This page is dedicated solely to snowplows for use on one ton and smaller size vehicles. Most plow manufacturers offer a wide range of snowplows for many types of vehicles. The bigger the plow you want, the larger the vehicle you will need. Plows can start at widths of around six and a half feet and go up to large nine foot wide sizes. Most compact/mid-size trucks will have a width of 7.5 feet or less. Half ton trucks will have blades in the 7 to 7.5 foot range and three-quarter ton trucks and up use blades from 7.5 to 9 feet. Boss, Fisher, Western and Sno-Way also offer a straight plow that angles in the center, turning the plow into a V snowplow, similar to the industrial and commercial size plows. These V-blades can be angled to scoop and move snow around. Sno-Way offers an exclusive Down Pressure System that exerts downward force on the blade for extra heavy scaping and back-dragging.
Snowplows can usually be found in the yellow pages under snow removal equipment. I have seen the Snowbear snowplows being sold at Sams Club. You buy the blade at Sams and then send away for the mounting kit. I have also seen the Snowbear plow advertised in some Kmart sales flyers but have not actually seen the plow itself at a Kmart store. The only problems that I see with the Snowbear plow is that is has no way to provide any down-force on the plow blade. With the Snowbear plowing setup being made as light as possible to conserve weight, this seems to have a drawback in that the blade does not offer enough down-force to keep the blade in contact with the ground. In hydraulic plows, the weight of the system helps to provide down force on the blade to keep the blade in contact with the ground. There is an optional hydraulic down-pressure system for some Sno-Way plow systems that adds additional downforce to the plow blade which is useful for back-dragging. The Snowbear systems uses an electric winch to lift and lower the blade which can also be a problem due to the fact there is no limiter on the winch to keep it from unspooling to much cable and then wrapping back up around the winch drum.
There are two types of materials that snowplow blades are made. The most common is steel, painted or powdercoated. Powdercoated is much better as it offers a tougher finish. Care has to be taken with painted and powder coated finishes that they don't develop chips which can lead to rusting or sometimes in the case of powdercoating, rust bubbles. The ultimate in finish is a two-part expoxy paint, baked on, an example of this is the Hiniker plows. You can also get plows with clear, plastic blades. Some of the models offer weight savings, but not all of the due to the added bracing for the plastic. Some of the advantages of plastic is that the snow rolls better off the plastic. By using a clear plastic, it can also be easier to see directly in front of the blade area.
There are two basic styles of snowplow blades (also called moldboards). The full tripping blade has been around the longest. When you strike an unseen obstacle in the snow like a curb, the whole blade will catch on the curb, bend forward and then hopefully bounce over the obstacle. Then the trip springs will snap the blade back into the normal plowing position. The other style of plow blade functions the same, but only the lower portion of the blade bends, the upper portion of the blade stays straight. Fisher plows are an example of this second style.
Some vehicle manufacturers have stated that plows should not be installed on certain models that they make. A good example of this is the 1997+ Ford F-150. Ford is stating that snowplows should be used on this vehicle only in regular cab configuration. Ford doesn't seem to have any restictions on the 1997+ F250LD. Check with the dealer for more specific information. For example in previous years, Ford did not advise putting plows on any of their trucks unless it was a regular cab, long bed vehicle. If you are buying a new vehicle, check this ahead of time so you won't void your warranty. Some manufacturers offer snowplow wiring options on the new vehicles which makes wiring up the snowplow auxillary headlamps easier. Don't forget a heavier front end suspension if that is available to help compensate for the added weight of the plow. Optional oil and transmission fluid coolers are also a good investment (even if the truck isn't used for plowing). A typical snowplow prep package from the factory may consist of heavy duty front springs and shock absorbers, power steering cooler and the light wiring harness. You may want to also think about an auxillary battery, lockers or limted slips and manual hubs (on the few trucks that still have this option).
Tire choice is another hotly debated issue, most plowers use tall and skinny tires such as a 235/85R16 in an all-terrain style tread. Be sure to get a Light Truck (LT) version of the tire and not a Passenger (P) version of the tire. A set of tire chains can be a good investment depending on some of the conditions you will be plowing in.
It is highly recommended that a truck that is used for plowing have an automatic transmission. The automatic transmission tends to act as a buffer between the plow and the drive-train of the vehicle. The automatic transmission will absorb some of the shockload from the plow if you hit an unmovable object, lessening the impact on the drivetrain. A manual transmission will transmit any impact straight to the drive-train. The manual transmission does of course offer better control of what gear you want to be in and can provide better control in certain situations such as when rocking out of a pile of snow. It all boils down to whether you prefer an automatic or a manual transmission. You should use as low a gear as you possibly can but still be able to maintain speed. You may also was to run in low-range for better gearing.A plow will need regular maintenance. Chuck Smith has put together a great list of fall maintenance and emergency supplies for your plow. Please check out his tips here and also visit his main page at Chuck's Chevy Page. Chuck's plow page is full of real world information and pictures.
A lot of this advice may be scary for a person just wanting to plow their driveway. Well, a lot of the above is set up for the worst case situation. If you have a small driveway and are careful moving snow around your driveway, you can get many years of use out of a plow. If you don't expect to be able to plow huge parking lots or highways, most any well equipped truck with a plow can move your snow. Some of the things you should ask yourself are: Will I be plowing only my driveway? What is the deepest that the snow will ever be? Will this be for commercial use? Will I have lots of new friends after a three foot snow storm?
Of course, the most important question of all is how much is this going to cost me? The best time to buy a plow is in the spring or summer when eld have last years models sitting around and are trying to clear out their inventory. The only problem is not many people are thinking of buying a plow then. When the winter season starts to approach, you will start seeing more plow advertising. In my area (Wisconsin), plows start getting advertised on sale around Labor Day. The ads I have seen (9/1/97) show a 7.5 foot plow installed for about 2500 dollars. This is probably about as low a price as you will find on a brand new snowplow, not counting the non-hydraulic type plow systems.
Most of the snowplows now sold come with much simpler to use mounting systems than in previous generations of snowplows. What this means is that there is a frame mounted under your truck that the plow hooks up to when you are using it. When you are done plowing, you pull a couple of pins and unplug some electrical connectors and the whole system is left at home, including the lights and the lift-pump. Western snowplows use a UniMount system which just leaves a rectangular mounting frame hanging down on the front of the truck after the plow is removed. Fisher snowplows use a system called the Minute Mount System. The Fisher system is another detachable snowplow system that claims to be the quickest and easiest mounting system available. The Minute Mount System allows you to drive the vehicle into the plow mount and then hook up. Boss snowplows use a system called the RT3 quick hitch system. The RT3 system also allows you to drive the truck into the plow mount. Hiniker uses the Quick-Hitch system which is also a drive into the plow mounting system. The main benefits of these mount systems are that you are able to leave everything at home when not plowing snow.
This is different from older plows in that the older style of plow had the lift-pump and the headlights on the front of the truck all year round. Most of the older systems also required removal of the front bumper with the bumper being re-installed in front of the light/pump frame after that was put on the truck.
Most of these snowplows use hydraulics for power up/down and power side-to-side angling. There are two type of hydraulic systems. One is a regular hydraulic system driven off of an engine mounted belt and the second is an electric/hydraulic system where the trucks electrical system drives a pump that runs the hydraulics. Of course, the all hydraulic system can require more room under the hood and is more expensive to install. Some of the lower end of the price range snowplows may use an electric cable reel system which is usually a power up/gravity down system. Most of the electric lift systems offer only manual blade angling. If you just have a small, simple driveway, a low end plow could be for you. If you want to clear parking lots or large driveways, think about full power systems.
As a brand new snowplow can be very expensive (anywhere from 1500 or 2000 dollars and up), you might want to think about buying an older truck that already has a snowplow on it. Most local newspapers have a vehicle for sale section that is strictly for snowplows. If you were using a older vehicle just to plow your driveway, you wouldn't even have to worry about license plates or insurance. Having a separate truck just for plowing also saves the wear and tear on your daily use vehicle.
If you use your truck for four-wheeling, you may want to look for the highest clearance mounting system you can find, such as the Fisher or Northman plow mounts. Fisher even offers skid-plates for the plow mount when the plow is not on the truck.
If you are going to put a snowplow on your truck, don't forget the need for lighting. Most snowplows when on the vehicle will obstruct your regular headlights, that is why most plows come with headlights. These are usually regular high/low beam headlights with turn signals. Different manufacturers will position the headlight/turn signal assemblies in different ways. Some have the turn signals on the side of the headlight and some have the turn signals on the side of the headlight. There are differences between plow headlight assemblies from different manufacturers because of propritary wiring harness which makes mixing and matching of lighting assemblies hard to do. Be aware that some newer trucks (all GM, some FORDs?) come from the factory with Daytime Running Lights which will add to the complexity of wiring up the plow headlight systems. You should probably also get some kind of warning light system such as a round, roof mounted strobe. You could also go all the way and get a complete, full length light bar so everyone will see you. Most plow vehicles seem to use amber strobes for the warning signals. Remember, it doesn't always snow during the day. It is also nice to have a rear mounted flood light to supplement your back up lights.
One last point, if you want to buy a snowplow and start a business, it can be a good thing. You will need to realize that your regular vehicle insurance will many times not cover you if you are using your truck for commercial plowing. You also can be subjecting your truck to greater than average wear and tear. Plowing snow can be very hard on transmissions and frames. It has been said that constant plowing can reduce a vehicles lifetime by a half, but this is not a proven fact. Remember, the bigger the truck, the better is should be able to put up with the rigors of plowing.
For those that want to appear professional, make up some invoices with your computer. Use these to bid on jobs. If you are bidding on a plowing job, try to specify things like where you will push the snow to, if they call you to plow or you show up when it snows a certain amount, are you paid for the whole season up front or each time you plow and importantly, who is responsible if something is damaged by your plowing?
I have found one instance of plowing software to help manage your plowing accounts by Adkad Technologies. I have not used or am I familiar with their software so I can not make any comments about the software package they produce called Blizzard Buster.
Chuck Smith has written a post on one of the newsgroups about bidding on a plowing contract and he has given his permission for me to post it here. Chuck gives some great business pointers.
The only magazine articles I have ever seen that talk about snowplows were
both in Four Wheeler magazine. Neither
of the articles are online but here are the references.
Reprints of the Project Run-A-Blade article are available from Four Wheeler, see article reprint list index and ordering information.
I have also found a link with a snowplow safety video and also a how-to plow video. Both videos appear to be geared more to the commercial segment of plowing and I have not seen either video. Check out the FLI Learning Systems, Inc page on snowplow instruction and safety videos.
There is a national, non-profit organization providing resources and information to members of the snow and ice industry. They are called the Snow and Ice Management Association. Please visit their web site for more information about them.
Chuck Smith has put together a new web site that covers much all of his original snowplowing information and added plenty of other new items. Be sure to visit his new snowplowing web site located at the Snowplowing Contractors Network.
There is now also some discussion forums for snowplowing related issues located at PlowSite.com. There are five different forums related specifically to your snowplowing questions and problems. This is a great site to hang out at with a bunch of other snowplowers. Be sure to visit and browse at least the Snow Plowing Discussion forum.
If you have a snowplow related link that I should add send me some email.
DISCLAIMER: I do not endorse or recommend any of the plows or manufacturers listed on this page. On the other hand, if a complete 8 foot V-plow setup were to show up on my doorstep, I might change my mind, even an 8 foot straight blade would probably change my mind.
Last updated on April 10th, 2004, online since December 1st, 1996