When to and what to look for when replacing snow equipment

Updated Feb 7, 2020
Photo: Boss SnowplowPhoto: Boss Snowplow

Whether it’s been a slow snow season or one so busy you’ve barely been able to stop and think, be sure to take the time to evaluate your snow and ice removal equipment.

The lifespan of any snow removal equipment will vary drastically, and it will all depend on the type of usage and the maintenance it has received over time. Check out below the signs of when it’s time for a piece of equipment to be put out to pasture and what to look for when shopping for new units.

Signs it’s time to replace

Experts agree the first part of a snowplow that is going to wear down is the cutting edge. If the cutting edge is allowed to wear all the way through, it can damage the actual plow, causing you to need to replace the entire plow instead of just the cutting edge.

“Those are the things that contact the road surface or whatever they’re clearing, so they’re going to wear down quickly,” says Doran Herritt, a marketing manager for New Holland Construction. “In addition, if the machine would have some type of skid shoes on it, in order to help it float across the surface, those would be the quickest wearing parts.”

Likewise, other attachments that make contact with the pavement, such as power brooms, will be the first to show deterioration. It also depends on how abrasive the surface is as to how quickly the attachment will show damage.

It’s important to monitor the status of your snowplows’ cutting edges, especially during seasons of heavy use, as this can result in a drop in efficiency.

“Likely if you wear it down or if it wears uneven when you place it on the ground, it’s going to miss and it’s going to allow snow material to stay down on the macadam,” Herritt says.

Photo: ASV Holdings Inc.Photo: ASV Holdings Inc.

According to Mark Klossner, marketing vice president for Boss Snowplow, running worn down snow equipment can also increase your chances of experiencing a catastrophic failure and having equipment downtime.

While there’s no definitive lifespan on either the snow removal attachments or the equipment running them, the best method to extend their longevity is to conduct regular maintenance and inspections.

“Boss offers an annual Pre-Season Inspection Program to encourage owners to bring their Boss plows for inspection in the fall before the snow season starts,” Klossner says. “This program has saved many contractors from surprise failures once the season begins.”

If you are striving to prolong the life of your snow removal equipment, Klossner says training operators on proper usage is the number one way to do so.

“(The) typical contractor snowplow lifespan is 7-10 years – but we have contractors with Boss plows that are approaching 15-20 years old,” Klossner says. “It’s all about how well you maintain them and how hard you use them.”

As for taking care of the machines doing the plowing, Buck Storlie, testing and reliability leader for ASV Holdings Inc., says the most critical actions for prolonging the life of a compact track loader (CTL) or skid steer occurs after the shift is over.

“Make sure to clean mud and ice out of CTL undercarriages while it’s still easy to remove,” Storlie says. “Leaving it will not only mean a slow start to the next day thanks to time spent chiseling ice off frozen rollers, it can also mean accelerated component wear. For skid steers, make sure to check tire pressure regularly. Tires tend to deflate in cold weather, diminishing performance.”

What to look for when shopping

Once it is finally time to admit your snow removal attachment or equipment has served its purpose and it is time to purchase a replacement, here are some of the factors to keep in mind when shopping.

Some signs of a quality snowplow include the weight and the warranty length, according to Herritt.

“If there’s more weight that usually means there’s more strength,” Herritt says. “Now the flip side of the weight is you got to push the weight, so it’s going to make the machine work harder and you’re going to burn through more fuel. You could look at things like material thickness and again it’s kind of the same story as weight. The thickness of the steel will allow it to last longer, but the flip side is it probably weighs more so it’s going to be more expensive to operate because you’re going to use more fuel.”

Photo: ASV Holdings Inc.Photo: ASV Holdings Inc.

Klossner adds a good electrical system is another key feature to look for, as a good lighting system will make a difference in the long run. Both Klossner and Herritt say dealer support is an important factor.

“Always consider purchasing from a dealer that is near you – avoid buying new plows on the internet and having them shipped to you,” Klossner says. “A good relationship with your servicing dealer is worth a lot!”

If you are wanting to be more efficient covering smaller jobs such as driveways, sidewalks and apartment parking lots, compact equipment might be a good option.

“Whether it’s a skid steer or a compact track loader, make sure to choose a machine that includes a sealed, all-weather cab with heating and cooling systems,” Storlie says. “The heat will allow operators to work more comfortably and longer, and the air conditioning will come in handy in spring. Also, ensure the equipment has a block heater and built-in heating systems to keep internal components running smoothly in cold weather.”

Plow material

If you are looking at snowplows, in particular, you may be undecided on what material you want it made out of, or you may think there’s not much of a difference. Each option comes with its own pros and cons, so choose whichever material best suits your needs.

The three options are mild steel, stainless steel and poly.

Photo: Boss SnowplowPhoto: Boss Snowplow

Mild steel is the industry standard and has been used for years. These plows are treated with zinc powder coating to prevent rust, but it will occur over time. This type of material is durable and rigid. Stainless steel has the benefit of being corrosion resistant, slicker than mild steel and looks sharp, but it is prone to dents and scratches.

Poly is the slickest of the materials and is a very resilient material. Although it is commonly thought that poly is lighter than steel, it actually is heavier due to the reinforced steel framework underneath.

“In our opinion, the most durable and all-around efficient snow blade material is poly,” Klossner says. “Contractors like stainless steel because of how it looks and the perception of corrosion resistance, but it is prone to denting and will corrode if it is attached with non-stainless components. Poly resists denting and is slicker than stainless keeping the snow from sticking to the blade. If you’re a contractor who has to pick one material to build your fleet around for the long run – do it with poly.”

Used equipment

If you are looking into purchasing used snow removal equipment, this is a viable option, but one you should treat with caution.

“If you are a knowledgeable snow and ice contractor, you can likely spot used equipment which has been abused,” Klossner says. “If you are not knowledgeable, you run the risk of inheriting someone else’s problems. You really have to be careful when buying used equipment.”

This is where a dealer relationship would be beneficial, according to Herritt.

“The dealer would be able to inspect the used equipment and make sure maintenance was performed and there’s nothing dangerous about the unit,” he says.

The same sentiment of wariness is held for looking into purchasing used compact equipment.

“While we always recommend customers buy new from the manufacturer or dealer to receive a longer machine life, warranty and ROI, a second-hand compact track loader or skid steer can be a good investment for businesses working to get off the ground, as long as it’s first inspected carefully,” Storlie says.

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