Last Updated on June 16, 2022
Every winter, municipalities, companies, and residences must remove snow and ice. From sidewalks and parking lots to streets and highways, each one requires the right tools and methods. For jobs larger than a driveway, contractors use the latest equipment and best practices for removing and managing snow and ice. Sometimes this means using a dedicated machine, but oftentimes, when finding the best solution, people pair a machine with a great attachment. We have that list here. These are the best snow removal equipment and tools.
Top winter attachments
Here are the most popular attachments for snow and ice removal and management:
1. Snow plows
Any machine equipped with a snow plow attachment is called a plow. Whether a truck, loader, tractor, dozer, utility vehicle, or even a bus. These can all be called plows, though it’s rarely a bus.
Snow plow attachments appear similar to a blade you might find on a dozer. They come in lengths from four to twelve feet, and work by pushing the snow. When the blade is angled to one side, the snow moves to the side of the plow closest to the truck or machine (which we will call the carrier). They are often fitted to trucks for street and highway clearance. When fitted to tractors they’re often used for sidewalk and small parking lot clearance.
Snow Plow Types
Plows also come in a variety of styles. Some are taller on the discharge side for a greater accumulation of snow on the attachment. This helps for pushing deeper snow.
Some are V-shaped, so the attachment sticks out furthest in the center and slants back towards both sides of the attachment. This allows the snow to be discharged on both sides of the carrier. That’s likely why these plows are more popular in sidewalk and walkway clearing. They keep the snow berm small compared to plows that discharge only to one side.
Sectional snow plows are composed of parts of a snow plow attachment (usually 18-24 inches in length) that can each individually react to bumps in the road or obstacles by raising up. This decreases the amount of area missed by the plow since the entire blade no longer needs to be lifted when encountering a sewer cover, for example. It eliminates a lot of the shock the plow and operator feel when hitting something in the road.
A trip edge plow is designed for snow management of surfaces with elevation differences that may result in plow tripping. This plow ensures only the cutting edge trips when you hit an obstacle, so you don’t lose the load. A double trip plow system trips the cutting edge and mouldboard when obstacles are encountered to protect both the plow and the carrier from damage.
These machines are similar to giant brushes with bristles sticking out 360 degrees from a rotating center. Sweepers are often used for cleaning debris from sidewalks and walkways, such as dust and leaves. However, they also work in light snow applications. You can even change the angle on some of these powered attachments for directing snow to one side of the path or to reach spots without positioning the carrier awkwardly.
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There are two types of spreaders. One is a brine spreader for anti-icing/de-icing applications and the other is a salt/sand/mixture spreader for de-icing and reducing slippery surfaces.
The brine spreader sprays liquid salt brine. When applied before snow and ice appears, this prevents the snow and ice from freezing to the sidewalk. When applied after snow has fallen or ice has formed, it melts the ice and snow into slush.
Applying salt, sand, or a mixture of the two is the most effective way of de-icing surfaces. However, salt and sand sticks to the bottom of people’s boots and gets tracked indoors.
4. Ice breakers
This attachment gets equipped to the front of a machine to pulverize ice and hard-packed snow. Basically, this part breaks solid ice into ice cubes using cutters mounted on spring-loaded, independent suspension. They can even adjust to the height of the material being crushed.
5. Snow blowers
Snow blowers can be both an attachment and a machine.
They get fitted to tractors and loaders. as an attachment They can be equipped to trucks, but the attachment is heavy. The truck would probably need to be fitted with a counterweight and tires designed for supporting heavier loads.
Snow blowers (the machine) come in a range of sizes from that of small lawn mowers to truck-sized carriers.
Whether a machine or an attachment, all snow blowers work in the same way. They take in snow through their snow intake and an engine pushes the snow up a chute. There it gets ejected and lands several feet away.
An adjustable chute allows for better and more consistent placement of snow. An adjustable power flow means more control over how far the snow is thrown (casting distance). Chute options include sidewalk chute, truck loading chute, or telescopic chute. The sidewalk chute is a standard chute. The truck loading chute is height adjusted for loading trucks. And the telescopic chute height is adjusted from within the cab.
Due to their relatively low-cost, the walk-behind snow blowers are most popular for residential use (walkways and driveways). Large snow blowers can blow more than 7,000 tons of snow per hour and have a casting distance of 150 feet.
There really isn’t a market for medium-sized snow blowers (the machine). More often, people prefer to use a snow blower attachment on a loader or a tractor to address commercial-sized snow removal applications.
Top winter machines
The attachment is the part of the combination that actually performs the work but it relies on a carrier to maneuver and power it. Here are the best carriers for snow and ice management attachments.
Trucks are versatile vehicles, often equipped with a plow and a spreader for clearing highways, streets, and large parking lots. Their speed allows them to be quickly deployed to locations farther away from where they are stored.
As mentioned above, loaders can be equipped with snow plow or snow blower attachments. They can also be used with their general purpose bucket for removing snow.
Skid steer loaders (wheeled) and compact track loaders (tracked) are ideal for removing snow from sidewalks and small parking lots. They are slightly more narrow than standard sidewalks and can get into small spaces. Compact track loaders have an undercarriage that allows them to rotate on a dime, so they have tiny turning radiuses. Both machines already come equipped with a counterweight, are heavy with low centers of gravity, and provide good traction.
Wheel loaders are larger than skid steer loaders and compact track loaders, so they get used in larger parking lots and other larger properties. Also, the placement of the linkages between the attachment and the machine are at the front of the machine on a wheel loader compared to being located at the rear of the machine on skid steer loaders and compact track loaders, so almost the entire machine—from the linkages rearwards—works as a counterweight.
Besides pushing snow with their buckets, loaders can pick up snow and precisely deposit it. Or they can load it into trucks or snow melters.
Sometimes your choice in carrier depends on where you are. If you’re on a farm and need snow and ice removed, a tractor is an excellent option. It has a heavy weight, provides great traction, is versatile, and offers enough power for running powered attachments.
Tractors come in a variety of sizes from industrial farming to stand-behind. On the stand-behind variations, the operator stands on a platform at the rear of the machine instead of sitting in a cab.
They also come in a variety of types: industrial, utility, and compact tractors are the categories that work best in snow plow applications.
4. Municipal tractors
A municipal tractor is very distinct from a traditional tractor in that its cab is at the front of the machine and is always fully enclosed. It is also designed for municipal work, such as pathway clearing, lawn care, brush maintenance, road work, or snow and ice management.
During winter, these wheeled machines should be fitted with either a snowblower, snow plow, sweeper, or ice breaker at the front, and a spreader at the rear. Since these machines come equipped with separate hydraulic systems for the front and rear of the machine, they can power attachments at both ends from separate power sources. This way neither attachment will experience energy loss. This also allows for the operator to run each attachment separately. An auto feature automatically stops the spreader when the snowblower or sweeper stops, thereby saving energy.
Municipal tractors are about as wide as a skid steer loader, so they’re a great size for sidewalks, walkways, and parking lots.
5. Snow tractors
A snow tractor looks very similar to a municipal tractor, except that it is a tracked machine—not wheeled. And the section of the machine behind the cab is generally smaller due to the decreased functionality of the snow tractor. Although, they can both be equipped with the same type and size of snow attachments. The machine is not well-suited for road work, vegetation management, and several other applications performed by municipal tractors. They are, however, better equipped for rough terrain.
A UTV (utility vehicle) appears similar to a golf cart, but it has a lot more functionality and sometimes a lot more terrain ability.
They transport people and supplies across job sites and sometimes to perform other duties by affixing some attachment to it.
UTVs come with hydraulic power for supporting powered attachments. That’s why they can be equipped with plows, sweepers, and spreaders. Due to the weight of snow blower attachments, you will rarely see a snow blower attached to a UTV.
Dozers are heavy, tracked machines that can easily push a heavy load. They come equipped with a dozer blade, which is geometrically very similar to a snow plow attachment. Both are designed for pushing material, letting it collect on the attachment, and any material that reaches the top of the blade falls to the ground in front of the blade. Furthermore, it disperses the material to one side of the machine.
They also have the power to support powered attachments, but due to their slow movement and operating costs, you won’t see them used for snow removal. Except when owners don’t have any better equipment options.
8. Motor grader
When a motor grader works in snow removal applications, it operates in a similar fashion to a plow. The major difference is the attachment for pushing the snow is located in the center of the motor grader.
Motor graders are often used for precise grading—road work, earth work, and the levelling of small stones for paths, etc. The machine has a long front end and a cab at the rear. A blade is situated directly in front of the cab and is attached to a circle drive, which allows the operator to rotate the blade about 180 degrees. This disperses the material to either to the left or the right sides of the machine.
Due to the limited versatility of these machines, they aren’t very popular. And you can’t equip any snow management attachments, except for a spreader.
9. Snow melters
These machines are gigantic hot tubs on wheels that melt snow. Loaders load snow into the snow melter and this machine melts the snow. Holes at the bottom of the tub, plus hoses, allow for the water to drain from the tub and into the sewer system or another disposal area.
Since these machines are generally very large, they melt slowly compared to removing snow with a plow. They are costly to own and operate, and don’t get deployed to the snow management site. Oftentimes, owners, municipalities, for example, will truck in snow from their downtown locations and melt it all at a central site where the work can take days to melt all the snow.
Your Own Snow Removal Equipment and Tools
There’s plenty to choose from depending on your needs. If you are looking to clean a driveway, a plow will be more up to your speed, but if you’re interested in cleaning highways, you may want a plow or a spreader in preparation for the snow. One thing’s certain, for many places snow is inevitable. Make sure you’re fitted and ready with the best snow removal equipment and tools. Don’t find yourself stranded with snow surrounding and no plow to make a way.