Getting ready for the coming winter weather

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — We tend to put off the inevitable, especially when it comes to winter weather. So with the prediction of accumulating snow for the weekend, it should come as no surprise that snow thrower and snow blower sales have suddenly picked up.

“Single-stage for your paved driveway. If you have a gravel driveway, they’re looking more at the two-stage,” explained Scott Kingsland of Kinglsand Ace Hardware in Cascade Township.

While the forecast has increased interest in the machines, there are no shortages in stock.

“It’s not nearly as what it was last year, but we also had snow on the ground last year, too,” Kingsland said.

If you already have a snow blower or thrower, you’re all set as long as you prepped it at the end of the last winter season. But if you forgot to run the gas out before putting it away, you could be in for a surprise. Ethanol-blended fuels can really gum up the engines. The problem can be fixed, but Kingsland’s service area is already backed up a week or two.

“That’s starting to come down,” Kingsland said. “I’ve got three mechanics back there working on them. If there’s been gas in there all summer, definitely a tune up would be suggested. The ethanol in gas is really causing a lot of problems.”

Calls to snowplow services are also increasing. And once the snow flies, complaints about those services will also pick up.

“The number one complaint we get is not necessarily bad guys, it’s the consumer that may not have a realistic expectation,” Phil Catlett, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, said.

Catlett said most residential plow contracts call for one pass by the plow per day when the snow falls.

“And if they’re plowing at 5 in the morning and it snows all day and you come home work and your driveway’s got a few inches of snow, you’re not happy, but it’s really not the snowplow fault,” Catlett said.

He said about 90 percent of the complaints the BBB receives could be avoided if consumers did a better job of reading and understanding their contracts.

Of course, there are the occasional bad apples when it comes to snowplow contractors. Catlett said you can avoid those companies by asking questions.

“Come really busy times, do they have adequate resources to get at all the work that they have? Does their equipment break down? Are they trustworthy? Do they have good business practices? Do they have any personal problems that might keep them from showing up at 5 in the morning when they’re supposed to?” Catlett suggested asking.

To get those answers, he said, consumers should ask for verifiable references; go to a third party, like the Better Business Bureau, to check for complaints; and search the Internet for reviews.

When you do pick someone, get a written contract. But don’t stop there.

“Read the agreement in full. Always get it in writing, but read it in full and make sure you understand what the agreement is,” Catlett advised.

Some communities require snowplow operators to be licensed. You can call your township or city clerk to find out if that’s the case where you live.



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