I spent Saturday morning doing a job that should never had been required. I was repairing the metal frame for the storm cab on my snow blower. Unlike the snow blower, the cab is not well made. Supporting the open rectangular vinyl shelter is a lightweight tubular metal frame. The segments that attach to the snow blower handle had been welded together. Unlike tubular frames where the joining ends are notched to fit around a section of tubing, these ends were smashed flat and welded onto the side of the tubing. Even I know that creates a much weaker joint.
The upright sections that support the sides and roof of the cab were bent and bolted together. Nuts and bolts make a nice joint but bending lightweight tubing causes kinks and weak spots. I am not a mechanical engineer, but I’ve made enough things out of metal to know that. In fact, there are three gates in our yard – all made from tubular steel – all notched and welded properly and all still swinging after many years of use.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to weld this frame back together. It has broken in all the spots where I’ve looked and thought, “that looks fragile” or “I would have put a gusset there.” If you search for “tubular steel joints” you will find hundreds of images showing methods of connecting steel tubes to other steel tubes. Hardly any will look like this support frame.
The problem with this storm cab frame seems to fall into the category of things that were either designed by people who never use the things they design, or a company that’s being run by accountants. Anyone who has ever walked behind a snow blower knows what happens when you hit a tuft of grass, an uneven joint in the sidewalk or a piece of ice – whump! The blower stops. In my case, the blower stops but the storm cab does not. The joints in the frame have to be able to withstand that shock. The joints in this frame never would. Over time, they all broke.
This time, since I’m retired and it’s not January, I made a preemptive strike against future failures. I added gussets – triangular pieces of metal welded into a 90° angle. I cut some sections of larger tubing (conduit) and made T-shaped braces to wrap around the joints which hadn’t yet broken. In the broken corner that had only been bent into shape, I inserted a piece of steel inside the tubing before welding it back together. I don’t like having to repair things that were made badly. It’s even worse when, like this storm cab, those things were expensive. I don’t mind paying for quality products. I don’t like paying for junk.