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Why lawn tractors don’t cut it for snow removal

Consumer Reports News: February 07, 2011 12:29 PM

With snow blower shortages being reported from Missouri to New Jersey, some homeowners may be tempted to ride out the rest of the winter by adding a plow or snow blower attachment to their trusty lawn tractor. That's not a good idea—outfitting a riding mower with snow removal equipment can be an expensive proposition and possibly damage the mower as well.

With add-on snow blades costing just over $300, it’s no wonder that some homeowners may be tempted. But when you factor in the cost of wheel weights and chains the cost doubles, putting it in the range of a capable two-stage snow blower. Front-mounted snow blower attachments start at $1,200, plus $400 for a subframe and hitch, as well as the cost of chains and weights. Finally, removing the tractor’s deck and attaching the blower unit each fall and reversing the process in the spring can cost a few hundred dollars more.

Spending all that green doesn’t guarantee much help against the white stuff. Sears notes that one of its plow attachments for Craftsman tractors works best when there’s under eight inches of snow. Peter Sawchuk, who tests both mowers and blowers for Consumer Reports, says that this winter’s record snowfalls means that many plow users have no space to push new snow. “Wet snow is also more common in late winter, and a conventional lawn tractor isn't really built to move those kind of loads on a consistent basis," adds Sawchuk. "You’ll probably end up shortening the transmission’s life."

That’s exactly what happened to one reader. “Traction was a constant problem and with heavy snow I ended up burning out the transmission,” he wrote on our lawn mower and tractor forum. Other readers detailed how lack of traction and high service costs led them to trade in their snow blower attachments and return to dedicated snow blowers.
“I am not a fan of a plow on a lawn tractor,” says Mark Guss, the proprietor of Bethel Power Equipment in Bethel, CT. “In a very light, fluffy snow the two attachments are equal, but a snow thrower attachment can discharge wetter snow a longer distance and not get bogged down as often as the plow would. But I do believe you get a cleaner driveway and better experience with a two-stage snow blower."
Sawchuk says that a two-stage snow blower that’s properly handled to maximize its effectiveness will outperform the attachments in heavier snow and against plow piles. So even with snow blowers in short supply, this is one removal remedy you may want to forgo.

—Reporting by Gian Trotta

From the labs: Snow blower Buying Guide, Ratings, Recommendations.

Image: morebyless

Aaron Bailey

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