Pros: Powerful, effectively removes snow
Cons: Price, features
Have you purchased a John Deere L100 Series tractor? Or, are you considering one to purchase? One question to ask yourself, what do you want to do with your tractor?
I have had plenty of time now to discuss the use of the snow blower attachment on my tractor. I have an L120 Series John Deere tractor. (You can read my review by clicking on my name to view more details on this product or here: http://www.epinions.com/content_123369197188 ) I have had it for a little over three years and things seem to be going ok with it. I purchased the snow blower attachment for about $1200, around the same time I purchased the tractor. The snow blower purchase also included two additional options, which I highly recommend. The two additional options are the weights and chains. The weights are easily mounted on a bracket on the rear of the tractor. The chains are for the rear tires. The total cost for the attachment with the options ran about $1500.
When I first visited the John Deere dealer, they asked me what I wanted to do with the tractor. Not only did I want to cut my lawn with it, but I also wanted to have the ability to plow snow. There is another attachment that JD has which is actually a blade, but isnt very good with high/heavy amounts of snow with this particular series tractor. I dont believe John Deere sells this series tractor anymore, but do know they sell the snow blower attachment, the same one as I will discuss today to you.
I think the cost of the snow blower attachment is reasonable. I used to own a Toro snow blower, one which I would have to walk behind to blow the snow. That snow blower wasnt powerful enough for me to clear my driveway. This attachment is my lazy person attachment, where the tractor does most of the work. Though, there some human interaction needed.
You really do need to purchase the optional items to plow the snow. Those optional items I described above are the chains and weights. There are two heavy weights, which are probably around 10 pounds each, maybe more. But, they are mounted on a bracket that is attached to the back of the tractor by two lugs. Its a simple installation that you can do yourself. The chains, on the other hand, will need a little skill to install, especially if you dont do it often. Without these two options, plan on your tractor sliding all over the place. Youll have no traction, no matter how good the tread is on your tires. The chains help to grip the surface you are on, and the weights simple add extra weight to the tractor.
Depending on technically inclined you are will depend on whether you can install the attachment yourself or have a John Deere Tech install it for you. I also recommend that you inspect each item you will be installing before its done to ensure for your safety and the item will run well. Inspect the drive belts, spindles, and any other drive mechanisms. When you remove the mower deck, be sure to inspect the main drive belt, which will be the last installed belt on your tractor before adding anything additional. John Deere claims that the drive belt should last about 100 hours. Mine has had over 130 hours and appears to be fine. Youll want to look for any cuts in the belt or any unusual wear on it. Compare the belt to a good belt to see what to look for. You should also look for any frays in the belt, those that can cause the belt to break during use. You especially should inspect this belt before adding any attachment to the tractor, because once installed, itll be a pain to remove if the main drive belt breaks on you. Unless you have the capabilities to do so, it is best to have the dealer replace the main drive belt. Also, depending on how many miles you have and/or how new the tractor is, will also depend on whether it is covered under warranty or now.
For the past three seasons, Ive had the techie from JD install the attachment for me. I am very technical and capable, however, by the time the winter season rolls around, I tend to forget how they installed it the season before. Its a very simple install too, so if you have a video camera, get it on tape when they install it. Youll save about $90 or so, depending on the labor charge from the JD dealer. The installation includes the tire chains, the weights in the back, the actual snow blower attachment, the clutch idler assembly, and the main drive belt for the attachment. I was shown by the tech this season how to do the install. He did it in about 15 minutes, which put me to shame.
Installation of the snow blower attachment onto an L120-series automatic PTO tractor is as follows (per manual and per my suggestions). Note: my detailed install below comes from both the manual and my suggestions. Also, this installation is for my L120-series that has automatic PTO. There are two different installations, one which also includes installing onto a tractor that has manual PTO. I have the lazy-person tractor with automatic PTO.
1. Before attaching snow blower, remove mower deck from machine. You may also want to disconnect the battery to avoid the machine accidentally starting up.
2. Next, the manual says to add the weights to the weight bracket, but my recommendation is to add them last. You will want to have the ability to move the tractor around when you install the main body attachment to the tractor. Adding more weight and constraints before may cause some problems. It also suggests installing the tire chains. Again, I suggest installing both of these options last.
However, if you follow the manual, JD says to install the two 19 kg (42 lb.) rear suitcase weights onto the weight bracket. These weights are required for stability. Then, install the rear chains. These tire chains are recommended for traction. Depending on your tire size will depend on the proper size for tire chains.
3. Attach Clutch Idler Assembly to Tractor. This assembly has spindles on it which are used to guide the drive belt from the assembly to the tractor itself. This bracket is separate from the main body of the blower attachment, but is included in the main purchase of the blower, unlike the chains and weights, which are additional purchases. The clutch idler assembly is installed directly under the tractor, around the area where the mower deck would have been installed. This installation should be fairly easy; however, I'll discuss where you can run into problems. The photos in the manual dont do a very good job in showing where the locking pins are supposed to be installed. It also doesnt show very good photos on where to slide the rear slots onto. You will be sliding the rear slots of the clutch idler assembly onto the tractor rockshaft which is inside the tractor frame. You'll use four locking pins to lock the assembly onto the tractor frame. The locking pins are what create a problem during installation. One locking pin will install on the outside of both sides and the other on the inside of both sides of the assembly. It is best to refer to the manual for this installation because it can get very confusing to explain. Installing the locking pins on the inside of the assembly takes plenty of patience and coordination because of the space you have to work in. Remember to attach the clutch cable spring to the idler bracket using a washer and spring locking pin. Again, the manual will show which spring to lock into place. There are two on the assembly bracket. The front of the clutch idler assembly locks into the frame when assembled properly. I had a very difficult time installing the locking pins on the inside. The JD tech said those can be difficult to install too.
4. Next, install the Upper v-belt. This is easy enough to install. I'll install this as I am installing the assembly though. The upper v-belt is installed around the pulley and tensioner on the assembly itself. If you've left the assembly alone with the v-belt already attached, there is no need to do this again. What you will need to do is route the upper v-belt through the belt guides and around the tractor pulley. The tractor pulley is what the mower deck connects to when attached.
5. Mount the snowblower to the machine. My recommendation is to get a warm body, a volunteer, or at least another person to assist in installing this. It takes some coordination to install the snowblower to the machine, and maybe a little muscle. You could also use blocks to aid in the installation (the book recommends this). You'll also unlock the parking brake and move the transmission into neutral. Then the tractor and snowblower should be closely aligned, otherwise, the snowblower frame can bind between the mounting brackets and muffler shield causing nasty problems. This reason is also why I recommend installing the weights and chains last. You want to have easy mobility with the tractor when installing the snowblower to the frame.
6. Once you've gone through the process of installing the snowblower (the manual explains it more in detail), you'll install the lower v-belt onto the snowblower and attach the second pull chain with spring locking pin. There is a proper way of routing this belt onto the snowblower, so follow along with your manual. Installing this belt may seem a little confusing at first because the manual doesn't really explain or show how it should look when installed. The photos in the manual aren't very good, which is a flaw on this product.
When you are completed with installing the snowblower to the tractor, go ahead and install the tire chains and weights if you haven't already done so. Remember to reinstall your battery cables if you disconnected and do a test run.
You should also lubricate the idler, snow blower assembly, auger, and discharge chute as described in the service section of the manual before use. You will find, after using the snow blower often, that the cable to adjust the chute tightens. What happens is that the chute won't rotate smoothly. If you spray lubricating oil (like WD-40) down the cable, it'll loosen any debris that may get caught in the cable line and free the operation of the chute. I do this every year, whether the tech does it during installation or not. Anytime the chute starts to get tight, lubricating oil goes down the cable.
The JD technician gave me a nice hint on how he installs the chains on the tires. He used a car jack to jack up the rear of the tractor, which raised the tires up off the floor. Then, in a matter of a few minutes, the chains were on the tires. I had tried installing the chains with the tires on the ground, but now realized that was a dumb way of doing it and will use his method from now on. The clutch idler assembly must be installed before the snow blower; otherwise, you wont be able to run the snow blower.
When you purchase the blower attachment, be sure to get the installation guide. My purchase did not come with it, but the dealer gave me a complimentary copy, thanks. It should have come with the tractor attachment though. The installation guide will provide step-by-step procedures of how to install and remove the snow blower.
Ok, now onto my opinion about the snow blower.
1. The throwing distance of the snow blower is very good. It throws snow about 30 to 45 feet out, depending on the weight of the snow and how you direct the chute. I was really impressed at the distance the snow was thrown.
2. The chute control rod and snow deflector control handle are both located on the left side of the assembly. I don't like the position of either because you have to reach for each to use. The cable that runs from both often tightens the use of the chute, so lubricating the cable often is necessary. John Deere could certainly improve these two features by changing the location or with a new design. Plus, having to lubricate the cable often can be a bit of a hassle, but worth doing if you use the snow blower often. Lubricating the cable can also help to slow down any rust that may occur inside the sleeve of the cable, which will save in the long run for having to replace the cable, which I'm sure will be expensive.
3. The chute itself works satisfactorily. When turning the chute, using the control rod, you will be able to turn the chute 180-degrees, depending on which direction you send the snow off. However, I have found that one side of the chute doesn't quite give me 180-degrees rotation, but in fact, less. What I mean is that when you turn the chute to either the right or the left, you should have equal ratio to send the snow off to space. If I turn the chute to the right, the chute doesnt turn all the way to the right. To explain this differently, if you are sitting on the tractor and change the position of the chute to the right, you'll find that the chute will throw the snow behind you if turned all the way to the right. Now, if you turn the chute to the left, the chute will not allow for the snow to be thrown behind you as far back as the right side will. It's either one side or the other that I favor to use more, depending on which will work best in the conditions. Also, snow fills up often in the chute. The chute is made of plastic material at the upper end, so you would expect some clogging. It doesn't clog all that often, more so with heavy and wet snow. Otherwise, the power of the snow blower is strong enough to blow out the snow from the chute, which is why I gave it a satisfactory rating. Hopefully this paragraph makes some sense to you. It is hard to explain exactly how the chute turns, especially if you don't know how a chute works.
If you look at an ordinary snow blower, the attachment controls are on display and easy for you to reach. Not on this snowblower. You have to reach for either option, which is a bit of a pain if you have a lot of snow to move and have a lot of turns.
The snowblower lift handle is located on the right side of the snow blower attachment. Again, you have to reach for this to use it. You'll need to use this often to raise and lower the snowblower. It can get heavy, especially with heavy snow. So, you may find that after using this often during your use, your right arm will hurt later; expect some discomfort later. This lift handle is used not only to raise or lower the snow blower, but also handy when parking the tractor. You can have easy access to the blades and front of the attachment. Using the lift handle also provides the ease of being able to raise and lower the blades when moving high levels of snow. I have used my snow blower in heights over 2-feet. This tractor and snow blower is very capable of handling heights. The tractor will only move snow as high as the lift handle will go. Remember that you'll have to adjust the height of the snowblower manually; this can cause problems in a few short minutes with pain down your arm with having to raise and lower the handle manually.
The main body of the snow blower also has shoes on it. Those shoes wear easily and are located each on left and ride side of the front of the attachment. I have had to replace the shoes every year. That cost for the pair is about $25.00. That can get expensive if it is done every year. The JD tech showed me that the shoes can be turned in the opposite direction and installed on the opposite side to get more use out of them. (I wished I had known that two years ago.)
The maintenance on the blower is minimal. When you get ready to use it for the first time, remember to lubricate all moving parts with a lubricant that won't let things stick to it. I also use Spam or a cooking spray on my snow blower. It was a hint from one of my relatives who has passed onto the next world. Seriously though, if you spray cooking spray or spam on the chute and blades, it'll help to prevent snow from sticking. However, it may not last long during the use of the snow removal; it's certainly worth a try.
If you have a tractor that has enough horsepower to move snow (the dealer will suggest which one will do the minimum for horsepower), then this is definitely a purchase worth getting. The cost of the snow blower is still somewhat comparable to other products in its class, but still expensive. If you do decide to purchase this product, be sure you will get the use out of it. You should decide whether it is cheaper to hire someone to plow you out (at their convenience), or if you prefer to strain yourself shoveling snow. I recommend this product to anyone who has the JD tractor, but as I've said earlier, some of the features can take a bit of getting used to. I hope I have explained everything well enough for you to make a decision. If not, please let me know how I can improve this message in the comments section.
Final opinion on the snow blower...
The snow blower controls could be designed better. They are a bit awkward where they are positioned and can get in the way when getting on and off the tractor. The snow blower attachment is bulky too and awkward to store because of the handles. John Deere did not do a very good job with its design on this item. It is not compact and certainly not capable of easy storage. But certainly worth the purchase if you have a tractor that has the horsepower to move snow.