Pros: John Deere implies high quality, as earned in most products. Not this one.
Cons: John Deere does not really engineer this product line for consumers.
John Deere in general has my complete admiration and even some of my RSP investment dollars in their stock, but this product is a disaster for them and for the unfortunate consumers who buy them.
The Sales Pitch:
Nothing runs like a Deere. So why not add on this snow blower attachment to your John Deere garden tractor? Let's make that couple of thousand dollar investment you made on a riding mower, also work for you as a snow thrower! If you have long wide driveway and a John Deere garden tractor, there is a good chance you will hear about this product and think, hey, why not use it to it's full potential?
For an average of $1500 to $2000.00 after taxes you can buy this conversion kit for your JD garden tractor. It boasts a 44" mouth and extension controls to allow you to lift the mouth of the snow thrower or turn the direction of the throw at your finger tips. Every thing sounds good so far, am I right? You should now have a relatively expensive garden tractor that can serve you 12 months of the year in all weather and pay for itself. Sorry to disappoint you, it was not my fault, but John Deere's in this instance.
This machine, when fully assembled and attached to your 24 or 26 HP (they do not recommend it for anything with a lower HP engine) JD garden tractor weighes in at more than you do (on average) so in addition to having the engine in the front end you now have the equivelent of another rider sitting on the bumper. This leaves the rear end of your garden tractor extremely light, with nothing more than your rear wheels, a few gallons of gas (under the seat) and part of your backside holding it down. Plow this machine into any real kind of heavy snow and try lifting that load without rear weights and the garden tractor's rear wheels will lift off the ground. You're going no where fast.
Okay, so John Deere offers you a package of lead weights and a holder for those weights for only about $250.00 to $300.00 more, to counter-balance the garden tractor's overloaded front end.
However, your gardent tractor has summer tires and is not really designed for this type of work so John Deere also suggests a set of chains for your rear tires at between $80.00 and $100.00 a set, for better gripping power on snow and ice.
Are we keeping track of the accumulated costs of the snowblower add-on, the weights and the chains? I hope so.
The Worst Part
I actually had the privilege of watching a John Deere technician try to put on of these things onto a JD garden tractor. (Warning: I could not even attempt to do it myself.) You need to drop the blades or cutting bed, in order to hook up the drive belt back to the shaft that drives your cutting blades in the summer to the auger in the snowthrower and then begin to add the adaptors and hand controls which come in a seemingly endless bag of nuts and bolts, with few instructions. After about four hours, we had dropped the cutting blades and moved them aside, connected the snowblower to the undercarriage, hooked up the hand controls to the side of the drivers seat, connected the weight holder and weights to the rear of the garden tractor and added the chains to the rear wheels. ( Where I am, a JD technician charges about $75.00 per hour but he gave me a break since he was still learning about this product too.) His comment, "no homeowner should try to do this himself." ( Actually he said, "no homeowner could likely do this by himself and these instructions suck." )
This product was a pathetic performer on the driveway. Particularly if it had any kind of incline to it. The rear added weights and chains did not help much against the overloaded front end weight of the engine and the snowthrower attachments. Still the rear wheels seemed to be spinning in air and the front end seemed to be digging down, sometimes even without the weight of snow in the auger.
Last, but certainly not least, the hand controls which lead from the front of the snowthrower to the driver's side of the machine felt flimsy, as they would bow under the pressure of my hand and hesitate to lift the mouth of the snow plow. Sometimes you literatally need to almost stand up from the seat to lift the mouth, which of course, causes the engine to shut down because these new garden tractors have kill switches in case you fall off. I understand they have come out with a new winch package for this and don't know how much extra it is.
I found the very same flaw in the hand held controls used to turn the throw of the snow from left to right, as the rods to control it were slim and flexible. That often causes the operator to start shaking the control to try to free it up without thinking about where they are heading.
In short, the John Deere garden tractors and many of their accessories are not JD quality and we all know are actually made by Briggs and Stratton with the JD name and standard green and yellow colors. That said, this accessory does not stand up to the JD name and reputation they have painstakenly gained over more than 150 years in the farming machine industry. Therefore, JD should either stop offerring this product as an accessory to their garden tractors to get out of the home products market all together and stick to what they are known to do best. John Deere are a great company with an astounding history of high quality engineering and innovation. It is a shame to see them waste that reputation on the home garden products markets, a market in which they have never really more than dabbled. This is an arena that will only detract from their stellar reputation in the larger markets and I think bring them down in stature.
As a last note, the John Deere Tech I mentioned earlier told me frankly that some people pay as much as $500 to $700 per year to have him come out to transfer the grass cutting bed back onto their garden tractor and return in the fall to hook up their sadly performing snowthrower.
Finally between the terrible performance on ice and very slight hills, the expense and the complication of converting it, this package was returned to the dealer for a full refund with no questions asked.
A simple snow thrower could be so much more simple and economical, but who am I to judge? I'm just, The Gasman