If you already have a front end loader in your home or farm, you do not need any other equipment to clear and move snow.
The loader bucket does a great job pushing snow to clear roads, driveways and paths.
A front end loader does have its limitations when it comes to moving snow, but it works well enough for occasional snow clearing.
What You'll Learn Today
- Is a Front End Loader The Best For Clearing Snow?
- Moving Snow With a Front End Loader: Preparation
- How To Clear Snow With A Front End Loader?
- Safety Tips
- The Best Front End Loader Attachments For Moving Snow
Is a Front End Loader The Best For Clearing Snow?
Front end loaders are powerful and versatile. But they are not the best equipment for clearing snow, at least not with their standard bucket attachment.
In fact, any kind of loader with a bucket is not the most efficient way to clear snow.
Loader buckets push snow inefficiently, leaving small rows of it on the sides that you have to come back and push.
Also, you cannot create windrows with a loader bucket. Windrows are a great way to pile snow on the sides of the driveway or road as you clear it. Windrows make for quicker snow clearing and they save space.
With a front end loader, your only option is to create a pile at the end of the path you are clearing.
There’s also a higher risk of damaging the ground when moving snow with a loader bucket.
That said, a front end loader is good enough if you only need to occasionally clear snow. There’s no need to invest in another expensive piece of equipment unless you have to frequently clear deep snow.
The good thing about a front end loader is its weight. It makes it easy to push a lot of snow into a pile. The weight also gives you a lot of traction, making it easier to push snow without sliding or spinning the wheels.
A front end loader long reach is another advantage. It’s easy to stack snow into piles, lifting the bucket as the pile gets taller.
If you find that the loader bucket is limiting, you can always buy attachments designed specifically to plow and move snow. We’ll touch on a few of these later on.
Moving Snow With a Front End Loader: Preparation
Before moving snow with a front end loader, you need to prepare yourself, the loader and the area to be cleared. Here are the steps to take.
1. Make sure you are comfortable operating a loader
If you’ve been operating the loader for some time, this step is not necessary. You’ll need to learn some techniques for moving snow, but we’ll cover those in the next section.
If this is your first time using a front end loader, don’t make the mistake of jumping in and getting to work right away.
Front end loaders may look easy to operate, but they are not. It’s easy to tip over, injure someone or damage property if you don’t know how to operate the loader.
We recommend taking the loader to an open area without people or buildings and playing around with different controls.
Get a feel of the steering, shift gears up and down, raise and lift the boom, curl and lower the bucket, and so on.
Go for a few trial runs clearing snow, so that you know what to expect especially when the bucket is loaded.
2. Loader checkup
Next, you want to make sure the loader is in a good condition. Even if you’ve recently serviced it, it’s still a good idea to check the tires, hydraulics, brakes, oil, and other essential components.
Make sure everything is functioning properly before you put the loader to work. If something goes wrong while moving snow, you could easily get into an accident.
When checking the tires, make sure they are ideal for snow. This is especially important if the snow is deep. Consider if you need to put on tire chains or switch to snow tires to improve traction.
Don’t forget to check the lighting. You’ll probably be working during the day, but you need to remain visible to other people. If necessary, add auxiliary lights to improve visibility. Plus, you never know when an emergency strikes and you need to move snow at night.
3. Prepare the cab
First of all, I hope the loader or tractor has an enclosed cab. You don’t want to be outside exposed to cold temperatures, wind, and snow in an open cab.
But even with an enclosed cab, there are some preparations to make.
The first thing to check is heat. Make sure it’s working properly. Also, check that there aren’t any leaks around the windows or door.
Something many people don’t prepare for is windows fogging up and frosting. Some loaders come with window defrosters, but in most cases you have to buy it separately.
The loader likely has a front wiper, but not a rear one. When the rear window starts to fog up, it’ll greatly reduce your visibility and that’s dangerous. We highly recommend adding a rear wiper.
4. Dress for the job
Dress as warm, including a heavy coat, thick boots and socks, a hat, and a pair of gloves. Even if the cab will be toasty, you’ll still need to get out now and then to inspect your work.
If it’s sunny, wear a pair of shades as well to reduce glare, which can affect visibility.
5. Mark the path/road/driveway
With snow covering everything, it’s easy to damage plants, flowerbeds, and curbs. You need to mark the area you’ll be clearing, whether it’s a driveway, path or road.
Look for snow plow flags online or at a local store. Use them to mark the edges of the path, so you know where to avoid. You can also use them around flower beds, ponds and other areas you want to stay out of.
Tip: Plant the flags early before too much snow falls, so you know exactly where to place them.
6. Determine where you’ll pile the snow
Lastly, determine where you’ll pile up the snow without causing any obstructions. You can’t do windrows; piling is your only option.
If you don’t have a lot of space at the end of the path or driveway, you can make a series of small piles along the side. You’ll need to maneuver the loader expertly to move snow to the side.
How To Clear Snow With A Front End Loader?
Now you are ready to start moving snow.
Once you are comfortable with the controls and have planned the job well, the rest is actually pretty easy. You’ll be repeating the same thing over and over.
Keep the bucket blade flat
When moving or lifting dirt with a loader, you sometimes need to tip the bucket forwards so that the blade scoops up a lot of material.
Do not do this when moving snow. You could damage the pavement or asphalt with the bucket. If you are clearing snow on a loose rock or gravel path, you will lift unwanted material along with the snow.
You want to keep the bucket blade flat against the ground. You may need to tip it a little at first to get the blade under the snow, but keep it flat when you start moving. This ensures you only skim the ground and lift only snow.
Use the float function
The float function is one of the most important yet underused loader features. It is especially important when moving snow, as it ensures you don’t damage the surface underneath.
When the float feature is activated, the hydraulic cylinders are free to move up and down. The bucket doesn’t move (but you can still curl it).
This allows the bucket to track the contours of the ground. If there’s a rise or bump along the path, the bucket moves over it without digging into it.
Float function also allows you to clear snow evenly – you won’t have some places with clamps of snow and others where you’ve chipped the pavement.
In most loaders you set the float position first by setting the bucket on the ground then pushing the joystick or lever all the way forward.
As you push the lever forward, the front wheels will lift a bit. They then settle back as you keep pushing the lever and float mode engages. If you’d tipped the bucket forwards a bit, curl it upwards so that the blade is flat, then start moving.
Move snow, a few inches at a time
To clear snow, simply drive forwards. As you move, the snow will accumulate in the bucket.
When the bucket gets full, dump the snow at a designated spot. Turn around or back up and repeat the process, making sure you get all the small rows of snow the loader bucket leaves on its sides. Also, remember to re-engage float mode every time you start pushing snow.
As the pile of snow gets higher, you’ll need to lift the bucket to add more snow on top.
If there is deep snow, do not try to move all of it at the same time. A lot of snow will quickly accumulate in the bucket and you’ll struggle to reach where you want to pile it.
Clear the snow a few inches at a time. It’ll be easier and faster that way.
Tip: If you are clearing a long driveway, you can make an initial pile in the middle of the driveway as you clear the first half. When you are done, lift and move the pile of snow to another spot.
- Whenever you are moving, keep the bucket down. If you have to lift the bucket to dump snow on top of a pile, backup and lower it before going back for more snow. Keeping the bucket low improves stability and reduces the risk of tipping,
- Be wary of steep banks on the side of the road or path. It’s especially easy to slide and tumble down a bank when the ground is covered with snow.
- Strap on the safety belt as soon as you get into the loader.
- Stay aware of your surroundings to avoid hitting someone or something. That’s why we recommend wiper blades and window defrosters when moving snow. Poor visibility is a hazard.
- Be careful when choosing where to pile snow. Avoid high piles too close to buildings or where people pass. If there isn’t space to safely make a tall pile of snow, make smaller piles instead that pose less danger.
The Best Front End Loader Attachments For Moving Snow
As we mentioned earlier, a front end loader with a standard bucket attachment is not the most efficient way of moving snow.
If you’ll be clearing snow often, especially deep snow, we recommend getting a dedicated snow clearing attachment. Here are some options.
- Snow pusher – A snow pusher, also called a push box, is more efficient at moving snow. It pushes a large amount of snow and you can pile snow easily on the sides in rows. Snow pushers have plastic or rubber cutting blades, which protects the driveway surface from damage.
- Snow plow – For some serious snow clearing, get a snow plow. There are many types of snow plows including V, wing and straight plows. A straight plow is the most common type, and it’s great for quickly clearing snow and creating windrows.
- Snow blower – If you are clearing only a few inches of snow, a snow blower attachment is great. It works especially well with light and fluffy snow. You also don’t need to worry about where to put piles of snow.
Whichever attachment you get, make sure it is compatible with your loader in terms of hydraulics, size (especially width), and weight.