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Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.

By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 11:20 AM EST
Picture of snowthrower
We had three snowstorms last week. During the first, my old snowthrower (which at one time looked a lot like the one pictured), broke just as I was finishing my driveway. It took me about an hour or so to disassemble the drive system and make a workable repair. The repair held for the next driveway - a neighbor's as he's injured his shoulder, and the following two storms as well. It won't hold forever, but I've got replacement parts on the way that should put it to rights again.

When I went to order the parts, Barb asked if it was worth spending a hundred dollars on a nearly 15 year old machine. How long do these things really last? Of course, the answer is that it depends on how you take care of them, and what you're willing to do in terms of repairs before you consider it DRT. (Dead Right There).

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this kind of machinery ages in "Dog Years" -- about 7 times the rate of humans. Just like a good dog, there's some expense involved in getting a new one, then you spend that first year breaking it in, developing an understanding, and taking more time in its care than you will in the future. Everything goes great for the next five to seven years as long as you keep up on the basic maintenance, but eventually you're going to have some small medical problems. Its a good dog, it has treated you well, and there's no reason not to give it the extra care and a little money if that's what it takes. Later in life -- maybe at around 14 or 15 years old -- things start to get a little more difficult. Those repairs are a bit more difficult and replacement parts can be time consuming and expensive. Sadly, there will come a time when spending more time and money on it is just prolonging the outcome and adding only more pain and suffering to the relationship and it's time to move on peacefully.

This year I've had to replace a fuel line -- something that should be easy but takes a few hours because of the way it is routed -- and now I'll be replacing the friction disk, friction plate, clutch cable, and clutch cable spring. When the season is over and the weather warms up, I'll need to sand blast most of the painted surfaces and re-paint as well as reinforce the intake scoop's sides as they have gotten weaker with rust and bend too easily now. These things won't really cost me more than twenty dollars or so, and for now spending a hundred and fifty dollars to avoid spending a thousand is still a smart decision with this old dog -- after all, its still got a good reliable motor, and we've gotten to know each other over years. I'm not looking forward to breaking in a new puppy at all.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Rick Wofford on 02/11/2008 at 01:03 PM EST
Andrew,

Boy is this refreshing, I bought a new puppy(snow thrower) 2 weeks ago before
our last snow. Never having one before this is a reassuring assesment of my
investment. If this is true I have bought my first and last, by the time DRT
comes I'll be ready to move to Arizona and retire 8)
It depends entirely....By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 01:34 PM EST
...on how you take care of it. Tips:

1. Use a 2 gallon gas can, unless you're using it more than once a week, then
use a 5 gallon but fill it to 4. ALWAYS add just the right amount of Sta-bil
to each new fill-up of the can. That way whenever the season ends, the gas in
the carb has been treated.

2. DRAIN the fuel at the end of the season. Make sure to run the thing till
the carb is empty, and even push the spring on the bottom of the carb to drain
the bowl.

3. If it won't start on one or two pulls at most, something isn't right. If
you're needing the wind that electric start just to get going, you need to pay
some attention to it.

4. Learn what a "Shear Bolt" is, and have a few in a jar where you know to find
them. If the auger gets caught on something or iced and wont turn, these bolts
will quickly snap, letting the motor turn freely. You'll need to replace the
shear bolt to use the machine again. This is a safety thing, and it works
well. I've gone though about 1 each year.

5. Store it someplace dry, scrape and paint it where it rusts.

Hope that helps.
re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Gregg Eldred on 02/11/2008 at 01:20 PM EST
This year I replaced a 30 year old snowthrower. Yes, that is correct - 30
years. I was the 3rd owner and I took very good care of it. But the last repair
was one that would have cost me the most. So, with much sadness, I opted for a
brand new one. I don't know if I'll get 30 years out of it, but you never know.

And you are correct, unlike your mower, for example, your snowthower gets used
very infrequently. For me, in Ohio, maybe 3-4 times a year.
is that all?By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 01:38 PM EST
3 or 4 times a year? It should last eternally! LOL. I use mine for around an
hour as much as 3-4 times a WEEK in January, February, and March. About 3-4
times a Month in December, and usually once or twice in April.

But then, if we don't get at least 3 inches of heavy wet snow or 4-5 inches of
powder, it doesn't even get started.
re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Danny Lawrence on 02/11/2008 at 02:58 PM EST
The alternative to keeping Stabil in the tank all year long is to start it up
once a month or so. I put a piece of paper with "Snowblower Starts" and each
month listed on it. If I'm in the garage and see I haven't started the blower
this month I start it up and let it run long enough for me to unplug the
starter and move it back to its spot in the garage, then turn it off and cross
off that month on the list.
re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Turtle on 02/11/2008 at 03:05 PM EST
Mine is about four years old now, and it's still in fine shape mostly because
it's stored inside and I never let gas sit in it. I leave exactly enough gas
in it for the job I'm about to do, and when it's done it idles until the tank
runs empty. The only thing I'm worried about is the rubber primer bulb, which
appears to be getting a little worn and isn't as flexible as it used to be, so
I will probably order a couple of spares this year and put them on a nail in
the garage above the snowblower. For the record, my tiller is a rear-tine
Troy-Bilt Horse, circa 1973, and I've had the engine redone once, for $114. I
have tractors that date back to the 1940s.
why do you need one at all?By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 03:55 PM EST
You're in Northern Virginia, yes? You get snow measured in centimeters, don't
you?
re: why do you need one at all?By Turtle on 02/17/2008 at 06:04 PM EST
Nope, we're in west-central Maryland, and it does snow here sometimes, but more
often, we get "wintry mix," for which a snowblower is completely useless. As
long as MTBE and ethanol have been in fuel mixtures, you have to figure that
small engine makers have adjusted to suit. Like I said, this unit is barely
five years old now.
As far as the primer bulb...By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 03:58 PM EST
..one thing I've noticed, is that the newer fuel mixtures -- particularly MTBE
blends (which are pure bottled evil, in my considered opinion - but for other
reasons) do terrible things to gaskets, seals, o-rings, and fuel lines that
aren't specifically made for it.
re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Vitor Pereira on 02/11/2008 at 05:32 PM EST
Glad to see another happy customer!
Vitor, are you an MTD employee?By Andrew Pollack on 02/11/2008 at 05:55 PM EST
Are you connected with MTD in some way? I have nothing but the highest praise
for the various MTD equipment I've had over the years. Particularly, I love
the fantastically simple, efficient, easy to work on drive systems (My MTD
Mower had a variable sized pulley system for gearing, and my MTD snowthrower's
friction disk & plate blew me away when I realized how they work).
re: Vitor, are you an MTD employee?By Vitor Pereira on 02/12/2008 at 03:39 PM EST
Eh Eh Eh! No, not really. In the picture it looked like something else, I guess
they all look alike.
But I'm glad you're happy with it anyway.
re: Snowthrowers age at about the same pace as dogs.By Curt Carlson on 02/12/2008 at 09:59 AM EST
I live in Maine and have a 13 year old MTD that has treated me very well. It
is 10 HP motor and cuts a 24" wide path. I love my MTD....especially this
year.


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