Ariens 920021 (Compact 24) Double Stage Gas Snow Blower Review by Merrill Shadwell
Snow blower models come and go. The old ones might have been good; the new ones are sometimes worse, sometimes better. Sometimes, they’re a lot better. That’s certainly true of the Ariens 920021. It replaces the now-discontinued 920014, already a very fine model.
For those who would rather skip the long version just watch the video below to get the most important features summarized in 2 minutes.
Basic Design, Controls & Features
The Ariens 920021 – also known as the Ariens Compact 24 – is oddly named. On the one hand, the number certainly signals what it is: a 24″ wide snow blower. And, compared to some truly behemoth-sized throwers on the market, it’s relatively compact. But it’s neither tiny nor weak.
The specs show that clearly. True, the clearance path is “just” 24 inches wide. The unit measures 26.4″ W x 45.4″ H x 50.8″ L, assembled. Hardly small, in my experience. The handlebar does fold easy storage, which might be the origin of the name. But let’s not quibble over semantics.
Instead, check out the clearing height: 20 inches, letting you clear a moderately high berm in a hurry. No need to go over the same strip twice (provided you don’t let the snow pile up too high, natch). No way is that tiny. Also, it weighs a moderately hefty 187 lbs. No featherweight, this blower.
Auger & Impeller
If that isn’t enough to persuade, consider the auger diameter: 11 inches. Again, far from the largest on the market, especially for a gas-powered unit. But far larger than something that might more accurately be called compact, like the Toro 38361. That model is a fine electric snow thrower that you could store in a closet in the house, if you wanted.
Similarly, the impeller diameter is 12 inches. That’s the spinning fan behind the auger. It takes what the auger feeds it and directs it through a hole and up the chute to blow out to the side. At that impeller width, it’s no surprise the throwing distance on the 920021 is a healthy up to 40 feet.
The qualifier – “up to” – is sometimes a fudge factor manufacturers use to make a snow blower look better than it is. In this case, the Compact 24 actually can achieve it – provided the snow is the right consistency. Ultra-dry snow just won’t go very far because of air resistance. Super wet snow is very hard to shove far. But for the most common range that figure is realistic, and very healthy; 30 feet is more the average for a good medium-sized machine.
And, hallelujah, you can use this model even on gravel-laden surfaces. Sure, tiny rocks can chip any auger or break an impeller blade. But the 920021 is pretty tough. Gotta love those serrated, steel auger blades.
Ariens also thoughtfully included two shear pins that will snap if the auger gets bound up by a newspaper, a child’s toy left outside, or anything else. Yes it’s annoying (though not difficult) to have to replace one. But that’s a lot better than a burnt-out motor or broken transmission component.
205° Chute Rotation Angle
The chute will turn up to 205 degrees, so not only do you get plenty of distance but you can put the stuff anywhere you want. Thankfully, it isn’t all that difficult to turn, even with very thick gloves on, thanks to the Quick Turn control mechanism.
And, the chute can be adjusted up or down while standing. Frankly, I’ve not had good luck with these remote adjusters; they tend to freeze in my neighborhood (Northern Idaho). But a little cold-weather grease might solve that here.
Ariens AX 208cc Engine
One reason for the fine snow throwing ability is the basic design. A two-stage snow blower, other things being equal, is always going to throw more snow faster.
Still, the major reason for that very robust throwing distance is the engine on this Ariens model. It’s no longer the Briggs and Stratton that was used on the 920014. That’s kind of a shame. The Briggs and Stratton is a venerable and well-respected power plant, and rightly so. But the replacement – the Ariens AX engine – shows itself well in practice.
The 208cc engine is actually made for Ariens by an outfit called LCT (Liquid Combustion Technology). LCT also makes engines for Husqvarna, a giant in the chainsaw business. They’re not so well known as Briggs and Stratton, of course. But they’ve been in business 25 years and have a well-earned reputation for quality and durability.
True, the engines are made in China – along with just about everything else these days. Luckily, that location long ago lost its patina as a cheap (i.e. poor quality) product. Everybody makes stuff there now and much of it is top notch, as is the case here. The company HQ is actually in South Carolina, where the designs are done.
The power plant drives a transmission that offers six forward speeds and two reverse. A lot of the time that’s more than you need. Even so, it’s always good to have too many options here. If you’ve ever run into a big icy berm you know the feeling.
The torque isn’t quite what I would hope for – 9.5 ft-lbs. Even a 26″ Snapper with a Briggs and Stratton engine offers 11.5 ft-lbs. But for a medium-sized machine it is very respectable.
Luckily, for all that snow-throwing power, the 920021 power plant is easy to start. An electric push-button system makes it so. Plug it into any standard 120V outlet, push a button, and you’re up and running. If you have a power outage but still need to clear snow, the recoil start isn’t all that tough. A couple of cranks will usually do it and there’s no need to be a muscle man, either.
920021 (Compact 24) vs 920022 (Compact 24 Track)
Even the “little things” were designed thoughtfully in this model. One area that some snow blowers tend to come up short is the tires. Not here.
The 920021 houses a pair of 15″ x 5″ pneumatic tires that will get you more easily through those higher drifts. That’s one reason this thing can tackle a 12″ fall without bogging down.
I have to give kudos to Ariens for providing a pin-lock axle to lock or unlock the right or left wheel. You can set it for 1-wheel or 2-wheel operation. When “unlocking” a wheel, that wheel will not be driven. That can be useful to improve maneuverability while 2-wheel operation will give you maximum traction when clearing snow on a steep hill for example.
There is an alternative model to the 920021 – the 920022, also known as the Compact 24 Track that makes that point even stronger.
The 920022 houses 5.5″ wide directional rubber snow tracks and has a somewhat different axle and differential to provide an improved ease of handling. The effect here is extra grip to make it easier to move through or, more accurately, curve through those tougher snow berms.
Whether that feature is worth extra cash depends on so many personal factors there’s no way to say for everyone. It depends on the user’s budget, strength, average snow type, and more. But I’d certainly pay more for it.
The Ariens 920021 aka Compact 24, or its cousin the Ariens 920022 aka Compact 24 Track isn’t for everyone. Some buyers will need a wider auger with an engine that offers more torque. But this unit will more than satisfy most everyone’s needs. It’s powerful, reliable, and yet easy to use.