When winter strikes, snow-covered driveways and paths can become a significant hindrance. While many homeowners rely on traditional snow blowers or shovels, the increasing popularity of using ATVs for snow plowing offers an efficient solution.
This article will provide essential guidance on using an ATV for snow plowing, focusing on achieving effective results while ensuring your safety.
1. Preparing Your ATV for Snow Plowing
Choosing the Right ATV
Not all ATVs are cut out for plowing. The first step involves choosing an ATV that’s suitable for the task:
- Engine size and power: ATVs with a higher CC (cubic centimeter) rating will offer more power, which is suitable for thick snow. Opt for a 500cc or larger engine for best results.
- ATV weight: The heavier the ATV, the better it’ll plow. Consider adding weight to the cargo racks for improved traction.
- Four-wheel drive vs. two-wheel drive: A 4WD ATV is recommended, as it provides better traction on snowy surfaces.
Picking the Perfect Plow Blade
Choosing what plow blade to get can be confusing.
- Blade type. There are straight-blade and V-blade options. The V-blade can be more effective in heavier snow but may be pricier. They are also more effective at pushing snow straight ahead.
- Blade material. ATV snow plows usually come in steel or polyethylene blades. While steel is durable, polyethylene doesn’t stick to wet snow, making your job easier.
- Blade Size: Ensure that the plow blade width is slightly wider than the ATV to cover the vehicle’s tracks. If you have a powerful ATV, a blade width of 50-60 inches is ideal. Choosing a too wide blade for your ATV’s size and weight may cause traction issues when the snow gets deeper than just a few inches.
Besides the plow blade and mount, you need a few accessories to plow snow with an ATV. Some are essential, while others are nice to have.
- A Winch: An electric winch is essential for efficiently raising and lowering the blade when plowing.
- Upgraded Battery: The winch draws a lot of power from the battery, and prolonged use as when plowing, will drain the battery faster than the ATV’s charging system can keep up. Installing a higher-capacity battery allows you to plow for longer.
- Tire Chains or Studs: Enhances traction on icy terrains, providing safer and more efficient movement. Which are better, tire studs or chains?
- Weight Kits: Helps keep the rear of the ATV grounded, ensuring a better plowing and driving experience.
Plowing Safety Gear
Safety should always be your top priority when operating an ATV, and plowing is no different. Essential ATV plowing safety gear:
- Helmets: Always wear a helmet when operating the ATV.
- Gloves: These offer a better grip and protect against cold.
- Visibility vests or lights: These ensure that you’re visible, especially during low-light conditions.
2. Installing and Adjusting the Plow
Installing the Plow Mount, Plow Blade, and Accessories
Properly installing the plow mount, blade, and accessories is crucial for safe and effective snow plowing.
If you don’t already have one, you need to install a winch on the front end of your ATV. Ensure the winch is secured to the ATV frame and the winch wiring is done correctly.
Getting a plow mount that fits your specific ATV is essential when installing the plow. Follow the included installation instructions carefully for the best results.
If you’re installing tire chains for improved traction, you might find this detailed installation guide helpful.
Adjusting the Plow Depth and Angle
To achieve optimal plowing results, adjust the plow depth and angle correctly. Proper adjustment ensures efficient snow removal and prevents damage to your plow or ATV.
- Blade angle: Ensure blade alignment is parallel to the ground to prevent it from digging in.
- Blade depth: You don’t want to scrape the earth or merely dust off the snow; you want to plow it! That is why proper plow depth is crucial. Too shallow, and you’ll have to make multiple passes. Too deep, and you might end up doing some unintended landscaping. The plow depth is set by adjusting the plow flotation shoes up or down. This will help prevent blade wear on uneven terrains.
3. Basic ATV Snow Plow Operation
Plowing with an ATV brings different challenges and requirements compared to regular driving.
- Raising/Lowering: Use winch control or lever to adjust blade height. Raise for transitions and obstacles; lower for active plowing.
- Maneuvering Tight Spots: ATVs are compact, but with a plow attached, you need to be even more aware of your vehicle’s size and the space you’re operating in.
- Turns: When making turns, ensure you have enough clearance, especially if the plow blade extends beyond the ATV’s width.
- Avoiding obstacles: Avoid hitting rocks, curbs, or other obstructions. They can damage the plow or cause the ATV to jolt, potentially leading to a loss of control.
- Controlling the pivoting mechanism: Being able to control where you want to move the snow is crucial. For example, when clearing a driveway, you might want to push the snow to the sides rather than straight ahead. You achieve this by pivoting the blade to either side. Depending on your plow model, this might be through a manual lever or an electronic control.
Check this complete guide to learn more about how ATV snow plows work.
4. Effective Snow Plowing Techniques
Effective snow plowing with an ATV requires strategic foresight and a keen understanding of the immediate environment and conditions. Proper techniques not only make the task more manageable but also extend the longevity of your equipment.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Plow
Freshly fallen snow is typically softer and easier to move. As snow rests and becomes compacted or exposed to temperature variations, it can harden, making it much more challenging to plow.
Tackling snowfall as it happens or in increments during a storm helps to manage the workload. It prevents the accumulation of large, unmanageable piles and can be more efficient in the long run.
However, plowing during a blizzard leaves you less visible to other vehicles. Make sure to wear the proper visibility gear and pay extra attention if a heavy snowfall forces you to make a pass before the storm passes.
When plowing, establishing an efficient pattern can save both time and effort.
- Always begin by plowing the snow down the center of the area you’re clearing. This creates a reference point and allows for better maneuverability.
- With the blade at an angle, push the snow from the middle outward to the edges in successive passes. Depending on the shape of the area you are clearing, you might plow back and forth or in a circular pattern.
- If you’re clearing a driveway, start closest to the garage or house and move the snow towards the street or outer edges, ensuring that you’re not blocking access points or creating large snow piles that could obstruct vision or movement.
Plowing is akin to mowing a lawn – systematic passes yield the best results, leaving a clear path in your wake without redundant efforts.
When it comes to plowing, consistency is key. Maintaining a consistent, moderate pace ensures that the snow is moved efficiently without causing undue stress on the equipment.
Going too fast can cause plow skipping and uneven plowing. It can also lead to accidents or misjudgments, potentially harming the plow, the ATV, or the operator.
Make Way for More Snow
When you plow, it’s not just about the present moment. Winters can bring multiple snowfalls, so you want to be prepared.
Creating wider paths and pushing snow further from the plowed areas allows room for subsequent snowfalls.
Plowed snow hardens, making it extremely hard to move further out at a later time.
Plow with the Contours
Every terrain or surface has its unique contours or undulations. Recognizing these helps in ensuring a more efficient and less damaging plowing experience.
Following the surface’s natural gradients can reduce the plow blade’s resistance. It ensures smoother movement, less wear on the equipment, and a cleaner clearing result.
5. Safety Measures While Plowing
Besides wearing the proper safety gear and knowing how to operate the ATV and winch, there are a few additional things to consider t
- Avoid obstacles: Watch out for hidden objects under the snow.
- The plow is not a ram: Do not ram into piles of snow at speed to move them, as this causes a lot of wear and might damage your equipment.
- Handle icy conditions: Reduce speed, avoid sudden turns, and consider installing chains or studs for better traction on icy surfaces. Remember that packed snow can be just as slippery as ice.
- Consider the visibility: Ideally, you should only plow during good visibility conditions.
- Be vigilant: Watch out for hidden objects under the snow. Always be aware of your surroundings and other people or vehicles.
- Child and pet safety: Keep kids and pets away when plowing.
6. Maintenance and Storage
- Cleaning: Use a brush or hose to remove snow and ice from the ATV and plow. Avoid using salt that can corrode the metal.
- Drying: Ensure both the ATV and plow are dried properly to prevent rusting.
Regular Maintenance Checks
- Regularly inspect the plow for signs of wear or damage.
- Tighten any loose bolts and replace worn-out parts.
- Lubricate moving parts for smoother operations.
- Replace worn-out parts timely. It’s cheaper than buying a new setup.
- Regularly inspect the winch rope for any wear or fraying. This is how to replace a worn-out winch rope.
- Charge the battery between each use to keep it topped off and in good shape.
Storing Your ATV and Plow
Store in a dry, covered space. If storing for an extended period, disconnect the battery and ensure the fuel tank is full to prevent moisture accumulation.
Related: Where to Store Your ATV? 9 Best Ways
With the right equipment and techniques, an ATV can be a powerful tool against winter’s snowy onslaught. Prioritize safety, maintain your gear, and your snowy driveway will be clear in no time.