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Thread: What if?

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    What if?

    This is something that does not cross some snow plow owners minds. Most professional snow plowing contractors have a "Plan B", or should have. So you are not a professional, you "just plow my driveway, and a couple of others". OK. So you depend on your plow to do a job. Besides basic maintenance (which many skip and have t learn the hard way) there is always "what if". So lets focus on what if. We are going to assume that you have an older plow, most who plow their own driveway and a couple of others have an older, plow, on an older truck. NOT performing basic maintenance, and often initially extensive maintenance (and later regular) will result in that plow and truck you are depending on to do a job, letting you down. In reality, the plow did not let you down, you let the plow down by neglecting it. I see and hear about it all the time in the "help me" e mails I get every day when it is snowing somewhere. What they ask in those e mails speaks volumes in that almost half of them know nothing about the plow they OWN other than they use it to plow snow. That is fine if you like to pay and be at someone else's mercy to get you back up and running. That is a luxury that many do not have, yet for some reason, they neglect their truck and plow. As long as it works, they leave it be. They also take the previous owner's word for it bring 100%. That is usually not the case.


    I guess it is the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality. In my experience, this adds up to paying A LOT more than you would have if you performed some basic maintenance. I know many budgets do not allow for maintenance, but if you can't afford to maintain, where will you get the money to repair? Maintenance is always less than repairing for the most part. There may be a big initial investment to get the truck and plow in shape, but keeping it in shape is MUCH more cost effective than repairing due to neglect, because repairs due to neglect get expensive FAST. Little problems do not go away or fix themselves. That is just wishful thinking. They turn into MUCH bigger problems.

    IF I ask you when the last time you changed the fluid in your hydraulic unit was, and you can't remember, you better start saving up for that expensive repair I mentioned above. Many maintenance tasks are simple, and often are free other than your time. Sometimes you find a problem and it costs more than you expected, but it is a lot easier to fix that problem when it is daylight out, and not 5 with blinding snow with more on the way. Remember, everything hurts more when it is cold out. I know it is hard to believe, but there are some lets say "unscrupulous" shops out there that raise their prices when the snow is piling up (mine is NOT one of them). So it hurts in more ways than one. Another problem that arises that most do not consider is parts shortages. During a bad winter, parts can get scarce. I can tell you from experience that when the East Coast of the US gets storm after storm, parts get scarce. No offense to the rest of the US, but that is just how it is because of the density of the population and their almost zero tolerance for snow. It is not like in say Michigan where "oh it is snowing again" (for the 20th time this winter).

    So is there luck involved with equipment working year after year with zero maintenance? There sure is, but it will run out (it always does), and the longer the neglect, the more expensive it is going to be to get it working again. So if you are prepared, and you maintain your equipment, and plan ahead a little, you can minimize the downtime, cost, and effects of a plow or plow truck problem.

    The very first thing you need to do is get on the internet and research your plow. Because I sell Meyer I will talk about Meyer plows specifically, BUT the same general rules apply to all makes and models. If you want to be prepared, you need to know what you have. IF you think you have an E-47 plow, or an E-60 plow, you are mistaken. Even if you know you have an ST plow, that is only one part of the puzzle. When it comes to Meyer plows, you need to know which of each of the components you have. The same holds true for all the other brands because over the years they have all had to change to conform with new laws. Many evolved because they had to, and because of patent infringement suits, they all had to come up with their own ways to mount, and control the plows they sell. The plows evolved, the mounts evolved, the hydraulics evolved, the lights evolved.

    So you are going to want to start at the top, may as well.

    Plow Lights - What brand of lights are they? Do you know? When you are talking about older plows, they are not the same brand as the plow. They are not Meyer ,Western, or Fisher for example. The lights were made by another manufacturer. Usually the manufacturer's name is right on top of the light, or on the turn signal lens of the light. The most common ones are Signal-Stat, Truck-Lite, Dietz, Grote, Per-Lux. For instance, the older Truck-Lite used on Meyer plows say "Meyer by Truck-Lite" on top of the lights. Figure out what lights you have, and write it down. As far as Meyer, the brand of light also uses its own wiring harness and switch for those lights. The lights and plow controller wiring are separate from each other. You might want to note the plow headlight bulb number, and turn signal bulb number in case you need a replacement some day.

    Hydraulic Unit - You likely know the brand, but you need to know the model because some models do not share the same parts. You also may have a misconception of what you have, which will make finding parts harder. I will give you a for instance. Your plow hydraulic unit may have a decal on the front that says Meyer Model: E-46, but it is a power angle unit. Once that PA Block with the Valves was installed on the side, the unit became an E-47. So without research you will be set that you have an E-46 with power angle, not an E-47. Well you will not find any parts for an E-46 with power angle. So take the time to identify what hydraulic unit you have exactly. Write it down.

    Mounting - How does the plow attach to the vehicle? I constantly get e mails saying "I am taking the plow off my old truck and I want to put it on my new truck, and I need a bracket". Well honestly that is no help at all. There are far too many possibilities. Once again, that patent infringement comes into play. For instance, Fisher used to call them "Push Plates", but Meyer calls it a "Mounting Carton". Every manufacturer has a different term for the same part. Again the internet is your friend. You need to determine what style of mount you have from a particular manufacturer. For Meyer it will be EZ Custom/Custom Classic, EZ Classic, or EZ Plus/MDII. Write it down. The A Frame of the plow matches the mounting style. The EZ Plus and MD II have different Hinge Connector Ears on them. They do not interchange with the Classics. So an ST plow for an EZ Plus plow will not mount to an EZ Classic Mounting Carton, and vice versa.

    Plow - At least all the manufacturers call the actual plow a Moldboard, so they are on the same page there. BUT you need to know the model of the plow, and it is also based on the mounting system. In the case of Meyer plows, many of the parts will interchange, but there are some differences. What you would want to know about the plow would be the model, which would then enable you to know what size the PA Rams are, because they do have a lifespan. I can just tell you here that ALL ST Series plows use 1.5" x 10" PA Rams. Older C Series use 1.5" x 12", and the later C Series used the 1.5" x 10", the same as the ST. ALL TM Series use 1.5" x 10". Knowing the model also enables you to know what cutting edge you will need when and if yours wears out, and the same for the Trip Springs.

    Controls - How do you control the plow? Do you have a single lever that has up, down, left, and right? Do you have a switch for up and down, and another switch for right and left? Do you have a square Touchpad? A rectangular Touchpad with raised buttons? What does the plug on the end of the Touchpad cord look like? Is it round? It it rectangular? Controllers do not last forever. The single switch is called a Slik Stik single lever controller, the two switches are Toggle Controls, and the Touchpad is well, a Touchpad. Write it down. IF your Touchpad is 15+ years old, its days are numbered. You might want to buy a new one and keep the old as spare. It WILL fail, and when it does, you will lose control of the plow in more ways than one. Sometimes when they fail, as soon as you turn the ignition on, the pump starts running, if you unplug the controller, it will stop, if you panic and jump out of the truck to see what is going on, in minutes the battery cable will go up in smoke. Often the failure can be that, even though you are not pressing a button, they are so worn internally that they send power to the wrong Coil at the wrong time. So you will not understand why you are pressing up, but the plow is also going left at the same time.

    Some of the other components are the fuse in the power wire to whatever controller you have. Find it, take a picture with your phone if you have to. One day it will be dark, you will be plowing, and for whatever reason that inline fuse will blow, and you will NEED to know where it is. Having your legs in the snow with your head shoved up under the dash while it is still snowing is not the time to go looking for the fuse. Know where it is. Under the hood you will find the Motor Solenoid. This is what sends power to the hydraulic unit motor. Most call it a Solenoid, but it is actually called a "Contactor". Inside the Solenoid is a set of contacts. The Solenoid absorbs the heat generated by the 200 amps you are sending out to the plow. Yes, it is often as high as 200 amps, EVERY time you raise the plow to the top, or angle it all the way to one side. So you want to know where your Motor Solenoid is, and what type you have. Again, take a pic of it with your phone. The other important components under the hood are the battery cables supplying power and ground to the hydraulic unit. The power cable is coming off one side of the Motor Solenoid and going out to the motor, and the ground cable should be running from the vehicle battery negative terminal to to the hydraulic unit, either the motor ground stud or a ground location on the Sump Base.

    So now we have identified all of the major components of the system. Now we can move on to the maintenance of these components.

    Motor Solenoid - Make SURE all of the wire connections are clean and tight. That means NO Rust on the nuts, and no rust or corrosion on the lugs of the battery cables, or the small white wire that is the trigger for the Motor Solenoid. If they are rusty or corroded you may as well snap off the studs now and get a new Motor Solenoid. When it fails you are going to snap them off anyway, you may as well do it when it is daylight and not snowing and 5. Look at the ends of the battery cables. They typically have heat shrink on them to seal the connectors. If the that shrink is missing, or there is just electrical tape on them, you might consider buying new cables. Corrosion actually will travel up the cable inside the insulation creating resistance and problems. IF any of the wires or cable look melted, now is the time to replace them. One other thing to keep in mind is that many Motor Solenoids are what is known as "intermittent duty". This means it is designed to work in 5 second bursts. If you regularly have to hold the control switch for more than 5 seconds, you are exceeding what the Motor Solenoid was designed to do. This is why many plow manufacturers (Meyer included) have gone to what is known as "continuous duty" Motor Solenoids. Again it is not the best idea to hold the switch for more than 5 seconds at a time, because you are going to burn up the motor on the hydraulic unit. IF you need to hold the switch for more than 5 seconds you have another problem or problems that need to be fixed.

    Grounds - the almighty grounds. At least 90% of electrical problems are caused by bad grounds. IF you put a poor ground in an electrical circuit, that circuit will find its own ground (the path of least resistance), and weird things will happen. Any time you have a weird problem, lights coming on dim that should not be on, it is a bad ground. It takes TIME to find it.

    Battery - This is the heart of it all. IF it is not it top condition, you are flirting with disaster. Many own a plow truck that sits for long periods of time without being driven (some even make the mistake of parking them in the shade, on grass). Many also leave the battery in the truck while it sits, allowing the battery to degrade. Buy a cheap solar charger you can leave on the dashboard to keep the battery charged while the vehicle is not in use. It is well worth it. The size (CCA Rating) of the battery is very important as well. The bigger the better. Not the actual size of the battery but the CCA Rating. I like to see 850 CCA or higher in a plow truck. The standard 575 CCA car battery is not what you want in a plow truck. Keep in mind the older the vehicle, the smaller the battery and the lower the alternator output. In the early 90's it was still common to see a 74 or a 90 amp alternator. Later model trucks are typically 140, 160, and some even have dual alternators. Many think you need dual batteries to run a plow, which is not the case. HOW you use the plow has a huge affect on how long, or how well the battery will handle the load.Remember, back in the 70's trucks typically had a 60 amp alternator, and they plowed just fine with the same E-47 you are running on your truck. For many years Meyer has specified that the minimum Alternator output should be 60 amps, and the minimum battery rating should be 550 CCA. again, these are minimums, likely set back in the 1970's. While the higher number hydraulic units (E-57, E-58H, E-60) pull higher amps at maximum extension, because they are faster units the load is for a shorter period of time for a given function. IF you do not drive the truck all the time, buy a cheap solar charger and leave it on the dash of the truck plugged in to the cigar lighter to keep the battery charged.

    Basic Skills & Bad Habits -
    Often I hear about a plow shop, or a place a person went to have their plow repaired, and how the shop did a "half assed" repair. The person telling me about their experience may say something like "Don't they go to Factory Service School?". Well after attending many Factory Service Schools, one thing is assumed, the person attending has basic skills and knows how to perform basic repairs properly and according to industry standards. This is in general and has nothing to do with plows. This is a catch 22 in a way, because in many places and many shops, the half-assed way is the "standard". There should be NO repair made that is not a sealed repair or splice outside of the vehicle cab. Newsflash... electrical tape does not seal a connection or splice. Electrical tape is used to hold a bundle or wires together. There is also NO place that a wire nut is an acceptable way to connect two or more wires on a vehicle, period. In my opinion, Primary Wire has no place on a vehicle. What is Primary Wire? It is what is sold on spools in most auto parts stores. There is not one vehicle manufacturer that allows it to be used on their vehicles. I don't even have primary wire in my shop. I use it for NOTHING. When I was 17 I used it for everything, because I was ignorant, and did not know any better. ALL vehicle manufacturers recommend GXL or SXL wire. Look it up on Google. These two types or wire are a lot more flexible than Primary Wire. It is also the type of all of the wiring on the vehicle from the manufacturer.

    I just had a Jeep Rubicon in here from a car dealer that they got in as a trade. It was a year old. The installers made a few basic mistakes. They used heat shrink butt connectors for all the electrical connections, but they made a major mistake. They did not heat any of them to make them seal!! They ran the wire harnesses that go out to the plow lights against the radiator. These are two examples of bad habits. Both have NOTHING to do with installing a plow. It could have been a set of fog lights. You would still not want the wires against the radiator would you? You would still want your splices sealed, wouldn't you? Another one of my favorites is a section of wire about 24" long, that is 3 different colors, with three butt splices on it, that are not heat shrinked. Nothing to seal them at all. This was not on the Jeep I just mentioned. Chances are they were random scraps of wire used to make the original wire longer. This was the norm back in 1975, but in 2016 this is unacceptable. Even plow controllers are digital now, always sensing load, and anything that can add resistance to a circuit is a bad idea. The newer the plow or the vehicle, the more important resistance is. The less resistance the better. Wire gauges are getting smaller and smaller these days. In 1975 vehicle turn signal wiring was 16 gauge. It was standard. Most vehicles made after 1995 have 18 gauge wire, and I just did a 2016 Jeep Wrangler install and I can confirm that the turn signals on that are using 20 gauge wire! I tried and tried with the 18 gauge wire stripper to no avail, I had to use the 20 gauge slot.THIS is why it is so important that all of your initial connections , splices, and repairs, as well as the general condition of plow and vehicle wiring is so important. I think as of 2015 Ford is the only truck manufacturer that is not using the Body Control Module (BCM) to control all of the vehicle lights. GM and Dodge no longer even have headlight fuses. The BCM does it all. That means it also monitors it all as well. And off on a bit of a lark, the 2015 Ford F-150 which they finally made plow prep available on, uses a Hall Effect Monitor on the battery ground to regulate when the vehicle alternator charges. The plow ground wire MUST be attached to the vehicle fender at the vehicle battery ground wire so that the Hall Effect Monitor can "see" the plow usage and charge the battery accordingly. GM is also using a Hall Effect Monitor on their trucks, though not on the ground. My point with this is the newer the truck, the less shoddy install habits will be tolerated by the vehicle and plow alike.I have had MANY plows come in where the Coil wires had been cut and the owner just twisted the wires together and put some tape on it. NO. You CAN'T do that. That is NOT how to make a splice. As I mentioned above, the newer the vehicle, the less any of the backyard half-assed fixes are going to work.Routing of wires is important. You can't just lay a wire harness over the top of the engine and call it good. All wires must be secured, and if you want to do it right, put split loom over them. Don't just run a wire by zip tying it to other wires. ESPECIALLY if someone paid you to run that wire. YOU should be ashamed of yourself if that is what you charge people their hard earned money to do. IF you work on vehicles for a living, you know the right way, don't be lazy, do it the right way. IF it is YOUR vehicle.... I had a high school woodshop teacher who had taught me a favorite saying of mine, "IF you can't find the time to do it right, where will you find the time to do it over?"
    I often see wires ran through the firewall into the cab of a vehicle with no grommet, no protection whatsoever. I also see where an OEM grommet was pulled out and to the side, and wires shoved through the hole... again, unacceptable.

    So now that I got to rant and share a lot of info on a variety of subjects, we will focus more on the "What if" title I picked.
    The "What if" I was referring to, is you bought a truck with a plow, or had a plow installed, or even installed it yourself for a reason. You expect it to perform when you need it most. What if you have a problem? What if the controller fails (or YOU think it did)? What if you blow a hose? What if when you try to raise the plow all you hear is a click from under the hood? What if the plow gets stuck to one side? What if the vehicle battery keeps dying when you use the plow, but is otherwise fine? What if YOU can't plow your driveway, can't plow your parking lot, can't plow the accounts you lined up where people are depending on YOU to do what you are supposed to do? What if?
    Going over all I have said thus far, if YOU make sure YOU can do all of the above, or pay someone else to do all of the above to make sure your vehicle and plow are ready to perform as expected, there will be A LOT less "What ifs" for you to deal with.

    Things you should have on hand to reduce downtime due to a "What if" situation:

    A Buddy -
    We all need one of these. IF your truck is out of service, your buddy can cover for you while you get fixed and back out there (within reason). YOU can cover for your buddy when the shoe is on the other foot. This is pretty much a MUST if people are paying you and expecting you to do the job they hired you to do. Maybe your buddy can help out after his or her obligations are done, whatever help you can get is a blessing. Don't forget when it comes time to return the favor. Be GENEROUS when working out the payment part. No one likes to work for free. IF it is just your property you are plowing, maybe you have a neighbor with a tractor or a snow blower. Maybe you used an ATV with a plow before you got your plow truck or plow. KEEP IT. That is your "buddy". My driveway is not that long, nor is my next door neighbor's. He has never asked me to plow his driveway, I just do it. When I get home from a ridiculously long day to grab a few hours sleep before coming back to the shop, I notice my walk is cleared, and down by my mailbox is cleared. HE comes over with his snowblower and does it without me asking or expecting it. I have a snowblower too, and if for some reason I can't plow my driveway, my snowblower is my "buddy" also known as "Plan B". You must have a Plan B for "what if".

    Hoses -
    Your plow has at least two, they are usually the same. If one is longer than the other, buy one of the longer one as a spare if you don't want to have one of each on hand.

    Fluid -
    Have at least two quarts on hand. IF you blow a hose, you will need it all. In the spring you can use it to change the fluid in your hydraulic unit, and then buy two more to keep on hand. This way you are not keeping two spares for years. It's called "rotating stock".

    Motor Solenoid -
    Have a spare. What many do is replace a working one on the vehicle, and keep the old one as a spare. This is a great idea if you do not know how old the one on the vehicle is. If the one on the vehicle looks crappy, buy two new ones, and keep one for a spare.

    Fuses -
    KNOW where the fuse is for the plow, and if the plow lights have a separate fuse, know where that one is as well. Most will be 20 amps or lower. The newer the plow, the lower the size of the fuse will be. Put some spares in a little zip lock sandwich bag in the glove box for "What if".

    When it comes to the Meyer E-47, E-57, and E-60, a spare C Valve. It is the most common Valve to fail.

    Trip Spring -
    This is not a must, but it can come in VERY handy. Many older plows only have two trip springs. IF you break one, your plow will lay down every time you try to go forward. The most common time to break one is when you get snow, then rain on top of it, and the snow bonds to the pavement. You will see trucks all over town with their plows leaning forward trying to scrape it up. THIS is when you will break a trip spring. Oh, and....

    Trip Spring Eyes -
    You need to loosen the trip Spring Eye Bolts to remove and replace a Trip Spring. You need to loosen ALL of them to change one. IF you have 2 or 3 of them, chances are they are going to be rusted in place and only a torch is going to remove them. If you have three Trip Springs, have three new Trip Spring Eyes on hand. When you change them, use Anti-Seize compound on the threads and next time you will be able to loosen them, and not need new ones. It will also be easier to adjust the springs when need be.

    Couplers -
    When a Coupler fails, it allows fluid to flow in one direction, but not the other. It may only happen under pressure. For instance the plow will go left and right just fine unless you go ALL the way to the left, or ALL the way to the right. IF you just bought a used plow, and the Couplers are rusty, buy two new Couplers sets, and make SURE they are Pin Type, NOT Ball Type. The Pin Type are also referred to as "poppet type". The Ball Type are unreliable on a plow.Here is another "what if" of a different kind. There is a big fad these days for what is called a "backdrage edge". There are many manufacturers out there making them. What if you install one on your plow? There is a couple of drawbacks to having one. The first is a MAJOR one. When you use your plow as intended, pushing snow driving forward, and the plow cutting edge hits an immovable obstacle, such as a raised curb across a driveway apron, the plow trips forward to prevent damage to the plow and vehicle. This is why plows have trip springs, and plows trip. When you are using your plow to backdrag, you have no trip protection, the plow tends to "hook" on whatever obstacle it encounters, and the blade will usually hop over it. When using a bcakdrag edge, the angle of the backdrag edge causes it to "bite" harder, which could result in severe damage to your plow. The other thing that people just don't seem to understand is that ANY long edge making contact with the pavement or ground, because it is 7.5' or wider (longer), is a nice straight edge. You are in effect "screeding" the surface. So the screed (edge) is going to find ANY and EVERY high spot. No pavement is perfectly flat. So you will never scrape it perfectly clean. Every low spot will still have packed snow in it. No amount of downpressure, or add on backdrag edge is going to get down into those low spots. The #1 place a backdrag edge is desired is plowing a residential driveway. There is typically no surface less flat than a residential driveway. They are all intentionally crowned to shed water. If they were not intentionally crowned to shed water, having cars driving and parking on them will create a crown. A crown is a high spot running down the center of the entire length of most driveways. Guess what? The edge is going to find it, and only scrape it clean. It will leave snow in the low spots where the car tires normally ride. So this "what if" is what if I put a backdrag edge on my plow.
    Here is another what if. What if you install one of those rod pump heaters you see on eBay that replaces the vent in the top of the E-47, E-57, E-60? Leaks, lots of leaks. You can't heat oil, make it expand, and it has nowhere to go. It WILL find a place to go. Newsflash, oil does not freeze. Some oils get thicker when it gets colder. Stick with Meyer M1 fluid, and drain and flush your system to make sure there is no water in it, and you will never have problems with freeze up at below 0 temps. Meyer M1 changed to a Naphthenic based (solvent based) fluid in 2003 which is gold. So "Meyers" oil has not been blue for over 10 years now. IF it is blue, it is not M1, or it is over 10 years old, either way, do NOT use it.Owning a plow you neglect is not a cheap date. Throwing parts at problems is also not a cheap date. I constantly hear "Oh I just want to replace both" or "I just want to replace all of them to prevent problems", when half the time what they are replacing will not even solve the problem they are having! Before you change a part, make sure it is bad. Test it. PROVE IT. I hear about it all the time, a shop replaced 3 parts trying to solve a problem, and either none of the parts solved the problem, or the last one they changed did, but they do not put back the old parts that did not solve the problem.Another what if. What if you e mail me and ask for advice, or help with a problem you can't figure out, then ignore my advice? Many times just from how the problem is described, or what the problem is, and the person's idea how to fix it shows their ignorance. I understand. I had to learn too, sometimes the hard way. People e mail me all the time asking for help because by now it is pretty clear I know what I am doing. It is also clear they do not, so why question the advice given, or ignore it and talk about your own solution? I didn't start working here yesterday because I needed a job. So what if you make the wrong decision with advice or tech help given? Your problem will not be solved, and you will have wasted time and money, both of your own. This industry has A LOT of "parts changers" just like the rest of the automotive industry these days. There is no substitute for knowledge, skills, and experience. There is also no excuse for bad habits.I just had a truck in here for a "plow won't go down" problem. The customer dropped the plow off in the dark. I met him, but did not see the pump. We talked a little, and he said he is tired of getting screwed at another local dealer (he said it much more colorfully than that). He said he had it there twice for this problem, both times it was supposed to be fixed. One of those times they charged him $256, and he still had the same problem. On his own, he thought maybe it was the controller, so he bought a new one out of desperation. That did not solve the problem, and at that point he spent at least $400.The next morning I came in, and walked over to the truck before coming inside. In 2 seconds I knew what the problem was. It had a square plastic A Coil on it. That should have been changed YEARS ago. It is common "Meyer knowledge" that they should be changed, were a bad idea, and failed constantly. We knew this OVER 10 YEARS ago. Evidently, the local non-Meyer dealer does not. So an $18.99 part would have solved the problem the customer spent at least $400 trying to fix.... but what do I know.~Admin
    Last edited by admin; 07-21-2016 at 03:58 PM.

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