Ariens Compact 26 LE Snowblower Review
With a triple-width driveway and sidewalk on three sides of my home I need a reliable snowblower. My last snowblower was still running strong, but at 10 years old I decided that it was a good time to upgrade to a new one.
After a week of researching various snowblower brands and models I chose the Ariens 26" LE Model 920015. While not the lowest priced 26" snowblower available, the comments for this model and other Ariens models were all positive.
I ordered the snowblower online. It arrived in a large box on a pallet. The delivery service took it off their truck and brought it into my garage - very quick and easy.
The Ariens comes mostly assembled in the box. You will have to attach the handle, a few linkages/cables and the discharge chute. The owners manual does a good job describing how these parts go together and it should only take 15 to 20 minutes using basic hand tools (like a wrench set) to complete assembly.
- 2 Stage, 26" Clearing Width
- 249cc Briggs & Stratton Polar Force Engine
- Gross Torque - 11.5 ft-lbs
- 6 Forward Speeds, 2 Reverse
- 205 Degree Chute Rotation w/Remote Deflector Control
- Electric or Pull Start
- Lock/Unlock Axle
- 11" Auger, 12" Impeller
- Weight - 181 lbs
Prior to starting I checked all the nuts and bolts for tightness and found a few that were a little loose. From past experience I've learned that engine vibration can spin-out a loose bolt in one snowblowing session and then it's gone forever.
My engine came with oil installed. This was stated in the owners manual. I would double and triple check to make sure your engine has oil before starting. If you have any doubt drain whatever is in the engine and replace with new oil.
The Ariens Compact 26 LE comes with electric start but I imagine most won't use it because it's not hard to pull start this engine. However, for people with arthritis or the elderly electric start is an essential feature.
Prior to start you have to turn on the key, the gas and the choke. Instead of the words "On" and "Off", symbols are used. After using it several times I'm still not sure which position is on and which is off until I study it for a minute or two.
The first time I started it I turned the gas on, choke on full, gave three pumps of the primer bulb, two pulls, two more pumps on the primer bulb, two more pulls and it started.
The Briggs and Stratton Polar Force engine ran smooth and was reasonbly quiet (compared to other snowblowers I've used). I'm sorry to say that snowfall this year has been light so I don't know yet how well this engine will handle deep wet snow. I will update this review as soon as that happens.
UPDATE 2/2/2011 - A February blizzard here in the Midwest finally gave me the snow conditions I was waiting for to really test the Ariens Compact 26 LE. We had a little of everything - deep powder, denser 2 to 3 foot drifts (in the city), and some heavier, wetter snow sprayed on the sidewalk from the snowplow.
The Ariens handled the powder with ease, but that's not much of a challenge. Most of the drifts were much higher than the auger housing, but not higher than the top of the discharge chute. The auger housing would undercut the drift and the discharge chute would knock the remaining upper section of the drift down. It took multiple passes to completely remove the drift but that would be the case with most snowblowers.
The heavier, wetter snow was for the most part at or slightly above the top of the auger housing. Although the engine was working hard, it never stumbled or quit. There were a couple of times I stopped forward progress and let it catch-up, but that was infrequent.
The snowplow left a 4 - 5 foot pile of snow at the end of the driveway. Normally I do this by hand because the ice chunks from the road have a tendency to break shear pins (bolts), but in this case the snow left by the plow was reasonably soft so I used the Ariens. It was too tall for the snowblower so I used a shovel to knock it down a little and to chop-up the bigger chunks. The Ariens was then able to handle it with ease.
Also, I was impressed with the fuel economy of the Ariens Compact 26 LE compared to my old snowblower. With the high cost of gas, I see that as a definite bonus.
My snowblower came with the scraper blade set at the correct height for a gravel driveway but not concrete. However, adjusting the height of the scraper blade is an easy 5 minute job. Now that I have it adjusted correctly it does a good job of cleaning right down to the concrete without dragging on it.
I wasn't sure I was going to like the remote deflector control but I do. With my old snowblower I could set the deflector at any postion I wanted, but I had to stop and walk around to the discharge chute each time I wanted to change the position of the deflector. With the remote deflector control I can change deflector position without stopping, but I only have 5 positions to choose from. As it turns out this is not a problem as I've found that those 5 deflector positions allow me to place the snow right where I want it.
In comparison to my old 26" snowblower, the Ariens Compact 26 LE does seem quite a bit smaller. The most obvious difference are the smaller tires and the smaller auger housing in front.
The auger housing on my old snowblower was 26" wide, 22" high (from the scraper blade to the inside portion of the upper lip), and 13" deep at it's widest point. In comparison the Ariens is 26" wide, 20 1/4" high, and 11 1/2" deep. In my area we seldom see snowfalls that exceed 20 inches and in the city the snow doesn't drift, therefore the height of the auger housing shouldn't be a big issue for me. I'm not as sure if the depth of the auger housing will make a difference or not.
I don't question my choice to spend more for an Ariens. I'm not as sure that I made the right choice going with the 26" model instead of the 28" model that was only $100 more. See choosing the right snowblower.
Before you use the new snowblower for the first time, I recommend that prior to use you give the snowblower a good coat of wax, use protectant such as ArmorAll on the plastic parts, and pack some grease around the skids and scraper blade to prevent road salt water from seeping in behind them. I also like to put a film of grease on bolts and other metal parts that I know are prone to rusting.
The Ariens Compact 26 LE is smaller than I expected, but not necessarily in a bad way. I'm impressed with how smooth the engine runs and with the quality construction of the snowblower. I will have to use it more before I really get to know this machine, but so far so good.
I've had good experiences ordering power equipment online. However, I do recommend that you vist a local store and view a variety of snowblower models and sizes up close even if you plan to eventually order online.
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