Volume 4, Issue #01

February 17, 2002


Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter

Crazy Weather Patterns, Crazy Sleep Patterns
As I sit here typing this (in early January), I see it is almost 1 AM. I went to take a nap after dinner, and woke up around 11. I will go back to bed around 3 AM. I don't know if I am getting a cold, or if I am on my "normal" schedule. By normal I mean I have had the same sleeping habit for about the past 7 years during the winter (plowing) months.
This has been going on for about a week now since we had our first plowable event last weekend. We had icing problems on Monday which had me out until 2 AM. Since then I have been having a hard time getting back on track. My job requires that I work normal hours on week days, and naturally whenever it snows regardless of the hour. When I was on my own, I used to nap during the day, and be up most of the night during the winter. Sometimes waiting for the storm to arrive, but usually watching for snow that never came. This winter has been one of the latter. 

We have been forecasted to get small amounts of snow, and they have all missed us or instead have been rain lately. So far, we have had one plowable event, and it was only 2.5" at that. We have had two salting events. It has been a lean winter to say the least. I realize I am not alone as usual. Last year, folks in the Chicagoland area got their seasonal total in the month of December, and didn't plow much if at all the rest of the winter. Such could be the case for us on the Midwestern seaboard, in reverse. We may see a snowy March, who knows. That is my point, the weather guessers have been just that, guessers. They have been far, far, less than accurate this year, even ones I have truly trusted in the past. This has been a heated topic over at Plowsite.com. One thread there on the topic of snow in the Northeast has over 75 posts, and over 2,100 views! Nothing like sharing your frustrations with a group. If you are not a member, take a minute to sign up, it is the best free networking tool at your disposal. It will also give you something fun and productive to do since it's not snowing. www.PlowSite.com

Productivity & Snow Pushers
Well, I was at one of the sites I manage for the entire snow removal operation the one 2.5" plowable event we got. It was heavy wet snow, and not easy to push in such a large parking lot. The Pro Tech Sno Pushers worked flawlessly, and did a good job scraping with the MPT Urethane edges on them. I was very impressed with the Bobcat 873 with 10' Pro Tech on it. It was very efficient, and very fast. The snow was wet and heavy, and it didn't really have a problem with traction until the pile it was trying to push was almost as big as the machine. It was the operators first time using the Pro Tech, or any type of box plow. The operator got used to it and I saw the efficiency improve over the course of the evening. I know the next time it snows, the efficiency will improve even more. I was concerned with traction being a problem with such a large pusher on such a "small" machine. I definitely underestimated the power of the Bobcat 873. I watched it make runs 100' long with 2" of wet snow on the ground. 

Most of us have some left over de-icers. Let's face it, we were prepared for the worst, and now we are left holding the bags, no pun intended, especially if it's a few hundred bags! Bagged salt stored indoors keeps well until the next season. Bagged and bulk Magic treated salt keeps well over the summer, that has been proven already, with no clumps at all. Plain rock salt will only clump if it gets wet, or if it can attract a lot of moisture. The same goes for calcium. It attracts moisture big time. Keep it sealed and dry, and it will keep pretty well. The downfall to calcium is that it will begin to melt in high heat storage areas too, such as small unventilated sheds. When calcium melts due to water contact, moisture from the air, or high heat, an oily substance leaks out of the bags. At the same time, the calcium solidifies, and it gets as hard as concrete. What can you do with that calcium? Maybe you can put it down (with permission) at a local little league field in the summer, to help keep the dust down. It is also used on gavel roads to help keep the dust down. Just spread it like you would a sidewalk. On the ball fields, you can lay it down heavier.
Storing large quantities of bulk straight rock salt presents a challenge. Unless you have a silo, or a large indoor storage area, this can be a real problem.

Inspection Time
When weather is favorable, even during the season it is a good practice to inspect your snow plows regularly. If you have a heated shop, even better. I can't tell you how many damaged snow plows I have seen over the years where the operator or owner had no clue the snow plow actually needed repairs. Naturally, there are times when you know you need to give your snow plow a once over, such as when you hit an obstacle hard enough to stall the truck! When you have an impact with an immovable object, something on the snow plow will usually give, either by bending, flexing, or cracking. Just because the snow plow "still works" doesn't mean that nothing is damaged. It also doesn't mean that nothing is worn out. There are many places the steel "wears out" on a snow plow system.

Each plow being designed differently, will naturally have common failure areas, specific to that brand and model of plow. All plows have typical failure areas, just like anything else mechanical. Some of these areas are common to all plows, even when designed differently. I want to add that by pointing out these areas on the various plows, I am in NO WAY trying to bash any brand of plow, or design. It is rare when a machine can't be improved in some way. Plows are machines, and all machines fail sooner or later too. I will try to go over the various problem areas, and points to check.

Let's start with one of the most common failure areas.

The Center Pivot Bolt

It is not uncommon for the steel to crack around this bolt. This bolt, and the surrounding steel takes a tremendous amount of beating from plowing. All of the force of anything against the moldboard is transferred to the A frame via this bolt and the surrounding steel. The plow is tipped up in this photo for easier viewing.

Area Prone To Cracking

You can see the green line where cracks typically develop. It is where the metal is the thinnest as you can see. You can also some remnants of grease. It doesn't hurt to keep this pivot point greased. It will help keep the plow angling freely. Wear is a problem here, and using a center bolt with the proper shoulder length is important. In the future, I would like to see plow manufacturers develop some type of tapered bearing, or roller bearing center pivot. At the very least devise a way to grease the center pivot thoroughly. Nothing but steel wearing on steel as far as all the pivots on a plow go. The more you can keep greased, the less the parts will wear.

Top Of The A Frame

Here is a top view of the center pivot area. You can see the rust in a line across the top. This is because the metal is flexing so much, the paint won't stay on it. It cracks off. Sooner or later there is going to be a crack in the steel here. Anytime you see cracks in paint on a weld, or on a short section of steel, it is a sign of high stress, and an eventual failure point. This A frame should be replaced, but might last a few more seasons. You can bet when it does fail, it will be during a storm. To be safe, and prevent downtime, the A frame should be replaced now before it cracks. In this photo you can also see the head of the center pivot bolt. The steel around the bolt should be cleaned and inspected for cracks. A smear of grease on here is helpful too. Every other year it is a good practice to remove the center pivot bolt. Inspect the holes in each piece of steel it holds together. If the holes are really getting oblong, then it might be time to change the A frame. Oblong holes mean room for "play". As the bolt moves freely in the oblong hole, instead of absorbing the stress and load, it "hammers" the steel while both pushing and backdragging, eventually resulting in cracks.


Tip Your Plow Up

Tip your plow up with the moldboard facing down. Inspect the center pivot area shown in the photos above. Stand back and take a good look at your A frame and plow. You can see the A frame of this plow is bent right where the green circle is. It took 2 years, but the angle iron of the A frame cracked right where the center of the bend is. The stress finally got to be too much, and the metal let go. When the A frame was changed, it was discovered that the center pivot had a crack in the steel as well. Because the owner never tipped up his plow, let alone inspected it, these problems were just waiting to rear their ugly heads in the middle of a storm, and they did. You can see the trip spring adjusters on this plow are barely protruding above the top edge of the mold board. These have a lot of adjustment left in them. When there is 3" of thread sticking up above the moldboard, you will need new adjusters. It is easier than trying to deal with reusing the adjusters, and since when you run out of adjustment, the springs need to be replaced, you can pick up both items at the dealer. When replacing a trip spring, sometimes you have to loosen the adjustment on the other springs as well as removing the adjuster with the spring you are replacing. It is often easier to cut off a rusty adjuster than to use 2 wrenches to get it off. A trip spring is adjusted properly when the coils are just starting to separate. Keep tightening the adjuster until you can slip a matchbook cover, or folded piece of paper between the coils. Trip springs should not be loose and "wobbly".

Lift Arms

Lift Arms end up with the pivot hole in them worn to an oblong shape over time. This contributes to a "sloppy" plow. I put a piece of masking tape on the back of this one to help show how oval the hole is. In the future, manufacturers should use a replaceable bushing of some type, rather than making us replace the lift arm. One of the biggest contributing factors of this wear is bolts with an improper shoulder length. Plow manufacturers often include these bolts in their hardware assortments. They must specify the diameter of bolt, and length, but not shoulder length when they put the assortments together. Ignorant mechanics will often use the wrong shoulder length. Better to use a flat washer on the head and nut, than to expect metal parts to pivot on the threads of the bolt. Bolts that have been installed like this are only good as "emergency spares" since the threads are damaged and often VERY worn.

Pivot Pins & Bolts

This plow uses a sleeve and pin as a pivot to allow the moldboard to trip. Actually it uses two of them. In this photo you can see a piece of 1" x 1" solid steel stock is welded in on top of a 1" sleeve behind the 2" x 3" piece of rectangle 1/4" steel plate. On the moldboard side, there is another steel sleeve, with that large washer welded to the end. In the far left of the photo, you can barely make out the cotter pin in the end of the sleeve which holds the pivot pin in. Greasing these pins is important, and some plows have grease fittings on them. This plow used to, but they got broken off at some time. 

You Can See The Broken Fitting

A common problem with these pivot pins is they are not greased enough, and become seized. It is a big project trying to get the pins out once seized, and often easier to just torch out the sleeves, and weld in new ones. The last seized one I worked at getting out took over 4 hours, with a torch and air chisel, cut off wheel, pry bar with cheater and 500 pounds on it... It would have been easier to torch and weld. Even with greasing normal wear will occur at this pivot. The ends of the steel sleeves become cracked and mushroomed out. The pins become worn, as do the inside of the sleeves. This particular plow manufacturer sells replacement sleeves and pivot pins. My plow is 20 years old, and is due for new ones. The plow in the picture will need them soon, and it is less than 10 years old. It has already had the pivots reinforced once. Although my plow needs to have the pivot pins and sleeves replaced, I could easily get a season out of it, but, when one of the pins does fail, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be during a storm. I have been carrying a replacement pin in the truck for years, and have sleeves at the house to weld on. I just don't have a need to. But if it isn't snowing where you are, and you can afford the parts, and if you have the skills, tools and time, then why not do it?


Additional Reading


Repairing Plow Welds Northern - Plow parts, tools, supplies, etc.
Changing Hydraulic Fluid  JC Whitney - Truck parts & accessories, etc.
Search this site OnlineMetals (including Teflon, Plexi, and Lexan)


Links - Every Issue must have links, right!

Garden Decorations - The perfect finishing touches for a beautiful landscape or garden. Sun Dials, Weather Vanes, Mailboxes, Bird Baths, Heavy Brass Signs, and more! Offer these items to your customers, and rise above the competition!

Renaissance St. Louis Airport - St. Louis, Missouri. This is where the 5th Annual SIMA Snow & Ice Symposium is being held June 6 - 8, 2002. Sounds nice.  

5th Annual SIMA Snow & Ice Symposium - Check out the schedule of events. You DON'T want to miss this!
Event Schedule

Urethane Cutting Edge Install - Courtesy of Big River Landscaping.

LawnForums.com - This is a new forum site, with discussions on lawn care, landscaping, snowplowing, etc. A very good friend of mine just started it recently.

Almanac.com - The ORIGINAL Old Farmers Almanac. Lots of interesting info.

The Blue Book Of Building & Construction - They cover many states. Find contractors to sub work to. Get listed to gain new work for your company. This is a GREAT resource. You can search all areas on line.

Environmental Surface Treatments - Authorized Ice Ban Dealer. Located in NY, but servicing many States. 

Clear Path Products - Magic Salt Dealer, located in Joppa, Maryland.

Green Earth Landscaping & Design - Magic Salt Dealer located in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Turf Plus Landscape Management Inc. - Magic Salt Dealer in Philly, PA.

UBidContract.com - Find contracts in your area. Get listed to gain new contracts in your area. FREE Service.

I was amazed at how many things you can buy at E Bay. They have a HUGE Automotive section, and tool section. Plows, plow parts, car and truck parts, repair manuals and more. Sell your extra parts, turn them into cash.

  Click here for your favorite eBay items


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Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter is 2002 Charles D. Smith
All Rights Reserved.
May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any format,
without the author's express written permission to do so.

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Back Issues Of Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter

  • Volume 4, Issue #01
    February 17, 2002




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