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Used plow truck considerations.

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by whiskeyjack, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    This is a great forum. I've searched around here for opinions on various plow manufacturers. Lots of diversity born of experience. 'Makes things a little difficult to sort out. That's good though. Most valuable are the multiple-plow users who voice comparisons here. That's really good stuff. Thanks to the admin staff for looking after things here.

    In assessing the cost of any first-time endeavor, I usually start out delusional and generally gravitate toward ham-strung. Eventually though, rational thought starts to prevail and a calm, articulate approach begins to form. But then, costs rise above expectations and things start to unravel: an entirely new approach becomes necessary. I need some help.

    I'm a first-time plow buyer. I've grown weary of depending on someone else during and after a blizzard: it's expensive. And, people are often unreliable: they often cannot be where you need them when they're needed. So, I figured it would be frugal to buy a used plow and install it on my '97 Silverado. "Heck, there's used plows EVERYWHERE!" says I. "How difficult or costly could it be to just slap one on my Chevy, eh?" :laughing:

    uh huh. ok. so. . . . After a few weeks on Craig's List, (and lurking on this forum), and consulting with those who are wise in the ways of snow plows, an entirely new approach to this has become necessary. Since it would cost most of $4000 to get my Chevy fitted up with a used plow of any quality (mounted & wired); and, since I'll be using this plow mostly for a 460-foot gravel driveway; and, since I could use a newer commercial truck for my small business. . . "Why not just buy a used truck WITH the plow already installed, WITH the major bugs worked out of it?" says I. Genius!@! :nod:

    There are inherent risks buying used vehicles alright...especially used plow trucks. But, there are some for sale out there between $3500 and $6000 that have the look of integrity, i.e. documentation that verifies rebuilt engines, transmissions, new CV axles/U joints, ball joints, suspension, transfer cases, rear ends, hydraulics, new blades, etc. I am looking at a dozen of these units right now. Here's a breakdown of stuff I'm considering:

    *Model years of these trucks are between 1992 and 2001 (Fords & Chevy's only). All have various stages of corrosion consistent with the model.
    *Ages of the plows are generally a few years older than the trucks
    *All sellers are 'asking' between $3000 and $7000: the most expensive of these could be had for around $5500-6000.
    *Nine of these are 3/4-ton trucks: five of those are F250's, four are Sierra 2500's. The other three of the dozen are Z71's tricked out to better handle a plow.
    *Ten have 7.5' straight edge plows.
    *Two have combination V plows.
    *Five of the dozen have Western 7.5-foot plows.(Two F250's, three 2500's)
    *Two have Boss plows (F250 & Sierra 2500)
    *Two have Hiniker (F250's)
    *Two have SnoWay (Z71's)
    *One has a Fisher (Z71)
    *Commercial plow use has mostly been with the Western and Boss plows
    *Commercial truck use is split evenly: six used to plow commercially, six not.

    Now, given that sketchy information about these dozen plow trucks from Craig's List, how would you assess which unit to buy? Again, the purpose is to plow my own gravel driveway in the winter and use the truck (sans plow) in the snowless season for a commercial vehicle (tree trimming, towing equipment trailer, forestry, wildlife mgt...)...maybe 7K miles or so annually.
  2. gusdust

    gusdust Senior Member
    Messages: 143

    One of the biggest factors to consider is where will you get service/parts for both plow and truck. Both may be fine when you buy them, but eventually something will break. You may find your friends asking you to please plow them out etc. so there might be more wear and tear than expected.Or you might enjoy it and do a few drives for extra money. Liability insurance comes in to play now. Got off track. You are correct in buying a 250/2500 for plowing and towing in my opinion. Good luck, new toys are always fun.
  3. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the response, Gus. And, it may just happen that way as well. There are folks that would ask me to plow them out for sure.

    I live in the toolies. I do well to find a good auto mechanic at a reasonable hourly rate up here. As for the plow, the nearest plow dealer of any kind is most of two hours away. Everything is south from where I live. Just part of living. I'd have to depend on more experienced plow operators for a bit for maintenance sources.

    Thanks again.

    Do you have a plow preference or configuration?
  4. gusdust

    gusdust Senior Member
    Messages: 143

    I have been happy with Boss 9-2 V plows. I have to be careful in a few tight drives, but they work well for lots. I have two plow trucks. My favorite is a 2000 F250 diesel. Great power and fuel economy. Also a 98 Chevy 2500. It has a shorter turning radius and better visibility but lacks power and fuel economy. I keep it as a back-up and quite often a loaner.
  5. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    I was wondering too about the diesel option. I have a tree-trimming business and I run an '89 F450 with an Altec AT200. The F450's got a 7.3. Indestructible motor!! But, not so good on fuel economy. It's a dually but the suspension is heavy duty and the truck rides like an older tank. And, the price of diesel doesn't help much these days. And, then there's the cold weather and it's influence on anything diesel...

    So, I guess a diesel is not high on my list of plow trucks.

    I'm more and more interested in the 2500's since a LOT of guys run their plows with those in this area. The Z71's are more common but the 2500's look a lot more capable for the task.

    There's a guy in Iowa who's got a newer Hiniker plow on an F250. The 250 is from 1987 but in VERY good shape with a rebuilt motor and transmission. Price is right but it's a long ways away....

    The 2500 that I'm really in love with right now has got a 9-2 V plow. It's a bit rusty but it's hard to find a used plow without some corrosion on it somewhere. The truck's a 2001 with 180K.

    Does the 9-2 plow need more maintenance than a straight plow? There's more moving parts and it would seem that there's more to go wrong.
  6. Dogplow Dodge

    Dogplow Dodge PlowSite Veteran
    from NJ
    Messages: 3,699


    I will first start off by saying, I really enjoy your writing. You punctuate, create paragraphs, have concise thoughts, and seem to be methodical in nature. It's nice to see a well thought out post, as it shows you care about how your thoughts come across... or so it appears, anyway. You wouldn't happen to be a retired teacher, now who monkey's trees for a living, would you.... ? Yet, I digress.

    Personally, I've never owned a v-plow, but I can tell you that my next plow will be one. For your situation, having a 450' long driveway, I would think V-plow is the only way to travel, as you can create your own pathway down that run. Not real fond of any type of gravel drives, but if you play around with it a bit, buy dropping the blade, then bumping it up a smidge, you can do it with little effort, as it just takes a bit of getting used to. I'm just not a fan of cleaning up rock piles in the spring.:cool:

    If I had my choices of the two vehicles you mentioned (Ford and Chevy), I would probably go with a solid axle ford (F350), or a 2500 series GM product, as I've never been a big fan of the independent suspensions of the newer fords, although I'm sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of guys out there who've used them. Your job, it guess is to have inspected, or inspect yourself, the condition of the front suspension of any plow vehicle you buy. GM products with their IFS can have cracks in the area where the upper a-arm meets the frame. Lots of threads here about that, if you search button the topic.

    Not really sure where the "rust" issues are in either ford or chevy, but I can verify where the dodges rot out, as I've witnessed in my older vehicles that have since passed. Either way, inspection records go a long way with me when I purchase a new "used" vehicle.

    Welcome to the nuthouse.. Some peanuts are at the bar, and grab yourself a beer..:drinkup:
  7. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the complements, Dog. But, no. I'm not a retired teacher. I'd a' been dead a long time ago had I chosen that course. I just obsess over sentence/paragraph structure & punctuation because "I" have to understand it before anyone else can.:)

    Your observations and advice are very helpful at this stage of the game. I too liked the idea of a Ford F250. BUT, it seems like a guy's gotta' be SO careful of the model year. For example, some of their engineering in 1996/7 F150 models, (especially ones with the V6), was horrible. That kind of thing leaves suspicion and doubt EVEN when the motor and transmission have been rebuilt.

    So, I tend to lean on old familiar ways. The Chevy 350, even with it's warts, is more predictable and cheaper to repair/rebuild in my experience. It looks as though I'm leaning toward a GM 2500.

    The V-plow thing has me researching a little. More moving parts! More to go wrong. And, yet.....when the snow comes deep and wet (often enough), I can't think of a better unit to have.

    Corrosion is depressing. I had the body work done on my '97 Silverado body a couple years ago: all the usual Chevy rust points including the pinch-welds on the doors. And, now....it's getting rusty again. Dang it! And, every make & model has their weak spots. Fords have been worse than Chevy's in my experience with Dodge's a close third. Can't get a way from it up here what with the DOT dumping a gazillion tons on the state roads every time it snows.

    Thanks again for the response.
  8. Dogplow Dodge

    Dogplow Dodge PlowSite Veteran
    from NJ
    Messages: 3,699


    My 92 is doused with a product derived from phosphoric acid called Jasco prep and prime, although I'm sure there are many others out there that would suffice. I use the Jasco product, as I like it's track record with my vehicles, and it's CHEAP, purchased locally from my Sherwin Williams Dealer.

    Bi annually, I open up the cavities in my Yota, Dodge and Mitsu and shoot it in, as well as treat any external rust, although not so much with the Mitsu, as it's not really necessary. Mitsubishi had very good rust protection on their chassis and cabs, but the box is starting to show it's age. I also don't use the Mitsu much in the winter, unless I have a big job in the works, and then the road time in bad weather is still minimized. It takes An hour or so of work, put the rubber plugs back in, and enjoy another day in the yard cleaning up ..... something (usually leaves or dog crap that somehow appears out of nowhere). :rolleyes:

    Phosphoric acid is great, BTW, for restoring tools that have become rusted, as if you take anything with rust on it, fill up a clean plastic container (such as tupperware) , insert the item, close the lid, and come back the next day... you'll be pleasantly surprised on it's appearance, as Gremlins broke into your home and cleaned up your tools for you...and left all the good metal intact.:eek:

    With reference to corrosion, any plow you buy should be coated with Fluid Film, as it will keep it all brandy "Used" by making it all sticky and gooey like the peanut butter sandwich that has "all natural" peanut butter on it. Stuff works great, but your pant leg will regret brushing up against it.

    Considering you're only doing your own driveway, I think that no matter what you buy you'll probably be alright, as you're not going to abuse your own tools, and / or be plowing for 10-12 hours straight hitting curbs, shopping carts, and the occasional building side (don't ask how I know):rolleyes:. I'm sure, however, you may become the local hit of the neighborhood with that V-plow, digging out your local grannies so they can get to church on sunday. Being rewarded with fresh baked oatmeal cookies always gets me on board with helping the local grannies....

    EDIT: I found a new plow for you........but you'll need to put air in the front tire....
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2013
  9. gusdust

    gusdust Senior Member
    Messages: 143

    The V plows need to be greased at the center hinge. When plow shopping, look the hinge area over well. And if possible look at the center area from the bottom. They tend to crack from hitting immovable objects too hard. Also look for excessive play in the vertical hinge and the horizontal pin that allows the plow to trip. The cutting edges with formed curb guards were about $500 last year, I think, so factor that in when shopping. In summary, V plows are more costly to purchase and maintain, but when time is money they are well worth it.
  10. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Jasco Prep & Prime and Fluid Film... Good stuff to know. Thanks, Dog. The Farmall though is a bit of a stretch..LOL 'Had an Allis once, (6V +ground)....pain in the butt in winter.

    Gus: Thanks for the heads-up on the V plow weaknesses and maintenance. That's really helpful. Like I said earlier, I can't see beating the snot out of my truck with a straight plow in heavy wet snow.... Anyway, time will tell if I can find something decent in a week or two.

    Localized frost last night. Tomatoes and the rest of the garden are shot. Seems early for this..
  11. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Can any of you summarize your opinions of the Boss RT2 8.5' V plow? Not sure how old it is. I found an older Chevy 3/4 T with a nice looking Boss V plow on it: the integrity of the plow seems to be ok. I might have to re-place the cab controls with something a bit more modern. (This one has rocker switches.)
  12. Mitchplows

    Mitchplows Member
    Messages: 47

    I'd get a 3/4 ton with a straight blade. Preferably chevy but that's just me. Either a boss or fisher plow. Mostly because the parts are easiest to get
  13. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the response, Mitch.

    I really did want an RT3 Boss V plow on an older Chevy 3/4 but things got too expensive for right now. Maybe I can re-visit the Boss V later.

    So, I'm in process of buying a '97 GMC Sierra 2500 regular cab with 145K on it and a new/old Western plow with a joy stick controller. The plow is around nine years old but doesn't look like it's seen much action. It has patches of rust but the decals are still intact and the edge is original.

    The beauty of this truck is that it has virtually none of the usual Chevy corrosion: the rockers, cab corners and wheel wells are solid! The only down side is that it has an extra set of springs in the back above the factory set: 'rides like an ATV on a seasonal forest access road. I'll fix that though.

    So...It'll be interesting getting to know my first plow truck. Is it advisable to put wings on this plow? 'Seems like they'd help scoop just a little?
  14. Mitchplows

    Mitchplows Member
    Messages: 47

    Sounds like a good deal. I would plow with it first before I put wings on it just to see how the truck pushes snow.
  15. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Ya....that's probably a good idea. Thanks.
  16. jasonv

    jasonv PlowSite.com Addict
    from kannada
    Messages: 1,122

    I'd be careful buying anything that has had such major work done to it. The fact that something has been "rebuilt" is not an indication that it has been fully maintained in proper working order, but rather that something CATASTROPHIC has happened to the unit.

    No engine or transmission with under half a million, or maybe even a full million miles on it, should have to be rebuilt, if it was maintained correctly and not abused.

    Things like u-joints, ball joints, wheel bearings, exhaust... sure. Those will tend to wear out subject to hard work and the elements, but I wouldn't go near a rebuilt engine or transmission.
  17. kimber750

    kimber750 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,681

    Doubt he is buying a big rig. If I get 250k out of a slush box I feel I have done pretty well. 200k out of gas engine is also good in my mind, after that it is time for a rebuild just to freshen it up before something catastrophic happens.
  18. whiskeyjack

    whiskeyjack Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the thought, Jason. There's a lot of seemingly good rebuilt stuff out there. The guys that have receipts for the work are the only ones I'd ever consider buying from....even better if they are themselves mechanics. But, your point is well-taken: there's a ton of used stuff out there advertising rebuilt engines & transmissions that might look and act mechanically sound during a test drive. But, without receipts you just don't know what 'rebuilt' really means except that there's probably been serious neglect or abuse.

    I've never heard that about four-wheelers. I know the typical Detroit, Cat, Cummins and other heavy diesels could go the distances you suggest without major maintenance. My '97 Silverado 1500 is approaching 200k without a major overhaul on anything but it's feeling its age. If I can get another 50K out of my '97 GMC 2500 plow truck without getting too far into it, I'll be happy. Gas engines have their quirks and limitations for sure.

    Kimber: Avoiding cat's astrophy is tops on my list. Fluid levels are the main thing it seems. And, you're right....sometimes it's best to be pro-active about major maintenance, if for no other reason than to feel good about having done it. I'm not sure where the threshold is between repairing and replacing but I'm more apt to rebuild stuff as long as I can.
  19. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    You might be thinking of this, if not buy a used truck that has not been a plow truck.

    Vplow is only plow I would buy, it wont ride up over wet heavy snow like a straight type plow does.

    Like others said drifted road you can open it up easier and faster. But if you get one don't v plow with plow on the ground carry it few inches off the ground.

    Fords carry plows better then a chevy the SD 99 and newer models.
  20. jasonv

    jasonv PlowSite.com Addict
    from kannada
    Messages: 1,122

    Maybe so on a slush box. I tend to avoid those personally. In any event, have you ever had a rebuilt automatic that actually held up?