Well, perhaps I missed something about the Ariens. If they are so good why aren't there more of them around?
Yes, I was impressed by the thickness of the frame and sturdiness of the components, however the electrical system is anything but superior. I am not sure if Ariens is concerned with the support of older models, especially those that had an "interesting" electrical system. I am not impressed with the Ariens dealers in Eau Claire, WI, They did build Ariens in Wisconsin, you know, albeit I'm across the state from where they made these tractors, but they were too busy to even look at my old Ariens GT18 for at least three weeks. I did ask them if they would tell me the same thing when I called back three weeks later. What happened three weeks later, yup you guessed it, they again told me they were too busy to even look at it for another three weeks. I know, one bad dealer doesn't make the product bad.
The dealer in Durand that I was able to have look at it also took two weeks before they worked on it, and yes I understand they were making more money doing something else but they are an Ariens dealer which to me means they should jump on it or there will be no reason a guy would want to buy another Ariens. Well anyway, after they had fixed it, it still had the same problem. It had some new parts a new ignition switch and a new safety switch. But the PTO still didn't run, which turns it into a golf cart at best. Now, I know that you're thinking, what a moron can't even fix a PTO. Well, I did what I could, I know the PTO was working when it got power and it's just an electro-magnet, what can go wrong? Well, the power wouldn't stay on. Even after replacing the safety switches which are weird little things that limit the flow and direction of power sort of like foot valve does with water. My problem is I can't see the electricity like I can a broken bolt or a cracked frame. So I returned the Ariens to the dealer, again, after another two week delay they had their Bobcat mechanic look at it. Their Ariens mechanic quit to work for the Eau Claire Ariens dealer leaving the Durand Ariens dealer without an Ariens mechanic, go figure. Well, a mechanic is a mechanic, right? It would be nice if he knew some specifics about the machine but hey, what am I to do? This time they replaced the time delay module, mostly because I told them I suspected that it had to be part of the problem since it was the only thing not touched already. They also found a short in a wire which they fixed. Well, it now runs, but the battery continually dies. The system has all new safety switches two of which were reconnected, new time delay module, new ignition switch, and at least one wire had a short that was fixed. I am not bringing it back again. I will use it until I can figure it out what is really wrong with it. Probably another short circuit somewhere.
And even though the starter motor was an easy fix, unbolt/re-bolt, my Ariens GT18 only has power steering, it isn't mechanically connected at all, there is absolutley no steering if it's not running. This coupled with it weighing 940 pounds makes it very difficult to push around when the starter goes out, luckily this doesn't happen too often. I also learned about the unusual starting method of turning the engine without power going to the spark plugs, the spark plugs are powered only when the key is released, it works, but why do it that way?
My Craftsman always starts and the battery never dies, it's not built near as sturdy but it works well and gets the job done and all I do is change belts, oil, and grease it. It has cut two acres of grass and snow blown 600 feet driveways for over three years now but the snow blower especially is wearing out. Which is why I got the Ariens in the first place, thinking it would do the same job for many more years as the metal in the components is so much thicker, now I just wish I could hook up the Ariens snow blower and lawn mower to the Craftsman.
I like the heft of the Ariens, but not the engine or the electrical system, I don't have enough experience to judge the effectiveness of any of the implements yet but, I was impressed that the second stage of the snow blower had six paddles, my craftsman only has four.
In my opinion what would make the Ariens a "GOOD" garden tractor? I'd start with a liquid cooled engine with a starter that could be changed with pulling the engine. Replace the entire electrical system to one without four safety switches and a time delay module. Move the filler neck of the gas tank to the side where it can be accessed without problems. Shorten the hood so a cab can be mounted and the hood can be opened without removing the cab. It snows a bit here and snow-blowing without a cab is just silly especially when you have a really long driveway. Change the gearshift to a floor mounted pedal, the hands should be free to do other things, like redirect the chute, turn on or reposition lights while still steering with the other hand.
Hey, I think I just talked my self into buying one of those yellow and green tractors.