Snow removal is a great excuse for buying a new ATV, but what size should it be for plowing snow? I set to find out. Let’s have a look at why size matters when it comes to plowing snow.
What size ATV do you need for plowing snow? Any mid to upper-size utility ATV will plow snow just fine. It’s recommended to stay in the 400-800cc selection, not because of engine power but because of weight. The bike should weigh from 400 to 700 lbs or more.
So it’s the weight you are looking for, not engine power. If you use a machine below the recommended range, you may run into traction issues, and anything bigger will not give you any added benefits, just the added cost. Riders who buy the bigger machines generally have other uses in mind than snow plowing only.
There is no such thing as too much power, right?
Well, engine displacement and horsepower (hp) are not as crucial as you may think for the sole purpose of snow plowing.
Almost any ATV engine size will work fine for plowing snow, although I would recommend getting a 400cc or larger.
Even smaller machines than this would probably have enough power to get the
work done, but these are not recommended because of reasons I’ll go more into later in the article.
When plowing, you don’t need either speed or acceleration; at least not more than any 400cc should handle just fine. And you will be amazed by the amount of snow you are able to push, even with a moderately sized machine.
Depending on the locations you will be plowing, the
wider cc machines may actually, to some degree, be a disadvantage. Plowing in tight spaces around objects and getting close to buildings requires a lot of maneuverability.
The overall dimensions on a 1000cc ATV will generally be a lot broader than on a more moderate 500cc bike. The nimbleness of the smaller-sized machines may be just what you need in these situations.
For the purpose of plowing snow, the power
varyence between the 700-800cc classes and up is marginal and will be of little to no practical importance. All of these engine sizes have pretty amazing power at their disposal.
If you only plan on by means of the ATV for snow plowing in winter, there is really no need to buy an 800cc plus machine. A 500cc will be more than adequate.
But if you’re anything like most other ATV buyers, you have more uses in mind.
If some of these uses include heavy towing or the thrill of speedy trail riding, fulfilling these needs may end up being the deciding factor of what engine you buy and not how much power you actually need for the snow plowing.
Also, if the cost is of importance to your decision, not only will the purchase price of a larger machine be higher, you may also want to take into consideration the higher fuel consumption a bigger engine will require.
The only reason why buying a broader cc machine may make sense is because a larger engine usually means more weight.
Related: How Much Do ATVs Cost – Comparing Different Types
So we have established that almost any ATV has enough power for snow plowing.
What is actually much more essential to the snow pushing capabilities of any ATV is how heavy it is. More weight will give you better traction and momentum.
The extra weight of the larger ATVs also has the effect that it helps with keeping the bike stable. It will take that much more of an impact to knock it to either side.
You will find that you run out of traction because of low weight long before you run out of engine power.
It is not the only factor, but more weight will always give you better traction between your tires and the surface, in turn, allows you to push more snow.
This is also why a 250cc machine would cause problems even though the engine power could be adequate. They simply don’t have the weight you need to plow properly.
For small amounts of light and dry snow, just about any ATV will work just fine. But as soon as you take on the heavier wet snow, try cutting through drift or compact snowbanks on the side of the road; you will need a bit of momentum to get by means of.
And as you may remember from physics class, momentum is the product of mass (weight) and velocity (speed).
Ideally, the traction alone should be enough so you could just push anything with full control at low speeds like a bulldozer. But no ATV packs this kind of weight, so you will need to add some speed to the equation to build up the needed momentum.
With broader weight, you will need less speed to break through the same amount of snow. Just remember that with broader momentum comes a
wider risk of bending or breaking things.
A good tip is to push the snow further at the beginning of the season, so you have room for adding more behind this
under the name of the season continues. If the snow pile freeze hard, it will be almost impossible to move it with any weight ATV without a serious risk of breaking some things.
This is the easiest step you can do to achieve better traction and momentum. It will also help with maneuverability, especially when backing up hills.
The most basic solution is to strap down a couple of sandbags on your rear automobilego rack. Make sure you don’t exceed the rated capacity of the rack.
The weight needs to be added in the rear to compensate and balance out the vehicle because of the added weight the plow adds to the front.
Ideally, the weight should be behind the rear axle, as this will take away some of the stress on the front axle.
So strap the bags as far back on the rack
under the name of you can; just make sure to remove them if you remove the plow itself.
If your welding skills are ok, you want to take it one step further; you can compose a custom weight that installs on the hitch mount. Make sure you don’t exceed the rated downward capacity of the hitch. If you do a google search, you will find a lot of creative DIY solutions you can test out.
If you add too much weight to the rear, you may end up unloading the front so much
who you get problems steering. If you jack up the rear spring as stiff as they go, you will be able to add more weight at the rear before you run into steering issues.
Having a good set of tires with relatively soft rubber, giving you a good grip, is probably even more essential than putting chains on the quad. Next-to adding weight, this should be your best bet for improving the traction of your machine.
One of the oldest tricks in the book for achieving better traction in the snow (or anywhere) is to deflate the tires. But at the same time, you will make it a lot harder to steer your AVT, so I do not recommend this for plowing purposes.
Even if you have
reign steering on your quad, deflated tires will result in more wear and tear on the steering components.
This is a solution
through both some pros and cons you need to take into consideration.
Screw-in tire studs are a great alternative to tire chains. They do not bite as hard, but they are much more forgiving.
These are cheap and will work well on hard-packed snow or ice. Be aware of the hazard of scratching any hard surfaces.
Even tho no-one in their right mind would buy tracks only to plow snow; there is no denying that nothing can compete with tracks on an ATV when it comes to traction.
If you have them, you will be able to push snow like never before. Keep in mind they will reduce the machine’s maneuverability quite a bit, and you will also probably need a wider plow to keep it
under the name of wide as the machine itself.
It’s important to use the “optimal” plow blade width for your machine. A 400cc – 450cc should easily handle a 48″ plow. But to use a 60″, you may need something
wider. With a small machine on a too wide plow, you will just end up pushing more snow than the machine can handle.
Make sure you engage the 4×4 at all times when plowing. If your machine is equipped with a locking front diff, this will add further to your traction.
Some will feel they need to add weight to the plow blade itself.
Usually you should not need this as long as the blade angle is set correctly.
So make sure you check your settings before you start modifying or purchasing more gear.
If the blade is tilted too far back, it
wont cut into the snow; just glide on top. If the blade is tilted too much forward will make the cut too aggressive, with the risk of digging into any bump with a brutal stop as a result.
If you do a lot of back blading snow away from building doors etc., some added weight to the blade may help to keep the blade down.
Keep in mind you need to make sure your winch is strong
sufficient to handle the added weight.
As an alternative to adding weight to the blade, you can purchase a so-called „downforce kit“ for your blade. These kits basically consist of one or two hydraulic cylinders that keep constant downward pressure on the blade. I have not tested this myself, but the idea seems simple and effective.
A winch with 2500lb pulling power is a good size for plowing with an ATV. Any winch in the 1500lb – 3500 lb range will work fine, but a 1500lb winch will be a bit weak for other winching functions.