We bought this machine for use on our .4 acre lot which is surrounded by trees, brushes and bushes. In less than 5 hours of use, a branch pierced the rear wheel plastic back-plate and the inside of the wheel filled up with debris blocking the drive gear to the wheel gear. Although the other wheel back plate was not damaged, it was also filled with debris jamming the gears. The back plates' mounting is really flimzy and allows seperation from the wheels. This design flaw (my opinion) will force me to remove the wheels several times a season for clean up and inspection of the gears; unexpected additional maintenance I can do without. An aluminum version of the back plate or a better gear protection system should be considered by Ariens' Engineers. I am not doing anything different with this machine than I was with my 11-year old hydrostatic (competitor's) machine. This type of failure (or flaw) is not expected on a machine of this caliber and price.