Snowblower Repair

Well, since I’m back, let’s start with some stuff what needed doing.

Last year, around March I think, one of the steering cables on my snowblower broke. I disconnected it from the handle, zip-tied it into place, and attached a pair of vise-grips to the cable, like such:

This allowed me to pull on the pliers any time I needed to turn left, and since the snow removal season was nearly over, I ended up leaving it that way “temporarily”. I also diligently purchased a replacement cable as well as some other maintenance parts needed for the machine which keeps our driveway clear of snow and, more importantly, keeps the sidewalks clear for our neighbors to walk by and music students to safely get to and from their lessons.

“I will fix this! I will fix it when the weather is nicer.”

A surprise: I didn’t!

Thankfully the winter here has been pretty mild so far, and the time or two that I did use the snowblower I was able to get by with “yank the pliers” steering (at least when turning left, turning right still functioned as normal).

Before we proceed, perhaps a better description would be in order. My snowblower is a Troy Bilt StormTracker 2690 XP, a formidable two-stage snowblower clearing a 26” path and propelled by freakin’ tank treads. The thing is ridiculous and I love it. It’s exactly the sort of machine I would not have purchased from Lowe’s, its natural source, due to its exorbitant price. When I found it on Craigslist lightly used from the original owner for 1/3 the original sum, though… count me in. The thing has rubber tracks about 5” wide running probably 24” long at the bottom, and this large contact patch gives the thing lots of traction for propulsion and hill-climbing (not that I have many hills but if it looks cool, who cares? see also: price). What the large contact patch doesn’t do, however, is make manual steering easy. As such, each handle grip has a small trigger underneath, allowing the operator to stop the track from moving on the respective side. With the opposite side still driving, the machine will turn toward the stopped side. It’s neat.

Anyway, on Sunday I finally got around to fixing the thang ding.

The first task was to remove the track from the affected side to ease access to the area where the control cable enters its housing:

After this I needed to remove the housing behind it to access the end of the cable that needed to be replaced:

This part was quite interesting regarding the function of the steering mechanism. I had always assumed that squeezing the trigger simply disengaged the tread’s drive wheel from the drive axle, somewhat like a clutch on a stick-shift car. Once I saw the inside, though, it became clear that the situation was more complicated. Ordinarily the pictured spring would keep the pawl engaged with the large gear (above), preventing rotation. When you squeeze the steering trigger, the cable retracts the pawl and allows the large gear to rotate freely. I am still unsure as to how this disengages propulsion on the track as I didn’t dig deeper than necessary for this task. MYSTERY!

No matter the mechanical machinations of the mysterious mover of snow, I got the replacement cable installed and hooked to the steering trigger:

And I secured the cable along the handle with some snazzy red zip ties to match the color scheme (style is important y’all). Also I don’t have any black zip ties right now.

Getting the tread reinstalled was fairly finicky and required at least three arms; thankfully Caitlin was willing to assist with this and then I was able to get everything buttoned back up. Not literally. There are no buttons. I used nuts. Not the food kind, the hardware kind. You goof.

I also took the opportunity to replace the aforementioned maintenance items; in this case it was a scraper bar at the bottom and the slide shoes that flank the front of the mover of flakes.

P.S. I don’t usually name my things but this machine is named snowmuncher. See also:

Yes, that new scraper plate is red whereas the old one was gray/black. The snazziness is getting out of hand.

This concludes our adventures.

If you felt this post was too wordy, I assent to your assessment. Even so, thanks for being here.