When I dropped the review of my 21-inch plug-in electric Snow Joe snow blower, The Drive’s comments section was full of folks saying it wouldn’t handle Utah winters. That’s despite already handling one and continuing to handle the monumental winter storm we’ve had over the last few days. Everyone said the motor would break down under the weight of the snow. Well, you were all wrong. The motor didn’t break.
The handle did…
Yes, yes, this is me coping to you all being right, but don’t feel too elated as you weren’t right about what would break. In fact, even after the handle broke, this little Snow Joe kept up with nearly three and a half feet of the slushiest, heaviest snow I’ve ever encountered. But it still broke, so I feel like an update is necessary.
Let’s talk about what actually happened.
This Handle Was Built for a Dusting, Not a Blizzard
Everything was going fine heading into the atmospheric river storm that blew across the western United States this last week. The first snow came and the Snow Joe ate through the snow like nothing. But the following morning, with another 10 inches on the ground, I pushed the blower forward into the wet snow and…the left-side plastic coupling point that joined the bottom metal tube with the top handle sheared in two.
With the snow piling on quickly, and another massive snow wave in the forecast, I knew I didn’t have time to wait for a back-ordered part to replace the coupling. So I used every home mechanic and Formula D driver’s favorite workaround: zipties. That lasted all of three seconds, despite using an excessive amount. What was worse was that the right-side coupling then sheared off in the same place.
I felt sick. Snow was falling fast and it was heavy. I have shovels, but it would’ve taken me ages and I’d likely pull a muscle or just give up and walk into a snow bank. Thankfully, my garage has a lot of extra parts and fasteners—see, I’m not a hoarder—so I got to work with a new bracket.
This Is Temporary, I Swear
I tried a few things before I landed upon making a bracket connecting the bottom and top tubes with steel plates. I didn’t waste too much time, but it was enough to give me a headache and curse the Snow Joe engineer who thought injection molded plastic was good enough to connect the two ends.
My steel plates are 1/16-inch steel that I picked up from Ace Hardware ages ago, but didn’t need. Each plate had four holes pre-drilled, but the hardware I had was a little larger than what was there. I cut one plate in two and using a ⅜-inch steel drill, I bored the holes out to accommodate the fasteners. I also bored out mounting holes in the Snow Joe’s tubes, and connected one 3-inch section of the steel plate to each side. That secured them enough to pull around, but it didn’t have the rigidity I needed to push it through the snow. A third, non-cut, 6-inch steel plate was added to the top of one side’s tube to keep it from wiggling up and down as I pushed.
Look, I get that it’s not pretty. Nor is it elegant. But we’re up to our ears in snow right now and it works. And I have plans to clean up the brackets. Actually, I have plans to replace the brackets with something far meatier that’ll put the stock couplings to shame. I first need our neighborhood to get dug out, though, as there was an eight-car pile-up at the entrance just yesterday and the roads are still being cleared of all the snow.
When I finally fix this properly, I’ll provide an update.
It Still Works, OK
I still like our Snow Joe, despite it failing me in one critical area. It demolished each successive snowstorm as it washed over our mountain and never missed a beat in throwing the sparkly white stuff many feet away.
Could Snow Joe make stronger tubes and couplings? Absolutely. If the company isn’t working on new ones, I’d be shocked as this has to happen quite often. But I still think it’s a worthy addition to your garage. Just maybe hold out until the company switches from plastic to steel. Or do what I’m doing, modify and make it better yourself. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go plow the driveway. Again.
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