Having lived my whole life in the Northeast, I’ve seen my share of brutal winters. While the cold temperatures are difficult to withstand at any age, it’s the relentless snow that started to get to me, especially as I got older. All that shoveling was really taking a toll on my lower back, and I realized I would have to do something about it if I wanted to go on living in the place that I loved.
Does this sound familiar to you? If so, know that you’re not alone. Soft tissue injuries are all too common if you regularly shovel a lot of snow—but fortunately, there are snow blowers and electric shovels to avoid these struggles nowadays. Today, I’m looking forward to the winters again instead of dreading them.
In this review, we are looking at the Craftsman 88173. With it, snow removal becomes a snap, and the model requires minimal care and maintenance, giving you more free time to engage in the activities you enjoy—not to mention the inestimable benefits to your health and strength. Read on to find out how this model might be able to change your life for the better.
This 26″ snow blower is an excellent choice for domestic and residential use. In this section, we’ll go over the finer points of this model, detailing the qualities that could make it a great fit for your winter-weather arsenal.
The Craftsman 88173 comes equipped with a 208cc engine, which is standard for this size and type of snow blower. In terms of reliability, it has a solid pedigree; as far as maneuverability goes, the engine is small enough to allow for easy mobility, even for amateurs. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive size, however—this is a classic, tried-and-true engine that’s amazingly sophisticated, especially for a unit that’s meant primarily for domestic use.
The engine on this model also comes equipped with an electric starter, which comes in especially handy on those frigid winter mornings. The push-button control makes it even more user-friendly—no need to tug on a cord and wait for the telltale growl to kick in.
Width and Depth of Clearing
This model allows for 26 inches of clearing space, which is sufficient for most pathways—even areas of the sidewalk. In terms of depth, the machine is capable of clearing drifts of up to 21 inches. These specifications make it a great choice even if you live in areas that are prone to storms with a significant amount of snowfall.
The Craftsman 88173 features six forward speeds and two reverse speeds. This versatility allows you to work at your own pace, and to adjust as you go if needed. The various speeds also help when it comes to clearing drifts and banks of different depths since deeper falls will generally require more time and effort.
This unit is operated using a single hand controller. Put simply, this means that you can make changes in the direction of the chute without having to stop during the snow blower’s operation. While this is a minor point, it represents a great deal of potential time saved, particularly in the mornings when you’re trying to get to work.
The tires on this snow blower are small by industry standards—only 13 inches in diameter and 4 inches wide. Despite their small size, however, they feature a special “X-Trac” design that allows them to maintain a firm grip on the snowy ground, giving you superb maneuverability. The only reason you might want to consider larger tires is if you have a large garden that you plan to keep clear during the winter, as these won’t do as well on soft or unstable terrain.
EZ Chute Control
This flexible, low-maintenance polymer chute is standard issue for all Craftsman snow blowers. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to long use, but its flexibility means that it won’t get clogged up with snow like the chutes on some lower-end models. The controls for snow disposal are simple and provide a high degree of accuracy, even when dealing with deep drifts.
This is a feature that definitely falls under the “special add-ons” category, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. The poly skid shoes are specially designed not to leave ugly skid marks on your driveway or property. They also help you keep the snow blower on track during use.
The Craftsman 88173 does not have power steering, which is one of its few weak points. However, the fact that the self-propelled engine features six forward speeds and two reverse speeds helps to mitigate the disappointment. Unless you’re dealing with exceptionally wet, heavy snow, you should have no problem guiding this unit where you want it to go.
Optional Light Feature
Some snow blowers come equipped with built-in lights, to make them easier to use at night. Since many users will be aided with the light from their porch, garage, or a nearby streetlight, this is considered an extraneous feature. This feature doesn’t come standard with the Craftsman 88173, but the unit can be fitted with lights if you need them.
Having used the model both with and without this optional feature, I don’t personally believe that it’s necessary. Nonetheless, I will note that the light is sufficiently bright and that the feature is reliable, so if you need the extra illumination, go ahead and spring for the add-on.
The Bottom Line
Given the strong points of the Craftsman 88173, I think it would make a great addition to any home. While only you can decide whether this particular unit will suit your needs, it’s a durable and reliable model that’s built up an excellent consumer reputation.
- Standard 208cc engine makes it a good fit for domestic use, even for beginners
- Clearing width of up to 26 inches
- Capable of dealing with drifts up to 21 inches deep
- X-Trac tires offer maximum grip without sacrificing maneuverability
- Ingeniously designed EZ chute allows for easy clearing
- Lightweight and easy to manage
- Push-button automatic start saves time and mental energy
- Wheels are on the smaller side for this type of snow blower
- Engine is standard, but not the most powerful one on the market
- No power steering
- Not the best at handling very wet snow
If you’re in the market for a powerful yet maneuverable snow blower with all the basic conveniences, the Craftsman 81173 has you covered. The strength and versatility of the engine, coupled with the user-friendly electric starter, makes this a wonderful choice for amateurs and professionals alike. Given our positive experience with this model, I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a snow blower to help them keep their paths and driveways clear this winter—and for many winters to come.
Optionally, the 88173 also has a smaller brother, a 21”, 179cc, single-stage snow blower at about half the price. While that gives you a great option between two very different budgets, the smaller model limits your snow clearing width and power substantially. Consider how much area you need to cover and how quickly you wish to be done.
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Two-Stage Snow Blower
- 26” Width, 21” Height
- Electric & Pull Start
- 208cc Engine, Self Propelled
- Joystick Chute Control