
Just as good: Friction gear drive

There is really no data to suggest a Hydro is "better"..its just different.
Friction disk drives have been used on 99% of snowblowers for the past 50 years, there is nothing wrong with them at all..
Some might think "hydro is newer technology, and "newer" must mean "better""
but thats faulty logic IMO..The friction disk is "tried and true"..nothing wrong with it at all..

If you happen to be someone who can afford a really high-end machine, in the $2000 or higher range, certaintly consider a Hydro..you wont regret it..but for the rest of us, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a friction disk. they have been getting the job done just fine for 50 years.

These factors:

What I haven't been able to find specs on are:
- thickness and quality of metal body components
- bushing size and quality for holding the augurs
- thickness and quality of metal used for augurs and impellers

Are really brand-specific.
The "recommended" brands we have told you about will be better in those areas, and the "not so recommended" brands will have lower quality in those areas.

Scot
 

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Also, what I have noticed since joining this forum is that going to a higher price point, (within the same brand), may not get you higher quality.
 

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I worked on a later model dark green (think was Craftsman) once back about 2005 or so. It had 'plastic' auger bushings on each end rather than the bronze like on many. And of course they were wore out bad. So.. one more weak point to compare. I think over all it's worth comparing the stability of the handlebar too. If it flexes it is going to crack in time..especially down by mounting point to tractor body. just a couple points to look at.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here's another.

Better: Steel dash plate
Normal: Plastic dash plate
 

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Also, what I have noticed since joining this forum is that going to a higher price point, (within the same brand), may not get you higher quality.
I agree with that..
for example, Ariens will tend to be higher quality overall, from the least expensive to the most expensive in the model lineup.

While MTD and Craftsman will tend to be lower quality overall, from the least expensive to the most expensive in the model lineup.

Scot
 

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I'll disagree on the idea that the engines are all the same quality. Many of today's snowblower engines are unproven and have only been around a hand full of years. Honda (and maybe Yamaha) would be the exception with engines that have been the proven standard for years in commercial duty settings.
 

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Better: Larger cast iron gearcase
Not as good: Aluminum gearcase
Generally true, however Honda makes their cases out of aluminum, but they used ball bearings and gear oil and tend to last just as well as cast iron. The only thing that's going to break one is a combination of seized augers and/or hard bolts instead of shear pins combined with striking a foreign object.

Better: Dual augur drive belts
Not as good: Single augur drive belts
Generally speaking a single auger belt is better. About the only time you ever see a dual auger belt setup is on an MTD and they're tiny belts, not much more than a boot lace and they tend to go bad all the time.

Better: Power steering
Not as good: No power steering
That depends, no power steering is better from a reliability standpoint, not as good from an ease of use standpoint.

What I haven't been able to find specs on are:
- thickness and quality of metal body components
- bushing size and quality for holding the augurs
- thickness and quality of metal used for augurs and impellers
Simplicity and Ariens tend to be good in those respects. Honda may not look as thick but they know where to make things thick and where thinner metal will do. Making everything thick just makes the machine heavy.

What are your views?
Honda at the end of the day makes a much better machine than just about everyone else. Much better engineered, far better control cables, hydrostatic trans, great parts availability, great engines, etc.

Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things! :)
I agree with most of your ratings..
the only one I wouldnt be concerned about is:

Better: Hydrostatic drive
Normal: Friction gear drive

I would rate them as:

Good: Hydrostatic drive
Just as good: Friction gear drive

There is really no data to suggest a Hydro is "better"..its just different.
Friction disk drives have been used on 99% of snowblowers for the past 50 years, there is nothing wrong with them at all..
Some might think "hydro is newer technology, and "newer" must mean "better""
but thats faulty logic IMO..The friction disk is "tried and true"..nothing wrong with it at all..
Friction drives are not just as good, they will get the job done, but I'll never own another one. They get wet and slip and there really isn't a whole lot you can do about it. I've had multiple machines, they all did it every use. Hydrostatic is far superior.
 

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Friction drives are not just as good, they will get the job done, but I'll never own another one. They get wet and slip and there really isn't a whole lot you can do about it. I've had multiple machines, they all did it every use. Hydrostatic is far superior.
I completely disagree with "far superior"..maybe it could be argued a hydro is a *tiny tiny bit superior" ;) but I will never go for "far superior".

I suppose its technically possible a friction disk can get wet and slip..
but it has never happened to me..
and I have been very active on this forum for six years now, and I have never once seen "my friction disk is getting wet and slipping" come up as a topic of conversation..im sure it can happen, but its probably exceedingly rare..50 years of snowblower evolution has figured out how to keep the disks dry! ;)

IMO, there is still no real advantage to a hydro over a friction disk.
its just different, but not "better".

Scot
 

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As far as I know a friction disk unit will never leak transmission fluid all over my garage floor. Isn't there a recent thread about that? Oh yeah, " HS724TA dumped it's tranny fluid on the floor" No machine is perfect, and yes if I had deep pockets and more snow than we usually get, I'm sure I would love to own a Honda.
 

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I suppose its technically possible a friction disk can get wet and slip..
but it has never happened to me..
and I have been very active on this forum for six years now, and I have never once seen "my friction disk is getting wet and slipping" come up as a topic of conversation..im sure it can happen, but its probably exceedingly rare..50 years of snowblower evolution has figured out how to keep the disks dry! ;)
Remember, I used to work on this stuff for a living, it's a very common issue, I see it all the time. The two older MTD Yardman machines I had (both heavy late '80s models) suffered for slipping friction discs every single time they were used, they were always better with a new wheel, but still slipped when wet, even with excessive tension on the cable. I've worked on lots of other machines with the same problem.

IMO, there is still no real advantage to a hydro over a friction disk.
its just different, but not "better".
Again, I just told you what the advantage was.
 

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I completely disagree with "far superior"..maybe it could be argued a hydro is a *tiny tiny bit superior" ;) but I will never go for "far superior".

I suppose its technically possible a friction disk can get wet and slip..
but it has never happened to me..
and I have been very active on this forum for six years now, and I have never once seen "my friction disk is getting wet and slipping" come up as a topic of conversation..im sure it can happen, but its probably exceedingly rare..50 years of snowblower evolution has figured out how to keep the disks dry! ;)

IMO, there is still no real advantage to a hydro over a friction disk.
its just different, but not "better".

Scot
I agree and disagree with both how's that for common ground.:D

For the friction disk most of the time it got wet through a gap with the belt cover which one could apply a sticky foam to close the gap completely, I had a 1998 13hp36" MTD which I resolved the issue with the foam and it still runs 100% today.
As for the Hydro it is much better with the infinite variable forward speed and going in reverse in one movement and that is superior in functionality but beware of the cost if you need repair in that category.
So in conclusion both systems have proven their very good functionality.
 

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Again, I just told you what the advantage was.
And again, just because you believe something to be true, does mean its actually true. I have used this expression a lot lately, but it applies again:

"Two 1980's MTD's are not statistically significant."

You are taking your limited experience with a few slipped disks and applying it to the ENTIRE population of friction disks..thats faulty logic, and faulty correlation.

If its such a big problem, as you suggest, why is it almost never talked about on this forum?

I just tried searching the forum..I found *one* post:
http://www.snowblowerforum.com/forum/snowblower-repairs-maintenance-forum/16674-wet-friction-disc.html
and it turns out water on the disk wasn't even the real problem.

So, I cant find one actual instance of water on the disk in this entire forum..which says to me its essentially a non-issue. like I said, im sure it can happen! im not saying its impossible..I *am* saying that you are *greatly* over-stating its prevalence. It happened to you, so you assume it must happen to everyone all the time..not the case.

If it was a huge and real problem, we would expect to see it as a regular topic on this forum..but we dont. because its a very very very minor and rare thing.

Scot
 

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Seamlessly adjusting speed on the fly without stopping and zero chance of slippage at all is far superior....

Friction disc works, is fairly reliable in you know what you're getting, and easy/cheap to fix.

In function the friction disc is vastly inferior to a hydrostatic transmission and I don't know how anyone could even justify otherwise.

The ONLY argument for the friction disk is that it's simple, cheaper/easier to fix....

I mean seriously I remember lawn tractors before hydrostatic transmissions and can't say I'd consider having it any other way now! Amazing that snow blowers are taking so long to catch up to 2014 standard technology.
 

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The transmission argument is like saying air travel is vastly superior to walking. True, but if I'm just going to the corner, walking is fine. If a disc system works properly, and the vast majority of them do, they are fine. It's just a preference. Like picking out a color.:)
 

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Here's my take on the pros and cons that you elaborated.

Better: Larger cast iron gear case
Not as good: Aluminum gear case

It is not relevant as Shryp pointed out in another thread whether the gear case is cast iron or aluminum but what is inside is important so in essence it depends on the price point of the machine where lower price the insides is cheaper and more prone to break, you get the drift for the rest. It seems though Toro might have the upper hand when they specify grade 5 bolts instead of shear pins but I don't know from experience.

Better: Steel chute
Not as good: Plastic chute

Here again the plastic chutes from Toro are warrantied for life unlike any other companies that put them on their snow blowers.

Better: Larger tire size

Neutral

Better: Larger engine size = more HP

Neutral, if the company made their homework on sizing the engine with the bucket sizing then it's a moot point.

Better: Dual augur drive belts
Not as good: Single augur drive belts

I agree with 94eg8 on this one.

Better: Power steering
Not as good: No power steering

I tend to favor power steering as I had a 2008 828 Toro with that feature and it worked flawlessly and easy to do 180deg turns. I like the motto that the operator is in charge rather than the machine.


Neutral: Engines - most of the reviews I have read suggest that the major brands are pretty comparable in terms of quality.

I tend to agree especially with the higher quality brands.
LCT has cast iron sleeves and bearings on the crank which might indicate a nice long lifespan yet to be proven as stated by others.
The cheaper brands will likely have the aluminum bore which is easy to check in their specs or omission of such.

What I haven't been able to find specs on are:
- thickness and quality of metal body components
- bushing size and quality for holding the augurs
- thickness and quality of metal used for augurs and impellers

I agree with 94eg8 and would Toro to the list but in so far as comparing Honda or Yamaha would you not agree that most clients cannot afford their prices, they are great machine but one has to afford them since their lifetime is similar to say Ariens where there's plenty of them 30 to 40 years old and still working like a champ.

As for the panel I would prefer metal.

This was a good exercise Pckeen and its normal to have diverging opinions.
 

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The transmission argument is like saying air travel is vastly superior to walking. True, but if I'm just going to the corner, walking is fine. If a disc system works properly, and the vast majority of them do, they are fine. It's just a preference. Like picking out a color.:)
That's flawed logic. It's not a matter of preference. The hydrostatic transmission is superior to the friction disc in every way except simplicity. Whether it's worth the price of admission to people to access those features/benefits is another thing.....

I flat out believe if snow blowers were used as often as garden tractors a hydrostatic tranny would be standard on almost every make....People use snow blowers infrequently enough that the innovation isn't demanded IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This was a good exercise Pckeen and its normal to have diverging opinions.
Thanks. That's why I posted this. I'm not remotely offended by the disagreements - debate like this is quite useful.

Couple of other additions, from inspecting a few machines today:

- Quality of Wheel holders (near and dear to my heart, as when the wheels fell off the Craftsman, after four other fixes that day, that was when I gave up)...

Better: Proper bushings/wheel mounts, with the driveshaft extending throught the case, and cotter pins to hold the wheel in place on the driveshaft - meaning the shaft bears the weight.
Not so great: Single bolt through the center of the wheel, with the bolt holding it onto the driveshaft.
 

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"Two 1980's MTD's are not statistically significant."

You are taking your limited experience with a few slipped disks and applying it to the ENTIRE population of friction disks..thats faulty logic, and faulty correlation.
Again you seem to forget I've worked on hundreds of these things. It's a very common issue. I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen it. Some machines are better than others, but it tends to be a problem with anything with a friction disc.
 
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