This old plow truck

Columns - Nuts & Bolts

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March 18, 2016

The snow “plow truck” is an odd piece of equipment for a golf course. It spends the entire golf season in storage. It is brought out after the golf season has ended and put away just before the season begins again. When being used it is typically operating for only a few hours a day. If it quits working, it has to be fixed in a hurry or outside contractors have to be brought in to remove the snow.

The worse the plow truck looks, the better. Every scratch, dent and rust spot is a badge of honor, indicating hard use and proof that no unnecessary time or money has been spent on it. It is something to be bragged about, run hard and then replaced with another of the same caliber when it cannot be fixed. Maintenance is minimal, limited to just the systems needed to operate the blade and power the vehicle. If anything else works, that is a bonus for the driver.

Typically, a golf course plow trucks is a pickup truck which has reached the end of its life as daily driver and is outfitted with a pusher blade to finish out its years as the plow truck. The Crown Golf Club uses a GMC Sierra GT 1994 K1500 1-ton with 5.7-L, 350-hp engine. The vintage is recent and the vehicle popular enough that aftermarket parts are available same day or next day through our NAPA parts store for a fraction of what they would cost at the dealership.

The Crown a few years ago was lucky enough to get a plow truck with very low mileage. And yes, the body has major rust issues, which is why it became a plow truck. There is also ratchet strap that is either holding the tailgate on or the bumper up. I have had no reason to loosen it and find out which it is.

EXTRA BATTERY

Since the electric-hydraulic blade controls use a lot of electrical power, a second battery in parallel with the original batter is something to be added if it hasn’t been already. A simple bracket made of angle iron and a bungee cord works fine to hold the second battery. A trickle charger is hooked up to the batteries when parked between uses so the driver starts the pre-dawn plowing with a full charge.

GOLF BALL STRIKES

Even stored in the walled enclosure golf balls find their way in and break glass. Covering the missing back window with cardboard is not an option when a plow truck spends half its time driving backwards winding up for the next rush forward. I have put in Plexiglas as a temporary solution. A better solution, poly carbonate a quarter-inch or thicker is said to be “golf ball proof” and could be considered a permanent repair but costs more.

BRAKES

Plow trucks use their brakes a lot and need periodic replacement, premium parts are recommended.

OIL PAN LEAK

The oil under the truck that seemed to be coming from everywhere was actually from a rusted through hole in the engine oil pan. Salt has attacked the entire underside of the truck, so everything is getting thinner. As the salt eats through them, the steel lines are being replaced with rubber hoses unaffected by salt.

TYPICAL TIPPER BLADE

When choosing a blade, use what is called a “tipper.” It is spring loaded and hinged so that if you hit something like a seam in the pavement the blade tips and skips over it rather than bringing the whole truck and driver to a bone-jarring abrupt stop. You might also notice that the shoes have been removed so that the blade scrapes the pavement. This is to try to scrape away the thin layer of ice that may be under the snow. Shoes are adjusters to keep the blade edge a small distance above the pavement and adding a pipe edge the length of the blade makes it usable on turf or gravel.

Blades and their mountings are heavy so you also want a blade system that disconnects quickly from the vehicle to make off-season storage easier and so that the blade can be removed when working on the vehicle.

REPLACEMENT

For quick cold weather starts, you want a plow truck that runs on gasoline. Even the big county road trucks burn gasoline so that they start well in cold weather. A plow truck costs less than just about any other piece of machinery on a golf course. Plow trucks last until the salt used on the roads finishes eating the frame, then it is time to find its replacement … hopefully being sold by the side of the road.