Now that the plowing season is over, what should I do to my
truck and plow as far as maintenance items?
Let us start with the truck first, since you will be using it again before you will be using your plow. Probably the most important thing to do, or have done, is to have the automatic transmission serviced. Have the fluid replaced and the filter changed. Having the fluid and filter changed is cheap preventative maintenance considering the costs of transmission repairs or replacement. It is also a good idea to have the engine oil and filter changed now. Excessive engine idling is a part of plowing, and it is also more harmful to engine oil that driving. Just because you did not put that many miles on while plowing this past winter, does not mean that the engine was not under a heavy load for many of those miles, and idling for many hours during that same time frame. When you have the oil changed, also have the front end greased. Be sure to grease the front axle universal joints (if applicable) and the front drive shaft slip yolk and universal joints, as well as the rear driveshaft universal joints and slip yolk (if applicable). Have the drive shafts, front axle, and front end components inspected for worn parts. Have the tires and wheels removed, and the front and rear brakes inspected, cleaned, and adjusted.
Having the aforementioned services performed can be messy as far as lubricant spillage under your vehicle. This is why I did not mention washing the truck first. Now that these services have been performed, it is time to wash the underside of the truck thoroughly. There are a few ways to accomplish this. One is to take the truck to a car wash that can wash trucks. Elect the optional 'undercarriage wash' if they offer it. Another is to go to a self serve truck wash station and wash it yourself using their high pressure washing equipment. Take care in using the high pressure washer not to "force" water into places you do not want it to go, such as axle vent hoses and engine air intake openings. A third option is to wash it yourself, in your driveway or yard. If you choose to do it this way, there are a few tips to make it go easier. First, rinse the undercarriage thoroughly. While it is still wet, use a scrub brush on a long handle to reach under the vehicle and scrub it down with a soapy water solution. Believe it or not, a typical 'toilet bowl' scrub brush is a second handy tool to have, as its shape will allow you to get into places that a standard rectangular shaped brush will not. It is great for scrubbing tires and wheels too. Rinse the undercarriage thoroughly. The idea is to get off as much salt residue as possible, and this usually involves scrubbing, since rinsing alone will often leave much of the salt residue on the vehicle.
Moving on to the plow, rinse it thoroughly with water. Get out your toilet bowl brush again, and scrub down the entire plow assembly with a soapy water solution. Modern plows that incorporate complete assembly removal as a 'unit' can be heavy, and difficult to tip onto the face of the moldboard. Be extremely careful when tipping the plow, as it is extremely heavy, and can be dangerous. If you are not comfortable tipping it, then do not tip it. Tipping the plow forward will allow the bottom of the A frame to be cleaned, which is important, since it takes much of the stress of plowing, and will need to be clean before inspecting the welds, and other areas for signs of damage. Rinse the plow assembly thoroughly, and allow it to dry, leaving it tipped forward.
Begin by inspecting the bottom side of the A frame, looking closely at all the welds for fatigue or cracking. Once it is clear that the underside is in tact, tip the plow back into the 'mounting' position (if you did in fact tip it forward). Inspect all the hydraulic hoses for chaffing or damage. Inspect the fittings for leakage or damage. Inspect the angle rams for damage. Inspect all the welds for fatigue or cracking. Look for bent parts. If you find any damages, you can repair them now, or wait until the fall to have them repaired. Apply a light coating of waterproof grease to the exposed piston rods of the angle cylinders to prevent rusting during storage.
Change the hydraulic fluid in the plow pump. Follow the maintenance instructions in your owner's manual. If the fluid is milky, that is a sign that water got into the hydraulic system, and you have a leak some place. If you did not find a leak during the previous inspection mentioned above, make sure to note it someplace so you can locate the leak and repair it at a later time. Clean the pump filters and strainers. Fill the pump with new hydraulic fluid. Fully extend the plow lift ram, and a light coat of waterproof grease to the piston rod to prevent rust during storage.
The above article originally appeared in the February 2003 Issue of Snow Business Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
Also of interest:
Changing Hydraulic Fluid
Springtime Plow Issues
Summer Plowing Concerns?
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