As winter inches closer and closer to making an appearance, now is the time to make sure your plow and truck are in tip-top shape for the season. A day or two spent on maintenance in nice weather will significantly reduce the chance of breakdowns that leave you stranded — and not making money — when it’s cold and snowy.
When preparing your truck for plowing, the maintenance can be broken down into three areas: the plow, the truck, and basic safety measures.
Once the snow starts to fly, your plow turns into a substantial income source, so it needs to be in top working order.
Many contractors perform end of season maintenance on their plow before putting it away in the spring. It is still a good idea to check everything over again as a precaution before plowing. During non-use, there’s always the possibility hydraulic lines leaked or other damage occurred.
- Inspect the blade’s cutting edge wear. Replace the cutting edge if it has worn unevenly or is close to wearing through to the plow frame to avoid damaging the plow itself. If your equipment uses plow shoes and steel cutting edges, replace both for maximum scraping performance.
- Touch up any rust spots on the blade with powder coat touch-up.
- Check the hydraulic fluid level when the plow lift ram is both lowered and retracted. Add hydraulic fluid if needed. Inspect all hydraulic lines for leaks looking for wet spots on the lines or stains on the ground. Replace any leaking lines.
- Tighten all mounting bolts and fasteners, properly securing the plow to your truck. Check them periodically through the plowing season. They may loosen as you plow.
- Lubricate all pivot points and vertical pins.
- Grease all electrical connections on the plow using dielectric grease.
- Inspect all welds on both the plow structure and the vehicle mount, looking for any cracks or inclusions that compromise integrity.
- Adjust the tension on the trip and return springs. When tightening, the general rule of thumb is a business card should slide between the coils in the middle of the spring.
After checking the plow thoroughly and performing the necessary service, turn your attention to the truck maintenance.
Going through the following checks is essential, regardless if your truck is used year-round, if it was serviced recently, or if it is only used during the plowing season. If any components show signs of wear or pose safety concerns, they need replacing.
- Check all fluid levels and top them off, especially the brake, hydraulic, and transmission fluids and antifreeze. If the transmission or hydraulic system is due for service, schedule maintenance to change, or flush fluids.
- Inspect the brake lines, heater hoses, transmission hoses, etc. for cracks or splits and tighten all connections and hose clamps.
- Look at the timing and serpentine belts, checking for wear or splitting.
- Have the oil changed if you are approaching the time for scheduled service. Use the appropriate oil weight for colder weather.
- Clean the battery posts, terminals, and hold-down hardware to remove corrosion or dirt and oil buildup. Check the electrolyte level in each battery, making sure it is above the top of each cell’s battery plates.
- Install winter tires if used. Check sidewalls for dry rot, cracks, and splits. Measure the tire tread and inflate all tires (including the spare) to maximum sidewall pressure, or just slightly below.
- Inspect all brake system components: pads or shoes, rotors or drums, calipers or wheel cylinders.
- Grease all electrical connections on the truck using dielectric grease.
- Open the fuse panel, checking for loose or burnt-out fuses.
- Schedule a four-wheel alignment if it hasn’t been done recently. When the truck is in the shop for the alignment, ask the mechanic to check the steering and suspension components.
- Engage and disengage the four-wheel-drive system, making sure it’s working correctly and switching effortlessly between the modes.
- Turn the heater and defroster on to make sure they are working at all fan speeds, putting out the appropriate amount of heat. Watch for water on the passenger floor, indicating a leaking heater core.
- Replace the windshield wipers if they have any damage or are beginning to show signs of wear impacting their ability to clear snow from the windshield.
- Inspect the windshield for chips or cracks. Schedule an appointment to fill small chips to prevent spreading. Replace the windshield if large cracks impair your visibility.
- Check the truck’s lights’ bulbs, including headlights, taillights, signal lights, strobe lights, beacon lights, and any light bars. Run through a quick light check, making sure everything is working correctly. Clean all lenses on the lights and adjust their alignment.
- Add ballast weight over the rear axle. Not only will it aid in traction, but it will keep the rear of the truck from lifting when lifting the plow. Most plow manufacturers provide a recommended ballast guideline in the user manual. If that information is unavailable, 400 to 500 pounds should suffice.
Now that the plow and truck are adequately prepped for snow, finish off by addressing the following essential safety areas.
- Secure all objects in the cab of the truck. Remove all trash, papers, and items not needed during the plowing season.
- Either purchase a first aid kit or assemble your own containing bandaids and sterile gauze pads in different sizes, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, disposable gloves, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, tweezers, scissors, and an elastic bandage.
- In case of an emergency or breakdown, carry extra gear to keep you warm until help arrives. A survival kit can be assembled in a duffle bag to keep items stowed together for quick access. At a minimum, it should include an emergency blanket, flashlight and batteries, warm clothes, gloves, and food.
- To help get back to business quicker after a breakdown, assemble an emergency parts kit containing a tow strap, jumper cables, flares, fuses, hydraulic fluid, hoses, trip/return springs, and some essential tools.