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Your Corner Wrench: Ready to plow ahead this winter?

Your Corner Wrench: Ready to plow ahead this winter?
Autos
As little as 20 years ago, if a friend suggested he or she was considering equipping their new half-ton truck with a snow plow, you would have correctly suggested they rethink that option. At that time, even narrow six-foot blades, and their support frames, weighed way too much for a half-ton to handle, regardless of the truck’s suspension upgrades.

Fast-forward to today, and composite blade materials have made truck plowing a very lightweight affair, but you can still do a lot of damage to a vehicle by pushing snow with it.

Before you head out plow shopping, consider where you’ll keep the blade and frame when not in use. Hooking these units up, even with supposedly easy attachment systems, requires connecting their electrical and possibly hydraulic lines, and inserting pins. That’s a task that’s much easier to do in a well-lit area with unencumbered access.

Car stuck in snow? Try these 5 tips before you get out and push

Don’t forget security when choosing your storage site. Plow units can approach $6,000 and so they’re a target for thieves, who can just back up their own truck to your plow, and with a suitable number of accomplices, load up and make their getaway. Either lock it inside a garage or chain it, or be prepared to lose it.

Plow blades move up and down, and tilt side to side, using either hydraulic or electric systems. Electric units don’t have as much power as their hydraulic counterparts, but they also don’t have the headache of repairing or replacing leaking hoses or expensive pumps. But if you’re dealing more with heavy wet stuff rather than light-and-fluffy flakes, or if you have to pile snow high into a limited space, hydraulic will have the strength you need.

Tall-frame plows often block the truck’s headlamps when they’re raised, so you’ll have to buy and wire in accessory plow lamps. If you’re getting a blade strictly for your own property, consider low-framed units that avoid this. And by all means, if your budget can afford one, get a unit with a power tilt.

Most, if not all of the damage that snow plows can inflict on a truck are due to either excessive speeds, or excessive loads. The load springs that will cause a plow blade to tip forward when encountering a heavy load or solid object won’t stop that force from concentrating on the points where the plow is attached to the vehicle’s frame. If you try to push too much snow by ramming it at higher speeds, it can cause the frame to distort.

The worst impacts happen when a plow-blade hits an immovable object, such as a curb stone or tree stump. A good rule of thumb is to never try to plow an area you haven’t seen without snow on it. This would be a good excuse when your neighbours ask for “plow favours” when their snowblowers won’t start, too.

If you’re considering putting a blade on a new truck that still has factory warranty, check with your dealer first to see if it might risk coverage. Some automakers offer plow-prep packages, and if your ride isn’t equipped, a plow might void the warranty. In that case, hiring someone else to plow your driveway might end up saving you money in the long run.
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