Application Spotlight: Servicing snowplows

Snow and ice can conjure up unpleasant images – slick roads, walkways to shovel and shorter, colder days. But for some, snow and ice means dollars. Private contractors and government agencies all rely on snow removal equipment to keep streets and parking lots safe and passable.

This equipment presents an opportunity for you to capture lucrative parts and service business from this seasonal niche market.

While heavy-duty vehicles are used in snowplowing applications, smaller pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles also can be outfitted with plows. Customers with these vehicles present a good opportunity for your service department; uptime is critical and they may not be able to get quick service from an automotive dealer or repair garage.

In addition to repairing their vehicles quickly, you also can win over these customers by setting up a preventive maintenance program that keeps their plows out in the worst winter weather.

Servicing the Plow Attachment
According to Meyer Products, some of the things that should be included in a PM program for the plow apparatus include tightening the trip spring and adjusting the eye bolt, greasing the pivot and cotter pins, checking the cutting edge of the plow, tightening mounting bolts, checking oil levels, monitoring the condition of hoses, couplers and rams and checking the electrical system and battery terminal connections.

The cutting edge of the plow should be inspected for excessive wear. As soon as it appears worn on either corner it should be replaced, Meyer Products advises on its web site.

When checking the oil level, make sure it is 11/2 inches below the filler hole. If the fluid is low or appears excessively dirty, change it.

Meyer Products suggests checking hoses for bubbles or cuts and couplers for rust or leaks. “A failure in a hose or coupler will result in a loss in oil pressure and cause power angling failure,” according to the company.

Rusted or leaky rams can introduce water into the hydraulic system, which may cause freeze-ups.

Troubleshooting Tips
Even with a good PM program, things still can go wrong with snowplow vehicles. Quick troubleshooting and repair are essential if you are going to compete successfully in this market.

When a customer comes in complaining that the pump motor is not running, the first thing to do, according to Boss Snowplow, is to check that the power/ground cables and control cables are connected properly. Other possible causes are a seized or failed pump or a failed solenoid.

If the motor will not shut off, the likely causes are a shorted motor relay, shorted vehicle wiring, malfunctioning cab control or an open ground circuit, according to Western Products.

If the customer complains that the plow will not stay in the raised position or lowers by itself, Western Products says to check for contaminated, sticking or damaged cartridge valves, and short or open connections in the wiring.

An overloaded circuit or shorts in the wiring are most likely causes of a blown fuse on the vehicle. If there is excessive load on the vehicle’s electrical system while the customer is using the snowplow, the vehicle’s battery could be weak or the battery charging system inefficient. Other causes are improperly adjusted lift or angle cylinder packing nuts, quill adjusted in too far, a worn or damaged motor or binding or a damaged pump.

If the vehicle battery loses its charge when the plow is being used, Western Products says the culprit is a weak battery, incorrect wiring installation or shorted or grounded wires.

Lighting issues that affect vehicles equipped with plows include plow or vehicle headlights operating irregularly or not at all and a malfunctioning high beam indicator light.

Malfunctioning snow plow headlights may be the result of corroded or burned out bulbs, incorrect wiring connections, improperly operating light relays or shorts. Irregularities with the vehicle’s headlights are caused by incorrect wiring, corroded electrical connections, inoperable light relays and shorts or open wiring.

Boss says that if the high beam indicator light is malfunctioning, you need to verify that the proper headlight adapters are being used and are installed correctly.

If the snowplow will not lower or lowers slowly, the incorrect hydraulic fluid for the temperature could be the culprit. Other likely causes are the lift ram packing nut being out of adjustment, cartridge valve coils not activating properly or contaminated, sticking or damaged cartridge valves.

However, if the plow lowers too fast, Boss suggests checking the flow control valve and closing it to the desired drop speed.

If you discover oil leaking from the hydraulic power unit, there could be external damage to the housing, loose pipe plugs or fittings, loose base lug or damaged base nut O-ring, loose lift ram packing nut, worn or damaged lift ram packing, damaged motor seal or gasket, or a loose manifold or damaged manifold O-rings. Depending on the cause of the problem, Western Products recommends repairing or replacing the housing, tightening the pipe plugs or fitting, tightening the base lug or replacing the base lug O-ring, tightening the lift ram packing nut, replacing the packing, motor seal or gasket and tightening the valve manifold or replacing the manifold O-ring.

Breaking into new market segments always requires a learning curve. But when it comes to snowplows, much of the basic service knowledge and skills should already be familiar.

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