How to Upfit a Utility Vehicle for Winter Work (From Seasonal Transport to Snow Removal)

John Deere snow Gator

Utility vehicles or UTVs are multipurpose, side-by-side, off-road vehicles that can handle just about any terrain. Some UTVs are geared towards recreational trail riding or hunting, while others (covered on this website) are focused mostly on commercial work, going from farm chores to jobsite hauler to joy riding on the trail on any given day. Thanks to their weight distribution below the fenders and their longer, wider wheelbase (in comparison with ATVs), UTVs can carry, tow or push heavy payloads. They are great people transports, especially those UTVs with two sets of rows. Utility vehicles are also entry-level attachment-takers, allowing this mini truck to spearhead actual work beyond transport. For instance, fit a UTV with a plow attachment and get into snow removal — a popular application for commercial UTVs and the focus of this feature.

UTV Winter Attachments

“Winter weather can be unpredictable,” explains Kyle Crosley, director at Polaris Commercial. “With the right attachments, UTVs can continue to work efficiently throughout the conditions.”

A UTV can be a capable workhorse during the winter months when equipped with front and rear attachments, says Justin Parrott, product manager of turf at Kubota Canada. “There are a variety of front attachments available for snow removal for UTVs — from mild to wild.”

Some of those attachments include front-mounted snowplows, sweepers and snowblowers. In the rear, you may see cargo box-mounted salt spreaders, most of which can accommodate a variety of materials, including salt, sand and calcium flakes. Finding the right front snow blade can be a tricky task because they come in different shapes, with different features and at different prices. Widths are typically 66 or 72 in. and are often hydraulically actuated for lift and angling. Parrott says a crowd favorite is the V-style snow blade.

“The V-blade has two wings that can be controlled individually from the operator’s station, giving you maximum flexibility and control over the snow,” he explains.

The blade can be used as a straight blade or placed into the V shape to deflect snow both left and right — ideal for clearing pathways. For those who don’t do a lot of snow removal, Justin VanderHeyden, product manager of Gator Utility Vehicles at John Deere, recommends a lower-priced option — winch-operated plows (see video above). These use the front winch to raise and lower the plow. “These plows usually require the operator to manually angle to plow left or right.”

For salt spreaders, Parrott recommends a broadcast spreader to provide the most coverage of large areas like parking lots. “If dealing with narrow pathways or sidewalks, a drop spreader might be a better fit,” he theorizes. Drop spreaders have a more controlled pattern, with a spread limited to the width of the machine. Cargo box-mounted brine tanks with spray booms are available for those who prefer using brine solution, VanderHeyden adds.

Kioti Tractor Adds K9 2400 Cab Model to Its UTV Lineup

Kioti K9 2400 Cab model

A nice cab will keep you warm and cozy during winter work, so let’s direct you to Kioti Tractor’s recently introduced K9 2400 Cab model. Building upon the proven K9 2400 UTV, the new cab model features a factory-installed, climate-controlled cab, ensuring operators are equipped to combat the elements while tackling tough jobs. The K9 2400 Cab features a 24-hp, three-cylinder, Kioti diesel engine. Selectable two- or four-wheel-drive options with limited slip front axle and mechanically actuated locking rear differential allows operators to tailor performance to the terrain. The new UTV is equipped with speed-sensitive, electric power steering and a redesigned CVT that utilizes engine braking. Other key features include an all-steel cargo bed with spray-in bed liner, a dump bed capacity of 1,102 lbs and ample ground clearance of 12.5 in. For more info, visit kioti.com.

Accessories and Options

Kubota RTV 1100C

UTVs are rugged, purpose-built vehicles, with the ability to traverse off-road areas. However, accessories can give the UTV an edge in performance and utility, especially during the winter. Some beneficial accessories to consider adding:

  • Mud guards: These protect the driveline and engine bay from salt, dirt and debris, thereby extending the life of the UTV by protecting against caustic chemicals. They also decrease time spent cleaning hard-to-reach areas.
  • Lighting: LED auxiliary floodlights, beacon lights, spotlights, dome lights and lightbars increase visibility on the jobsite and improve navigation – a particular benefit when falling snow causes low visibility or when working past sundown. Hazard lights are a safety accessory.
  • Heavy-duty, nondirectional tires: These tires are designed for longer life on hard-packed snow and rugged surfaces.
  • Three-point seat belts: A safety accessory, these secure the driver and passenger.

“When upfitting your UTV for the jobsite, especially when working in winter conditions, it’s important to think about comfort and convenience,” Crosley observes. “After all, these features don’t just provide comfort to the operator, they increase overall jobsite productivity.”

Some operator comforts to consider for your UTV include:

  • Heater and defrost kits: These will improve visibility by clearing the windshield and keeping riders warm.
  • Cab components such as added doors, windshields and rear panels: These can help keep out environmental elements and enable operation in wind, rain and snow without sacrificing UTV performance. Venting and roll-down windows will keep operators comfortable in warm weather.
  • Durable windows in tempered glass or poly carbonate: Look for scratch-resistance to improve visibility. Tempered glass is a better choice for enclosed cabs with heater and defrost kits and wiper systems.

Winter UTV Driving Tips

Winter weather conditions often result in reduced traction. Thus, smooth driving and applying the brakes sooner and at a lower pressure are critical for maintaining control and contact with the driving surface. As Steven Benedict, product line manager, turf care, Kioti Tractor, points out, four-wheel drive only helps when you’re moving forward (or in reverse) and does not eliminate the risk of locking up all four wheels when hitting the brakes.

When operating a UTV in ice and snow conditions, engaging four-wheel drive will give you the traction you need for clearing snow. Four-wheel-drive notwithstanding, operators should drive only as fast as conditions allow. A more conservative approach to winter driving is advised. “Speed, stopping distance and turning radius will vary wildly, depending on terrain, conditions and the vehicle you are using — along with the temperature outside,” says Jacob Mandoza, senior product manager of utility vehicles at Kubota Tractor Corp.

“Snow can hide objects, as well,” Benedict says, “so keep overall speeds lower and continue to scan the area in front of you for signs of something that may be obscured by the snow.”

Operators can use marker poles to mark the edges of parking lots, driveways, sidewalk boundaries and other surfaces so they’re aware of their location while clearing snow and ice, VanderHeyden remarks. In addition to ensuring your UTV is equipped with the proper accessories to work in winter conditions — such as cold-weather cab components to keep out the elements, heavy-duty tires that can easily move across snow and ice and a plow system — it’s imperative that operators are prepared as well.

“Keep extra gear on hand,” advises Crosley. It’s a good idea to stow extra gloves and boots in case yours get wet. It’s also wise to pack snacks and blankets in case you get stuck in unexpected conditions. Keep a flashlight, charging cord, portable charger, matches and a first-aid kit on board in case of emergencies. “Additionally,” Crosley recommends, “all team members should be trained properly for winter driving so they are comfortable driving in snowy and icy conditions.”

Lori Lovely is a freelance writer for Compact Equipment.

UTV Winter Maintenance Musts

Pro XD mud guard detail

A reliable, well-maintained vehicle is essential for cold weather work. In addition to regular PMs and daily inspections, it’s wise to prepare for winter before the snow falls. Justin VanderHeyden, product manager of Gator Utility Vehicles at John Deere, suggests covering the basics in order to keep UTVs in optimal condition:

  • Ensure batteries are fully charged.
  • Top off/change all fluids and filters.
  • Check tires for proper inflation in cold temperatures.
  • Inspect wear edges on plows.
  • Grease all fittings, including pivots on plows.
  • Check for hydraulic leaks on plows that are hydraulically
  • actuated.
  • Clean and tighten all electrical connections on the plow and spreader.
  • Repaint damaged surfaces on the plow and spreader to prevent corrosion.

Going a little deeper into the list, Justin Parrott, product manager of turf at Kubota Canada, points out most UTV manufacturers recommend using a different engine oil viscosity in the winter. “A lower viscosity engine oil will help protect the engine by allowing proper oil flow during those cold morning starts,” he says. Cold starts can be mitigated by using the appropriate mix of coolant for the temperatures, says Steven Benedict, product line manager, turf care, Kioti Tractor. In addition, you may want to add a trickle charger or a block heater to reduce the strain on the engine by enabling fluid flow and warming the engine. If your UTV has a diesel engine, Benedict advises waiting for a full glow plug heat cycle before trying to start the engine. If it’s electric, be sure to plug it in whenever it’s not in use so it will be fully charged when you need it. If you’re driving on salted roads and pathways, Jacob Mandoza, senior product manager of utility vehicles at Kubota Tractor, suggests undercoating the underside of the machine to prevent premature corrosion.