7 Tips for Winter Road Care
The ravages of on-again, off-again freezing temperatures will take a toll on any lane. Here’s how to help control the carnage.
By Karen Keb
If you live where freezing temperatures and snow are just business-as-usual in winter, you’ll want to take care not to undo all your road-building and maintenance efforts from the warmer months. You’ll want to be especially careful during those transition months where the cycle of freeze and thaw seems endless—and when precipitation is every bit as likely to come in the form of rain.
1. Removing snow from your unpaved lane requires a little finesse, particularly at the beginning of the season when its surface has not frozen solid. Whether using your loader’s utility bucket, a snow bucket or plow, or rear blade, you’ll want to take care to not scrape the lane too deep. Doing so will have you pushing your roadway’s surface to the side—stripping the entire cap off in some cases.
2. Apply less down pressure compared with smooth-paved surfaces when clearing snow, unless you live where the ground freezes solid for several feet. In that case, you can treat it a little more aggressively.
3. Resist the temptation to clear your lane after the first couple of snowfalls. If you can work that precipitation into a hard pack with your vehicle’s tires, you will have a smoother surface to plow on as winter progresses—because the precipitation will freeze the road surface solid and make it easier to plow. When it becomes too slick to be safe, spread sand on that surface (never salt, since it will melt the snow and turn the road into mud). A spinner spreader mounted on the back of the tractor is just the ticket for this project.
4. If using a tractor-mounted snow blower on your lane, pay close attention to the condition of the surface, the crown (or other high spots) and take care not to allow the blower’s cutting edge to come into contact with them. Nothing damages a snow blower faster than running rocks or gravel through them, and the resultant flying projectiles can be lethal. Adjust the snow blower’s shoes to at least two inches or set the stop on your tractor’s three-point hitch to keep the cutting edge at least two inches from the surface.
5. Plow or blow snow first from one side of the lane and then the other. Avoid the temptation to start in the middle lest you contact and destroy the lane’s crown.
6. When using non-powered snow removal tools, make judicious use of the tractor’s hydraulic float position on both the loader and three-point hitch. These settings will allow the implements to move with the lane’s contours rather than digging in. These settings may be most effective when the lane’s surface is already frozen or is otherwise quite hard.
7. When winter is long, don’t hesitate to put your front-end loader to good use by pushing the snow piles (that result from plowing) back away from the edge of the lane. Take care that you don’t dig too deep and take bites of sod and soil. Be sure to have wellheads, garden beds or other low structures well marked so that you don’t inadvertently damage them during the process.