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Snow brings flurry of blower repairs

Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

Dale LaBounty has seen some hard winters, but when it comes to snowblower repairs, this year has broken all the records.

The owner of Gopher’s South Hill Outdoor Power, 1015 E. Ninth Ave. in Spokane, says his phone has been ringing nonstop since last week’s big storms.

His four full-time mechanics have seen just about anything that could clog a machine – newspapers, extension cords, Christmas lights, bricks, dog chains, you name it.

One machine was brought to a screeching halt by a garbage truck’s lost tire chain, according to Jamie Smith, a Gopher’s mechanic.

Smith pointed to a stack of work orders an inch thick and a bigger stack of orders for parts.

It’s been the busiest year LaBounty can recall. “Ten times beyond usual,” he said.

“We’ve sold more shear bolts this winter than we’ve sold in an eight-year period, more auger belts than in a five-year period,” LaBounty said. “I’ve bought out every distributor that I could find.”

One truckload of parts was delayed by the closure of Snoqualmie Pass last week.

“I’ve never experienced a season like this,” LaBounty said. “Especially in the first three days after that big storm last week. I wanted to give the place away.”

Workers at other small-engine repair shops in the area told similar stories.

Hayden Saw Sales in Kootenai County is about two weeks behind on fixing belts, cables and drive systems on snowblowers, according to mechanic Sean Morgan. “Some parts are hard to get,” he said.

Aces Valley Power Tool in Spokane Valley is “absolutely inundated,” said manager Mike Freshman, who had about 200 machines in his shop awaiting repairs but none for sale.

LaBounty said he’s had all kinds of snowblowers in for repairs – from the smallest paddle-wheel machine to the largest tractor-mounted one.

He advises customers not to try attacking those snow berms that snowplows push up. “They’re nothing but ice,” LaBounty said.

And always follow manufacturers’ directions and never try to work on a snowblower without shutting it off and disconnecting the spark plug, he said.

Despite the brisk business, LaBounty can’t wait for winter to end. “I’ll be waking up shaking in July over this one,” he said.

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