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'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.
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.
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 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.