Shoveling snow is a huge hassle, and anyone who has ever struggled for hours to clear their driveway can relate to looking dismally at their puny plastic shovel and wishing they had a plow. The good news is, if you have a truck or SUV (or some extra cash to buy a cheap one) you can put down the shovel and clear your driveway in no time. If you’ve never plowed before, read on for some tips and advice for clearing your driveway safely and efficiently.
Do your homework: If you buy a new plow, it will come with an owner’s manual. You should read this. You don’t want to be out in the driveway in a snowstorm before you realize that there’s something about operating your plow that you don’t know. Find resources online (or in the owner’s manual) about attaching a plow to the specific kind of vehicle you’ll be using. Remember, you’re attaching a six to eight-hundred-pound piece of metal to the front of your vehicle, and if you’re not careful you can do some serious damage to the plow, your vehicle, or structures around you.
Make sure your truck is up to the task: If you’re the one plowing, you’ll probably have to do a certain amount of driving through snow. It’s important to make sure that the truck or SUV you’re plowing with is capable of doing so. It’s possible to plow with a two-wheel-drive vehicle, but in general, experienced plow drivers say that 4WD works better. Rugged snow tires are a must, and you might even consider putting chains on your tires for extra traction. Another add-on to consider? Extra lights for increased visibility.
Practice makes perfect: Before the first snow, take some time to drive around with your plow on the front of your truck. Getting used to driving with the extra weight will make you more comfortable and confident when plowing. This is also a good time to get used to the extra length of your vehicle, and make sure you’re comfortable navigating your driveway with less turning space.
Know your driveway: If your driveway is straight and you’re familiar with its edges, you might be able to just eyeball the path of plowing. However, if you’re not absolutely certain that you know where the edge of your drive is, or if you have an asymmetrical or curved one, you may want to invest in fiberglass whips (thin, colored poles) to mark the edges. These markers are flimsy enough that if you accidently drive into them, no harm will be done to your vehicle, but should hold up well during a storm and be clearly visible in the snow.
Be proactive: Letting snow sit in the driveway rarely goes well. On cold days, drifts may freeze solid, and if the sun comes out you’ll end up with a heavy, slushy mess. Your best bet is to get out there as soon as you can. If the forecast is predicting a foot or more, you may want to keep an eye out for a calm point in the storm and make some cursory passes to take care of the snow that has fallen so far, that way you’ll have less to plow later.
Work Smarter: Be as systematic and symmetric as possible when plowing. Not only will this save you time and gas, but having a routine and a set path will make you more effective and comfortable over time, and less likely to make mistakes and potentially hit something with your plow. Another tip: instead of making crazy maneuvers to get as close to your garage or retaining wall as possible, simply drive straight up to the wall, and lower the blade as close to it as possible, then reverse, and drag the snow backwards with you! Now you can plow it as easily as the snow in the rest of the driveway.
Don’t waste your snow days struggling with shovels or jealously looking on while your neighbor plows his driveway in ten minutes and then heads out for a ski day. If you own a capable pickup or SUV, invest in a snow plow. Don’t have a vehicle that can plow? Maybe this is the year to buy one. You can opt for a pickup, but our friends with Chrysler of Culpeper have reminded us that you can also opt for an SUV like a Jeep Wrangler or Grand Cherokee for plowing power and plenty of seating and cargo space for other needs.