Supercharge Your Skid Steers in The Snow. Here’s How.

Mark Holman

By Mark Holman

If you’ve spent even a few hours in the seat of a skid steer doing snow removal, you’ll be able to relate to at least one of these….

Situation 1:  You’re driving up to a garage door at one of your best client’s properties to backdrag snow away. You ease off the levers and prepare to drop your plow and reverse with a load of snow. The machine doesn’t respond. In fact, you keep sliding and introduce your plow to the garage door in an unfriendly manner.

Situation 2:  You’re plowing a parking lot. You make a pass, push the snow up at the end of the lot and begin turning your machine around to take a pass going back. As you’re turning, you ease off the levers as you drop your plow, but your machine keeps turning.

Situation 3:  You have a powerful 85+ horsepower machine with a 10-foot snow pusher, and there are 6 inches of wet, heavy snow on the ground. Half way down the lot, with a full load of snow, your machine breaks traction. You back up, get some speed, drop your pusher, and bite off half of the snow pile you just left because a full blade pass was too much.

I’ve spoken to thousands of users over the past 10+ years who understand these scenarios all too well. I’ve also been the guy in the seat when my plow met the garage door. Ouch.

Is This “Wisdom” Really Conventional?

I often ask this question:

If you have an 85HP skid steer, and traction breaks when your machine is putting out, say, 50HP, what do you really have? You have a 50HP skid steer. It’s really that simple. The power is there, but skid steers can’t get it to the ground because of the tire. You’re wasting precious time spinning wheels rather than finishing the job.

Here’s another question I ask a lot:

Pic 1 BlogWould you take your 12- or 14-inch bar-lug, heavy wall skid steer tires and use them on your truck for plowing? People look at me like I’ve lost my mind! But if we wouldn’t use skid steer tires on our trucks for plowing, then why would we accept truck-tire traction on our machinery?

I’m sure you’ve figured out where this is going. Simply put, the supercharger for skid steers in snow is snow tires. And you don’t have to take just take my word for it, either –

“One thing a contractor can do to greatly improve the performance of his skid steer is to equip his machine with tires specifically for winter applications. The ideal tire for snow removal is generally a narrow tire — approximately 6½ in. to perhaps 8 in. wide — increasing ground pressure.” David Caldwell, Product Manager, Takeuchi

Stop Spinning Your Wheels

Why do snow tires work so well?  

Two reasons:

  • Narrow width – Decreasing the width of a tire increases the ground pressure, which in turn increases traction. Our most popular snow tires are 7 inches wide. When compared to the most common skid steer tire, the 12.00×16.5, that’s just over half of the width.
  • Tread design – While a narrower tire is great, the other half of the battle is the tread pattern. That’s why we’ve specifically designed our WolfPaws® tread for snow.

How much extra traction will I get? 

You’ll see a minimum of twice the traction. And if you upgrade to our studded version, we’re talking quadruple the traction. That’s ideal for high-mountain contractors who work on steep grades, or users who already are using chains on standard skid steer tires.

How long do they last? 

Everyone asks this question, but nobody can truly answer it because of the differences in machine weights, uses, plowing surfaces, operating style, ground speed, etc.

What might amaze you, however, is the fact that many contractors get three to five seasons out of a single set of skid steer snow tires. Why do they last so much longer than a standard skid steer tire in the same application? The answer is simple. You don’t spin your tires! You’d also be amazed at the number of miles standard tires spend spinning while plowing snow. When you’re getting traction, those are miles that don’t add up.

Can I use them in the summer? 

Yes, but you don’t want to. Fact is, winter tires work as poorly in the summer as summer tires do in the winter. For the best year-round results, put your winter tires on when the snow flies, and take them off when the trees begin to bud.

Why can’t I just add chains? 

Putting chains on your standard skid steer tires will certainly increase your traction, and by a lot. However, most people can’t use them because their property managers won’t accept how they tear up asphalt. Even if that’s not a concern for you, here are some other considerations:

  • The ride is unbearable. No skid steers have suspension, so they don’t ride great to start with. Adding chains will make it significantly worse.
  • Because a skid steer “skids” to turn, chains often break within 2-3 snowfalls. The cost per season can quickly add up to much more than a set of snow tires with wheels.

Got Snow? Get Snow Tires.

Snow tires are an important piece the efficiency equation when you’re using a skid steer in the snow. It’s hard to explain the difference, but if you’re skeptical, listen to what these contractors say.  Like these guys, you’ll never go back after you try skid steer snow tires for the first time.

That’s why we put a first-use guarantee on WolfPaws. It’s as straight-forward as you can get – if you’re not fully satisfied after the first time you use them, take them back to your SnowWolf dealer for a full refund.

You’ve got nothing to lose, so why not give them a try? You’ll find out why using snow tires is the single biggest thing you can do to increase your skid steer’s performance in snow and ice.

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