Mastering Snow Removal: Your Ultimate Guide to ATV Snow Plowing

· Gear Guide,ATV Tips

Winter in Canada can come with some extremely harsh conditions with heavier snowfall than most human spines simply can not endure. Luckily, for us ATV enthusiasts, this season can bring us into a world of adventure by turning our rig into a snow-clearing machine. With the right setup and know-how, your ATV can become an efficient tool for moving snow. This guide covers everything you need to know about using your ATV to plow snow, from selecting the right equipment to post-plowing considerations.

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Choosing the Right Snow Blade for Your ATV

Blade Size and Weight

The size and weight of the blade should be compatible with your ATV's power and size. A blade too large or heavy can be challenging to maneuver and may overburden your vehicle, affecting performance and potentially causing damage. Ensure that you have a strong grasp of your owners manual and if unsure, do some research online via forums where others have first-hand experience.

Blade Material: Steel vs. Composite Polyethylene

Steel Blades: Known for their durability and heavy-duty nature, steel blades are ideal for cutting through thick, icy snow. They provide a rigid and robust surface for effective snow plowing.

Composite Polyethylene Blades: These blades are lighter, reducing the load on your ATV. They are less damaging to surfaces and allow snow and slush to slide off easily, enhancing efficiency.

Blade Shape: Straight vs. V-Plow

Straight Blades: Popular for their lighter weight and lower cost. They are straightforward in design and effective for most residential plowing needs.

V-Plow: The V-shape allows these plows to slice through frozen snow more efficiently than straight blades. They are versatile in snow stacking, with the ability to switch to a scoop mode, directing the snow precisely.

Lift System: Manual, Winch, or Direct Lift

Manual and Winch Systems: Suitable for smaller jobs or residential use. These require manual adjustment of the blade's angle and height, which might be labor-intensive.

Direct Lift Hydraulic Plow: Ideal for medium to large-scale operations. This system eliminates the need to manually adjust the blade, making the job faster, easier, and safer, particularly in icy conditions.

Ease of Use and Attachability

Ease of use is critical. Consider the type of attachment system and the control mechanisms for hydraulic systems. Some models offer easy-to-use attachment systems and handlebar-mounted controllers for ease of operation. Others may be more manual and require hands-on adjustments.


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Understanding Limitations

Assessing ATV Power and Compatibility

Before attaching a plow, verify that your ATV has sufficient power to handle the task. The engine size plays a pivotal role; a bigger engine can manage larger plows and heavier snow. If your ATV is underpowered, not only might it struggle to push through snow drifts, but it could also suffer costly damage from being overworked. Consult your owner's manual or check the manufacturer's specifications to ensure your machine's capacity meets the demands of plowing.

Appropriate Plow Attachment

The attachment of the snow blade is a critical consideration. Your ATV plow blade must be securely fastened using a mounting frame specifically designed for your model. This frame should be robust enough to absorb the impact of plowing without sustaining damage or harming the ATV. Additionally, it should be user-friendly in terms of attachment and detachment, as you'll likely want to remove the plow and frame after the winter season.

Terrain Suitability

ATVs are generally best suited for flat or moderately sloping surfaces. When tackling uneven terrain or steep slopes, the risk of the ATV losing traction or stability increases, which can lead to inefficient plowing or even accidents.

Snow Type and Depth

ATVs might not be the best choice for wet, heavy snow or for depths beyond a few inches. These conditions require more power and a robust plow blade, which might be beyond the capacity of many ATVs. In cases of significant snowfall, a UTV or a more powerful snow removal equipment might be more suitable.

Routine Maintenance and Inspections

During the winter plowing season, it's vital to stay on top of the routine inspections and maintenance of your ATV. Ensuring fluid levels are adequate, tires are in good shape and that all parts are in good working order can prevent breakdowns and extend the life of your vehicle.

Avoiding Overloading

Overloading your ATV with a plow that is too large or heavy for its capabilities can lead to suboptimal plowing performance. In the worst-case scenario, this can cause significant damage to your ATV or even result in bodily injury to yourself. Always ensure that the weight and size of the plow are within the safe operating limits of your ATV.


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Plowing Tips, Tricks & Precautions

Blade Tilting and Lifting Mechanisms

Tilting Mechanisms: Most systems use a manual lever to adjust the blade angle. For convenience, consider hydraulics for easier tilt adjustments, but remember these add cost and weight.

Lifting Mechanisms: Options range from fully-manual to automatic systems. Manual systems might require you to dismount to adjust the blade, while automatic systems (hydraulic or electric winch) allow adjustments from the driver’s seat.

Correct Plow Depth and Angle

Adjusting for Conditions: Ensure the plow depth is appropriate for the snowpack and surface. Avoid digging into the ground or pavement. Adjust the plow angle based on the driveway's slope and desired snow placement.

Plowing Strategy: Plow with the Storm

Start Early: Don't wait for deep snow accumulation. Begin plowing early during the storm to manage snow more efficiently and reduce strain on your ATV.

Soft Surfaces: On surfaces like dirt or gravel, let a thin layer of snow pack down (about 1-2 inches) before plowing to prevent surface damage.

Avoiding Hard Impacts: Don’t Ram It

Plow Carefully: Avoid ramming into hard-packed snow. Lift the blade to tackle large drifts in stages. High-speed plowing is risky due to hidden obstacles and ice, potentially damaging the vehicle or causing injury.

Managing Snow Accumulation: Clear a Wider Path

Early Season Strategy: Begin the season by pushing snow further into the yard, ensuring you have enough space to plow later in the season. Lift the blade slightly to avoid damaging grass.

Enhancing Traction: Get a Grip

Weight and Chains: For additional traction, you may consider adding weight to the ATV's rear or even using tire chains. However, it is important to avoid chains if there's a concern about marking up your driveway.

Handling Deep or Heavy Snow

Gradual Plowing: Approach deep snow drifts gradually, plowing at an angle and making multiple passes to avoid overloading the ATV.

Hidden Objects & Obstacles

Pay Attention: Be mindful of potential obstacles hidden under the snow. Mark permanent fixtures like garden beds with poles or flags for visibility.

Plow with the Surface

Follow Natural Slopes: Plow along the natural contours of the surface for easier and more effective snow removal, reducing the risk of damaging the blade on uneven ground.

Additional Plowing Tips

Bank Management: Push snow banks back at the season's start to maintain driveway width.

Plowing in Gears: Consider using low range and 4-wheel drive for better control as per your ATV's manual.

Reverse Strategy: Keep the plow slightly raised during heavy plowing to aid in traction and reversing if needed.


Pros and Cons of Plowing with Your ATV


Pros of Plowing with Your ATV:

Cost-Effective: Buying an ATV in the winter could be a cost-efficient alternative to purchasing a dedicated snowplow which would only be good for the winter or outsourcing to a snow removal company.

Entertainment: An ATV can be a far more fun way to clear the driveway than the old fashioned shovel or hauling around a snowblower.

Community: With an ATV at your disposal, you may be able to build some karma by helping clear the walks for neighbors and friends.


Cons of Plowing with Your ATV:

Limited Capacity: ATVs may struggle with very deep or heavy snow. Manual snow removal may still be required.

Tough in Tight Spaces: While an ATV is practical in an open space, it may not be as efficient in tight spots.

Wear and Tear: Regular plowing can wear on your ATV, requiring more frequent maintenance and leading to a higher mileage.


After You Plow: You're Not Done Yet!

Post-plowing maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity and performance of your ATV and plow blade. Here are some easy to follow instructions:

Give Your Rig a Thorough Cleaning

Immediately clean off all snow, ice, and dirt from your ATV and plow blade after use. If left unchecked, these can freeze, making them difficult to remove later and potentially causing rust and corrosion. Before storing your ATV, perform a final cleanup to remove any residual dirt and snow. This step is crucial to maintain your ATV in good condition and ready for the next use.

Inspect for Damage

After cleaning, thoroughly inspect both the ATV and the plow blade for any signs of wear or damage, especially in the plow attachment areas. Regular inspections can help you identify and address issues before they become major problems.

Proper Storage

Store your ATV and plow in a dry, sheltered area to protect them from the elements. This helps prevent rust and prolongs the life of both the vehicle and the attachment. If you must store outside, ensure to keep your rig covered with a heavy duty tarp.

Plow Position

When parking your ATV, lower the plow to the ground. This reduces strain on your machine’s winch and suspension, preventing unnecessary wear.


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Using your ATV to plow snow can be an enjoyable and efficient way to tackle winter's unpredictable weather. By choosing the right equipment, adhering to our tips and conducting proper post-plow maintenance, you can ensure that both your ATV and your driveway are well-prepared for whatever winter throws your way. Remember, the key to successful ATV snow plowing is preparation and understanding your machine's capabilities. Embrace the season with your ATV as a valuable ally in snow removal, and enjoy the satisfaction of a well-cleared path or driveway. Happy plowing, and here's to a safer, clearer winter with the help of your ATV!