What To Do When A Snowplow Won’t Lift (Answered)

Snowplows are heavy-duty pieces of equipment renowned for their reliability and toughness. These key attributes are essential for helping snowplows tackle jobs in the most unforgiving conditions. Of course, like most tools, snowplows can only go for so long before they encounter problems.

When a snowplow won’t lift the problem can normally be isolated to one of three areas: motor brushes, hydraulic system, or electrical system. Brushes can be replaced, hydraulic fluid replenished, and the electrical system checked. Other problems should be dealt with by small engine specialists.

One of the main issues you may encounter is a plow that won’t lift, and today we will take a look at the causes behind this and a few other problems. Naturally, we will also present possible solutions to some of these issues. Finally, we will then discuss some of the basic snowplow functionality and positioning. Let’s get started.


Why Is My Snowplow Not Working?

While snowplows are equipped to deal with a multitude of tasks and environments, they are also prone to an equally high number of faults. Just like most heavy equipment and accessories, they are put through a lot of harsh conditions and stress.

Let’s look at the titular problem: a snowplow that won’t lift.

This specific issue has a few potential root causes. However, the motor and hydraulic system are usually the prime suspects. They are the major movable parts and therefore the center for most of a plow owner’s troubles.

The Snowplow Motor Brushes

The plow motor is prone to wear and tear due to use. The brushes are particularly susceptible to this problem and, when this happens, electrical conduction between the motor’s stator and armature wiring is disrupted.

A disruption in this current will lead to the armature failing to spin and, ultimately, the motor not working correctly when you need it to lift the plow blade.


One of the main reasons behind motor brushes getting worn out is a loss of lubrication. Depending on the manufacturer, some motors may be permanently lubricated from the factory. These motors usually need to be taken into a licensed repair center once they start developing problems.

Other plow motors may have designated lubrication fill-up plugs that enable you to periodically top up your motor oil. Your snowplow’s instruction manual will often have recommended service guidelines concerning oil change frequency.

However, in case it doesn’t, we recommend an oil change every six months at least and you should definitely change your lubrication before every plowing season.

Checking Brushes

If you suspect that your motor is on the fritz, there is a relatively simple test you can carry out using a screwdriver and a continuity tester.

Start by using the screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the motor cap in place. You might have to jimmy the cap out of position if it hasn’t been opened in a long time. Next, undo the screws securing the brushes to the stator. The accompanying springs must be removed and inspected as well.

The next step is to inspect the brushes for wear. Functional brushes should be curved to match the stator that houses them. If your brushes are flattened, it means they are worn and need replacement. If not, you should just clean off any dirt from the brushes and springs.

Testing Electrical Conduction

You should also test for continuity to check if electricity is being conducted properly between the stator and rotor. To do this, you start by unfastening the motor lead wires from the main circuit. Label the wires so you can put them back in the correct manner.

Next, connect one lead wire to the continuity tester clip and the other to the tester probe. As a default, the tester indicator should light up to indicate that there is continuity. You should also test while you manually rotate the motor shaft. In some cases, the vibrations of the motor during operation may disrupt conductivity and cause problems.

If the tester stays lit while the shaft is rotating, the motor is fine (or at least the brushes are). If the light switches off or flickers, the brushes must be replaced.

Motor Replacements

Replacement of motors can be done at home or by professionals. Always check the motor model information before purchasing any spare parts. Motor brushes, in particular, tend to be highly specified and are seldom interchangeable across engine models, even from the same manufacturer. We highly recommend installing new springs alongside your new brushes to avoid other problems.

Unfortunately, brush replacement is just about the only DIY repair you can make on most snowplow motors. If the motor is having issues beyond this, you should take it to a small engine specialist for proper assessment. In the end, you might have to buy a new motor altogether.

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The Snowplow Hydraulic System

It goes without saying that a snowplow’s hydraulic system is key to angling and lifting the blade as you move heaps upon heaps of snow.

Unfortunately, like the motor, your plow’s hydraulics may occasionally let you down. When the system fails, the plow fails. 

The main problem concerning the hydraulic system is the loss or degradation of hydraulic fluid. This fluid is responsible for the smooth movement of the plow blade. Like with motor oil, it must be checked and replaced regularly (before each plow season unless the manufacturer advises otherwise).

I recommend this popular snowplow hydraulic fluid found on Amazon. It comes in a one gallon jug that makes it last for several seasons.

Changing Hydraulic Fluid

Changing hydraulic fluid is pretty simple. 

The first thing you need to do is use the correct hydraulic fluid. Manufacturers usually have specific recommendations for the best performance.

The second step is to drain all the fluid from the pump drain plug. The inlet plug must also be opened to relieve pressure within the system. The plow blade must also be manually angled in all directions to squeeze out the last bits of the old fluid.

Next, you must pour new hydraulic fluid (with the drain plug closed, of course), while angling the blade in each direction. You can then start up the plow motor and see if it operates as normal.

Testing Pump Pressure

We also recommend that you get the plow’s pump pressure tested. This can be done at home if you happen to have access to a hydro-tester. However, if you do not, you should visit a licensed dealer plow repair service to get it done.

Snowplow Electrical Systems

Electricity plays a central role in the operation of a snowplow both in lift and operation, so any problems in the wiring can easily spell doom for any pending tasks. 

Electrical problems can affect the controller, which results in certain input commands (such as lift) not being relayed to the pump and, ultimately, the blade.

The motor is also affected by certain electrical issues. Aside from the brush conductivity problem we discussed earlier, motors may also have relays that are not grounded, which affects functionality in several ways. 

Other electrical points of interest are the battery contacts as well as the harness fuse.

What Is The Float Position On A Plow?

People new to the world of snowplowing will no doubt be baffled at the repeated mention of “float” or the “float position”. 

However, the idea is quite simple.

You see, float is a positional function that “relaxes” the plow blade as it scrapes along the ground during plowing. This allows the plow to move up and down along the contours of the road without straining the mounting…or your truck.

Most modern snowplows have this feature, which is usually activated via the operator controller. If there are issues with your plow, they may become evident in an improper float on your blade.

The Final Touches On Snowplow Lifting Problems…

Lifting problems with most snowplow kits that can be dealt with by plow owners will normally fall into three main areas:

  • Motor brushes
  • Hydraulic system
  • Electrical system

There are some issues that can be solved using DIY efforts, but some problems should be left to small engine specialists. Once you check all of the above issues and the lifting difficulties still remain, seek out a qualified service technician.

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Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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