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Who's Right regarding Plow Fluid

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by Kenyou, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. Kenyou

    Kenyou Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    There are so many guys and of course Dealers, say to use a Premium low temp plow fluid and not ATF as it thickens when it gets really cold.
    Then there are those that swear by ATF. I imagine because it is so cheap and have been using it for years without trouble. One guy even said that he has always used ATF and then for some reason he tried plow fluid and his plow wouldn't work properly and he went back to ATF and it worked fine. So my question is how can both schools of thought be right?
     
  2. festerw

    festerw Senior Member
    Messages: 986

    From what I understand ATF can work well in older systems with larger valve openings. In newer systems the passages are smaller and the low temp fluid works better.

    IMO I'll keep running the low temp fluid.
     
  3. Kenyou

    Kenyou Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    Ok Fester, that sounds logical. Thank you. Lets see if anybody else has any further ideas.
     
  4. JCByrd24

    JCByrd24 Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 232

    I'm a recent convert to plow fluid in an "out front" electric system, a Meyer E47. I did some research and found that most plow fluids are made to meet a MIL spec for low temperature hydraulic fluid, mainly used in aircraft hydraulics. At work I have access to military specs and so I downloaded it. As it turns out, at 0 degrees and below, fluid to this spec has 1 tenth the viscosity of ATF. Given that, I decided to spend the $25 on a gallon, realizing it'll last me a couple of years. Flushed the whole system and am glad I did. Below 15 degrees, ATF really slowed down the E47 and the plow fluid does much better. I get less dimming of the headlights and overall it just does better, like I've heard people say for years. Also, haven't had any signs of freezing, which I used to get with ATF.

    I've heard that you should run ATF or regular hydraulic fluid in underhood systems for the following reasons:

    1) Works fine because it gets much warmer.
    2) Plow fluid has a low flash point in comparison, and could be more hazardous underhood.
     
  5. Dave Jr

    Dave Jr Junior Member
    from md
    Messages: 12

    I believe atf fluid contains parffins which is a wax . Waxes harden when subject to very cold temps. A transmission will produce enough heat where the paraffins will not harden . Whereas a plow pump is subject to extreme temps producing no heat and will clog the port orfices .Someone correct bme if I'm wrong .
     
  6. poncho62

    poncho62 Senior Member
    Messages: 431

    I ran ATF in my old Western for years.....Then when I got my E-47, the low temp blue fluid was recommended........I figure it costs me about $20 for the blue per year.......good insurance
     
  7. plowinginma

    plowinginma Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 326

    Whatever you choose DO NOT mix the two!!!
     
  8. johnslawn

    johnslawn Member
    from ma
    Messages: 90

    I run the boss fluid in mine. I spent to much time thinking about it. Spent the extra couple bucks and forgot about it all.
     
  9. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,992

    They are not, ATF will work in some conditions but not as efficiently as Premium plow fluid. There are people who will never change their opinions on fluids, they will continue to use ATF regardless the issues it causes. I like those peoplepayuppayup:rolleyes::laughing:
     
  10. LEVE

    LEVE Member
    Messages: 79

    After having lived in Wisconsin and working in St. Paul for a decade, I can attest to the problems with ATF. I'd come out of my building at 7am at -40F and have to warm up the vehicle for about 5 minutes before the ATF in the automatic transmission would even attempt to build up pressure and move the van.

    Go with the good stuff on the plow... you won't regret it.
     
  11. Kenyou

    Kenyou Senior Member
    Messages: 375

    Thanks guys, I sort of figured that. I don't know if any plow fluid or hydo oil would freeze unless it gets water in it. My Meyer froze last year but it had a leak and got water in it and it had the proper fluid in it.
    The ATF is liked because it is cheap, but it has it's problems at times. I heard that the dealer puts ATF in brand new Western plows. He may charge the company for premium plow fluid though. So if the openings in the valves are bigger and it works fine, so be it. Now I know, thanks a bunch.
     
  12. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,992

    No plow pump since the cable operated Westerns have had ports large enough for ATF
     
  13. Dave Jr

    Dave Jr Junior Member
    from md
    Messages: 12


    I believe atf fluid contains parffins which is a wax . Waxes harden when subject to very cold temps. A transmission will produce enough heat where the paraffins will not harden . Whereas a plow pump is subject to extreme temps producing no heat and will clog the port orfices .Someone correct bme if I'm wrong .


    dittos
     
  14. trycyber

    trycyber Junior Member
    Messages: 24

    Went with the BOSS fluid this year too
     
  15. AbsoluteH&L

    AbsoluteH&L Senior Member
    Messages: 573

    I now run Meyer fluid. I used to get aftermarket stuff but the Meyer fluid is better at fighting freeze ups.
     
  16. mayhem

    mayhem PlowSite.com Addict
    from Peru MA
    Messages: 1,016

    I use ATF myself, but only because its what was in there when I bought it used and I needed to get moving for a storm. I've had no issues down to the -15F range, plow has never bound up on me. That said, I'm a staunch advocate of following manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance and pars/fluid specs. I've noticed a small leak in one of my angle rams so when I fix or replace it this spring I will be flushing out all the ATF and filling it with the Fisher low temp fluid.

    Assuming I make it to spring and don't blow my whole resivoir out that ram in the middle of a push.
     
  17. AbsoluteH&L

    AbsoluteH&L Senior Member
    Messages: 573

    Oddly enough my buddy just called yesterday and needed help with his froze up Western. "Bring a jack. I can't get my plow up." Get it back to my house, take out the drain plug and NOTHING comes out! The water in the bottom was froze SOLID! Hit it with a torch to get it flowing and it looked like a strawberry shake. Bleed the cylinder lines and and it looked like a playdough fun factory.
    All good now though. Topped it of with plow fluid, and ready for snow!
     
  18. NICHOLS LANDSCA

    NICHOLS LANDSCA PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,310

    -40? The RECORD low is only like -32 or something
     
  19. nymustang50

    nymustang50 Senior Member
    Messages: 129

    Now I got a question. I'm picking up a western plow and theirs a sticker on it that says ATF fluid and to change annually on the pump. Can I flush it and run plow fluid? Or do I have to stick with the ATF?
     
  20. B&B

    B&B PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 12,777

    Sure you can run the plow fluid of your choice as long as you do a thorough flush to remove as much ATF as possible.