As an end-of-crop-year roundup, we’ve picked a few of our favourite stories from the past year to highlight once more as the Best of Grainews. Enjoy.
One thing Prairie farmers can be sure of each winter is some serious snow removal. When that day comes, starting a large tractor during cold weather isn’t ideal. In fact, it can lead to some serious damage, especially in older powershift transmissions that just can’t cope with pumping thickened oil. The high cost of an overhaul means some tractors are best left sleeping comfortably until warmer spring weather arrives, if possible.
So investing in an alternative method of clearing snow may pay for itself in spades. One of the easiest and lowest-cost options is a pickup truck-mounted snowplow. For about $2,000, or less, the farm pickup can assume most snowclearing duties. “It’s very cost effective,” says Graham Leather, dealer sales manager for Snow Bear, a plow manufacturer.
For that price, expect to put an 84-or 88-inch plow on the front of a full-size pickup and get right to work. There are also smaller 82-inch versions for an SUV, but Leather says that blade may be a little too small for farm work.
An Internet search will turn up several manufacturers’ sites offering a wide variety of plow styles. Many of them are heavier designs intended for commercial applications, with price tags up into the $8,000 to $10,000 range. But, Leather says, the average rural resident doesn’t need anything approaching that cost or complexity. And he points out, those designs also require three-quarter-ton trucks — or heavier — and require much more work to install and maintain.
That sentiment is echoed by owners’ comments posted on Internet forums. When it comes to truck plows, it seems the old saying “go big or go home” definitely does not apply. Large, heavy blades are just too cumbersome for the average user.
Leather says the lighter 84- and 88-inch blades, like those his company manufactures, can be slipped on and off a pickup in about five minutes, after the initial installation is finished. And that initial setup isn’t a big deal either.
INITIAL SET UP
Initial installation time for the mounting gear is two to 2- hours for the average person, Leather says. While heavier plows typically use hydraulic systems to lift the blade, the smaller designs rely on an electric winch. This is part of the reason installation is so easy. Once the wiring is connected to the battery and the vehicle-specific mounting brackets are installed, connecting and disconnecting the plow is just a matter of removing a couple of pins. And because the vehicle mounting brackets shouldn’t require any cutting or drilling into the truck’s frame, that avoids any warranty problems if a plow is installed on a new truck.
Running controls to the truck cab doesn’t necessarily mean cutting and drilling holes anywhere else, either. The control wire can be routed along the outside of the truck and into the cab through the side window. Just don’t close it tightly and pinch the wire. For more permanent mounting, you can easily route the wire through an opening in the firewall and then mount the up-down control switch on the dashboard.
To make removing the plow easier, dollies are available from several sources. You lower the plow onto the dolly and wheel it off to an out-of-the-way corner until it’s needed again. Or if you are handy in the workshop, making your own dolly is pretty simple and cheaper.
Pickup truck manufacturers have offered snowplow mounting packages as an option right from the factory. Among other things, these trucks usually include a heavier front suspension, but Leather says don’t worry if your truck doesn’t have that. The average homeowner plow isn’t that heavy, weighing only about 300 pounds (136 kg). Any pickup will handle one.
Most of the plows on the market are steel, but a few dealers offer a lightweight poly blade as an alternative. While that makes it easier to handle, it may not be a good option for the Prairies. “In extremely cold temperatures, that stuff can become very brittle,” says Leather.
But while a light pickup truck blade can easily handle plowing farmyards and laneways, don’t expect to contract out to the local R. M. for major road-clearing work. That is what the commercial plows are designed for. However, Leather adds, picking up a little extra cash while doing small jobs, like clearing a church parking lot or something of that scale, is possible.
“These plows are very durable, as long as they’re used for what they’re designed for,” says Leather. As is the case with all machinery, sensible operation and good maintenance are key.
WHERE DO YOU GET A PLOW?
Some companies will sell them on a mail order basis. And while big-box automotive stores carry them, many smaller truck equipment dealers don’t. To remedy that, Leather says, his company is willing to sell directly to a group of consumers. If you and a couple of buddies decide you each want one, Leather will sell a minimum of three in one order at the dealer price, shaving several dollars off retail. Contact him by email at [email protected] or phone 519-767-1115 ext. 277.
ScottGarveyspecializesinwritingabout tractorsandfarmmachinerytechnologyfor publicationsinCanadaandGreatBritain. He’salsoaformeraffiliatememberofthe SocietyofAutomotiveEngineers(SAE).He farmsnearMoosomin,Sask.