Snowplow Buyer’s Guide
Whether you only need to plow your own driveway or are planning to take care of multiple drives and parking lots, a snowplow can help you get the job done quickly and efficiently. There are plows fit for jobs of all sizes and can fit a large range of vehicles. That said, there are many things to consider before putting money down for a snowplow. Before talking to a dealer, take a look at these guidelines to help give you a better idea of what to look for.
Types of Vehicles Snowplows Can Be Mounted On
When recalling snowplows, most people think of them attached to trucks. But today plows are made for several types of vehicles, and the type of snowplow you get and how you shop for that plow is highly dependent on the vehicle you are outfitting. Plows can be made for:
- Trucks & Cars
- ATVs & UTVs
- Lawn Tractors
- Skid Steer/Loader/Backhoe
Trucks & Cars: Both trucks and cars can handle plows. The size of the snowplow it can handle depends on the vehicle’s GAWR rating (more on that later).
lawn-tractor-snowplowATVs & UTVs: If you have an ATV or UTV, you may be able to fit a snowplow on it for the winter. The manufacturer of your vehicle will have that information for you and can usually be found in your owner’s manual. In most cases the manufacturer of the vehicle does not make the plows. Plow-making businesses such as Boss Plows will make them instead.
Lawn Tractors: Depending on the size of your lawn tractor (or riding lawn mower) and manufacturer, you may be able to fit a plow on these too. Unlike ATVs and UTVs, the manufacturer of your tractor will also make the snowplow you buy. You can find out if your lawn tractor can support a snowplow by looking in your owner’s manual or contacting the company that made it and get it directly from them.
Skid Steer/Loader/Backhoe: The correct snowplow or pusher depends on the horsepower of the skid steer, loader, or backhoe. It is best to contact the plow’s brand for technical support.
If you are planning to fit a snowplow to your car or truck, knowing its GAWR rating will be key in determining how large a plow your vehicle can handle. GAWR, or Gross Axle Weight Rating, is the maximum weight that can be supported on an axle. Most vehicles have separate GAWR ratings for the front and back axles, so you specifically want the rating for the front. This number is set by the manufacturer of the vehicle and cannot by changed.
A GAWR is calculated by the manufacturer is dependent on multiple factors including the weight of the vehicle, amount of fuel, passengers, weight of cargo and tongue weight. You can find your vehicle’s GAWR rating, open the driver’s side vehicle. On the inside of the car door or track, there should be a sticker that will have this information available on it. In addition to your GAWR rating, you should also know the make, model, and year of the car. You can bring this information in to a dealer or use it on a plow website to find the right snowplow for you.
Truck drivers: If you are also planning to outfit your truck with a salt spreader, you will also need to know the maximum weight your truck is allowed to hold. You will want to make sure that the weight of your salter (with salt in it) and plow do not exceed this weight limit and is far enough under the weight limit to allow for vehicle occupants. This number can be found on the same sticker.
Straight Blade vs V-Blade vs Box
Snowplows come in 3 basic shapes. They are:
- Straight Blade
- Box Plow
Straight Blade: A straight-blade snowplow tends to be the simplest and lightest of the 3 types. Because of this, many smaller vehicles (like lawn tractors and ATVs) can only support these types of blades. Their shape also has fewer consumable parts than the other types of plows, so upkeep is easiest on straight blades. Their disadvantage is they can’t handle heavy snowfall or large drifts as well as V-Plows or Box Plows.
Some straight blade snowplows come with or can be fitted with extendable wings. These wings can be set straight along the blade, so you can plow a wider area, or angled to keep snow from windrowing as you plow it. If you plan to get a straight blade but think you may want to upgrade it in the future with extendable wings, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s capable before you purchase one.
V-Plow: A V-Plow is made of 2 blade that are attached to each other. The blades can be set at different angles to each other depending on the job. Angle them a V-Shape, for example, and it will make snow drifts easier to cut through and clear away than a straight blade could handle. This extra ability does means that V-Plows tend to be heavier than straight blades, and smaller vehicles cannot handle them. The smallest V-Plow currently available is made by Boss Plow for full-size UTVs. They also have more parts that can break down and need more attention.
Box Plow: Box plows are the large plows made for construction equipment such as skid steers, loaders, backhoes, wheel loaders, and tractors. The design is similar to a straight blade, with wings bolted at 90 degree angles on either side to keep snow from windrowing as you plow it. If you have a large commercial lot that you need to keep clear and already have a skid steer, this could be a good option. Keep in mind though that box plows aren’t very mobile – you can’t drive down the road with a loader or skid steer that has a box plow attached, as they’re too wide for the road.
Many, but not all, snowplows come standard with trip edge. Trip edge can be found on the bottom of a snowplow and is designed to collapse the bottom ridge of the plow when it hits unseen rocks or other objects. This helps keep your snowplow and frame of your vehicle from bending. Most trip edges are designed to only collapse when hit by an object from the front, but you can also get a full trip, which can collapse from the front or back.
Steel vs Stainless Steel vs Poly
Although all snowplows have frames are made of steel, their bolts and moldboard can be made out of either powder-coated steel, stainless steel or polyethylene.
Powder-Coated Steel is the cheapest and most commonly used material plows are made from. The paint powder coating keeps water from corroding the steel, but can wear off quickly. Touch-up paint can be purchased to cover areas that have been exposed, but if the steel has already started to corrode, it will keep rusting away even with that coat applied.
Polyethylene moldboards are non-corrosive. Snow doesn’t stick to polyethylene like it does to steel and stainless steel, so clean-up is easier. These plows are also quieter than their steel counterparts, as steel plows tend to rattle in their frame. Poly plows tend to be heavier than steel and stainless steel, as the frames need to be thicker to support it. Also, if you hit rocks or debris with a poly blade, you’re likely to crack it. If you do that, you’ll need to replace the moldboard completely. Steel plows, on the other-hand, usually dent and can continue to be used.
Stainless Steel is the most expensive type of snowplow on the market. It is non-corrosive like poly plows, but lighter as it doesn’t need the frame support. It is more durable than polyethylene is too, where a poly plow may crack and need to be replaced, a stainless steel plow is more likely to be dented, and can continue to be used.
Snowplows have additional accessories that you can purchase and use to make the job easier. They include:
Polyethylene cutting edges: If you have decorative brick or another delicate surface that you don’t want to damage, you can purchase cutting edges made of polyethylene.
Rubber cutting edges: Just like their poly counterparts, rubber cutting edges are good for decorative stoneware or other delicate surfaces. They last longer than polyethylene and often cost more.
Back drag cutting edges: You can also purchase back drag cutting edges. This allows you to back up your vehicle and plow at the same time, which is great for small driveways where turning around isn’t feasible.
Plow guides: Guide sticks often come standard on plows, but if yours doesn’t, consider getting some. They help you easily see if you can clear a space with your plow.
Rubber deflectors go on top of the plow and hang down over it. These keep snow from going over the top of the plow for better visibility.
Plow shoes: Consider getting plow shoes if you are plowing a gravel driveway. Plow shoes raises the height of your plow so you don’t pick up rocks as well as snow.
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