Reliability is boring – New sells. New sells not because it’s better, but because it feeds our ego. Our inner desire to have the biggest, baddest, and coolest new toy.
So how does that relate to this snow blower? This is a boring snow blower because it’s designed to be as maintenance free as you can get with a mechanical device. It’s not the highest capacity. It throws snow well but not as far as some. It will last 15 years or longer if you do just a few simple maintenance tasks once a year. It’s one of the most reliable snow blowers on the market. It’s just a “good ole boring” snow blower.
This article will show you why this boring, dependable snow blower may just be the best choice for you.
This picture review is going to cover the 2105 Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP 357 cc, 30 inch, 2-stage Snow Blower in detail. I am also going to compare many parts of it to the other brands of snow blowers so if you read this entire review you will know more details about choosing the best snow blower for you than you ever can reading the online forums or reviews. I’ll go completely through the entire machine. It will be a very detailed review. I even have a five features that I will show you about this snow blower that no one explains. For, example, I’ll tell you why Troy-Bilt Snow Blowers don’t need gearbox braces up front. Sorry, you’ll have to hunt for the features in the review.
If you live in an area of the country that averages less than 70 inches of snow a year and have a larger area to clear this may be the best snow blower for you. For, example this snow blower would be a good choice for a driveway 3 cars wide and 150 feet long, 30 inch sidewalks, a gravel driveway out to the back shed and even a spot on the lawn for the dogs. This snow blower is 30 inches wide (33 with skid shoes) so if you want to take is through a side door the door will need to be 36 inches wide.
The Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP is designed to be maintenance free – just change the oil and use fuel stabilizer in the fuel and you may never have to do anything else to this machine for 10, 15 or 20 years.
Troy-Bilt doesn’t use the terms residential, heavy-duty or pro in their literature so I’ll show you how this Troy-Bilt fit’s into the realm of those terms.
Note: If you read this article you will be able to compare its features to the other MTD built 2-stage snow blowers (like the Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Columbia) and the 3-stage machines. I am going to use the same sequence of pictures that I used with the other picture reviews so it is easy to compare this to the Ariens, Husqvarna and Toro Snow blowers. I suggest placing this review and the other snow blower you would like to compare side-by-side on your laptop or desktop screen.
“So, which is more interesting: A vintage 1964 Porsche or a new Honda Civic?
Which is a better car? If we think hard about the definition of ‘better’, it’s pretty clear that on almost every measurable performance metric, the Honda is a far better car. More reliable. A better value. It’s able to drive faster, longer, in more conditions. It get’s better mileage. It’s safer. And on and on.
So why do people pay more, talk more, and gawk more at the 1964 Porsche? Scarcity isn’t the only reason. It turns out that the perfection of the Honda Civic is sort of boring.
When a product or service benchmarks quality and can honestly say, “we’re reliably boring,” it might grow in sales for a while, but it will eventually fade in interest, because the people at the edges, the people who make the noise (on the Internet) , are drawn to idiosyncrasy, to the unpredictable, the tweakable, the things that might not work.” Paraphrased from Seth Godin’s Idiosyncratic
With that said, Let’s review the Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Blower.
The 2015 Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Blower is one of the standard industry snow blowers. It’s a good snow blower at a good value. It’s reliable, easy to use and for most of us it will last for many years.
This snow blower is available at Troybilt.com and Lowes. There is another version, the red Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 which comes with a 4-way chute available on Amazon and your local Troy-Bilt dealer.
1. This review is going to cover the 30 inch Storm 3090 XP. Troy-Bilt heard I don’t have a Lowes or a Troy-Bilt dealer in my area so Todd Pierce and David Rockwell from MTD Consumer Products dropped off a 3-stage 24 inch Vortex 2490 and 2-stage 30 inch Storm 3090 XP to test. Todd and David spent 3 hours with me going over the products and showing off a Troy-Bilt Flex they brought along. Thanks, Andrew Ziemba, for setting this all up.
2. The 2015 Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XL is rated a residential snow blower but has the same features and quality as the Cub Cadet snow blowers with commercial warranties. The Troy-Bilt gray is a baked on powder coat. There is another version available at Amazon – the Storm 3090 without the electric chute. Troy-Bilt Storm 3090.
3. It’s the second from the left. The front housing (bucket) is 30 inches wide and 21 1/2 inches tall. This lets you clear deeper drifts and your old snow blower. With the skid shoes this snow blower needs a door 33 inches or wider. If you need to go through a side door to clear snow out back be sure to measure the door opening before you buy this snow blower.
4. The 3090 is a large snow blower but is balanced well. In fact, this snow blower is one of the best balanced snow blowers and since it also has power steering almost anyone can use it. If you need to go through a door or over a curb it takes very little effort to push down on the handles to maneuver this snow blower. The handles are straight so they give you good leverage but they are not as comfortable as handles that tip down like the ones on the Husqvarna ST327P.
5. View From the Operator’s “Seat.” This Storm has a clear view of what’s going on up front even for shorter people. The tall chute is located way to the left so it does not get in the way of your view. Remember the chute location. I am going to talk about it more a little later. Yes, The dash is plastic but it is made of the same tough polymer as the chute so it won’t crack and break like the older Simplicity/Snapper dash did.
6. Just a quick picture to show you the difference in handle height. From the left: Troy-Bilt 24 in Vortex, Troy-Bilt 3090 XP, Husqvarna ST327P, Ariens Deluxe 28 SHO. The Vortex is great for people under 5′ 5″ feet. The 3090 XP will fit most people comfortably.
7. Like some of the other brands Troy-Bilt doesn’t label their engine “Premium” but it a premium engine is by the criteria I use. Troy-Bilt® engines are a premium small block engine with advantages that in many cases are better than competitive engine models. Some of the premium features include: Overhead Valves. (OHV) Cast iron cylinder sleeve. Low tone muffler. Ball-bearing supported crank shaft. Large fuel tank capacity. The power output of the Troy-Bilt family of engines compares favorably with engines of similar displacement from Briggs & Stratton®, Honda®, and other popular small engine brands. They don’t state expected life in hours like Husqvarna does but the 357 cc engine on this snow blower is proving to be one of the more reliable snow blower engines on the market. Put fuel stabilizer in the fuel – change the oil once a year and this engine will last longer than your old engine.
8. The Troy-Bilt Vortex has all the engine controls you are used to. Throttle with an off position. Multi-position choke, primer bulb and removable safety switch. I have people complain that their 2-stage snow blower plugs all the time when clearing snow. In particular I’ve heard more complaints using a 30 inch machine than any other size. So why does it plug. After performing a root-cause on the problem I’ve realized it is not the snow blower that’s the problem. It’s the throttle. Many people don’t run their snow blower’s at full speed. They use the excuse, “It’s quieter or I don’t want to wake the neighbors.” In reality you must have the throttle in the full open position (rabbit) for the snow blower to work properly. This is especially true with a 30 inch snow blower because they can have a lot more snow going through them and will plug if the throttle is not wide open. Please remember to run the throttle wide open when blowing snow. It gives you the best throwing distance and capacity.
9. Troy-Bilt engines are designed to run on unleaded fuel up to E10 (10%) ethanol blends. NEVER USE E15, E20 or E85 in small gas engines like this one. Read the labels on the pump before you fill your gas can. E15 will ruin your snow blower engine and that failure is not covered by any warranty
10. Feature #1: Troy-Bilt has two features on the gas tank that I like better than any other brand. 1. A really nice gas cap. Both the tank threads and the cap threads are machined with the vent in the cap. 2. A feature most people miss is the fill hole is not centered. With a Troy-Bilt when you change the transmission drive belt you have to tip the snow blower up on its nose. By having the fill hole towards the back of the snow blower you can have over a half of tank of fuel and it will not spill out.
11. Easy To Use Rear Oil Drain. It sticks out nice and far so you won’t spill oil all over the frame or tire when changing oil.
12. If you ever forget to put fuel stabilizer in your gas and you end up with stale fuel there is a drain on the bottom of the carb. Just remove the Phillips screw and you can drain all the fuel out of the system.
13. Yes, This engine has a dipstick. To read it pull the dipstick out wipe it off with a paper towel and then reinsert it. Don’t lock it down, just leave it there for few seconds and then remove it again to check the level. If you are checking the engine before you run it for the first time you may have a hard time seeing the oil (its light amber in color.) Just lay the dipstick on the paper towel and see where the oil soaks in. By the way, small engines like this one are used in many different applications. The yellow oil plug at the bottom of the engine is not used to check the oil on this snow blower.
14. This low tone muffler is quieter than the ones put on snow blowers 10 years ago. This is not the “quiet muffler” that Craftsman has on the 26 and 28 inch “Quiet Snow Blowers” but… I measured 90 db with my trusty Craftsman decibel meter so please use hearing protection if you are going to use this snow blower for more than 2 hours at a time. (I measured the sound at my ear with the engine running at full throttle.)
15. Moving on to the controls. Troy-Bilt has made quite a few improvements to the internal structural parts of the dash. The controls are stronger than they were in the past but are still located in the same places. Do you know why Troy-Bilt uses a small cable from the gear lever to the transmission instead of a big, heavy rod? The reason is they don’t have too. When the snow blower is not being used there is no tension on the friction wheel inside the transmission. Because there is not pressure on the friction wheel you can easily move the shift lever even with the engine turned off.
16. Let’s take a minute and look at the inside of the transmission. The black rubber wheel, called the friction wheel, does not rest on the aluminum drive plate when the clutch lever is disengaged. This keeps the tire from getting flat spots and allows you to change the speed control with the engine off. The spring that allows Troy-Bilt to use the smaller cable is hidden behind the top shaft in this picture. The bronze gears are self-lubricating so you don’t need to grease them. The only spot you should ever lube is the hex shaft in the middle of the picture. Wipe on a heavy grease – don’t use too much or spray it on or it could get on the large aluminum drive plate and make the trans slip.
17. Changing the belts: Even though you won’t need to change the belts more than every 5 years or so changing the belts is fairly easy on this snow blower. What I like is you don’t have to “split” the snow blower. The belt path is easy to get to. You will need someone who can lift 50 lbs to help you tip the snow blower up on its nose. You will need a 9/16 wrench, a 13/16 wrench and a 3/8 socket with 6 inch extension and ratchet. Donboy73 has a very complete video on changing the belt on youtube. Just search youtube for “HOW TO REPLACE The Auger Belt on MTD, Cub Cadet & Yard Man Snowblowers”
18. The power steering mechanics is a simple planetary. It doesn’t wear out. Don’t mess with it. Just pull the trigger under the handle and the snow blower turns.
19. Feature #2: I like the chute/deflector control on the 3090 XP a lot. The Quick-Stick Chute control on the Toro Power Max HD may be the easiest manual chute control but the thumb joystick control on the 3090XP is the easiest of all the chute controls to use. It let’s you quickly move the chute and deflector to put snow right where you want it. The industrial grade thumb controller is located right next to your thumb. You don’t have to think about moving your hand to the center of the console. (like the new Honda Snow blowers) In addition is it the most reliable electric control on the market.
20. This is an industrial thumb switch and a nice size for gloved hands. I like where it’s located because you never have to remove your hand from the handle to move the chute. I’m really surprised MTD doesn’t use this on many more snow blowers. It’s a better design and easier to use than their pistol grip 4-way chute control.
21. Electric chute controls have a bad reputation because Simplicity and Honda put the motors down in the snow zone. In addition they don’t use a hanging chute so over time the metal chute binds up and burns out the motors. The MTD electric chute is different and designed the right way. All the electric motors are tucked up under the dash out of harm’s way. That in combination with the hanging chute makes this the most dependable electric chute control on the market. In fact, this chute control has been around for over five years now and I have yet to hear of one having problems. I repeat… I’m surprised that MTD doesn’t use this on more snow blowers. It’s easy to use, quick and as dependable as it gets.
22. If the electric chute control ever breaks you are not “dead in the water” like you are with the Simplicity and Honda controls. Just move a small clip on the chute rod and it becomes a manual chute control.
23. The knob on the deflector is used for the 4-way and manual models. Just keep a little tension on the knob and ignore it. On this model it doesn’t bind up or wear out.
24. The chute is designed so you don’t need any extra flaps or covers to keep the snow from forcing its way out the hinges. This chute looks narrow but that fact allows the snow to stay in a tighter stream. That allows the XP to throw farther than the old-style impeller mounted chutes. Like Toro’s Sub-Zero poly the material this chute is made of is designed to stay flexible in the winter and won’t crack. First introduced around 2010 this chute has proven to be tough. When I visited MTD a few years ago they offered to show how tough their polymer really is. They took a chute out of a -20 degree freezer and threw it on a 100 degree black top. They proceeded to run over it with a pickup. No, it was not damaged at all.
25. All the modern snow blowers have gone to hanging chutes. These chutes don’t bind up, don’t get stiff and hard to use in cold weather and don’t rust. This Troy-Bilt uses a hanging chute and this area is just a guide to hold the chute in place. There is no load – meaning nothing to wear here.
26. Heated Hand Grips! These hand warmers actually work well. The hand warmer switch is located below the dash on the metal support bracket if you don’t want to use them.
27. Nice bright light. The Snow Blower forums state the light is in the wrong place but that’s not true. On the Vortex the tall chute sits farther to the left and is narrower than many of the other brands. Because of that the light shines in all the right places to give you plenty of light if you ever have to blow snow at night.
28. All of the control cables are easy to adjust and there are sections in your operating manual that explain how make the adjustments. If a cable is slack, the snow blower, is not going into reverse or the handles are not popping up all the way you make adjustments to the three gold-colored brackets at the bottom of this picture.
29. One more picture about the controls. There is an empty hole in each handle. Nothing goes there anymore. You only need bolts in the top ones. The bottom holes are no longer used.
30. 16X6.5 X-TRAC snow tires. Most 30 inch snow blowers use a 16 inch tire and these 16X6.5’s are wider than most other brands. These wider tires really work well on gravel driveways. By the way: If your snow blower wants to always pull to one side – check the tire pressure. One tire probably needs air. You will not need tire chains. Notice the bolt in the center? We will talk about that next.
31. If you ever have a flat tire you will want to remove the entire wheel and take it to a shop for repair. To remove the tire take out the bolt I pointed out in the last picture and slide the rim off the axle. Troy-Bilt does not use keyways and keys that can fall out. Instead they mill flat spots on the shaft that align with flats inside the rim. I strongly recommend once a year tip the snow blower up on its nose, remove the tire assemblies and grease the axle. Use a heavy axle grease. If you do this every year the rims will easily come off if you ever have to fix a tire.
32. Years ago it was very common for gravel and other junk to eventually wear a hole in the impeller housing. Even today I hear of owners who manage to get a large rock, hammer or other surprise into the impeller and before the unit can stop it puts a large dent or crack in the housing. If the housing was all one piece you are looking at $300-400 for a repair. The Troy-Bilt uses a replaceable poly section that is inexpensive to replace. If you are the type who keeps snow blower for 15-20 years this will come in handy…eventually.
33. Troy-Bilt’s come standard with large steel reversible skid shoes. If you would like poly shoes that won’t scratch your stained concrete or pavers you can replace them with large poly shoes for about $30. These shoes last longer than most other brands for two reasons. 1. Because they are longer than most. 2. Since the 3090 XP is balanced well there is very little weight on the front end. Because there is not a lot of weight on them even the poly shoes last a long time.
34. The Working End. This is the standard Troy-Bilt 2-stage system. It uses a 12 inch closed flight auger system and a 12 inch, 3-bladed impeller. The closed flight augers work very well to meter the snow so this snow blower rarely clogs. The only time you will have issues is when you are trying to clear slush. Then again, very few snow blowers will handle slush well. Yes, Troy-Bilt has a 3-stage snow blower that claims to clear snow 50% faster but this 2-stage system also has the advantage of being a very simple, reliable snow blower. That makes this snow blower a great choice for many. I’ll go through the advantages of this system in the next few pictures.
35 Standard hardened scraper bar. If you run this scraper right on the ground you will wear it out in a season or two but most of us leave a small gap. (It is inexpensive and easy to replace) For black top, cement and patios adjust the skid shoes so there is about 1/8 inch clearance under the scraper. (thickness of the cardboard the snow blower came in) The gap also helps to keep the snow blower from sticking on every crack and misaligned slab in your cement driveway, sidewalk and patio. If you are going to clear off of gravel set it a little higher so you don’t throw a lot of rocks.
36. Feature #3: No, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.Thicker is not always better. The Troy-Bilt auger housing is actually one of the strongest housings on the market. Why? The answer boils down to structural strength. Other brands use thick metal to get the strength you want in the front but at a trade-off of making the snow blower heavier and harder to use. Troy-Bilt use a thinner steel but stamps channels into the steel to give it the same strength. Those bumps and ridges you see in the sides and back of the housing give the Troy-Bilt housing strength without adding weight. The channels are tapered and rounded so you won’t get stress cracks over time. This bucket will not cave in or warp like most of the Chinese brands (and even a few U.S. made snow blowers) Yes, the Internet lies! I could write another paragraph or two about how the “Internet Urban Legends” have made it really hard for many people to buy a snow blower. You don’t know what is fact or what is fiction. By the way: The red stripes are reflectors.
37. Feature #4: If you read comments on the Internet you will read the opinion that you must have a brace above the center auger gearbox to have a strong snow blower. That comment is from an un-informed person, not a person who understands how snow blowers are built. In the next four pictures I will use diagrams to explain why Troy-Bilt does not need to use braces on the gear box and still have a unit that will last you many, many years.
38. The reason some snow blowers use braces is because the auger shaft coming out of the center gearbox does not go all the way to the ends of the auger housing. For example this Husqvarna ST327P gearbox uses a stub shaft. This box has to be held in place with a bracket or it will twist and tear up the augers.
39. The augers on the Husqvarna ST327P are hollow tubes and supported on the outside with bushings and connected to the short shaft of the auger gearbox. The auger fits closely to the auger gearbox shaft so it doesn’t vibrate. The shear pins hold the auger tightly to the shaft.
40. The cast iron gearbox on the Ariens Deluxe and Platinum snow blowers is also designed with stub shafts coming out of the gearbox. So the braces hold the gearbox in place and keep it from twisting under load. Shear pins connect the augers to the gearbox stubby auger shafts. Ariens has a grease fitting here so the if a shear pin breaks the auger shaft will spin freely.
41. The Troy-Bilt is built differently. The front auger shaft runs the entire width of the snow blower. Because of this the center gearbox does not need a brace. The auger shaft is supported on the ends with maintenance free bronze bushings. (Bronze bushings are used because they will handle impact/shock loads better than ball bearings) The augers are not part of the load-bearing components and because of that they are designed to spin easily on the auger shaft if a shear pin breaks. This allows Troy-Bilt to use smaller shear pins that protect the whole system faster from hard objects like shoes, bricks and frozen newspapers. Which system is better? The stub shaft like Husqvarna or the full shaft like Troy-Bilt? The answer is neither one. Both do the same thing just differently. By the way the reason aluminum gearboxes got a bad rap was because another brand used stub shafts without bracing and the vibration and twisting tore out the gearboxes.
42. Feature #5: Troy-Bilt uses a shear pin to protect each auger flight so there are six shear pins on the 30 in Storm 3090 XP. When a shear pin breaks it is designed to fall out so replacing a broken one is easy right out on your driveway. (Shear pins on other snow blowers can be hard to change. With other types of shear pins they don’t always fall out when they break and you have to pound them out with a drift punch, hammer and flashlight. You then have to install the pin correctly using wrenches)
43. The entire front end of the Troy-Bilt is designed to be maintenance free. Troy-Bilt knows most homeowners today don’t have the time, experience or tools to do any routine maintenance besides changing the oil and putting fuel stabilizer in the fuel. For example, instead of grease zerks, the augers have more clearance between the tube and the full length shaft and plastic bushings keep the auger centered. You don’t have to lubricate the shaft and it never rusts and sticks onto the shaft. By the way these plastic bushings are just guides and don’t wear out or break.
44. Another picture of the guides. If you break a shear pin installing a new one is very easy. Just take a new one from the storage spot in the dash and quickly replace it. You don’t need any tools to install the new shear pin. Hint: If you are clearing snow and the front end wants to ride up on you stop, turn off the engine and then check the front shear pins.
45. Almost done with the review! Drain Hole! A big problem in the past is people would put their snow blower away without cleaning out the front housing of snow. The next time they went to use it they would burn up the impeller belt because the impeller was frozen into the housing. This Troy-Bilt has a drain hole so that won’t happen.
46. The 3-blade impeller is cupped so it will throw the maximum amount of snow. The impeller paddles are braced well and balanced well so there is no vibration and the bearing will last the life of the snow blower.
47. The parts you need – All on permanent label on the rear of the machine! Any Troy-Bilt, MTD, Cub Cadet will be able to quickly get these parts. The majority of the parts are also available at Amazon. Just use this link and type in the part number. MTD Snow Blower Parts
48. That’s it! If you have any questions feel free to leaves them in the comment section below.
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About Paul Sikkema
Paul Sikkema has been writing about snow blowers, riding mowers and other lawn and garden equipment for over 10 years. Paul does most his writing out in his workshop where he feeds the wildlife and birds in the yard. His goal is to have a red squirrel eating out of his hand.
He spends as much time with his granddaughter as he can.
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