Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Thrower - Review
We live up in the northeast and have had a lot of experience with snow blowers (we call them snow blowers not snow throwers, maybe it's a regional thing), but our all-time favorite machine was a 30" Troy-Bilt that we sold with our last house. The thing was a monster and if the driveway wasn't so steep and deadly and the snow blower a necessity of sale, we would have kept it forever.
Tool Snob's current HQ has a long driveway and a number of parking areas and last winter we used a snow blower that was donated by FiLoTS (Father in-law of Tool Snob). It was an old Toro (we think) and it's meant for clearing out small driveways and short walkways, not 300 feet of gravel driveway. While the machine was functional, it was also frustrating. Once you've tasted the high-life of the 30", it's tough to go back. Every time we started it up we would pine for our old Troy-Bilt.
So we were pretty excited when Troy-Bilt offered to let us try out their new 3090 XP Snow Thrower. As it turns out it's the updated version of our old stand-by. We've now had it through three big storms, each consisting of over 12" of snow, and we've spent a total of about 7 hours behind the machine. We've now come to our conclusions...
Snow Blowin' Skilz
The Storm is the most feature-laden snow blower we've ever seen. But before we get to all of the knobs, joysticks, and buttons, we have to address how the thing throws snow. From what we experienced, it has a snow throwing ability that ranges from, "over the neighbor's house" to "two towns over." We read a review somewhere where some guy was saying he was disappointed with how the Troy-Bilt threw snow. We can't see how this is possible, unless you're operating the machine in the fastest speed and instead of snow, you're blowing chunks of concrete. On a number of occasions we had the front of the blower completely buried in wet snow and had no problems ejecting the soppy stuff 15-20 feet. The thing is a monster and it easily tackles the slushy, icy stuff that the town plow leaves at the end of the driveway.
So on to the features...
The Troy-Bilt has these sweet little steering triggers under each handle. We've seen these on other snow blowers, but this is the first time we've ever used them. Each trigger stops the corresponding tire from moving, thus allowing you to turn on a dime. The triggers can be operated with one finger and they remove a lot of the herky-jerky effort involved with snow blowing. Just drive along, pull on a trigger and the machine turns right around. Giving one of the triggers an occasional tap also assists greatly with snow blowing along a curve. Once you use them, we guarantee that you'll find snow blowers that don't have them to be sorely lacking.
On the old Troy-Bilt, the chute adjustment was done with a knee-level crank. That's gone and in its place is a joystick in the center of the control panel. Move the joystick to the right, the chute goes to the right, move it to the left, the chute moves to the left, pull back on it, the hood of the chute tips up and so on. It takes some getting used to and at first we didn't care for it. But by the time the second snow was over, we were sold. We liked it because it's very easy to use while the machine is moving. There's one spot in the driveway where we have to go between the garage and the house and there's a specific series of directions that the snow must be blown in order not to break a window. With the joystick, we could fly through the area easily shifting the chute without stopping.
Two reverse and six forward. We might even say that six speeds is a couple too many. We never really did much with speeds 4 and 5, doing most of our blowing in the 1, 2, 3 range. Oh, and the sixth speed...we're talking Daytona here. We literally had to jog to keep up with the machine in this speed. It's impractical for snow blowing but it's great to be able to call on that kind of speed when you're all done at the end of the driveway and you just need to get back to the house.
No joke. Heated handles. We weren't sure what to make of this one and we actually scoffed at the idea when we first heard about it. We figured it would be one of those things that sounds cool, but is kinda lame in reality. Nope. Heated handles are great. And they're seriously heated, keeping our gloved hands warm and toasty when they'd otherwise be numb and frozen.
This was the one aspect of the machine that disappointed us. Our old Troy-Bilt had this great adjustable lamp complete with its own switch that stood off the machine like a search light. The Storm, on the other hand, has a small stationary bulb just below the control console that is always on. It's bright, but positioned a little too low for our tastes. More importantly, it cannot be adjusted. In our many years of snow removal, we've realized that the front of the blower isn't always the place where we want light. When we are out at the edge of the driveway and the sun's going down, we want to shine it at the blind corner to try to alert oncoming cars that there might be a guy and a snow blower on the road, or we want to see where to direct the chute, or sometimes we want to see if we can find what made all of the rattling over in the bushes. With this current light configuration, we can't do any of that. And in fact, at the moment, we can't see anything because after about 45 minutes of use, the light blew. We meant to get a bulb today to replace it, but we forgot. The old bulb is still in there and when we look at it with the engine running we can see the filament vibrating so badly that we're actually surprised it lasted even 45 minutes. Because the sun sets so early in the winter, a lot of post work snow blowing is done in the dark. It would have been nice to see the old style light on this machine.
Odds and Ends
Another feature that we liked is the little spot at the dashboard that Troy-Bilt provided for shear pin storage. No biggie, but it's nice not to have to try and find where we put the shear pin box on our hour of need.
We also opened up the machine to investigate the belt changing process and it's a snap. If it's anything like our last Troy-Bilt, the Storm won't need anything more than a little gas stabilizer in the spring, but if it does need more, it's a fairly easy process.
So the bottom line is that this is a great machine. It's got some serious firepower behind it and, other than the light, the improvements from the older model are all fantastic. It costs about $1,100 so it's a big investment if you only need to clear a single parking space and a little walkway, but if you've got a larger property and would rather spend your time sitting by the fire drinking hot toddies than snow blowing, we would heartily recommend this beast.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at January 19, 2011 6:19 AM