Old Plow Truck-Advice needed


#1

So, I have been looking around at potentially getting a cheap (<$2500) truck for plowing. For this price range it would have to have the plow already attached the vehicle and wouldn’t be anything fancy (obviously).

I have basically no experience doing any mechanical work but in my mind an older vehicle seems easier to work on than something newer. Is this true?

I’ve come across some older trucks that got my interest because of the price but frankly scared me.
Here are a few of the ones I’ve seen:
1980 F250 351m, 4 spd,132k miles, 4x4 for $1500 (has a lot of rust and mentioned needs carb adjusted and rear brake lines fixed)
1984 Dodge 4x4 for $1800 (not much more information on this one)

So in addition to the question above about self repairs, I’m really just want opinions on if any older truck is a bad idea or if there are particular ones to watch out for. Please don’t just say this is a bad idea, what would you suggest instead if you think it is.


#2

What do you plan to plow with this thing, your driveway, your neighborhood, or high volume plowing?

I ask because plowing is pretty hard on a truck, so if you use an old truck, it won’t last long.


#3

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but NO truck is easy to repair for someone with "basically no experience doing any mechanical work ".

Might a heavy duty snow blower meet your needs?


#4

On the subject of experience and old trucks, one of the vehicles that even got me started on car work was a '64 ford pick up. This was the 90s, and I was in grad school, and broke, and heated with wood. I’ve cut plenty of firewood in my time - I had no truck though. And very little money. I found this completely rusted out junker and bought it for $300. It ran but it needed a clutch. “A clutch?” I said. “I’ve heard of those before.”

I found some company doing reproductions of factory service manuals and bought one. And just started figuring it out as needed. Learned all about replacing a clutch. Replaced the steering box. Installed a rebuilt carb. Did a little exhaust work. Overhauled all of the drum brakes. Etc. This was not all at once. I just worked on it as needed over the 6 or 7 years that I heated the house with it. I loved that damn junker and would suggest anyone (with at least some average level of common sense and mechanical ability) take that plunge if they wanted to.

If you do take the plunge then you do need someone who knows something to help you look at these trucks though. E.g. on the rusty Ford, if the frame or the cab mounts are rusted out then forget it. I don’t think anyone could give you more advice than that without a lot more info on the two trucks. They need a once over from someone with an experienced eye.


#5

Well, from Minnesota, one of the hardest things on equipment is snow plowing. The transmission is in constant motion from forward to reverse and speeding up and slowing down. Plus the shock of pushing against the banks of snow. It just wears everything out-engines, transmissions, differentials, brakes, etc. So for someone not familiar with working on their own vehicles, a new one would be the best course.

The question that has already been asked is what do you plan to plow? Unless you are going into the business or have a very long driveway, another piece of equipment might be more suited to you. Farmers around here with long driveways use tractors with blowers attached on the back and loaders on the front. Used tractors can be had pretty cheaply and are far more suited to this kind of work. Also large garden tractors with blades or blowers attached, with or without a cab, can do a lot of work at a reasonable budget. Others also use ATVs with blades attached and they can be used year round.


#6

“No mechanical experience” and “old plow truck” just don’t go together, sorry to say.


#7

The wrecker bills and repair bill willl likely be more than the cost of paying a professional to do the snow removal.

An F-250 4x4 with 8 bolt wheels, a 351 M engine and a double low 4 speed would be up to the job if it were put in good order and kept maintained and operated properly.


#8

My former truck at work was a 93 f150. Rust was the big problem, which I took care of, sure I could loose a few fillings due to the ride, and was actually disappointed when they decided to put it to pasture with 39k miles, as it had only been used as a plow truck, for a rusted out brake line and oil pan. It is still sitting waiting to go to auction. Drove it three years then upgraded, I average a different vehicle every year and a half, gave up my liberty, with heated seats for an 03 f150, maybe I can get the plow put on that truck!
I think those vehicles are too old. I would try for 97 or newer.


#9

It’s a bad idea. If you’re doing this for a business, rethink it. You’re gonna need an equipment budget for decent equipment or all your money is going to go trying to keep a 35 year old truck from gasping it’s last wheeze.

If you’re doing it for home with a long driveway, get a lawn tractor. Before I moved to a house with a blessedly short driveway, I plowed a 1/4 mile drive with a John Deere LT-series lawn tractor. I got weights and chains for the rear wheels and a plow blade. It was easy, and actually kinda fun, if I’m honest. Some lawn tractors have a PTO that can drive a snowblower - that would be easier, but less fun :wink:


#10

Frankly I think your budget is way too low because while older trucks are easier to work on they also require more frequent repairs due to their age. On top of that, even just a decent full sized plow is worth $1000 so your truck is really only a $1500 truck. And it’s already serving as a plow truck. Plowing is demanding, last thing you want is beater truck. Also, plows wear out too. A beater plow is no picnic either when it’s -10 and won’t turn or lift. Btdtbtts.

You provide no details about your usage so makes it tough to give appropriate advice for your situation.

Coil suspension is better than torsion bar for supporting heavy plows. Less squat with plow up, easier to upgrade if necessary.

Also check plow height range when up. On some the body height along with limited plow height range forces it to ride directly in front of and totally blocking radiator. Older truck w/hydraulic clutch fan + starved rad = overheating issues. Take it for 5 mile trip at 60 and watch the temp gauge…


#11

I have 400 feet of driveway, When I used to plow it I usually used an Atv with a blade, now I hire it out. 30 bucks gets it done here and its cheaper and easier than doing it myself. That being said we had a winter storm the first week of January, we had huge drifts, I parked my car at the end of the driveway and just walked down. The guy who plows my drive couldn’t push all of the snow he kept getting stuck. So a day and 80 bucks later a friend of mine with a skid loader had to dig it out for me.

If you get too much snow and you don’t keep up with it a plow won’t cut it.


#12

Plowing is hard on a truck. If you plan to plow for extra money using a $2500 (including plow) used truck, forget the idea entirely. Even with a new paid-for truck it’s hard to make money plowing. You only get cash in when it snows, and it all goes back out for maintenance, registration, insurance, fuel, and … on an old truck… repairs. It’d be a financial sinkhole. And you’ll be calling your snowed-in customers half the time saying “sorry, can’t come, my truck broke”. Think how happy they’ll be. They won’t contract with you more than once.

If you’re only planning to use it for your own property, when I had a long, large driveway I used a garden tractor with a plow blade. With some chains, wheel weights, and a weight box on the rear, it was perfect. A blower attachment on a lawn tractor also works great.


#13

If you really want to do this, you’d be better off getting something from the 90s that has fuel injection, and that doesn’t already have a plow on it. If you buy a truck with a plow on it, it’s already been beat on by the previous owner(s) plowing with it. And they are getting rid of it for some reason–probably because it’s just about used up.

Get a cheap truck, possibly one with some cosmetic damage such as some dents or rust so the price is low because of that and not mechanical problems, then get a plow installed.


#14

Funny but true story that relates to this; A customer bought his son a late model CJ-7 which the son took to ‘bog races’ on wet weekends and showed up at my shop many Mondays with the resultant damage to various parts. I engouraged the father and son to get something more durable to play in the mud and after my vetoing several candidates I gave a thumbs up to a retired railroad F-250 with a 351M engine, granny low 4 speed and 4x4. Several weeks later the young man showed up in a flat bed truck with his pickup totally covered in mud complaining that it “just quit running.” On closer inspection oil was obviously dripping from a hole in the block where a rod was hanging out. The young man explained how the truck was so good that no one would compete with him but while watching others racing and sometimes getting stuck he was charging $20 to pull others out. While pulling a stuck Jeep out 2 others were racing and the boy realized that he was outrunning the racing Jeeps while pulling one so he put his foot to the floor the engine just quit.

Driving with no concern for the limits of the vehicle, the road conditions or the abilities of the driver can and eventually will result in exceeding one or more of the limits and the end won’t be cheap or pretty. Drivers who enjoy pushing things to the limit should find a place to do so that doesn’t endanger the rest of us.


#15

Actually, I meant to post that on the icy roads thread but again I have pushed my key board skills beyond their limits and, well, you see the result.


#16

In short order, an old cheap plow truck will need repairs. If You can’t do a lot of the labor yourself they become prohibitively expensive. It doesn’t work. If it did, there would be none for sale. The best thing for single purpose snow removal are snow blowers. One mounted on a small tractor is good especially considering what it can be used for otherwise. A used plow truck will continue rusting when not in use. Pass on the idea.

Plow trucks work as money makers only if they are inexpensive enough to keep in good repair. That means" fairly new" or very cheap to repair while you generate income with them. That’s not you. C

My neighbor is a contractor who has several trucks. I worked for him. You must be very hard on a truck to do the job. That means new trucks with warranties, if you can find a dealer who will do it, or have your own mechanic… My neighbor does both.


#17

I have a fairly substantial snow blower and a plow. I will almost always snowblow over plowing. because you almost never run out of room to put the snow, there are no windrows or stacks left behind and it doesn’t tear anything up. However, when we get wet, heavy snow/slush, the plow is invaluable. It’s also nice to come home, drop the blade and make a few passes in a nice warm truck. Ten minutes later I’m in the house for the night…


#18

Thank you everyone for the information. Sorry for delayed reply.

I should say that I don’t plan do it as a business. I have a rather small driveway that I currently just shovel. So, it isn’t a vehicle I plan to use much or for a business. The plow more of “when I really need it” and I have a boyscout mindset of always being prepared.

The primary interest is in getting a truck that I can use rarely as a 3rd vehicle when I need to haul or move stuff. The plow is mostly to be able to help others that I know from church or neighborhood if they are unable to clear their driveway themselves (elderly, sick, etc).

Essentially, I’m just looking for a truck that I can use as needed to help out with people that might need it (moving furniture, debris, plowing them out, etc.). I just want to serve some folks and am looking for a cheap way to do. So the plow will only be used a few times after moderate to heavy snow.

I’ll probably look at getting a newer truck ('97+) that hasn’t been a plow vehicle before. Then possibly look to get an plow.
I was NOT expecting to fix everything or even more things myself. Just to be able to tinker and learn a little bit here and there.

Essentially, I want a cheap truck that isn’t a huge investment that I could get without a loan and use it for a few years (hopefully several). I’m not too concerned about the fact it will cost me money to repair and maintain, that’s expected.
Thanks again and I hope that might help bring some clarity.


#19

It does bring some clarity. But I still think a garden tractor with a plow attached is a better idea. A vehicle that sits 360 days a year will develop all types of problems. just as a bedridden patient needs to be moved to prevent atrophy and bedsores, so too a vehicle needs to be used occasionally to continue to be usable. Gas goes bad, iron rusts, seals go dry and fail upon the next use. And critters might even move in.

Sincere best.


#20

I think that if you’re just looking for a general purpose beater truck for the occasional chore that requires or is made much easier by a truck AND that as long as you were doing it you wanted to have a plow - I still think that you should do it, but have someone who does know vehicles well to help you look at trucks.