Over the years, I've used, and gone through quite a bit of plowing equipment as I've been in pursuit of the best plowing setup I can get. I'm in the mountains of Colorado, so I need plowing equipment that works, and is reliable.
As winter nears, there are often quite a few questions regarding plowing and plowing equipment. Plowing with an atv is really handy and can make snow removal fast and clean....if it's done right. However, with inferior equipment and techniques, it can be challenging. So, here are some tips that will help you fine-tune your equipment and techniques to make the most of your atv plowing experience[s]:
>Equipment: When it comes to plowing, WEIGHT is your friend. A heavier plow blade scrapes the snow off better, and a heavier atv gets better traction and also carries the plow equipment better. While you can plow with a 300 - 420cc atv, I like to recommend an atv with a 500cc (or more) engine as those atv's have more weight. With a 300 - 420cc ATV, a 48 to 50 inch plow blade will work well. You can put a 60" blade on a 420cc ATV, but, if the snow is heavy and deep, the atv will have a tougher time pushing it. On a 500+cc ATV, you can easily use a 60 inch blade. The 60" blade not only weighs more (and stays on the surface better), but it makes your plowing much more efficient by removing more (a wider swath) of snow with each pass. If you find that the weight of your plow equipment makes the front end of your atv sink a bit, then definitely consider replacing your stock springs with Highlifter springs. The HL springs will give your ATV much more/better support. A GOOD quality winch is a must as plowing demands a lot of use of a winch; probably more use than you'd give your winch all summer long. A GOOD quality winch will cost you at least $160. Additionally, you should consider using Synthetic rope on your winch as the constant sharp bending and winding in and out of the rope can quickly fray and damage steel rope. If you use Synthetic rope, make sure that your fairlead rollers are VERY smooth and undamaged, OR, that you replace the fairlead rollers with an aluminum hause (made for synthetic rope). Plow equipment: There are a couple types of plow mounts available: The mid-mount mounts the push bars for your plow midway under your atv on the frame. It is a strong mount, but requires that you get under your atv to take your plow on/off. It decreases your ground clearance an inch or so (even when your plow isn't on your atv), and, it only allows you to lift your plow blade a limited distance (an average of 8 or 10 inches). A Front Mount (now available from most all the plow manufacturers) also uses a very secure mount which is mounted to the frame of your atv; generally in the area around your winch. It reaches out a bit further forward than a mid-mount and can be lifted quite high - which allows you to lift and stack snow at the ends of your runs. It also does not affect your ground clearance and is simply to take on/off. Since they reach out a bit further forward, most of the Front Mounts also give you more angle to angle your blade to the left or right. Last, but not least, handwarmer grips are really nice to have on a cold, snowy day.
Setting up your plow: Make sure that the rocker switch for your winch is in a place (preferably on your left handlebar) where you can operate the winch without taking your hand off of the grip. When connecting your winch cable/rope to the plow blade, I highly recommend that you use a pulley (on the plow mount) to run the cable/rope through. Attach the pulley to the spot on the plow where you would normally attach the cable/rope hook. Run the winch cable/rope through the pulley and then UP to the front bar of your front rack or your front bumper. By doing this, you will DOUBLE the lifting power of your winch, and you will reduce the speed of the lifting and lowering by one HALF - thereby giving you a LOT more control over the blade as you are lifting and lowering it. It also reduces a great amount of stress on your plow mount and winch because the pulley will allow the plow to be lifted UP and DOWN, rather than to be pulled nearly straight back and UP by the winch. Your winch won't have to work as hard, your winch will operate the plow smoother and slower, and your plow mount won't have so much stress on it. If the spindle (which allows you to turn the plow left/right) is dry (no grease) or dirty, apply a clean coat of high-moly grease to all surfaces which contact each other when you turn the plow. It will repel snow and ice while allowing you to turn the spindle more easily. Setting your skids height: Adjust your skids (a very necessary part of your plow) on flat dry concrete (such as your garage floor) so that the skids keep your plow blade about 1/8" (3mm) above the surface. This will reduce the wear on your blade, it will prevent damage to your driveway and sidewalks, and it will reduce the amount of power needed to push your plow forward, and, it will still allow your plow to scrape snow and ice down to the surface. You can use chains on your tires, but keep in mind that chains can scar the surface of concrete and asphalt.
Plowing Techniques: Generally, when plowing snow, you should have your blade turned/angled to the left or the right. If you have your blade angled to the left, then start plowing on the RIGHT side of the driveway; making passes as you work to the left. By angling the blade, the blade will bite into and plow the snow better, less effort and stress will be placed on your atv, and, it will keep the snow from falling off each end of your plow blade. The proper speed is important. Go too slow and you might lose traction and momentum. Go too fast, and your blade can easily ride up on top of the snow you're trying to plow. A nice, moderate speed is essential. If the snow is deep and/or heavy, then make each pass with your plow a little less wide. If you lose traction (spin your wheels), then let up on the throttle. Spinning your wheels does NOT give you more traction - it reduces your traction. If your atv has an Automatic Transmission (AUTO mode), put it in the Manual Shift (ESP) mode as you do not want your transmission automatically shifting when you are plowing! When plowing, YOU should do the shifting. Avoid driving on surfaces before you are able to plow that surface. Driving on the surface[s] packs the snow hard and may keep your plow blade from scraping as low and cleanly as you would desire. Try to avoid hitting objects (just as large rocks, stumps, posts, etc.), that will bring you and your atv to a sudden stop. Those things are REALLY hard on your plow, your atv, and YOU.
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