We’ve had a wee bit of snow in the last 24 hours that has provided all of us in West Parry Sound with the opportunity to get a bit of exercise and play with our snow toys, ranging from front end plows, to tractors with blowers, to hand operated snow blowers, to scoops and shovels. It also reminded me that I needed to provide my thoughts on a snow blower, the Cub Cadet 3x 26”, I purchased February 2015. (Note: I had 2016 in the original post.)

For those of you who don’t want to read much more here are my grades:

Cub Cadet 3X 26” for a flat driveway – B
Cub Cadet 3X 26” for anything else – D
Home Depot Parry Sound – D

Okay time for some background and then the reason for the grades.

The Cub Cadet was purchased last year after our trusty old Sears Craftsman 30” snow blower, purchased in 1999 started to drip a black substance. I was concerned that there was a serious leak and that running it further would ruin the machine. Despite having a fair bit of rust, mostly from moving salty road snow plowed up on our driveway, it ran nicely and started easily (electric starter). This machine also did everything around the house, the driveway, the paths from the front to the back and the patio in the back of the house. Admittedly, it really didn’t throw snow all that far. The second stage probably needs a tune up, but it was still more than good enough.

So it was time to look for a new snow blower. I started with Consumer Reports. They had a number of recommended machines, and the Cub Cadet was well rated. The other recommended machines weren’t available in the area (Parry Sound, Huntsville, Bracebridge). I called the local Cub Cadet dealers to ask about getting a machine but they were sold out. This was late February and we had a fair bit of snow last year, so it wasn’t surprising that none of these top rated models were available. It was a surprise then when I went to the Parry Sound Home Depot and found they had a Cub Cadet on the floor. I purchased it and took it home. It was a couple of weeks before we had a enough snow to try it out.

The results were disappointing. The blower worked great on our driveway. It picked up snow and threw it a long distance. The problem arose when blowing snow on paths from the front to the back of the property. We live on a sloped property as do most people in Parry Sound. While the Cub Cadet was okay going down slopes, it really wouldn’t go back up. I had to pull and tug to get it back up to the garage. Some of you may be asking why would I expect a snow blower to blow snow going up a slope, or to be able to just move up slopes. Well, because the Craftsman unit did it without any problem for the past decade. It was something I had come to assume that any new snow blower, much less a top unit more than a decade later, would not just be as good, but would be even better than the Craftsman.

The reason for the difference in performance I discovered had to do with ground clearance. While the Craftsman had a ground clearance of about 2-3” the Cub Cadet rides much lower, with perhaps 1” of clearance. So, like with any 4-wheel drive vehicle, it doesn’t help to have more traction if you are dragging on the ground or, in the case of a snow blower, the snow. And tilting the unit up to clear an obstruction actually lowers the effective clearance and makes things worse.

That leads me to give the cub Cadet a rating of D for any use beyond flat suburban driveways. A few other issues arose with Cub Cadet even for flat areas. The reverse on the unit is too slow. I typically will pull it back 20 feet rather than wait for it to slowly drive itself backwards. In contrast the forward gears are quite fast, but with 6 forward gears that’s not a problem. The unit also has the ability to pivot quickly by squeezing small levers on the drive and auger handles. I find these to be pretty useless because they are not easy to reach. I have medium sized, rather than large, hands and getting my hand around these levers while wearing mitts and holding down the drive and auger levers is not easy. I suspect it might be useful for someone with large hands, but the not the average Joe.

So why didn’t I just return the unit? Well I tried and that leads to the rating for the Parry Sound Home Depot, another D. They certainly don’t deliver ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. Within a month and a couple of opportunities to use the Cub Cadet I headed back to Home Depot to see if I could return it. This wasn’t in June when the snow season was over and it might be assumed that I was trying to scam them, winter was still with us. The response of the floor staff was positive. I explained the problem and the issue of the low ground clearance, and they said they hadn’t thought about it. They called the store manager who didn’t show up, but just declared that they wouldn’t accept a return unless the unit was defective. I guess I could have stretched the truth and said it was defective in one manner or another, but I didn’t. I just came to realize that Home Depot was not an organization I should do business with in the future if I wanted dealer support. They failed miserably. I would have preferred to purchase the snow blower from a dealer, but wasn’t possible because they didn’t have units in stock and wouldn’t offer to get one in.

So what’s my current situation? Well the Sear Craftsman unit has been repaired. The situation wasn’t too serious, we had it fixed by the people at TJ Hydraulics in Parry Sound, and are able to use it to clear snow from all of those ‘hard to reach’ places. The Cub Cadet is strictly used for clearing the driveway. It does this limited job nicely, but I can in no way recommend this unit for anything other than the flattest of properties. I suspect it might be possible to improve the performance of the Cub Cadet by putting on larger wheels, or perhaps even chains, that will increase the ground clearance.

Lesson learned. Buy equipment from a professional organization that understands your needs, the limitations of their equipment, and will stand behind their products. It may cost a bit more, but you are much more likely to end up ‘satisfied’.

Preparing to Blow Lines of Snow in Parry Sound ;-)