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Automating my 4514 snowblower

17962 Views 24 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Bill W
I was looking for a good summer project and reading through old posts here on MTF. I decided to modify my Honda 4514 to get ready for snow. So here is my take on adding automation to my tractor mounted snowblower, along with lots of photos. This first photo is the way it looked before I got my wrenches out.

Honda uses a lever handle mounted in a bolt-on frame to raise and lower the snowblower. This arrangement is either all the way up or down with no middle ground. It makes it difficult to shave off snow over a grassy area unless you have three arms to steer, control speed, and hold the lever arm in a half up position. What is needed is some way to make the blower height adjustable and to hold a position. The lever arm also always seems to be in the way when getting close to the mailbox at the street as it sticks out hitting the box when I am trying to clear for the mailman. So it is time for it to go.

Here is a photo of the arm mounted to Honda's frame that gets bolted to the tractor.

I estimated the force needed to raise the 250 pound blower based on the length of the arm and the force needed to push it at about 40 pounds. This translates to be about 800 pounds at the pin on the end of a rod connected to Honda's "Quick Hitch" shown in the photo below.

There is a large mechanical advantage with this lever arrangement. Moving the long lever arm almost 120 degrees pushes the pin in the photo only about 3".
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I used a linear actuator like many before me but this one is rated for 1000 pounds with a 5.31" stroke and is mounted horizontally inside the Honda frame to push . The extra travel will be useful to lift the blower more when tackling big piles at the street. At full load the actuator can draw 24 Amps so some high current relay will be used, but more on that later.

Here is a video of a test of the linear actuator mounted in the Honda frame. It looked promising so I was encouraged to continue.
An old shock absorber boot protects the actuator shaft from water and I found that a 1" threaded pipe coupling is a good fit (with a little filing) to go over the 1-1/8" shaft. This also gave me a way to fine tune the length by selecting the right size threaded pipe to connect to Honda's Quick Hitch. You may notice in the video that there is some slop built into the connection to the Quick Hitch. Hopefully this should allow the blower to float on the driveway.
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baja 252, on the craftsman forums gave me the idea of using a joystick to control the actuator. A perfect application to control the various motors. This joystick uses 4 SPDT micro-switches rated for 5 Amps at 125 VAC. The North/South positions are used to raise and lower the blower.

To keep the 24 amp load current of the actuator off the joystick switches I used a reversing solenoid. It is designed to run things like a winch but works well for the actuator. The reversing solenoid will draw only 2 Amps, by my measurements, so the joystick switches should be happy.

What this reversing solenoid does is give a way to reverse the polarity of power to the linear actuator by connecting one or the other solenoid control terminals with 12 volts.
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Like many other blowers I have seen here, the chute rotation is done by turning a spring-like gear using a hand crank.

To rotate the blower chute I am using a 280 RPM 12 VDC, right angle gear motor. The text from Surplus Center for this motor says this was originally built for use in wheel chair lifts and is rated for 30 in-lbs torque.

280 RPM is way too fast so it is geared down again using a 14 tooth sprocket with 1/2" bore (1-2742-14D) to fit the motor shaft, and a 48 tooth sprocket with 3/4" bore (1-2742-48F) to fit the chute rotator shaft. These sprockets are also from Surplus Center. Here is a photo showing the test fit-up where the motor is tucked in below the chute. I had to work with the angle iron placement to get the two sprockets aligned and then bolted to the blower.

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The 48 tooth sprocket is the largest that will fit on my snow blower and this reduced the motor RPM from 280 to 82 and increased the torque to 103 in-lbs. At this speed the chute is easy to control. The next photo shows the motor, gears and chain installed on the blower, ready to go. The chain and sprockets are #25 pitch. I expect the torque will break the chute free if frozen.

The East/West positions of the joystick rotate the snowblower chute clockwise and counterclockwise and here I used relays to take the load current of the motor, 17 Amps, off the joystick control switches.
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Raising and lowering the blower chute flap is done using another linear actuator. The one I chose has a 5.9" stroke and is rated at 107 pounds. This actuator has built-in limit switches and I made use of the fully retracted switch to stop motion with the flap down. Unfortunately, the stroke only needs to be 3" to fully raise the flap so it stalls when fully open and the internal, extended limit switch can not be used. If I were starting over I would use the 3.9" stroke and make use of both limit switches by modifying the mount locations. I plan on storing the blower with the flap down to protect the actuator shaft from corrosion.

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To control the various actuators and motor of this build a control box was used to house the joystick, switch, and relays. All interconnecting wires are using weatherpack connectors which should keep water out and even though these connectors are rated at only 15 Amps, they should survive momentary overloads without melting. Wiring used is 12 AWG.

A DPDT momentary toggle switch with a center off position is used to raise and lower the chute flap. The switch has a current rating of 20 Amps @ 125 VAC and will last a long time driving the actuator with a maximum current draw of 3.4 Amps. The switch is # 11-3259 from Surplus Center.

The next 2 photos show a shot of the control box and a circuit drawing of the box. I decided to paint the box "Honda red" and add labels.

(Can you tell by now that I am a retired electrical engineer?)
The box is mounted to the tractor using a jointed tilt and swivel arm that allowed me to place it for easy reach. Electrical connections will unplug from the box so when not in snow season, it can be removed along with the blower.

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The reversing solenoid is mounted to the top of the battery under the hood and this is where I power this kludge through a 20 Amp thermal breaker. Power connections to the joystick box come from here also. These photos show the solenoid mounting plate on top of the battery, fuse and circuit drawing. You will see that I had to insulate the solenoid terminals because they were close to the hood latching mechanism and I wasn't looking to start a fire to burn away the snow. :)

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I want to give thanks to:

mbkerk, on the craftsman forums showing his snowblower lift and chute rotator
baja 252, on the craftsman forums for the joystick idea which I copied and on the MTD forums for his work showing the use of actuators and chute rotator motor.
SnowMower, for his trials on motor choice and solving fitment trouble
ericdube, on the Cub Cadet forums for his work using a mini-actuator and chute rotator
skerkvli, for detailed trials automating his Cub Cadet and getting me started on this crazy, but enjoyable journey.

All these members and more got my wheels turning to work up a solution for my Honda and it sure beats painting my house, another job I've put off this summer. Bring on the snow!

I will update this thread when I put the snowblower to a test with real snow. Right now I still have another month of grass and leaves.
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Looks like a very productive build, we'll need to see some action shots soon though!
nice work - got my envy juices flowing :thThumbsU
Thanks everyone. I will be posting some videos of how it all works when I switch over to the blower. I takes me several hours to make the change so I will not be able to try it out for a while.
It takes me several hours to make the change so I will not be able to try it out for a while.
I know how to fix this, buy a 2nd tractor. :)
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Very nice write-up. The pictures and part numbers were beyond helpful. I just ordered the required parts from surplus center and will be doing the install on my bercomac blower. TThanks again.

Well, here is where the rubber meets the road with my Honda modifications. This recent storm put my 4514 to the test with wet, deep snow. I could smell the blower belt getting hot if I went too fast, but it sure beats shoveling.

Hope this link works.
I like what you did with the blower. I have been thinking of doing the same. Right now I'm putting my thoughts into a power angle for the plow,I use it more than the blower. I have found a compact electric over hydraulic cylinder mfg. by KYB, waiting for them to get back to me on a price and where I can buy one. nice job I hope it works well for you
Cool video, I have yet to smell by belt burning. ;)
Awesome work Dave. I think this summer I will have to convert my Berco blower to electric controls also. Just finishing up getting a winch setup for lifting my blower in between snow falls.

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