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Prepare Your Plow Blade and Skid Steer for the Upcoming Snow Removal Season

Posted on 30th Nov 2015 @ 4:30 PM

Winter is coming. Every season presents new tests of endurance, and keeping a plow business sharp is a constant challenge for every professional plow warrior. Having a good business plan, client list and hard-working crew is essential, but having the right weapons for the battle is paramount as well, which is why picking the perfect snow blade for your truck will be a key ingredient to success.

“As much as the technology involved might keep changing, one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the need for a reliable piece of equipment at 3 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm,” says Scott Moorman. “When we asked in focus groups, real snow professionals didn’t really care about chain lifts, direct lifts, full trip or trip edge. They just wanted something that worked when they needed it to. I think what we’ve seen from our larger end-users are constantly rising expectations for quality and durability. The addition of any new technology to a snowplow requires some serious thought, because if a change doesn’t directly benefit the end-user, what’s the point? As an engineer, I love gadgets, but not hanging off the front of my truck. For that, I want an overbuilt, overdesigned, simple, robust snowplow.”

Whether you’re a municipal crew, one-man operation or landscaper-turned-plow-pro, a snow contractor will need a solid plow that fits their business plan — and there are many choices. Step onto the dealer lot of any of snowplow manufacturer today and you will discover two main configurations dominate the truck snowplow industry:

Straight Blades — These blades clear snow quickly and easily in environments as narrow as a sidewalk or as expansive as a parking lot, using a heavy-duty blade that is straight. For increased maneuverability, a straight blade can be angled 30 to 45 degrees right or left for exact plowing. Price range is $3,000 to $4,000.
V-Plows — These plows increase the plow pros’ ability to move snow more efficiently and carefully. The V-plow is a multi-position plow (V-position, scoop position, straight position and angle position) that gives your operations more versatility and accuracy. Price range is $4,000 to $6,000.

While V-plows are the most versatile blades, straight blades are still the most popular. V-plows are typically utilized by professionals and cities, while straight blade plows are used by both contractors and consumers. Smaller-size straight blades (popular with homeowners) usually size from 6 to 7 1/2 ft wide and are intended for non-commercial use with down-sized 4-by-4s, SUVs and light 1/2-ton pickups. Conventional straight blade plows are typically sold in 7 1/2-, 8-, 8 1/2-, 9- and 9 1/2-ft sizes, as well as some 10 footers for medium-duty trucks.

One of the most compelling reasons that a customer chooses a V-plow over a straight blade is the adjustability of the V-plow. “A V-plow can be maneuvered into any configuration that the conditions call for — scoop, wing, straight blade or V. With this adjustability a contractor can more precisely move and/or stack snow where he wants it — which comes in very handy later in the winter as snow banks and piles get higher and higher and space to put snow is at a premium. In terms of options when considering both, there are a number of considerations. Cost, the plow vehicle’s capability and the desired blade material all come into play. More and more contractors are going from the traditional straight blade to the V-plow — that has been the trend over the past number of years.”

Straight blade plows are the most popular plows, primarily due to cost, ease-of-operation and vehicle applications, but V-plows allow operators to better control the direction of the push. The V-position cuts through heavier snow while the scoop position allows for better cleanup or maneuvering in tight spaces. Typically used in the forward-facing position to capture and move snow when plowing parking lots, streets or other travel ways, the V-plow can also be operated in the V-position to break through deep unplowed snow or as a conventional windrowing plow. V-plows are significantly heavier and more expensive than a straight blade plow, but are more versatile.

Besides straight and V-plows, box plows get attention for specific plow jobs (mostly projects in wide open spaces on very large trucks). Often associated with large wheel loaders clearing snow on massive properties, box plows (also called snow pushers) are designed for some truck applications. Its mission is to quickly move large amounts of snow in a straight line, but box plows are more difficult to transport from site to site because of size.

“Box plows for pickup trucks are virtually non-existent,” says Matthew Price. “We have built them in the past, but it would be a tiny market as of now. Box plows are more likely to be used with larger dump trucks and multi-axle trucks. Box plows can go from 6 ft to 30-plus ft, but for a truck the largest we have made would be around 24 ft. A box plow could be three times as fast on open sites as a straight blade. You can also control where the snow gets dumped much more easily with the box plow as you don’t simply push it to the side.”

Already Have a Plow? Prepare It

Pre-season maintenance is of the utmost importance. There’s nothing worse than waiting until the snow flies to find that your plow’s cutting edge has deteriorated or that your plow hitch needs a good hydraulic overhaul. So arm yourself with a can of Raid and head into your plow’s hibernation den.

Clear the cobwebs away, extinguish any unwanted pests and then take a good look at your plow — first investigating the welds on all the structural steel, including the moldboard, A-frame, sector/pivot bar and the mounting and lift frame. It is crucial that there are no cracks or excessive wear in the welds; you don’t need a joint buckling under the pressure of plowing. Before you start the season, check the hydraulic motor, change the hydraulic oil fluid, replace the filters, grease the electrical fittings and test the lights — both high and low beams. Also check your push beam height. See your manual for measurements, as the vehicle suspension has a tendency to change after plowing for a season. Start in September or October because when November rolls around, you want your plow to work.

“After each snow clearing event, the following should be checked for good working condition: All hydraulic hoses, hydraulic oil level, bolts/nuts and cutting edges — both steel and rubber,” says Price.
 Most cutting edges are about 6 in. and most guys who plow know that when it gets down to about 4 in., it’s time to replace the edge. It’s the same with the rubber shoes wearing too thin. If you’re plowing, you’ll eventually leave a groove if something is too worn. When the runners are installed, the cutting edge should be about a 1/2-in. off the ground. Cutting edges are usually the most expensive replacement on a plow, costing about $150 to $300, while shoes run around $50. V- and C-plows have one extra hinge point that should be lubricated with a high-quality, general purpose grease.

“The electrical system is often overlooked when people are thinking about plow maintenance,” says Moorman. “That DC solenoid under the hood is everything at 3 a.m. If that fails, you are done until you can replace it. That’s a 15-minute job on a sunny day, or it can be a phone call to your subs at 3 a.m. We usually suggest them as a yearly maintenance item as they are fairly inexpensive, but at the very least any user should have one in their toolkit and check the connections regularly. A loose nut on any wired connection will cause heat, voltage drop and other problems. Open your hood, take off the HPU cover, look for broken or frayed wires and get all your electrical connections with di-electric grease.  If you see a damaged wire or evidence of corrosion, immediately fix it. The expanding and V-plows have more complicated electronics, making maintenance of your harnesses and connectors even more critical.”

 As far as greasing is concerned overall, inspect and grease the king bolt, pivot pins/bolts and all hinge points. And take a look at the ground to check for any hydraulic leaks from the angling and lift cylinders. Also check the hydraulic hoses for cuts, abrasions and leaks. The best preventive maintenance for hydraulic systems is to change the fluid at the beginning of the season. If you don’t feel comfortable messing with the hydraulic system, it’s a good idea to take it to the dealer to have it done. Where else can you find good info?