One of the more common concerns people have when thinking of getting a snow plow for their ATV is how well it actually works for plowing snow. How much snow can it handle, and how does it really perform in the more challenging plowing conditions?
I myself was on the fence on whether I should get a plow for my ATV, or if I should add some more cash and get an ATV snow blower instead. To help me decide, I did a little research, and I will share my findings in this post.
So how well do ATV snow plows work? For almost any depth of dry snow, or for moderate to low depths of wet snow, an ATV snow plow works really well. It’s fast, maneuvrable and great for sidewalks. For deep and heavy snow, however, you will probably be better off using a heavier machine, or a snow blower.
There is definitely a need to elaborate a bit on the short version of the answer above.
How well an ATV snow plow actually works depend on a lot of factors like what you are comparing to, what you are planning to achieve, what kind of snow conditions you typically get where you live, and what your realistic alternatives you have to choose from.
Light, dry and fluffy snow conditions
Dry snow weighs almost nothing. A breeze of wind will move it on the ground. With powdery snow like this, it doesn’t really matter how deep the snow is. It doesn’t weigh anything, so the ATV can handle it.
But you may, however, find it a bit challenging to keep all of the snow in front of the blade. As you speed up the powdery snow will instead just flow over the plow, so that you need several passes to move all of it.
If you expect a lot of plowing in conditions like these, it’s a good investment to upgrade your plow with a rubber deflector which mounts on top of the blade. This will allow you to plow snow in depths near the height of your blade without overflowing issues.
Most places get these kinds of conditions with really deep and light snow only a very few times each year. So it’s rather the more challenging conditions that become the deciding factor whether an ATV snow plow is the right choice for you.
Wet, compact and heavy snow
This is where things start to become a bit more challenging. The wetter and more compact the snow gets, the harder it will be to plow. This is true with all snow plows, not just with ATVs.
In most cases, the ATV plow will have no problems with a couple of inches of even the heaviest stuff. When depths start reaching 6-8 inches, the relatively low weight of the bike starts showing in form of less than optimal plowing performance.
Tires may start spinning, and you may find that it’s struggling to keep the blade all the way down to the ground.
The compact snow will lift the plow blade so that you need to go back for a second pass. But then you also need to tackle the snow packed by your tires from the first pass. To prevent the blade from lifting you can install a so-called down-force kit.
The only problem is when the snow is deep or wet, the front end wants to push to whatever side the blade is angled.
Having a 4×4 quad is a must. For more inspiration on what you can do to prevent your tires from spinning, I recommend you head over to this article about the best ATV weight for plowing snow.
Real snow storms with several feet of snow are the most challenging. When you expect more than a few inches of heavy snow, you simply have to go out and plow during the snow.
If you wait until after the storm has finished, you may find yourself facing more than the ATV can handle efficiently.
If you put some effort into it, you will eventually tackle deep, heavy snowfalls as well, but it takes much more time and will put a lot more strain on the equipment.
So as you probably understand by now; Whether an ATV snow plow is the right choice for you depends a lot on what kind of snowfalls you expect to get.
There is a huge difference between having 20×2 inch snowfalls compared to having 5 heavy snowfalls of a foot or more with snow. For the latter, and if you do don’t want to go for a plow halfway through the storm, you should consider looking for other alternatives.
You need to keep in mind that the blades on ATV snow plows are relatively narrow (50inch is considered average), compared to plows built for trucks or tractors. This means that you will not be able to move as much snow with each stroke as you will with the others.
For 2-3 homes, a couple hundred yards of a driveway and few mid-sized parking areas, the capacity should be more than enough. But if you plow a lot of wide roads or huge parking lots, other alternatives with wider blades and heavier vehicles are better.
Speed and maneuverability
On the other hand, few if any machines can compete with the speed, maneuverability, and nimbleness of an ATV. These abilities compensate quite a bit for the lack of pure pushing power.
Over time, this has the results evening out a bit.
It’s almost like comparing a race car to an SUV. The SUV can bring more people than the race car, but it will need twice the time to get there (as long as we leave speed limits out of the equation!).
This especially comes true where there’s not a lot of space, like in small driveways, between buildings and on sidewalks. You’ll find that areas like these often need to be left unplowed when using a truck or any bigger machine.
After some practice with the ATV, you will be able to «dance» around and have these areas free of snow in no time!
ATV snow plows are not very good for piling snow, plain and simple.
If space is a limiting factor so that the snow needs to be piled through the winter, you might as well start looking for other options right away. A snowblower or a tractor with a front loader is my top recommendations in this case.
But if you are not too tight on space, you can stack up quite a bit of snow, as long as you just plan ahead. Ideally, you should push the snow over the edge of a small hill like outside of a road or a parking lot.
It’s crucial that you push the snow far enough at the beginning of the season so you have room for more on top or at the back of the pile. You will not be able to move the snow pile with the ATV as soon as it has frozen solid.
Different surface conditions
On soft ground, like unfrozen dirt and gravel roads, the plow will dig in as soon as it is lowered too low. Most plows are fitted with flotation shoes to prevent this from happening, but in the softest conditions, this is simply not enough.
When the ground freezes solid, however. And on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete, you should have no issues.
User experience (freezing fun)
You need to expect to go through a learning process before you can master your ATV and plow to its maximum potential. Beginners may feel they struggle a lot, even with smaller depths of snow. But this will get better over time for sure.
Another aspect to consider on the «user experience» side of things is the lack of protection from the elements. Good clothes and heated grips are a must if you want to avoid freezing your nuts off!
Last but not least, plowing with an ATV is a lot of FUN!
For a lot of buyers, this is the deciding factor for choosing an ATV plow over, let’s say a snow blower.
Unless the snow depths are too challenging, or the weather is not too bad, you may expect quite the joyful experience doing something that otherwise is seen as quite the daunting task.
How does it perform up against its alternatives?
Understanding how well an ATV snow plow actually works may be a bit easier when we compare it to it’s most relevant alternatives.
Snowblower (the type you have to push)
A snow blower is a lot slower than a snow plow but will handle much deeper snow.
You are able to pile snow where you want it, but when the snow is light and dry it seems half of it will fly back straight in your face. Don’t get me wrong, I love my trusty Toro, but my cheeks are often quite red after a job well done.
Using a snow blower can also be quite exhausting. Not as bad as using a shovel, but more than riding an ATV with a plow.
For bigger areas as long driveways, a snow blower will simply be too slow to handle task efficiently.
For me, this is the best option as the task on hand is clearing several feet of snow when I get up to the cabin. I’ve found it to be the perfect combination of snow removal capacity and portability (need to bring it there on a trailer).
As soon as the snow removal job is done, I can use the quad as transport from the main road and all the way up to the cabin.
Lawn mower tractor
You can get both plows or snow blowers that you can attach to your lawn mower tractor. But this ride is a lot less nimble, runs slower and can be used only on smooth surfaces. Most of them lack 4×4 so the tires will spin as soon as snow depths get above an inch.
Small tractor/ backhoe
If you own a small farm or any other type of bigger property, this may be just as good of an option as an ATV with a plow.
The front loader enables you to pile snow more easily, and the heated cabin will be very nice to find on the coldest days.
The extra weight ensures that you can handle most plowing situations. Even when plowing icy and compacted snow.
It is, however, quite a bit slower, and can’t get to the tightest spots.
How much snow can an ATV plow?
Most ATV snow plows should be able to plow 6-8″ of light snow. When the snow is wet, however, this number is significantly lower.
Are ATVs good for snow plowing?
ATVs are great for plowing tight spaces with a lot of obstacles. They can handle moderate amounts of snow but does not work so well with wet and icy snow. They are usually good enough for most homeowners.
What about moving dirt with an ATV?
If you’re up for some light landscaping in the warmer seasons the ATV plow may be just what you need to get the job done. Leveling sand, dirt or gravel should be no problem as long as you don’t dig in too much at the time.
I would not use it grading longer dirt roads, however, as this can be very rough on the quad.