Is Plowing Bad For An ATV?

The term ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicle, and while this vehicle has become well known for recreational off-roading, many people forget that these vehicles were first developed as utility vehicles for hard to reach locations and extreme conditions. The advent of the sport off-road ATV has taken the ATV market down two different paths; one for fun and one for work!

ATV’s are vehicles that have been designed for rugged terrain and rugged work. Using your ATV for plowing will therefore not damage your ATV as long as your ATV is designed for the function, the correct plow attachment is used, and it is not used for heavy-duty plowing.

The two paths that ATV development has taken have resulted in different ATVs being designed and built for different purposes. The sport ATVs have very different components, designs, and features compared to the ATV purpose-built as utility vehicles for homesteading or farm use.

What Pedigree Is Your ATV?

Recreational off-roading, trail riding, or racing ATVs have become popular as these types of activities have gained popularity in the off-roading community. These vehicles have taken on specific design features that make them more capable, faster, and more maneuverable and more suitable for their purpose. These vehicles are often referred to as sport ATVs and are definitely in a different class to utility ATVs.

ATVs designed for this purpose have also evolved in their development of different chassis design, suspension systems, transmissions, engines, maneuverability, and speed that are more suitable for their use.

While these enhancements in design have improved their performance in the recreational off-road sector, these same enhancements often make this type of ATV unsuitable as a utility vehicle.

The bottom line is that sport ATVs are not built for hard labor and are generally not suitable for attaching plows and being used to push loads of snow or sand, which would require a machine with more low-end torque. These machines also do not have the standard fittings on their frame to cater for the connection of these tools.

Utility ATVs, on the other hand, are built for brute strength, durability, their 4×4 capabilities, and general usefulness as a workhorse vehicle, usually in a rural setting. Homesteaders and farmers love these vehicles due to their rugged, go-anywhere, never-say-die characteristics!

These utility style ATVs have robust suspensions and more low-end torque than the sports versions that are built for speed. Their chassis are also built for rough farm type work, including the towing of trailers, hauling logs, and other farm equipment.

The nature of the utility-style ATVs makes them the ideal machine for plowing. They can handle the additional weight of these implements, and they have the necessary torque in the lower gears to not only push the plow but push the snow or other material effectively.

Another pre-requisite for an ATV to be used with a plow is that it has 4×4 capabilities. Pushing material around ahead of a plow requires the traction that this type of transmission allows!

How Effective Is An ATV Plow?

As is the case with most tools, if they are used within the boundaries for what they have been designed, they work well and give you good service. The same is true for your ATV and how you use it. An ATV is not designed as a heavy-duty plowing machine, and other machines are designed for this purpose that do a better job in those conditions.

However, using an ATV as a plow for lighter conditions is working the tool within its parameters and should not put undue strain on the plow or chassis and transmission of the ATV.

What conditions are then suitable for using your ATV to plow, and what conditions are not suitable for an ATV? Let’s start where the ATV shines and then move on to areas where another machine would be more suitable.

The following conditions are suitable for the use of an ATV plow.

  • ATVs work great as a snowplow for short distances and small areas such as driveways and small parking areas.
  • Light, powdery snow is an easy task for an ATV with a plow, and it will make the handling of this task a breeze.
  • Compact snow that I wet and heavy can be moved with an ATV, but only up to a point. Once it gets too wet or too compact, it may be beyond the capabilities of an ATV plow.

The speed and maneuverability of the ATV plow in these conditions make it a very useful tool that works efficiently and quickly. Their maneuverability makes them great to clear areas that have a lot of obstacles, or where the space is too restrictive for a bigger machine.

The following conditions are situations where you should rather look for a different, more appropriate machine for the job.

  • In locations where snow piling is required throughout the winter, an ATV will not be suitable for the job. Other machinery, such as a snowblower, is better for this function.
  • Large areas and wide roads. Don’t expect to use an ATV to clear snow over large areas. Their capacity is not suitable for this, and a heavier, larger machine with a wider blade would be more suitable in this case.
  • Very compact or very wet snow will be beyond what the ATV plow is designed to handle. Trying to move this kind of snow could cause damage to the plow or ATV.
  • Deep snow is beyond the capabilities of an ATV plow. The plow blades that are designed for use with an ATV are usually too small to handle the deep drifts.

How To Choose A Plow For Your ATV

If you want to use your ATV with a plow and are looking to get a blade for it, then there are some factors that you need to bear in mind and consider the limitations of your ATV.

When it comes to selecting a plow, you need to choose one that is appropriate for your ATV. The maximum size of the blade you should consider connecting to your ATV is dependent on the capacity of your ATV.

If your ATV has an engine capacity of 450cc or less, you should not go bigger than a 50-inch blade. ATVs that have engines that are bigger than 450cc can handle blades up to 60 inches. Anything larger than this is probably not a good idea to use on a machine the size of an ATV. If you have requirements for a bigger blade, rather look for a bigger machine to drive it.


There is much controversy on various forums as to the wear and tear that using your ATV as a plow may inflict on your machine.

Some camps believe that an ATV that has been used in this way has been subjected to excessive stresses, and should never be purchased secondhand.

On the other hand, others believe that if the ATV has been used in this role within reason, it does not damage the integrity of the machine.

Buying any ATV, or indeed any other vehicle secondhand comes with potential unseen risks. Still, if the machine has been used within its operating parameters, there should be no cause for concern regarding its soundness.

There is also a leasing curve associated with using an ATV with a plow, and it may take a bit of time for you to master driving your ATV with the plow attached and efficiently move the snow.

Utility ATVs are designed for this kind of rough work, and you will find they accomplish the task with exceptional ability, and a task that is usually a chore becomes a bit more fun!

Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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