Not everyone is blessed to have a backup snowblower. Besides having to pay a few hundred smackers on top of whatever you paid for your everyday wintertime mainstay, you need room in your shed or garage to fit a second unit. You also need the justification: a few bad experiences that leave you no other choice.
I certainly had those—corroded shear pins (before I began keeping extras on hand), a snapped drive cable, and a broken pullcord—invariably after bad snowstorms. Electric start was already common in snowblowers 10 years ago, when I bought my two-stage, 24-inch Yard Machines unit, but the feature was not universal. So, when the pullcord wore out, I was out of business…at least for the duration of the snowstorm. Hello, shovel. Hello again, back trouble.
That’s how I ended up at Walmart, late last winter, to buy the one remaining single-stage snowblower in the store. Given the situation, I couldn’t exactly be choosy. Nevertheless, the 21-inch, single-stage Yard Machines 31A-2M1E752, $350, came through for me last week. I needed it after the auger housing of my two-stage Yard Machines 31A-62EE729 failed over an errant phone wire that snarled the auger, leaving the engine running fine so long as I didn’t try to clear any more snow.
The smaller Yard Machines performed as well as I’d expect from a single-stage snowblower. Granted, a two-stage model is beefier, clears much more snow per hour, and is easier to manage because of its transmission. Unless, of course, that transmission has become good only for taking the machine out of the shed to visit the snow. Repairs would have cost more than a new machine. We’ve since replaced that model with its modern-day counterpart, the 24-inch Craftsman 88173, a two-stage blower with a 208cc overhead-valve (OHV) engine and electric start.
With the backup snowblower, I needed to take it slower with deep or moist snow. If a single-stage takes in too much snow in one gulp, it gags—and stalls. This model was no different. And unless you reach over yourself to rotate the chute or angle its opening up or down, there’s no chute control. But in moderate snow no deeper than eight inches, the 21-inch 31A-2M1E752 performed like a champ. Like any single-stage snowblower, it cleans closer to the surface than the typical two-stager. And its 123cc, OHV engine should last for many years.
For regions like this, a short drive from New England’s southern environs, a single-stage model shouldn’t be your only snowblower. But as a stand-in to a more capable model, the Yard Machines 21-inch 31A-2M1E752 is well-qualified for the role.