Gravely Power Brush review.......(longer term)

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
Back during the winter another member here posted a review about the Gravely Power Brush. I made some comments in that thread, and Mary Lyn reached out to me to see if I would like to try it, so I gladly accepted the chance. The reason for posting about clearing snow now, is because I wanted to wait until I had had a chance to use this unit during warm weather for some of the things I thought it would come in very handy for me, like clearing driveway entrances that get constantly fouled by sand and gravel and other debris washing down the road and into the drive entrances.One place in particular, the roadway is on a decent grade right in front of the entrances, and is the one I have the most troubles with. This debris will eventually flow all the way down the parking lot and to the back of the parking area, where due to the wallows and ruts in the pavement, it ends up running out onto the lawn I take care of at that place, leaving sand, gravel and tons of cigarette butts all over the place.

The one I have been demo'ing is the 36" with the hydro transmission. It has heated handles for wintertime use, and a halogen headlight that is always on, so you can work after dark if needed. It is electric start, and features a 9.5 HP Subaru OHV engine that starts very nicely/quickly and runs smoothly and is fairly quiet even at WOT. It has 16x6.50-8" drive wheels and chevron tread tires, which give good traction on a variety of surfaces overall. It also has a limited slip drive axle for added traction which it does indeed(though that feature can make turning a bit more difficult on dry pavement unless you slow the forward speed down to a slow pace while making the turn).

This unit came to me with the gauge wheels mounted behind the brush, in between it and the drive wheels. They are multi-position adjustable with spacers that are also provided.

I received it during the earlier part of winter, and used it all season long on snow that was less than 2" deep, on the various driveways I take care of.

It did a great job of removing snow down to the pavement that would normally still have a light layer left behind from a snowplow or snow blower that can, and often does turn into a thin layer of ice as vehicles repeatedly drive over it. This unit will move deeper snow, but IME, snow over 2" deep rapidly piles up into much deeper and heavier snow that becomes very hard to move in a single pass, as much of it will be swept back up and over the bristles and dumped behind them requiring a second pass.

I will list both the pros and cons of things I noticed about it that I either did, or did not like, or thought needed to be changed or adjusted either by the user or the manufacturer during production. I will be brutally honest about them too. Some of these things I talked about with Mary Lyn, who promptly set up a conference call between herself, myself, and several Ariens/Gravely engineers, who were quick to listen. Whether or not any of the things we talked about will, or are, being employed in the future, I have no idea.

First the pros-

- the machine does a fine job at moving snow 2" or less as already noted
- the heated handles are very nice on really cold days
- the hood over the bristles does a good job of keeping debris from coming back over the top and on to you
- the engine started easily even on the very coldest days, and warmed up quickly which allows getting going sooner on the first start-up of the day.
- there is a center, straight ahead position and an angled position of 20 degrees to each side to chose from
- it has both forward and backward drive positions which are controlled with one control lever mounted on the dash
- changing angles of the head is easy and simple, though someone with back or shoulder problems may have issues in doing so due to the way you do it on this unit
- this brush moves dirt and gravel quite nicely, easily, and pretty cleanly on decent pavement of any type. Pot holes will naturally be passed over to some extent as would be expected due to the width of the bristles/brush head


Now the cons-

(many, if not all of this was discussed at length with the Gravely techs during out conference call)

- the heated handles get a little too warm on this particular unit, so much so that I thought something was wrong. I actually worked bare handed most of the winter while running it as the handles were too hot to use with gloves on, and even then I had to turn the heat off every so often to give my hands a break
- while the top forward speed is enough for most any use, revere needs a lot more speed IMO/IME. That may not be true for everyone, especially home owners who do not run equipment all the time, but for guys like me, much more speed is needed in reverse as there are times and places where turning around and making a pass(es) the other way is out of the question. I experienced this both moving snow and sand/gravel
- the throttle and choke need to be moved up onto the dash instead of being located down near the bar where they are very hard to get to, especially if you need to quickly
- the gauge wheels that come with it are mounted in the wrong place for a lot of the things this unit is great for (more on this later)
- winter requires either tracks instead of tires (something the engineers brought up and asked if I thought would be viable, which I do), or at the least, chains. With very much ice at all to deal with on any sort of incline, and traction can become little to none since the brush rotates opposite the direction of the drive wheels while moving forward.
- the hydro drive lever on the dash really needs a return to neutral function when you let go of the drive engagement lever on the left handle. Otherwise, you can find that you let go of the drive engagement lever to stop (especially in a hurry) for some reason, then when you squeeze it to go again, you are already at whichever speed you left the hydro lever set at, and that can be dangerous around people, houses, cars etc. I know it sounds simple enough to just remember to pull the hydro lever back, but I am betting more often than not, most will forget to do it, especially if they step away from the unit for a few moments to do something else.

I mentioned earlier that the gauge wheels were not mounted in the best position for a lot of different types of work. During one of my chats with Mary Lyn, I mentioned this, and that I thought the front mounted gauge wheels would work better for a lot of things. She quickly got on this with various departments, and in short order I had the front mounted gauge wheel kit at my door to try, which I quickly and easily installed. It helped a ton where I was having issues before, like the gauge wheels dropping down into a shallow depression while the brush bristles themselves were going up onto a hump beyond the depression, which caused a harsh huckabuck affect, making it very hard to control the unit. The front gauge wheels eliminated that issue. However, they create their own dilemma when brushing to one side or the other along a deep snow bank as they are mounted on the outer end at each end of the brush housing, and the one closest to the snow bank would tend to hang on the bank and drag the unit in that direction where it would try to bury itself if you didn't stop quickly and adjust. It really wouldn't be an issue either except that after several snowfalls, if you can't keep clearing right up to the original snow bank you create, you end up with the drive or walkway getting narrower and narrower. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to change them from one position to the other if the need arises. Maybe 3 minutes tops to change them, even in the cold.

There were several other negatives for me, but they are mainly personal preferences more than any real deficiency in design.

This unit would be very handy for crews doing landscape installs as often or more than mowing, and can make clean ups after having topsoil, sand, gravel or mulch dropped off on a drive etc. easy and quick, and will do it when a large BP will not, or will take a lot longer to do at best. It gets down to the pavement while cleaning snow, and by the following day, what was left was always melted the rest of the way (even on cloudy days IME), so that whatever little layer of ice etc that remained was gone and there was bare pavement which could dry off nicely. That doesn't happen nearly as well, or as often, after plowing or blowing snow. There's almost always some ice and/or snow left behind after doing either of the latter two, which can lead to someone slipping and/or falling on a driveway or sidewalk

Here are some pics of the unit from various angles and some of the work I have done with it so far. These will have to be in several posts as I have a bunch of them. If you notice, in the last pic in this post, you can see a trail that is not quite cleared to the pavement running down the center of the path. That is due to the gearbox being located in the center of the broom, and it does not appear like that when angled to either side.

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OP
Ridin' Green

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
More pics from the winter. They are of a driveway that I plowed off with my CUT, then went back over with the broom. By the next day, it was bare pavement, and that happened like that all winter long. I have down pressure on my blade on my CUT too, so it isn't like I was trying to leave a layer-

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OP
Ridin' Green

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
Here are a few from this summer. My cheapie camera doesn't truly show how much debris is there in these pics, but while I have cleaned this crap up with my BP's before, it takes a long time to do it all, especially compared to using the broom. This stuff is spread out over a 50' x 75' area at this entrance and just slightly less at the lower entrance at this place. the dirt is about 1/2" deep on average, but can get well over an inch deep at times, depending on how much rain we get-

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AMC32

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Lincolnton, NC
Great review man. It's awesome you were able to use it that long and write up a review.

I've thought about buying one of those a few times over the last year and was curious about how well they wuld actually perform and it looks like it does great for the most part. Was it in light powdery snow or wet heavy stuff did you end up using it centered a lot or normally angled? We get wet heavy snow when it does snow and I have a feeling on of those wouldn't do so great in it... Any thought on that?

Also I've seen that some people even use them to detatch lawns and it would definitely help me out with that if I ever chose to buy one. Did you ever give that a shot and if so how did it do?
 
OP
Ridin' Green

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
Thanks bro. No, I never dethatched with it, though I knew you could. Just adjust the gauge wheels for the right height and have at it. I have a tow behind dethatcher that I use for the little of that type of work I do.

I used the broom in wet snow, dry, powdery snow and anything in between. it works pretty darn well for all of it, except for the deep stuff as I mentioned in the write up. I mainly use it with the head angled one way or the other like a snow plow.
 

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