If you have been in the Snow & Ice Control business for any length of time, you have heard the words “your batteries are bad.” This phrase is even a headache for the equipment manufacturer because by the time someone diagnosed the battery problem, you were likely having equipment problems. It may have been the plow is moving slowly, working intermittently, or not lifting very well or it could be a spreader jam or the spreader just stops working completely.
These problems can happen even if the batteries are good but your charging system is not large enough to keep up with all of the power requirements. Your truck needs to run your snow and ice equipment, along with laptops, cell phones, heaters, wipers, radio etc. etc. You get the picture.
A charge too small for your power needs will cause a drop in voltage and when you are in a low voltage condition the plow may operate irregularly. You may think that a coil or valve is bad when in fact the coils do not have enough power to position the valve properly. Yet the common response is “this plow is broken” and we take it in to the shop.
We stop what we are doing and drive to the shop or dealer only to find out that when we get there the plow works fine; no problems we are told. We go back out to get the job done and the problems come back, but this time we go back and demand something is done and most of the time the dealer will replace a coil or a solenoid and send us back out.
What is really going on is when we drive back and forth to the dealer our charging system catches up and the plow now has enough power to work again!
What can you do to stop a poor power supply from interrupting you snow removal? Here are some things that we can do to help minimize this problem.
We can make sure that all of the connections to and from the battery are kept tight and cleaned as well as the power connections on the accessories. If there are poor connections, you will create resistance in the power and/or ground circuit and this will cause a greater voltage drop to the accessories.
The worse the connections, the more power your equipment will use, the more power it consumes, the more demand will be on your battery. I think you see the problem here. By keeping your connection and your equipment in top shape, it will help conserve power consumption.
You also need to make sure your truck can handle the job. You can’t expect an undersized battery to hold up and even some factory installed alternators will disappoint you during peak usage of your plow.
The best answer is to use dual batteries and a heavy-duty, high-output alternator to maximize the power output from your truck. It is best to use dual batteries to keep the demand on each batter more reasonable preventing premature battery failure. Dual batteries may actually even save you money in the long run because an overworked battery will have a short life.
Check your alternator output to, and ensure it can keep up with the demands of the equipment you are running. Be sure to include ALL of the equipment: plow, spreader, radio, phone, GPS, laptop, and everything else you will have going while tackling a big snow fall. If you are not sure how to figure out what your power needs are, that is what your local dealer is for, feel free to consult with them about the poor supply equipment you need to stay in the field.
So keep an eye on your equipment so you can keep it working. Just like the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so don’t waste time, but ensure your truck is set for some great snow plowing this year.