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Snow Plowing Tips for Beginners

The winter season is coming into full swing and for more and more people the question of how to plow snow is coming into the forefront. Especially if you’re new to this, snow plowing can seem outright daunting – how should you position the vehicle, how to windrow, how to back drag, how does snow plowing in tight places work, what’s the difference with plowing wet snow or deep snow, and so on. So, to help you out a bit, whether you’re getting into professional snow plowing or you’re just doing it for your property, here are our snow plowing tips for beginners.

Preparation is key

As with anything else, mastering snow plowing for beginners is largely about the preparation. There are lots of things you’ll need to research and think about before you even start as you don’t want to stop and google them while you’re plowing. Here are some of the main things you’d do well to start with:

  • Read every word of the snowplow’s manual. Different snowplows have different specifics and we couldn’t possibly go over all of them in a single article. So, whatever snowplow you have, you need to know it inside and out. And if you haven’t bought a snowplow yet, it’s best to consult with a professional face-to-face so that you can explain to them all the specifics of your property.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment on hand – tow strap, toolkit, fire extinguisher, flares, flashlight, fuses, first aid kit, an ice scraper, jumper cables, washer fluid, a snowplow emergency parts kit, lock deicer, as well as a shovel and a bag of salt or sand. Warm clothes are also a must, obviously.
  • Make sure that your vehicle is in perfect condition – tire pressure, engine belts, hoses, brake fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, and so on – everything should be as good as it could be.
  • Make sure that the snowplow itself is also in peak condition – all its bolts must be tight, there should be no cracks or leaks, the plow’s lights and turn signals should be in order, and its cutting edge should be as precise as possible.
  • Add backup lights or a strobe light if your vehicle doesn’t have them – this will both improve your visibility as well as make you more visible to others.
  • Add ballast to the back of your vehicle. This is vital not only in order to comply with the federal regulations on rear weight distribution but also to make your car more stable while plowing.

About plowing

There are many different ways to plow snow depending on the situation and the snowplow model you have at hand. Most snowplows are designed for specific tasks but there are also great and versatile models that can perform all types of maneuvers and plowing techniques. Below, we’ll cover some of the basics you should be aware of:

  • V-plowing. Some snowplows can retract their blades toward the truck into a V-position which is ideal for a first pass through thick snow. If you just need to pass through a section of deep snow or you want to make the first plowing lane which you’ll widen with your next passes – the V-position is the way to go.
  • Angle-plowing. In this position, the blades of the snowplow are positioned either to the right or to the left side of the vehicle. This is a great position for widening a narrow lane that you’ve just gone through with a V-position. Additionally, this is also a great position for withdrawing your vehicle safely.
  • Scoop-plowing. The scoop position is very much the reverse of the V-position as in it, the blades are turned to shape an inverted V shape that’s similar to a scoop. This position is great for not just pushing the snow but controlling it and moving it with more precision. For example, the scoop-position allows you to push the snow straight ahead for a long distance instead of simply pushing it to the side.
  • Straight-plowing. The straight position of the snowplow is meant mostly for back-dragging snow, usually from the sides of houses and other structures. It’s a fairly simple position in principle but it does require some practice – the snowplowing blades are set up in a straight position, they are lifted above the snow as the vehicle is going forward, and then they are dropped low to scoop a portion of the snow between them and the vehicle so that it can be dragged back.

Additional snow plowing tips

Of course, there’s a lot more than can be said about snow plowing but most of the more complicated tips are situational. The general advice in each situation is to prioritize safety over efficiency & effectiveness if you’re not 100% certain you can do both. Here are several more tips to keep in mind:

  • Always finish the job when you’re dealing with wet snow. Plowing in the evening or late at night can be tedious and tiring but if the snow is wet and you leave the job half-finished for the morning, the snow will likely freeze overnight and turn into a deadly trap by the morning.
  • With deep snow, it’s best to go layer by layer. The snowplow is very effective precisely for deeper snows but you still need to be careful not to overload it and your vehicle. The most basic rule here is to freely use the whole width of the blade if the snow is up to two inches; use only three quarters of the blade’s width (i.e. – leave some of the blade unused) for four inches of snow; and use only half the blade for 6 inches of snow and more. This will not only be safer for you, your vehicle, and the snowplow itself, it will also give you more control over the whole process.
  • Don’t wait for it to stop snowing before you start plowing. The instinct of most people when the snowing gets heavy is that they might as well wait for it to stop. It’s logical at first glance – why plow now when it will snow over it again? It’s precisely in these situations that you need to start plowing as soon as possible, however, as otherwise, the snow may become too deep even for your large snowplow.
  • Leave enough place for the second wave of snow while plowing. If you want to clear a wide enough opening/area it’s important to plan ahead and leave enough space for the excess snow you’re removing. If you don’t do that you’ll risk ending up with a solid wall of snow and ice that you can’t plow through to widen the area. So – just plow the first wave of snow a bit further ahead so that you have enough space to work with.

In summary – be careful, be prepared, and be safe. Snowplowing is a tricky thing to do, especially if you’re new to it. It’s always better to be slow and mindful of what you’re doing than to try and rush things.

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