Commercial Snow Removal Equipment Guide to Skid Steers and Tractors

Learn how to choose and use an appropriate tractor, skid steer, or attachment to plow snow.

Skid Steer Loader Pushing Snow

What equipment is used for snow removal? 

Efficiently removing snow requires efficient equipment in the form of snow blades, angle brooms, and various bucket attachments for skid steers loaders, tractors, plow spreader trucks, and other such vehicles. In this guide, we’re going provide what criteria to look for and what specifications to keep in mind when in the buying process commercial snow removal equipment.

How to Choose a Skid Steer for Snow Removal

A skid steer loader is good for plowing deep snow that’s wet and heavy. Wheeled skid steers are much better at plowing deep snow than tracked skid steers because the narrow wheels provide greater traction. The large rubber pads of tracked skid steers may be better for mud and rough terrain, but not always for snow.

That’s not to say you can’t remove snow with a tracked skid steer; it’s possible using special snow tread patterns.

A wheeled skid steer must have a minimum of 50 horsepower to gain traction in snow. Standard skid steer tires are suitable for snow removal, but special snow tires give provide even more traction and speed. The narrower the tire, the more ground pressure (grip) the skid steer has on a snowy surface. 

Ideally, skid steer snow tires between 6 ½ and 8-inches wide handle best in the snow. However...

Some people put chains on standard skid steer tires to increase traction. This works, but it rips up asphalt, makes the ride even bumpier, and the chains tend to break quickly due to the skidding motions. As such, the cost of replacing chains can sometimes exceed the value of special snow tires over time.

Chains are fine for infrequent use though.

Here’s how to choose between tracks and wheels. Basically, if you are doing other jobs throughout the year in the mud or on rough terrain, then you should stay with a tracked skid steer for snow removal. But if you are going to be focusing primarily on snow removal, or if you have other jobs on paved surfaces during the warmer months, then you should definitely go with a wheeled skid steer loader.

How to Choose a Snow Tractor

Small Tractor Plowing Snow
Tractors make for excellent pieces of heavy duty snow removal equipment. You only need a tractor between 80 and 92 horsepower to do most jobs, though a 130 horsepower tractor can be used for larger jobs.

Tractors and skid steers are roughly around the same size and can be used for similar snow removal projects. A snow tractor can sometimes be slightly more powerful, but when it comes down to it, contractors choose whichever machine is readily available.

How to Choose Snow Removal Attachments

There are five main types of snow removal attachments to choose from:
  • Snow Bucket – A snow bucket is the cheapest attachment for removing snow. They are good for smaller jobs where an average snowfall needs to be pushed away or loaded onto a truck for removal (or if the land needs to be salted). Snow buckets have a small capacity and lack a tripping mechanism, so unseen objects beneath the snow could bring the machine to a halt.

  • Snow Pusher – A large boxy design collects large quantities of snow in a single pass and pushes it into a huge pile. Snow pushers move the snow straight ahead and cannot control the direction of runoff. They are good for clearing paths through streets, industrial areas, and construction sites, but they cannot load anything onto trucks and cannot salt the land.
    • Rubber Edge – Flexible rubber edges can pass over curbs and uneven surfaces without causing damage.
    • Steel Trip Edge – The steel cutting edge of the pusher is stronger than rubber, but it can damage curbs and uneven pavement unless is has a spring-loaded trip mechanism designed for safely passing over objects.

  • Angle Snow Blades – These heavy duty blades can be adjusted to control which direction the snow is pushed, making them excellent for clearing snow from curbs and other edges. They can handle large lots and job sites. They can also push light material during the warmer months.

  • Snow Blower – A snow blower is a costly snow removal attachment with an auger that drills into the snow. It can bite into drifts as well as compacted piles with ease, spitting the snow in any direction, even directly into the back of a loading truck. Just make sure the snow is deep enough that no gravel or other ground debris can be ejected through the other end at high speeds.
    Not all snow blowers are made for wet or heavy snow, so check the specifications before making this simple mistake and other ones too.

  • V-Shaped – The V-shaped skid steer snow blade is designed for close-quarters snow removal. The V-shape allows the skid steer to part snow directly up the middle without requiring much space. It can also hydraulically transform into the traditional scoop shape.

How to Use Commercial Snow Removal Equipment

When operating a snow pusher, you want to keep the blade in a fixed position for compacted snow and ice. If the terrain is uneven, however, try to “free-float” the blade so that it can lift, tilt and oscillate over the ground as needed. If you are using an old snow pusher that doesn’t oscillate, its fixed position may damage uneven pavement.

For deep snow plowing with an angled blade, check out this guide. More strategies can be found here.

There’s also a very good guide for using the lesser-known v-shaped snow blade.

Always consult the manufacturer’s guide before using any snow removal attachment.

Skid Steer Snow Blower Attachment

How to Maintain Commercial Snow Removal Equipment

Skid Steers:
  1. Make sure the head gasket is not leaking oil onto the engine.
  2. Change the timing belt when needed to prevent bent push rods.
  3. Ensure the hydrostat mount bolts and engine mount bolts are present and secure. Otherwise, the engine could drop and rub on the fuel tank, creating a hole in the oil pan.
  4. Make sure the drive belt is not deeply “grooved-out” and check for cracks.
  5. Verify the idler arm is not pressing against the drive belt tension spring.
  6. Check the fuel return lines of the injectors for leaks.
  7. Check the control valve for leaks or seepage (a precursor to leaks). Reseal if necessary.
  8. Check the axle seals are not leaking.
  9. Make sure the axle bearings are tightened.
  10. The lift tilt cylinders should not be leaking and the bushings should not be worn out.
  11. No cracks in the boom or mainframe (especially around the pins).
  12. Always keep ice and snow off the foot controls for safety.
Compact Track Loaders:

A snow track loader follows many of the above steps with an added emphasis on maintaining the undercarriage. Here are some helpful tips for properly maintaining the undercarriage of a compact track loader.  

Renting Heavy Duty Snow Removal Equipment vs Buying

Renting a skid steer or tractor for snow removal costs less upfront and allows you to test the equipment without making a major financial investment. However, any damage you cause to the equipment or property will come at a heavy price. Also, the equipment may not always be available for rent when you need it the most.

Commercial Snow Removal Equipment
When you buy a skid steer or tractor for snow removal, you own the equipment outright and it’s available whenever you need it. However, you are now responsible for the storage and maintenance costs. These expenses can quickly add up if you are a seasonal snow removal company that only makes a profit during a small time of the year.

Bottom line: if you have other uses for a skid steer or small tractor all year long, then it would make sense to buy one. Similarly, if you are a snow removal company in a cold climate that generates business all-year-long, then buying a skid steer or tractor is your best option. However, if you only need it for a small portion of the year, or if some years you don’t need one at all, then renting is more feasible. 

Find Heavy Duty Snow Removal Equipment With My Little Salesman

My Little Salesman provides an exclusive marketplace of commercial snow removal equipment for sale and rent. Check out the numerous listings of skid steers and tractors available along with a plethora of useful snow removal attachments and use what you’ve learned here to pick out the best one. Whether you remove snow for a living or need to remove snow so you can start making a living, My Little Salesman can connect you with a motivated seller today.
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About Kyler Richman
Kyler is a reporter and staff writer at My Little Salesman.
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