Sunday, February 12, 2012

Blowing snow with my old Honda HS55 tracked snowblower

I wanted to post something to give my readers from areas that don't get any snow in the winter -- including, but not limited to the Philippines -- an idea of what it looks like here at our place in the northern part of the U.S. after we get some snow.  Also, I wanted to show one of the maintenance chores I have to do to clear the snow from our driveway and sidewalks at our house.  In the past, my wife and I relied on shoveling and on a very light-weight, underpowered snowblower, which is a machine that can quickly clear the snow from sidewalks.  However, a couple of years ago, we along with a major portion of the northern/northeastern U.S. got hit with a major storm that dumped 22 inches of snow in about a 24 hour period, followed by probably another 8 inches in increments over the next couple of days.  


We discovered the hard way that our little snowblower was completely incapable of handling that amount of snow.  I set out on a grueling clean-up job of 22-plus inches of snow on our entire driveway, which is long and steep, and my wife joined me shortly thereafter on this daunting task.  Although we're both quite able-bodied, even physically fit people can have a heart attack doing that kind of hard lifting in the cold temperatures, due to over-exertion of the cardio-pulmonary system along with sucking in cold air into the lungs.  Long story short:  we had really sore muscles for days after and were sweat-covered after shoveling that mass of snow by hand for nearly the whole day.  

I grew up in northern Ohio in the "Snow Belt" with lake effect snows coming in from Lake Erie, and I remember the huge yellow and white Bolens snow blower my Dad had when I was a kid, especially during the record-setting Blizzard of 1978/1979.  So after the hand-shoveling fiasco, I decided enough was enough, and I was going to get some appropriate horsepower: a 2-stage snowblower, which has an auger in the front that rakes in or "ingests" the snow and then throws it against a rotating impeller that blows the snow out of a cylindrical chute.  I didn't really feel like buying a new snow blower, as I felt that a used older model well-maintained would be of higher quality than the current offerings and would be much cheaper.  I searched the listings of used blowers on Craigslist, and long story short, I got really lucky to find a really nice quality older snow blower at a great price.

The snow blower I found is a Honda HS-55, and the two things I like the best about it are its raw snow blowing power and its use of tracks (like an army tank) rather than wheels, which work really well on my steep asphalt driveway, which can often get icy, slippery, and treacherous.  The tracks can easily handle my steep and slippery hill of a driveway, and I really enjoy using it... the tracks slow you down going down, and help to pull you upwards going up the hill.  I think it has really saved me from slipping and falling on the ice on several occasions. This snowblower is pretty old, from about 1987 or 1988, but all accounts I've read say that they are truly built to last with outstanding engine and component quality.  Parts are readily available for it too, and Honda keeps making and using the same or similar parts for its newer-generation tracked snowblowers.   The newer-generation Honda tracked snowblowers such as the Honda HS724TA, which is pretty much analogous to mine, also have great quality, but be prepared to shell out $2469 MSRP for a brand new one (I bought mine for about 1/6 that price). So, I've had it now for about 2 years, and I truly haven't regretted it.  It's been a  lot of fun to run it, and I really enjoy it... it's fun to see how far you can get it to blow the snow out of its chute.  

I've posted here some pictures my wife took of me running the snowblower a few weeks back (I actually just used it again today, and yesterday, on a lighter coat of snow). Also there are a couple of our daughter playing outside while I was snow-blowing.  Admittedly, the amount of snow we got in these pictures was not very much, probably only about 5 or 6 inches.  But still, it worked really well, and was a true pleasure to run.  My daughter also decided to come outside to play, but the day these pictures were taken was bitter cold, so I didn't let her stay out very long for fear that she might get frostbite of her fingers under her gloves.  For any fashionistas reading my blog, I bought a vintage N3-B U.S. Air Force-issue arctic parka from 1962 on Ebay, which has a real coyote fur collar (and some accompanying Air Force issue N4-B gauntlet gloves from the same era), and they keep me very warm.  They were designed to allow B-52 and B-47 bomber crews to survive if their bomber went down over the Arctic Circle in a place like Greenland, so I stay nice and toasty even in the most brutal winter weather.   Sometimes if the weather is a bit windy (like it was today) the  "blow-back" of snow from the chute onto my face makes it very uncomfortable, stinging the face... but if I zip up further like shown in the photos below, the coyote fur collar really protects my face, and the fur gets coated in snow rather than my skin.  So next time we get 22-plus inches of snow, I'll be ready. 





























14 comments:

  1. that's too damn cold there. We don't have snow which is very unusual here..stay warm.

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    1. Hello mhie,

      It was definitely a cold day that day (and check out the color of the sky!). All in all though, we've had a mild winter so far for 2011/2012. I like to try to make some fun out of winter... playing in the snow makes it much less depressing. Thanks for stopping by and stay warm too. You have a really nice blog!

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  2. snowwww!!! have you tried halo-halo?
    i still wonder if the snow is clean for an iced shaving dessert
    happy belated valentines day to you and your family
    especially to your cute little girl ^_^

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    Replies
    1. Hi Clai,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your nice comment! Yes, I sure have tried halo-halo, and it is a favorite of our whole family. I like it with all the beans and corn and nata de coco, and then a scoop of ube ice cream mixed in. I think that freshly fallen snow would be perfect and clean enough to make halo-halo, as long as it is far from the street and as long as you would use the top-most layer of snow (so that the ground and any animal poop underneath are not touching it). It's a good source of (almost) pure water, and when I was a kid playing outside in the winter, sometimes we would eat snow. Interestingly, where we live we often get days in the summer that are hotter than in the Philippines, and then we get some days in the winter where it gets cold and it snows. Happy belated Valentines day to you and your family too!

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  3. Wow you've got more snow than up here. That's one of my husband's ting in his wishlist, to get a snow blower hehehe.

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    1. Hi chubskulit,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yeah, we got about 6" twice now this winter. Not too bad really, I've only really had to use the snowblower I think 3 times so far this winter. I think your husband would really love having a snowblower, they are actually really fun to use and save a lot of back-breaking work. If he does decide to buy one, I would recommend that he checks out some used ones (maybe on Craigslist) in addition to looking at new ones in the store... much cheaper! Probably if you buy before or after winter you can find the best prices. Best regards!

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    2. Hi Buzz Lightyear!
      We are from a tropical country called Philippines and yes, we Filipinos want to experience snow or make snow man or engage in skiing and the like. But snow blowing is quite a hard work, thanks to your help mate Honda HS-55 for making it easier for you. ッ


      P.S. A big thanks for your awesome comment on our blog. (http://fashionmoto.blogspot.com/2011/10/1942-harley-davidson-wla-vroom-vroom.html )
      It's a great compliment that we'll treasure! ッ
      We have followed back and put your blog link on our blog roll.
      You may want to put ours as well on your blog list:

      Title - Fashion+Motorcycles
      URL - http://fashionmoto.blogspot.com


      Thank you so much. Keep coming back! 乂⍲‿⍲乂

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    3. Hi Wrey and Robby!

      I love the Philippines, and similar to you wishing to experience snow, when we come to the Philippines we love to get out and enjoy the experiences that I cannot commonly find back home in the U.S., especially outdoors. I think you would love snow; it is really fun to play in the snow and there are lots of good winter sports and fun activities (and if it arrives at Christmas it is really beautiful). Snow blowing can be hard work, but like you mentioned, the snowblower makes it easier and actually a fun and enjoyable job.

      You're very welcome for the comment on your blog (you may have noticed the Versatile Blogger award I sent your way). I put you on my blog list as well, thanks so much for following me and linking to me on your blog roll. I will keep coming back! Take care!

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  4. Great deal on the Honda snowblower! Honda is great!

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  5. Hi Buzz Lightyear!! I am considering buying a more powerful snowblower for my husband, and after last winter/early spring, and the almost 4' of snow in a week, I'm sure we really need something bigger than the one we have. It's great for 4-6", but WAY too small for what we dealt with earlier this year. A friend of mine has a Honda HS55, that has not been used in a very long time, was drained of all fluids prior to storage, and has been outside, but carefully covered for a couple of years. She only wants $400.00 for it, and when we uncovered it, it looked like new!! I believe the blower was a bit much for both her and her hubby, as they are both in their 80s, and shouldn't be taxing themselves with a big snow removal job, regardless of the equipment at hand!! Luckily, they have spectacular neighbors who are generous enough to take care of the snow for them!! Do you think this would be a wise purchase?? Everything I've seen about it tells me it's a powerhouse, and I'm sure my hubby would be happy to have it! We also have a big slope for a driveway, and my hubby also likes to take care of some of our neighbor's driveways and walks when there has been a big snowfall. Any tips, concerns, or advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

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    1. Hi Victoria! Thanks for stopping by. My immediate gut reaction is that $400 is a very good price for such an awesome, quality-built, dependable snow blower, even if it takes a little bit of work to keep it going. So if I were in your shoes and the market for one, I think you couldn't go wrong with the HS55. That being said, I think it would be worthwhile for you ask your neighbors "do you mind if I start it up and give it a try?", then buy some 5W30 oil, a gallon of gas, and fill up the oil properly as well as the gas tank, and give it a try before you purchase it (at least start it up and drive it around a bit without engaging the auger). You can find the owner's manual on line quite easily if you Google it, which will show you how to fill up the oil. It would also be worth the very modest investment ($2.50 at Autozone etc.) to buy the same sparkplug as what is already in the blower; if you don't need it now, you will have a spare. Look inside the gas tank to see that it is not too corroded (a little bit of rust won't hurt). See how it runs and get a feel for how to start it up and work the choke/throttle etc (the instructions are nicely printed on the plate between the handlebars). Note that there is a "foot pedal" to raise the auger up several inches off the ground or go close to the ground for close scraping of snow on asphalt or concrete surfaces -- if you raise it up, you can probably safely test the auger even if there's not snow on the ground. Finally, if everything is a "go" and you do decide to buy the blower (yes, I do think it would be a wise purchase and I do recommend it at that price, as long as it is in good working condition or with minimal repairs needed), you will want to have a spare belt which drives the auger from the engine. Just follow all of the safety advice regarding keeping your limbs etc. away from the auger at all times, and if ever your hubby works on it, always disconnect the spark plug for safety.

      I'd say that if you could put $0 to less than $150 in any parts or repairs for now, then you will have a much higher quality blower than most on the market today. The new Honda tracked snowblowers easily retail for about $2500 now.

      All the best of luck with this; keep me posted!

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    2. PS If indeed it does work, then proceed to get WD40 or an old-fashioned style oil can with machinery oil, and lubricate everything you can get to. Can even access some YouTube videos to see what points should be oiled "under the hood" (can take off a few screws and bolts to take off panels & housing to access places if necessary). Lots of videos on YouTube about how to change belts etc. on Honda HS55 and other relatively minor maintenance.

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    3. Thanks for your quick reply!! My husband will most certainly want to start her up, and see how she runs before buying her, as he is in the auto industry, and NEVER buys ANYTHING without looking under the hood, and taking it out for a test drive!! He is also very mechanically inclined, so has always serviced and repaired all of our vehicles, snowblower, lawnmower, and other miscellaneous mechanical tools! We will be visiting the snowblower this coming weekend, and if she is cooperative, we'll be bringing her home!! Thanks so much for your advice, and I'm so glad you concur that it could be a very worthwhile purchase!!! I'll keep you posted!!!

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    4. Sounds like you are good to go then, Victoria, as long as it looks good and performs well or requires minimal repair. You're lucky that your husband is mechanically inclined - that is a bit of a learning curve for me. I got mine in I think 2010, and it was already about 22 or 23 years old at that point. 5 years later it is still going strong (knock on wood), and I have done nothing to it other than change the oil, change a belt, drain the fuel at end of season, and clean and lubricate parts. Probably could use a good carburetor cleaning but I haven't had the need to bother with that yet, and I will probably also replace the spark plug. I keep mine in an attached garage, which doesn't get below about 50 degrees F, though. Keep me posted, and I hope it is in good working condition!

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