Warming Up Your UTV for Winter

’Twas the months before winter and all through the land people were dreading shoveling snow by hand. When the flakes finally hit, on the drive was a clatter, the neighbors ran to their windows to see what was the matter. And what did wondering eyes see? Why you clearing the snow in your winter-equipped UTV. With a horde of winter attachments — from blades to heated cabs — there’s no off-season for your all-terrain truck and your jobsite demands. You can begin to outfit your UTV, with the handy tips below, to tackle the winter and all of that pesky snow.

Getting Attached to Winter Implements

While UTV applications may vary throughout the winter, it’s a good bet that plowing snow, spreading salt and hauling winter supplies will always be a seasonal staple. Just make sure you pick the right attachments for your vehicle and weather conditions.

“A UTV is best matched with a snow blade because of the simplicity, cost and ability to do work efficiently. With a large front blade on a UTV, an operator can quickly remove snow from a sidewalk or driveway without changing the operating characteristics of the vehicle,” says Jon Gilbeck, associate product manager for utility vehicles for John Deere. “In the case of a broom, unlike skid steer loaders or tractors that have full hydraulics or power take, a UTV broom must be equipped with its own engine and hydraulic lift system. To fully utilize the benefits of the engine and hydraulics, the broom is powered by a belt drive and lifted by a hydraulic pump.”

Snow blades generally range from 54 to 72 in. wide, which is more than enough length to clear a typical sidewalk and make quick work of driveways. However, the size of your blade is not determined by the size of your job. Instead, the size of your UTV dictates the snow blade size. Blades are specifically designed to fit the vehicle’s width and overall build. Snow blades can range from between $1,000 to $2,500, depending on size and configuration (straight blade or V-blade).

While the snow blade might be the most cost-effective choice for winter snow removal, your attachment decision will largely depend on your winter conditions. If your area tends to see lighter snow fall with little ice, a broom attachment may be the perfect fit for your UTV (it also does great work keeping the jobsite free of debris in the spring, summer and fall). A 72-in. wide rotary broom with a 10-hp engine can run around $5,500, according to John Deere. Cub Cadet recommends a self-powered broom attachment from Sweepster for use on its UTVs, which runs about $3,500.

Along with picking out your blade or broom, choosing the correct spreader usually comes down to several
variables — the material you want to spread (i.e. salt or sand in the winter and fertilizer in the spring and summer) and a fixed or variable speed to control the throw. You’ll also have the choice between a steel or poly-blend hopper, the V-shaped container that houses the material. Poly hoppers are generally made of polyethylene or a similar poly blend that nearly eliminates the maintenance associated with steel hoppers. When shopping around for a spreader, be sure to look for a fully-sealed motor and components, such as the hopper, spinner and motor, that are corrosion resistant.

A Comfortable Cab Will Keep You Moving

A UTV will work just as hard in the winter as it does in warmer seasons, but if you’re frozen to the driver’s seat, the cold will affect the productivity you put into the machine. A warm and happy operator is a productive operator, as the age-old saying goes. Luckily, UTVs have a Thanksgiving-sized offering of equipment to keep you in the driver seat all the live-long day.

“For warmth and comfort, we strongly recommend a cab enclosure and heater. Both hard and soft cabs are available for our 4×4 UTV. The soft cab is an easy-on, easy-off enclosure for all-season usage and
convenience, while the hard cab is more of a fixed unit, offering more protection from cold weather and
surrounding debris,” says Jack Drobny, utility vehicle product manager at Cub Cadet. “The soft cab can be put on in a few minutes with Velcro. The soft side doors can be added in about 30 minutes and the front acrylic windshield can be added in 15 minutes. The hard cab takes several hours to install, but it offers versatility that you do not have with the soft cab such as a durable glass front window and windows that slide open on the side doors and rear of the cab.”

In the case of Cub Cadet, its standard snow-removal accessories outfitted on a diesel 4×4 offers a hard cab, snow blade, angle kit, salt spreaders and lights. Users can also tailor their UTV by installing a cab heater
and equipping a heavy-duty alternator to ensure adequate electrical power for operations. A UTV with a package such as this will add up to about $17,699. John Deere offers both glass- and soft-door enclosures for its Gator UTVs. In the way of accessories, it offers working lights, beacon lights, plow markers, tire chains, heaters and winches. To outfit a Gator UTV, a roof and windshield start at $219, cab enclosures start around $2,000 and snow blades start at $1,049.

Similarly, Bobcat offers a climate-controlled cab equipped with heat and air conditioning and a deluxe road package with turn signals, four-way flashers and tail and brake lights for its Toolcat utility vehicle. The Toolcat also features the Bob-Tach quick-attach system for swapping attachments on the go, and the new Bobcat 2300 utility vehicle features a RapidLink attachment arm that can be equipped with five specially designed Bobcat attachments.

The Bobcat Toolcat featuring a cab enclosure with heating and air conditioning and deluxe road package with back-up alarm and turn signals ranges between $38,000 and $40,000, depending on options. Arctic Cat offers a
complete deluxe cab kit for $2,499, a Tonneau (cargo box) cover for $199, a soft-cab kit for $879 and a plow kit featuring a 72-in. snow blade with skid shoes, snow deflector, edge markers, frame and mount for $1,329 (it requires a winch or electric actuator for lifting).

More Productive than a Miniature Sleigh and Eight Reindeer

If you’ve finally decided to take the plunge into the utility vehicle market, why not make sure that your
vehicle of choice will be able to power through tough winters year after year? You’ll want to make sure that the vehicle has true four-wheel drive, as you are going to need all four wheels transferring torque to the ground on snowy surfaces, not just to three wheels like on some models with limited-slip front differential.

“Four-wheel drive is absolutely fantastic for snow work, but we always caution users that it can get you in trouble when you think your vehicle is invincible. Many rookie operators push the four-wheel drive and get themselves stuck. Keep in mind that there are many heavy-duty, two-wheel drive trucks pushing snow on the road today. These vehicles can handle a similar proportional load in two-wheel drive,” says Drobny.

To put the torque into those wheels, you have to have the right power plant. Although gas engines make up the majority of the engines powering UTVs in the market, manufacturers such as John Deere, Cub Cadet, Kubota and Bobcat offer diesel engine options. While the balance of pros and cons of diesel over gas are debatable, a diesel engine will provide more torque, easier starting and good acceleration, but it’s louder. If you go with a gas engine, it must be chocked and warmed up like any other gas engine. However, a diesel engine can be left idling for an extended period of time to keep the engine warm, whereas that practice isn’t common with gas engines.

Moving past the power plant, you’ll also want to find the best suspension system possible to absorb the terrain and limit the physical fatigue on the driver. The ultimate competitive suspension check is to test drive each UTV over rough terrain and see how the units perform. Most UTVs have a clear distinction in suspension system design and you will need to find exactly which unit fits your comfort zone.

When you finally put your UTV to work in the winter, it is recommended that you carry some weight in the cargo box for additional traction and that you maintain at least 5 in. of ground clearance while pushing snow around; without ground clearance, you are more likely to get stuck and with no suspension travel left under the load, the ride quality will be compromised and the UTV frame will be stressed. Now, you’re ready to take on the worst that Old Man Winter can throw at you and put the neighborhood kid’s shoveling service out of business.

Jason Morgan is assistant editor of Compact Equipment Tags:

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