Guest Post by Adaptive Curmudgeon, March 2010
I should have known I’d eventually buy a snowblower. I live so far north I can reenact Jack London stories in my backyard and my driveway should have it’s own zip code.
On the other hand, snowblowers aren’t popular in my rural area. My farming neighbors assume I’m a wimp because I don’t own a skid steer and owning a snowblower marks me (unfairly!) as a latte sipping suburbanite. Convinced that not even the best snowblower could handle my homestead I’ve tried hiring guys with battered truck mounted plows, shoveling by hand, denial, my old tractor…and prayer.
Winter beat me!
Inevitably my antique tractor needed repairs and the plow guy only worked sporadically (on a schedule unknown to logic). Even my shovel broke…I wore out my shovel! “Snowed in” was not to my liking at all. I decided to come up with something immediately! In desperation I bought a snowblower.
I assumed I needed more than a snowblower could muster. One might clear the huge area around my house but I doubted it could clear an important “road like” lane to the woodpile and in extreme need I wanted be able to clear an “emergency path” the full length of my long driveway. That’s a tall order for a snowblower and explains why more of my neighbors own a front end loader than a snowblower.
The WalMart Effect.
Snowblowers come in a dizzying array of sizes and features but they are surprising uniform in what you’ll get per dollar spent. Price competition is fierce but quality is low. They’re sold like “disposable” consumer goods rather than than “built to last” equipment. Nearly every snowblowers is “built to a price point”. I was shocked by flimsy metal, weak connection points, various gizmos that look easy to break and expensive to repair, and associated mechanical shenanigans.
It is clear what’s going on. Snowblowers are usually sold to folks who don’t use them very hard and it may be needed only a few times a year. Consumers, reasonably, stampede for cheap prices on a seldom used device. Manufacturers, quite logically, design machinery built just barely good enough to do the job and made as cheaply as possible. I’ve noticed the same thing of low end generators. I call it the WalMart effect.
The Best Quality Amid Disappointing Choices.
I would have preferred a machine that shouted “built to last”. The only superbly built ones were Honda and Husqvarna but both were too expensive and I couldn’t afford the price differential. I was forced to compromise by stepping slightly down in quality (hopefully not too far!). I bought a Troy-Bilt 3090 XP Snowblower. It cost less than similar Hondas and Husqvanras and it was one of “the biggest and baddest” among the rest. It’s a large snowblower and all of the Troy-Bilts appeared slightly better than their similar sized competitors.
I paid about $1,100. I could have saved a couple hundred if I’d picked from the large undifferentiated herd of less sturdily built models but I refused. I work my machinery hard and how long any of them will last is arguable. Some looked like they might not survive rolling out of the store. I enjoy good equipment and hope that the Troy-Bilt will last. Troy-Bilt is usually top notch but I’m not sure about their snowblower. I’ve heard that Troy-Bilt snowblowers age well so I’m hoping for the best.
Does It Do The Job?
In a word, yes. Much better than I expected! I regularly shoved it into knee deep snow and mercilessly drove across wide drifted areas. The beast didn’t wince. Once the augers gain purchase everything in it’s path is going airborne. Don’t get in front of it!
It even handled what I expected to be impossible. It churned up and down my long driveway at brisk walking speed without noticing the snow it was hurling into the next time zone. The large 30” width means that two passes there and back cleared a gorgeous 10′ road.
It comes with a monstrous 357cc engine. It’s loud and not particularly smooth but amazingly strong. Even in deep snow the engine produces endless gobs of torque and roars through. It uses a fair amount of gas but when I’m trudging around in snow I don’t care. I’m happy to pay for the gas it needs to hurl snow so far away it’s almost comical.
Bells And Whistles?
It’s got junk bolted all over it. Some is good but some is extraneous fluff that will probably wear out too soon.
All decent big snowblowers have both pull and electric start. Electric start is wonderful! Pull starting the 357cc engine takes effort.
Levers on either handle facilitate steering. The store accidentally broke one the day I bought it. The free replacement was reassuringly easy to install but plastic levers on a machine this expensive are pathetic. Steering is, however, a very desirable feature. Most similar priced and sized machines lack it. I wouldn’t choose anything this size without steering.
It has a headlight which I consider a necessity. The chute is plastic but it works fine and plastic in that application makes sense. Rather than the usual count of four augers it has six which is desirable. The shear pins are where they should be. All machines this size are two stage snowblowers.
I dislike the “joystick” that controls the pitch and direction of the chute. It sounds impressive but it’s a Rube Goldberg embarrassment of cables and gears. Mine didn’t work until I disassembled it and fixed a misaligned mechanism. Now it works fine. You need pitch and direction control but I think Troy-Bilt designed the “single joystick” as a marketing effort and they advertise it as a exclusive feature. Simpler cranks or levers are better.
It comes with heated hand grips. They’re a nifty idea but make no sense whatsoever.
It came with a cool little emblem on front. It fell off. I’m not making that up. The folks at Troy-Bilt should do better!
The Troy-Bilt 3090 XP Snowblower is so powerful it churns through snow like Godzilla on steroids and it can do things I though nearly impossible. That’s a great recommendation! It’s also the biggest toughest machine in its price range. Sadly the useless crap they’ve bolted on and the less than smooth engine makes me think of it as a generic consumer product instead of a “built to last” machine. Whatever corporate hack decided to go overboard with silly bells and whistles should be thrown into a volcano so Troy-Bilt can get back to making high quality machines like their superb wood splitter. Bottom line: This may be the best snowblower for the price, but it isn’t perfect.
Adaptive Curmudgeon, March 2010