Pickup Trucks 101: A Guide to Snow Plows

Pickup Trucks 101: A Guide to Snow Plows
By Thom Blackett

Picture it: Wind blustering, strobes flashing, the sounds of whining hydraulics and steel dragging against asphalt. It may not seem like much to most folks, but for an adolescent car nut during a Maine winter, that scene was like Norman Rockwell comfort food. The plowman’s late-night arrival meant there was already enough white stuff on the ground to possibly shut down school in the morning or, at the very least, provide some fresh powder to play in. The rumble of that ’78 Chevy’s Cherry Bombs blasting out 350 cubic-inches of power as it bulldozed its way down the driveway was well worth a few minutes of lost sleep.

Thirty years later, the kid has grown up, and now sees plow trucks from a more mature perspective. Sure, in some respects they’re still big toys, but now they’re big toys associated with big dollars, both spent and earned. And, like trucks, snowplow technology has advanced significantly over the years, providing lots of value, convenience and capability, yet serving up an equal number of questions on different types of plows, features and options to be aware of, pricing, and a few examples of models designed for different trucks and needs. Let’s dig in.

Snow Plows Basics
There’s a lot that goes into a snowplow, but the most obvious part is the blade. Finished in shiny stainless steel or painted any variety of colors, blades are either straight or V-shaped, the latter featuring a pivot point in the middle that helps direct the snow. Buyers can opt for extendable blades, ordered directly from the factory or created by hooking up so-called “wing” accessories.

Fisher XLS Snow Plow
Fisher's fancy XLS blade features two adjustable wings on the left and right edges that can be reconfigured on-the-fly as a 9-foot scoop (shown) or fully extended into a 10-foot straight blade. The blade can also pivot left or right to push plowed snow to the side of the truck.

Regardless of the design, the plow blade will be made of steel or polyethylene (poly). The latter is lighter, but steel’s added weight provides greater downward force and does a more thorough job of clearing snow. Unfortunately, you may occasionally run into hidden, immovable objects in the process, so most plows are built with full trip or edge trip mechanisms that pivot in the direction of an obstacle strike while keeping the rest of the blade upright, allowing you to keep moving without feeling as though you’d driven into a brick wall or the loss of your load. Plow blades range from about six-and-a-half to 10 feet wide, and weigh between a couple hundred to more than 1,000 pounds. That kind of weight will dictate which setup is suitable for your truck.

Typically, a plow is attached to a truck with brackets or a two-inch hitch receiver. There are also rear-mount plows available that connect via the same hitch receiver many truckers have installed for trailers. Unlike the old days, when drivers faced the difficult task of mounting and removing heavy, rusting blades before and after snowstorms (or suffered added wear and a loss in fuel economy by leaving them on between storms), today’s plow guy or gal can take advantage of the manufacturers’ quick mount-and-release systems. This technology gets the job done in seconds, and with relatively little physical stress.

Adding to the convenience are controllers that can be used from inside the cab. Handheld and joystick styles are available. Handheld units can be moved or stored when not in use, whereas joysticks are usually mounted directly onto the dashboard. In all but the most basic snow plow assemblies, controllers allow drivers to move the blade up and down, and angle the blade from side to side.

In terms of cost, there’s a lot to consider, including the plow, installation costs, accessories, and upgrades that your truck may require. Many pickups are available with snowplow prep packages that beef up the front end with stiffer suspension parts and add necessary wiring as well as oil and transmission coolers, but your truck likely didn’t come with this equipment. Consider these items to be solid investments, especially if you’ll be opting for a heavier plow that will get lots of use. The larger blades, designed for heavy-duty commercial applications, can climb well over $5,000, while basic home/personal use options start under $2,000. However, keep in mind that the spending doesn’t stop with the initial purchase, as your new plow will require periodic maintenance, and even with upgraded equipment, your truck’s chassis, powertrain and drivetrain will be put under additional stress.

Suzuki Carry with Snow Plow
Snow plows aren't just for heavy-duty pickups. Check out this tiny Suzuki Carry kei-truck outfitted with a Blackline plow and snow tracks!

Choosing a Snow Plow
How do you actually choose a snow plow that’s right for you? The answer largely depends on what truck you’ll be using. With that question addressed, you can discuss your options with a local dealer or use one of the application guides offered on most manufacturer websites. These will tell you which plow suits your truck based on the gross axle weight rating and other criteria, which mounting hardware you’ll need, and what type of special equipment may be required for your truck. Listed below are a few examples of snow plows that are available for small, light-duty, and heavy-duty pickups.

SnowDogg MD Series
Size: 6’8”-7’6” wide, 24” high
Weight: 380-400 lbs.
Material: Stainless steel
Features: Four trip springs, snow deflector, plow lights, quick mount/release mechanism, handheld controller
Application: Home/personal use with Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Sonoma, Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger/Explorer Sport Trac, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma (also suitable for full-size pickups)

Fisher HT Series
Size: 7’6” wide, 27” high
Weight: 414 lbs.
Material: Stainless steel
Features: Two trip springs, plow lights, quick mount/release mechanism, handheld or joystick controller, antitheft system that prevents use of the unattached plow by another truck
Application: Light-duty use with Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra (also suitable for heavy-duty pickups)

Western Pro Plus
Size: 7’-9’ wide, 31.5” high
Weight: 789-837 lbs.
Material: Steel
Features: Four trip springs, plow lights, quick mount/release mechanism, handheld or joystick controller, antitheft system that prevents use of the unattached plow by another truck
Application: Heavy-duty/commercial use with Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra HD, Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, Ford F-Series Super Duty

After you’ve selected a plow, you’ll want to think about whether to opt for accessories. Drivers doing residential and/or commercial duties will likely be interested in rear-mounted salt and deicer spreaders, not to mention overhead light bars, rear flood lights, and bed-mounted ballast options. Folks who are focused on little more than clearing their own driveways may be interested in those items too, or perhaps just some blade guides and maybe a snow deflector.

Boss Snow Plow
Boss snow plows are very popular. This rear view shows the heavy bracing and mount system required to support the plow as it works and secure it to a truck.

Comments

That little Suzuki looks like a neat little toy. I like it!

On a side note. That 78 Chevy with the 350 had less than 200 hp in stock form.

Aww yes, I remember my '73 Cayenne 350 ci that blew a rod in the mountains. Nice truck except for big hole that rusted through in the bed.

I work for a municipality we have a Oshkosh heavy duty with 4x4 and a 7' high snow blower and hopper on back..now thats a snow machine.

If you're looking for a used plow, be careful. From sad experience, here are a few things to watch for:

Installation of the frame on the truck ain't cheap - $400 and up.

Budget at least $1000 for a new pump and miscellaneous repairs. The biggest hit ($700 or so on an old Western) is the hydraulic pump. It seems like they all leak, but some of them actually let water in past the seals - which is of course frozen when the plow is needed.

Be sure you get or build a rolling cart for storing the plow which can be used to position it on the truck; this saves a lot of back-breaking levering with a 2x4.

The bottom of edge of my plow is welded on, but I need to grind the welds off and replace them with bolts so I can replace the edge (duh).

If you're using an old truck, you'll also need to make sure your electrical system can handle the load from the pump motor and that the blade's frame will fit your truck.

If you're in hilly country, you'll need a locking or limited-slip differential and/or chains, plus 700lbs or so of sand in the bed.

And light trucks / SUVs will sag under the weight of the plow, causing rocks & railroad tracks to hit suspension bits.

Finally, plow early and often - 16" is about the maximum depth a pickup-sized plow can manage.

@Rollie: Thanks for those tips!

A few things to add. For the price of a used it doesnt make sense unless you are mechanically inclined to do all the maintenance yourself including install. Raising the bs flag on the 400 green backs for the install, if anything its for the electrical not the bolt on stuff. Folks these just bolt on and it aint rocket science. If it is for your model of truck the hardest thing will be wiring it correctly. Have seen more than one plow truck go up in flames due to faulty wiring. As for the pumps they all leak if hyraulic. I have had a meyers and western and unless its full hydraulic it shouldnt leak at all. My meyers was a hydraulic which means you are disconnecting the hoses and it leaked. My western which is electric doesnt leak at all and is going on 17 years since purchased new. As for the cutting edge its not a good idea and or any reason to weld it on because as they wear you can just unbolt and flip. It should also be noted that your surface that your plowing will determine if you will need plow feet because if they are needed and you choose not to use them well you will end up with lots of ground damage or stopping without hitting the breaks if you know what I mean. Also, unless the truc/suv will be devoted to plowing anything less a 3/4 ton shouldnt be used. Plain and simple half tons are not intened for plowing. Ballast is determined by the weight of the plow there is no preset weight. You can go to any plow manufacturers website and enter your vehicle and desired plow and it will give your ballast and is uysually less than 5oo being on the high side. It is not recommended to even drive with your plow on if its a half ton when not plowing because the front end sags so much. I have seen even some chevy hds drag the undercarriage when crossing railroads and sparks flying everywhere. Here is a short list of things to consider.

Does your truck have the cooling capacity for engine and trans? Plowing is killer to transmissions but with the raidiator blocked its hard on the motor too.

Is the electrical system up to the task? With todays plows requireing lots of juice you may need dual batts or a hd alt if you can get one for your truck or both.

Do you have aggressive tires? Good tires will be more of a savior than 4wd. A traction aid is a plus but not needed. If you have a locker or ls and your lowing a driveway thats drifted over and you goose it to get through you can actuall do a comlplete 180 because your front will often catch and your ass will push your back around. Chains are an option but seriously who wants to deal with them breaking having to constantly take them on and off.

Your suspension and brakes also need to be up to the task because plowing is hard on them both for the simple reason of sheer weight.

Lastly, What are you plowing? Is it a short driveway in town or a 500ft drveway out in the country? Is it solely for personal use or do you own a business where you will be plowing a parking lot? If you answered yes to either of the last two you may want to consider either buying a 3/4 or 1 ton to plow with either a new one or finding a used one. If you answered yes to the first a half would probably do but personally halfs just are not meant to plow with. I have owned both 1/2 and 3/4 tons to plow with and the half had everying you could physically put on it to make it plow and it can become a money pit because the parts are not intened for this type of use. I should also add that your vehicle will determine what plow you can use. If a straight blade will suite you then you can put that on no problem. However, if you desire a v then you have to have a 3/4 of bigger.

All plows are different, just like Ford is different than Chev. and Dodge. Each plow has its own little personality,(bugs or leaks). they all have to be install rite and maintained.So chase away the bugs and fix the leaks. Over tyme things in the system change do to ware & tare,connections that grow that green stuff that looks like a salad bar are something, little pin that brake, fittings that just go bad, and God forgive the controller goes bad sometymes too! It's all part of the cost of doing biz-nes. Never assume what you fixed last year is ok this year. Learn the basics, and check them every tyme you use the plow (a week before the snow hits, maybe a nice sunny day with a BBQ pit close by) the biggest thing is make sure that there is no water in fluid.(NO MILKY STUFF)If anyone needs help, you can call me (james Higgins) @ County Plow & Eq. in St. Louis, Mo. (314)770-0015 and I will help with anything to do with pick-up size snowplows, any brand, any age. I also have alot of old hard to find out of date parts. I know my stuff, if I can help...call !

Tried to hook up my plow today and there doesn't seem to be any electric to the motor. It is a Boss Straight Blade and it sat for 2 years. The motor works and I have juice to the electrical contacts and I have lights. I cleaned the contacts off and sprayed them with contact cleaner. I wondered if anyone had any suggestions and I am new to having my own plow. Thanks for any help.

I have a meyers snow plow and I am trying to find a used hand held controller and harness. Maybe a new one. Not sure of prices

I have an older Myers E47 on my 2000 Tundra. It has the 2 separate controls for the up/down and left/right. Is there a way to convert it to a handheld or a single joystick?

looking at purchasing a 7 1/2 foot st blow for my 97 chevy 3500 pick up.diesel engine
lot of choices myers western snow boss .can i get some recomendations as to which plows not to look at

Is it smart to plow with a Chevrolet Colorado 4x4 with 5 cylider engine? I would plow just small driveways, etc.

What would be the best plow setup and accessories and how much do you think it would cost.

I have a 1995 samurai that i put a 6.5 meyers plow on of course i had to make everything for it put i made to slide in my 2 point receiver hitch for my winch on front & put 500 lbs in back so when i hit the brakes hard the back end would stay on the ground put used for 3 years before i switched to something bigger, had to use low range the whole time it was on there but had fun

need a hook up for a 1996 chev04/4 from the truck to the plow


[email protected]

please help i have clearance issues on 2011 chevy 1/2 ton with western plow ideas? solutions?


We have 2011 F 250 super duty XLT,and would like to put
on a V plow. which plow would be best?

I have a boss straight blade. Ive never had any problems with it. My question is if it were to break down and it wouldnt lift what is the best way to short chain it to get it home ?

I plan to buy a snowplow and salt spreader this week. It will go on a 96 F250 4 x 4. I am looking at Meyer, Hiniker, Western, and Boss. It doesn't snow here every year but I am in the mountains so when it does snow everyone is stranded for 3 to 5 days usually. I have a contract to plow a couple of private roads. Are there any units that I should avoid?...any that are better than the rest?

Dear My Friend,

How are you today?
Thanks for your pay attention my email today.Pls forward my email to your purchase department.thank you.

And we are the facotry,our product is hydraulic cylinder and the power unit pack.Our main clients from USA,CANADA,BRAZIL,Estonia,Austalia,etc.
And we are established in 1986 year.we have 26years expirence in hydraulic product area.so we will give you the best quality with the lowest price.

Any interesting or inquiry, if you dont have drawing, please provide the following information:

1.Hydraulic cylinder:
1) Hydraulic cylinder Data:
A. Bore size
B. Stroke length
C. Rod Diameter
D. Mounting Type
E. Mounting length
F. Paint color requirement.

2.POWER UNIT;Power pack.
Specifications:
Electrical Motor:
Flow Rate:
Max.pressure:
Relief setting:
Gear pump disp.
Reservoir:
Mounting;
Porting:drawing..

Appreciate for your kind help, we will be able to offer you the correct and exact quotation as soon as we got your inquiry. Thank you!

Thank you.
Bestregards!


Paddy zhao

Sales Department


WINTIN Hydraulic Power Machinery( Qingdao China )

http://www.wintin.cn/

www.wtyeya.com

Tel + 86 532 6895 9533 extn 8006

Fax + 86 532 8792 2381 68959533-8005

Mobile 0086 159 6690 1802
Skype;ms.paddy1
Yahoo mail:[email protected]
Email:[email protected]


Satisfy and Exceed Customer?s Requirements

Just moved to the country. 1st year plowing. I have 1/8" mi drive going north to south w/ farm fields on either side. Is it best to move the snow to the east side of the drive if I have west prevailing winds? Get a lot of drifting.



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