SNOWBLOWER SHOPPING SUGGESTIONS
The Gilson Snowblower Shop
HOME

Site Map
E-mail
Except where stated this site is in no way affiliated with any of the products or companies mentioned or depicted within except as noted

Shopping Suggestions Tractor Attachments Buying Used
Suggested Supplies

My most frequently asked question is "what should I look for in a new snowblower. So here are some things to look for when you head out to find a machine.

  • Buy a brand name from a servicing dealer. There are correct ways to set these machines up and I wouldn't count on the kid at the department store. Also if you have trouble you want a dealer who can take care of the problem.
  • Buy as much machine as you can afford. 8 horsepower is a good size and in most cases I'd consider the minimum, most of my running machines are 8s. Anything less will have trouble with the deepest storms or heavy wet snow, especially if you have to deal with a wet & dense snowbank. 8HP/26 inch is a robust proportion.
  • Smaller machines should only be considered for special needs. Things like roofs, narrow walkways, decks or use by someone with limited strength. If you try to do a big job with a small machine either be very patient or plan on doing a lot of the work yourself.
  • If you have a gravel driveway go with a 2 stage machine. A single stage machine spins at very high speeds and will be easily damaged by a small stone jamming the wrong way. Because the auger of a 2 stage machine spins much slower the shear pins can effectively protect it. A single stage machine will also be more prone to peeling away your gravel and distributing it everywhere but on your driveway. On gravel plan on setting the skids to keep the scraper bar 3/4 inches above grade At that height even a single stage attachment on a tractor will be OK as long as the driveway was well graded before the frost.
MY RANT

Think before you buy. I'm talking here about the proliferation of powered accessories on some machines, things like powered chute rotation and cable or power adjusted chute deflectors. Weigh the benefits of these features. Anything that doesn't directly contribute to getting the job done will at some point fail and cost you money and perhaps leave you shoveling.

  • As a machine matures the costs of parts for the features will climb and since many are third party items they are likely to become unavailable first.
  • Depending on the conditions it's not uncommon for these machines to become ice encrusted during operation. At that point required torque's and resistances soar and components fail, there's no substitute for the human touch.
  • Despite your best efforts to brush machines off prior to storage there will be some level of melting and drying or re-freezing. This is a prescription for failure for electric and cable operated devices.
  • If you're considering a machine with onboard battery power for the electric starter and accessories consider the battery and usage pattern. A snowblower may only see use for 3-4 months per year and going for a cold month in the middle of the winter without use is not unlikely. Batteries hate that kind of usage! Be prepared to replace batteries or sustain them with a trickle charger.
  • Buy a good pair of ski mitts or gloves as you prefer. Where do you think the power to heat hand grips comes from? Wouldn't you rather be using that horsepower to throw snow?
If you have a physical need for these accessories then they have legitimate value. If your vision is that of a tricked out machine it's an invitation to premature failure and obsolescence. Anything beyond essential functions should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

That's my opinion.

  • Here is a table to help you compare different machines. It's not going to be absolute however since some machines are more efficient than others. A 2 cycle single stage compact machine will do what it can do with 3 horsepower but the ratio is not as bad as it seems. For one thing you are pushing the machine around, that saves some power for moving snow.
INCHES PER HORSEPOWER TABLE
A LOWER VALUE SUGGESTS A MORE ROBUST MACHINE
    HORSEPOWER
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
WIDTH 18 6.0 4.5 3.6 3.0 2.6 2.3 2.0 1.8 1.6 1.5 1.4
19 6.3 4.8 3.8 3.2 2.7 2.4 2.1 1.9 1.7 1.6 1.5
20 6.7 5.0 4.0 3.3 2.9 2.5 2.2 2.0 1.8 1.7 1.5
21 7.0 5.3 4.2 3.5 3.0 2.6 2.3 2.1 1.9 1.8 1.6
22 7.3 5.5 4.4 3.7 3.1 2.8 2.4 2.2 2.0 1.8 1.7
23 7.7 5.8 4.6 3.8 3.3 2.9 2.6 2.3 2.1 1.9 1.8
24 8.0 6.0 4.8 4.0 3.4 3.0 2.7 2.4 2.2 2.0 1.8
25 8.3 6.3 5.0 4.2 3.6 3.1 2.8 2.5 2.3 2.1 1.9
26 8.7 6.5 5.2 4.3 3.7 3.3 2.9 2.6 2.4 2.2 2.0
27 9.0 6.8 5.4 4.5 3.9 3.4 3.0 2.7 2.5 2.3 2.1
28 9.3 7.0 5.6 4.7 4.0 3.5 3.1 2.8 2.5 2.3 2.2
29 9.7 7.3 5.8 4.8 4.1 3.6 3.2 2.9 2.6 2.4 2.2
30 10.0 7.5 6.0 5.0 4.3 3.8 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.5 2.3
31 10.3 7.8 6.2 5.2 4.4 3.9 3.4 3.1 2.8 2.6 2.4
32 10.7 8.0 6.4 5.3 4.6 4.0 3.6 3.2 2.9 2.7 2.5
33 11.0 8.3 6.6 5.5 4.7 4.1 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.8 2.5
34 11.3 8.5 6.8 5.7 4.9 4.3 3.8 3.4 3.1 2.8 2.6
35 11.7 8.8 7.0 5.8 5.0 4.4 3.9 3.5 3.2 2.9 2.7
36 12.0 9.0 7.2 6.0 5.1 4.5 4.0 3.6 3.3 3.0 2.8

TRACTOR ATTACHMENTS

The idea of having a snowblower attachment on the front of your tractor sounds like a lot of fun and if you have a big enough machine frankly it is a lot of fun, at least for a while. In general I feel you're better off with a separate walk behind snowblower for your winter clean-up chores unless you have a tractor big enough to handle a rear mounted blower. Based on having used quite a few attachments on a range of tractor sizes here are some thoughts.

So that's my opinion. You will see a lot of attachments in use and on a decent machine within the limitations I mention above they do work. In my eye's they usually are not the way to go.

I hope this page is helping you to make a more informed decision. Perhaps you will avoid an expensive mistake and end up with an appropriate machine for your property that provides many years of service. If your reading here has been of value to you I hope you will consider leaving a token of your appreciation in the form of a donation to help support this site. Good luck with your purchase.

Buying Used

One alternative to buying a new machine can of course be buying a used unit. These purchases fall into several categories. Dealers will sell used machines, sometimes with a short term warranty. In some cases you can get a trade in machine in an "as is" transaction. The other option is a private sale. In this case you may see an advertisment in a classifed section, spot a machine with a sign at the end of a driveway or even hear of one by word of mouth.

The machines bought from a dealer with a warranty will of course carry a heftier price tag. I frequently see asking prices that are 50% to 75% of what a machine may have sold for 25 years ago! Given inflation this may mean paying $300. for a vintage machine that is strudier than most of what you can get today for 3-4 times that price. If you trust your instincts and are prepared to take care of such a machine it can be a decent value. The same machine in a private sale will probably sell for less than half of the above price. The difference being that you assume the risk and nothing special has been done to prepare it for continued service. Finally if you get a machine that is essentially OK but needs some element of work before it's fit for service you should expect to pay well under $100.

During my years in the buisness and now as a collector I have had a chance to spend quality time with many machines and a vintage machine that's entirely in it's original configuration is rare. Be on the lookout for home made replacement parts and other home brew modifications. On a newer machine you should expect it to be entirely factory with normal wear and tear.

Below I will outline some key things to look for when considering a used machine. The bulk of my experience is with Gilson machines but most of this will be universal. In addition to this section I strongly recommend reading my FAQ page and my draft of a Servicing Procedure, it points out many items I look for when doing triage and when I go through a machine to get it ready for front line service. If you're not comfortable checking these details then maybe you should see if you can get your outdoor power equipment technician to look the machine over or maybe buying used isn't your best choice.

  • Open the gas tank and snif, it should smell like gasoline, not turpentine.
  • Check the oil fill level, is it full? If the seller can fill it note how much it takes. If it takes more than say 4-6 ounces I'd say it's a sign of neglect. The oil may not be fresh but should not be jet black.
  • Have the seller start the engine, Does it start in a few pulls? Does it idle" Does it run stready at full throttle? Bring the speed down to idle when warm and move the trottle to full speed quickly, does the engine stumble or pick right up? A cloud of bluish smoke that begins to clear in about 5 seconds after starting is generally not a big deal in a used machine.
  • If it passes the above tests the engine is probably OK.
  • Check the auger leads for major bends, twists and broken welds.
  • Check the impeller for condition. The tips should be in such condition that they cup the snow and throw it up through the discharge. If they are bent backwards performance will be poor. This is probably the most critical thing to know. This is an expensive part and replacing it is not a trivial task.
Impeller Inspection

A Good Gilson 12" Gear Drive impeller

It Gilson # 10408 and became cross referenced to LawnBoy/Toro # 741218. Check here for replacement information.

This is a new Gilson OEM 10-1/2 inch impeller

It was Gilson # 14849 and became cross referenced to LawnBoy/Toro # 740011. Check here for replacement information.

The view to the left of the orange impeller shows major damage. Something caused the blades to get bent over backwards. They should look like the gold Gear Drive part shown above.

The impeller pictured above has worked long and hard or seen some debris. The blades have been bent backward. You can also see where the the back plate has begun to buckle inward down near the bottom of the picture.

So there... do what you can. Not everything above is a cause to black ball a machine. It all depends what you want, what you're paying and what you are capable of repairing. I've only tried to give you some guidelines of things to watch for after that use your common sense and take your chances.


The Gilson Snowblower Shop Home

Site Map

e-mail

Created January 2002 **** Updated January 2014