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Discussion Starter · #61 ·
Ok..here is the machine I ended up with after all my research!
a 1972 Ariens Sno-thro!

yes, im building a webpage about my snowblower!

(its what I do..I just cant resist)
webpage coming soon..in progress..

meanwhile here is the long and rambling story of how I ended up with such an ancient snowblower..
im very happy with it!
works great!

here is an excerpt from the webpage:


Page 2.

Ok, the story..
I moved the story to this seperate page, because its rather long and rambling!

I originally had this all on the one webpage, but then realised people wont want to scroll
down past all this just to get to the goods..(the info about the 1972 Ariens!)
so I moved this all over here to a seperate page, so people can read it..ONCE!

If they wish to, then they can just skip over it next time they visit the main page..

So..the story of how I ending up with an old snowblower,
when I started out looking at NEW ones!...

My wife and I bought our first house in 2006. For the last two winters I shoveled..
a bigger snowfall could take 2 hours to clear by hand! and I would sometimes have twinges
in my back muscles for days after. (im not getting any younger!)

We did get some help from a friendly neighbor, who would help plow us out after the bigger storms, and while I greatly appreciate that help, I felt I still really needed a snow blower for
my own use. I want to be "self reliant" and be able to clear the driveway when needed.

So in November 2008 I started looking at Snow Blowers.
when I started, I knew very little about them.. So I hit the internet..google is my friend.
I also went out and looked at LOTS of machines!
Two Home Depots, Three Lowes, and about five or six local "independant dealers"
(I wont even consider Walmart.)

I quickly learned that due to my native snow fall amounts, I definately want a 2-stage machine..I never even looked at single stage machines.

About the terms "snow blower" and "snow thrower"..
they basically mean the same thing..but generally "snow blower" means the smaller single-stage machines, and "snow thrower" refers to the larger 2-stage machines..
although these terms are not etched in stone, they are not "official", and generally the
generic term "snow blower" is used to describe them all.

think of it as.. "a snow blower (single stage) blows small amounts of snow off your driveway, and is good for smaller snowfalls...but a snow thrower (2-stage) is more powerful and throws large amounts of snow!"

If you want to be technical, you can use the terms that way..but my entire life I have only ever
heard people say "snow blower" to describe any and all machines, both single stage and
2-stage..its simply used in the generic sense..so thats how im going to continue to use it..rather than use "blower" and "thrower" to distingiush beween single stage and 2-stage,
its simply easier to just say single stage and 2-stage! that way people know what
you are talking about..

So I went out shopping for a 2-stage snowblower!

Here are some things I learned about modern snowblowers.

1. For decades, Tecumseh has been the primary engine supplier for the majority of
snowblowers, probably the last 40 years at least and a major percentage of the market.
They are considered fine engines, although I got the sense from lots of internet reading that
in general, most people consider Briggs and Stratton to be a slightly higher quality engine, although Briggs has never been a major player in the snowblower field.

I read an interesting viewpoint a few times, along the lines of:
"If its for winter, get a Tecumseh engine, if its for summer, get a Briggs."

2. Tecumseh is exiting the snowblower engine market starting right now, late 2008.
This years models, 2008/2009 season, will probably be the last regular season
you will find Tecumseh engines on new machines.
(unless a particular manufacturer has a stash of engines.)

This leads to a "future support" question, which, while valid, IMO isnt really that
big a deal, because there are SO many millions of Tecumseh engines out there, that I dont see parts supply being a major issue.

3. Briggs and Stratton will likely gain market share, due to Tecumseh leaving.

4. Tecumseh leaving the market has also opened up the door for a new breed of engines,
Made in China. some are called "Chinese Honda Clones".. Basically a company in China takes apart a real Honda engine, then tries to build and sell copies of it..stealing the
decades of Honda research and intellectual property in the process..(and probably not 100% duplicating the Honda quality..) Honda has sued over some of these obvious illegal copies..
(China is cloning entire cars!)

The above four points are facts..the following is all my opinion! based only on personal observation of machines and lots of reading..your mileage may vary!


No one really knows how good these new Chinese engines are yet..they are too new.
some say they look ok, others say beware..
personally, for me, the words "Chinese-made Honda Clone" dont exactly instill confidence!
so I made the decision to completely rule those engines out.
Im looking for Tecumseh or Briggs engines only.

My advice, when looking for a new snowblower, pay close attention to the engine!
if it doesnt have a Tecumseh or Briggs & Stratton label on it, personally I would pass.
Not only for the questionable quality issue, but I also dont want to support illegal cloning.
(I dont know if all Chinese made engines are clones..but even if they arent, im still not intersted!)

This leads me to an interesting snowblower myth I came across constantly in my research,
the myth goes something like this: "The snowblower manufacturers make lower-quality machines for the Lowes/ Home Depot/ Walmart market, they arent the same machines that you will find at an independant dealer."

I have discovered this is simply not true.

The EXACT same machines are being sold at my local Home Depot and Lowes stores and all the independant dealers.. I checked model numbers.. all the independant dealers have the exact same machines as the big-boxes, and I found no models that were only at Home Depot or Lowes, and not at the independant dealers.

There is no such thing as a lower quality machine FOR the big-box market specifically.

But like all good myths, there is probably a grain of truth in there somewhere!
I believe what might have happened is this..

Perhaps lower-grade machines are now being built, because of the big-box market!

Because sadly, these days Americans dont really care about quality anymore. All we care about is price. "I dont care if its junk, as long as its cheap!" We are getting our wish..we buy
an awful lot of cheap junk. This attitude has led to the great success of Walmart, and the loss of all our jobs. (you cant make junk cheap enough if you have to pay Americans to build it...thats why the jobs go to China, because we demand to pay less and less for it all the time..at Walmart.) by the time we, as a society, finally "wake up" it will be too late..everything will be made in China. You will still be able to buy it all at Walmart, but you wont have a job to pay for it.

But anyway..I digress.
yes, this all does relate to snowblowers!

Getting back to them...Yes, its true you will find the "low end" machines at the big boxes,
(and the big-boxes carry the mid and higher levels too)
but! in my travels around Western NY, all the dealers carry the same low-end models as
the big boxes! they probably arent happy about it, but they have to carry them just to survive..
If you are a dealer, and Home Depot is selling machines for $599, and all yours start at $800..well, anyone can see thats not a healthy business practice.

Yes, I suppose there might be some independant dealers out there who can, with all honesty and truthfullness, say "Home Depot and Lowes carry the cheaper machines, I dont have those cheap models in my store".

If that is true, its only due to that dealers personal choice.
and if there are any dealers making that choice, I bet they are few...
I havent seen any.

That is the only scenerio where anyone could truthfully say "The snowblower manufacturers make lower-quality machines for the Lowes/ Home Depot/ Walmart market, but I dont carry those models here."

So in a general sense, its a total myth. there are not different models made for the Big-box market. they are all the same models. However I believe its quite likely that newer, lower-end models have been created because of the big-box market! to the detriment of the entire industry, and that is likely what led to this myth..but thats really a different scenerio.

Having said all that, I agree with the many who say its always much better to buy from the independant dealer! for two major reasons:

1. Quality assembly by knowledgeable technicians. this is VERY important!
2. Service and support after the sale, also very important.

You get neither of those from the big-boxes.

I have read a lot about problems with newer, quality machines..almost always these machines were bought from a big-box..and were assembled by people who dont know what they are doing. I went to a lot of Big-box stores for knowledge, just to look at lots of different machines..but if I was going to buy a new one, I wouldnt buy one there.

IMO, if you are looking at new machines, skip right over the $599 level.
and if you do look at that level, take note of the engine!

Really, you need to start at the $800 to $1,000 "mid level" to get a quality machine.

And when it comes to engines on a new machine, with Tecumseh leaving the market,
that leaves only Briggs & Stratton and...China.

So look for a Briggs..

although..even Briggs is making some low-end engines in
China now! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/sad.gif although I dont think they are used on snowblowers..yet.
If you are reading this several years after 2008, the story could be very different.


So..where did all this knowledge leave me?
it made me start looking at used machines!

sure, it would be nice to pay $599 for a brand-new snowblower..but armed with all this new information, and knowing what a $599 new snowblower entails, I didnt want to pay that much
to get a low-quality, possibly trouble-prone machine..

(to be fair, many people have great success with these machines! im not sying they are ALL junk at that price level..im only saying the "odds of getting junk" are higher at that level!)

In theory, I could have bought a new $800 machine..and I almost did!
I was very close to buying a new 824 Ariens...I did a lot of research on it, and it looks like a great machine! but with tax, its almost $900..and I simply didnt want to pay that much!
even though I was confidant it would have been a quality machine.

The job market is very iffy, layoffs at my company have been rampant for 10 years now, and show no signs of stopping yet..my wife is still looking for a job..we need to buy a new car soon..etc etc..I just made the choice that I didnt want to spend that much for a new snowblower..its just a bit more than I was comfortable spending right now...I just cant justify
that kind of expense right now..

So I started looking on the local craigslist for used machines...lots of choices!
armed with all my new knowledge, I had a good idea of what to look for!
I looked at a few older used $400 - $500 Ariens and Toro's, but they seemed a bit "not worth it" based on the condition..of course it didnt help that I was looking during snow season!
they are probably a lot cheaper in April!
But January is when they are for sale..
and January is when I need one..so thats that.

At first I ignored all those little 1960's and 1970's Ariens machines that kept popping up on craigslist, quite a few of them! I probably saw 4 or 5 for sale over a span of a few weeks, just in my immediate local area... surely I wouldnt want a machine that old..when it comes to snowblowers, "newer is better" right?

one would think...

but..hmmm..I already discovered there are a lot of new but not necessarily better machines on the market right now..so maybe I should look into these old 1970's machines? see what they are about.. Google brought up some interesting reading! Check out some things I found:

A fully restored 1971!


And this guy installed a brand-new Briggs & Stratton engine on his 1970 Sno-thro:

Sounds like the engine swap is fairly straight forward..
and there is lots more out on the internet..

after reading these things about the old 1960's and 1970's Ariens, they began to grow on me!
I tried to resist.."I should really get a newer machine" I kept thinking..

but the more I thought about it..the more these old machines made more sense!

1. Money is tight right now..Ideally I dont want to spend more than $400 right now.
(and even if money wasnt tight..I probably wouldnt ever want to spend $1,000 on a snowblower! I would rather keep shoveling until im too old to shovel!)

2. Everyone says these old machines are built like the proverbial tank!

3. Even if the old Tecumseh engine dies, I can install a brand new briggs engine for another $300, and end up with a $600 machine (~250 for the thrower, plus $300 for the new engine)
that would probably be FAR more reliable and well-built than any brand-new $600 machine
on the market today.

4. They are just really cool!
I'm about 1970 vintage myself, (1969 to be exact) so I feel
an odd kinship with these old machines! they are the same age as me.

5. They are basic, (I can probably do a lot of simple work/repairs myself)
rugged, well-built, 100% American-made quality.

The guy with the restored 1971 (youtube link above) says his Dad bought it brand-new
in 1971 for $371..doing a conversion, $371 in 1971 dollars equals about $1,500 dollars today!
these were NOT cheap machines in their day!
They were quality, expensive machines! marketed and sold to affluent suburbanites..

Check out the cool vintage advertising, from an Ariens owners manual:

Dig those hip late-60's suburbanites and their yard machines!

I love the names!
Rocket VI and Jet tillers! (its the space-age!)
The Manorway tractor, the Emperor mower..very cool!

(whole manual is here: [url]http://apache.ariens.com/manuals/TIP-69.pdf )[/url]

Even though they may have been expensive in late 60's - early 70's dollars..today they are very reasonable! I have seen many operational machines listed for sale between $100 and $300, depending on condition, and non-running but fixable machines can be had from between zero to $50. many people have rescued them from the side of the road, after being put out with the trash, perhaps with only minor problems.

They appear to be common as dirt..a lot of them out there! I saw about 5 for sale just in two weeks of looking around my immediate area..so they arent exactly collectors items..but thats good that there are a lot of them! because its means parts should be readily available for a long time to come, and many new parts are still available directly from Ariens!

But this leads me to my only reservation..my only area of doubt..
the one drawback I can see..the mere fact that these things are so old..
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