Eskimo Stingray 33 cc Ice Auger Review
January 8, 2013
This nearly turned into one of those pieces where the author vents his frustrations about the worthless product. You know, the kind with the one star out of five rating at the bottom, and the word “junk” in the last sentence. But then I read the instructions.
The auger was an impulse buy at Canadian Tire during the Christmas blitz. Its sale price of $300. was the same as the best I could find on Amazon.com, only without the additional costs of delivery and a border crossing. So I bought it, torn package and all, at the risk of a scowl from my wife. After all I was supposed to be shopping for Christmas presents for family members at the time.
When an ice fishing buddy stopped by the workshop I decided it was time to fire up the new toy, so I grabbed the open can of chain saw gas, dumped a bit in, and let fly. The engine started only after I splashed fuel around the vicinity of the spark plug hole and re-inserted the plug, but then settled into a smooth idle, smoking enough to set off the alarm in my woodworking shop almost immediately. My pal suggested that the gas smelled a bit old, but you know how guys can be: “That gas was fine when I cut up those logs last spring, and it worked fine in the brush cutter all summer.”
The next trial was to start it in the cold at the lake. That required another drink through the spark plug hole to get it warmed up enough to drill. Once started, it cut a series of holes through soggy ice ranging from 12″ to 16″ with no difficulty. Clearly the auger works very well; it was just a matter of getting the Viper engine to start.
I was impressed with the design of the protective cover over the blades. It seems to allow you to stand the auger up for starting without damage to the blades or the surface below. The auger also has a point to centre the hole. No doubt this is good for starting cuts on hard, glare ice.
On Monday morning I tried to start the Viper under conditions I could expect to find on the lake. Zero degrees F, a wind, bright sunlight. No way would it start. Removed plug. Numb fingers. Dropped plug in snowbank. How do you get ice out of a spark plug? Place it in an interior pocket (the more interior the better) and wait for it to warm up. Pulled cowl off air cleaner with Philips screwdriver. Dropped screw into protective plate at bottom of auger. Mindful of razor-sharp blades, tried to get it out with pliers. No room. Tipped auger over. Lost screw in snow. Located with shop magnet. Lit fire in shop stove to thaw hands. Continued.
Failure syndrome beginning now. Narrowly avoided damaging prongs which hold cover for air cleaner. They looked fragile enough that I held back a bit. Reassembled. Cover loose under there, but recovered screw went in O.K.
No hint of life from motor.
In desperation I re-read starting instructions. Nope. They hadn’t changed. Checked Internet for tales of woe about Eskimo ice augers. Not much. Most people love them. Dug more deeply. Found a discussion group devoted to owners very much like me. One learned contributor posted a 500 word essay in which he explained that the Viper engine will start well if the fuel vapourizes properly. It needs winter gasoline, and 87 octane, not high test, as regular unleaded has more aromatic ingredients for winter starting.
I looked again at the instructions. No way was I going to buy a new can when the other one is only a year or two old, but I’d give it new fuel and oil. So off I went for five litres of regular, carefully mixed in the 50:1 synthetic I use in my chain saw, and dumped some into the newly-drained tank.
Halfway through the first tug the thing began to purr smoothly with little smoke. Oh.
Just to be sure I have left the motor unit (auger stowed away) in a snowbank in the shade for a series of cold-start trials over the next week. So far it has lit up on cue every time. It needs a bit of prime at each start and the choke set. But then it starts easily and idles without hesitation. Unlike some Chinese engines which won’t start without the choke, this one will start when warm with just a tug on the cord.
That old summer gas just wouldn’t vapourize, or maybe there were ice crystals in it. After all, it had sat in an open shed without a cap on the spout for several months.
Had I written the review at the spark-plug-in-the-snowbank stage I would have made a fool of myself, slagged the product, and contributed nothing useful to the discussion.
If all else fails, find somebody on the Internet to tell you what the instructions which came with the motor actually mean.
AFTERWORD, 9 January, 2013:
After a couple of days of cold starts I believe I have figured out the drill:
1. Turn switch to “on”.
2. Ensure choke lever is set to “run”. I don’t know why, but everybody says to do it, and it works.
3. Give primer a light squeeze, about 50% of maximum effort.
4. Turn lever to “choke”.
5. Tug cord lightly.
6. When it starts, gradually raise choke lever to “run”.
How do I like the auger? It’s too heavy to lug around on foot, but it starts and runs very well with fresh gas. With sharp blades it has abundant power to cut 8″ holes in ice. Overall I’d say it’s a pretty good machine and an excellent value. Just stay away from stale gas with this engine.
UPDATE, 12 January, 2013:
The auger worked very well on an exploratory fishing trip this morning. I drilled several holes to mark a route out to the fishing area, and then many more in an attempt to find a weed bed. No fish were forthcoming, but it wasn’t the auger’s fault. Over three hours and many starts I gave the cord a second tug only once when I miscalculated the choke.
On glare ice in deeper holes I found my inertia wasn’t quite enough to overcome the auger’s torque by the bottom of the hole, and I found myself beginning to slide. For even deeper cuts in soggy ice I might need another person (or better footing) to steady the auger, but the little engine produces plenty of torque. After lugging the thing over questionable ice for a half-mile on the way out, I was happy to load it into the box of the Ranger for the return trip. It’s heavy.
UPDATE: 1 February, 2013
So far this season we haven’t caught many good fish, but it’s not the equipment’s fault. The auger has drilled dozens of holes, trouble-free. We couldn’t ask more of it. It starts well in all weathers, and it’s not hard on fuel. The 33 cc engine is well matched to the 8″ auger size.