During a snowy afternoon in Detroit, we wondered: "Why plow with a half-ton?" Typically, snow plowing is reserved for larger, heavy-duty pickup trucks. Ford says this setup appeals to the occasional snow plower — a farmer, a homeowner with a long driveway or a small business with a parking lot. Instead of firing up the heavy-duty, these owners can adapt a new Ford F-150 to handle the job.
Ford says it is just beginning to offer the package for half-ton pickups and many dealerships are ordering the option for trucks to be sold off their lots. Currently, Ford has about 1,100 orders for the Snow Plow Prep Package (just $50), which requires some changes to the software program via a dedicated plow switch found on the F-150 instrument panel and an extra hot wire near the driver's knee to power the plow joystick toggle. With that option loaded, customers can then take their truck to a third-party plow manufacturer for additional electrical wiring and under-frame hardware items.
One drawback to this package is that owners of any trim level will lose their seat heater capability. Ford engineers said it's an issue of sacrificing something to handle the additional electrical load for the snowplow. The seat heaters were deemed the least critical choice.
A New Half-Ton Boss Plow
We tested a 2015 XLT SuperCrew 4×4 F-150 using a 7.5-foot-wide lightweight plow from Boss Snowplow; it was specifically designed for this pickup. From the straightforward hand controller to the 30-second hookup and unhook functionality, this plow was incredibly easy to use.
The F-150 plow package is offered on XL, XLT and Lariat models in all cab configurations with four-wheel drive; each has a recommended maximum weight limit of 450 pounds for the snowplow. Our test unit had a stainless-steel HTX plow developed by Boss Snowplow for half-ton and smaller pickups and SUVs. A 7-foot Boss blade typically weighs about 380 pounds, while the 7.5-foot blade weighs about 430 pounds. The plow has a thicker rubber pads at the top and bottom of the blade and includes a hydraulic cylinder lift as well as LED lighting.
Inside the cabin, the driver simply presses a dedicated plow button to transfer electrical power away from "nonessential features"; a controller allows for up and down, and left and right blade movement. The controller has a double-tap feature to engage a special "float" mode allowing the plow to better follow the contours of the road.
With the controller in hand, the driver can push snow off to the side in either direction. Thankfully, there is an automatic release feature on the blade so if it hits large rocks or curbs, the plow falls forward to minimize possible damage. The driver can simply re-engage the blade with the hand controller.
Lastly, attaching and detaching the blade is simple with a metal kickstand, a pair of quick release latches and a hydraulic coupler to lower it. After the blade is removed, there are just a few power wires to remove.
Boss Snowplow hasn't finalized pricing for the HTX blade, but estimates based on similar products in the marketplace will likely put it around $5,000 for the stainless-steel option. The HTX blade will be officially launched at the 2015 National Truck Equipment Association Work Truck Show in March.
Ford has done a pretty good job of figuring out power needs, weight capacities and handling dynamics for this new package, but we needed to see how well a light-duty pickup could handle the stresses of plow duty for ourselves.
Ford offers the snowplow package only with the 5.0-liter V-8 engine. The package is not offered with the EcoBoost because the turbocharger intercooler is located directly behind the blade, and a plow restricts airflow. The 5.0-liter does not have the same cooling limitations and is a lighter engine.
We made several daytime runs over a large parking lot with 1 to 2 feet of compacted snow covering the ground. In nearly every case except one, the V-8 handled the work with ease. On the one occasion it didn't, we hit a snowdrift nearly 3 feet high, and it stopped us with spinning tires. It was no problem though; we simply raised the blade height from inside our warm cabin and took two swipes at it.
We should note that while the 2015 F-150 weighs less than the previous model, it is still a pickup truck, which means there's little weight on the rear axle. For the best plowing results, Ford recommends putting more weight in the bed to act as ballast. In fact, most snowplow manufacturers call for added weight in the rear for all pickup trucks when plowing. Some plow makers will provide weight charts that specify the exact amount of ballast needed based for specific cab configurations and bed lengths.
With the additional 400 pounds or so on the front end of the truck with the plow, we did find we slid more when encountering larger amounts of snow; however, in a foot or so of snow while moving at less than 20 mph, the F-150 handled quite nicely; we could barely tell we were plowing.
Ford and GM are the only truckmakers to offer a plow prep package for half-tons, with the latter costing between $225 to $400, depending on the model. Ford also offers a heavy payload package that will give the truck heavier-duty front and rear springs.
Overall, Ford seems to have done its homework. As more snowplow manufacturers design new products and features, it's likely they'll find that Ford has delivered a pretty good blank canvas. And as a $50 option, it could be one of the most valuable ordering decisions a new-truck buyer can make.
But be warned: This is not meant to be a commercial-use option. It's a personal-use, small-job option, but we like that Ford is offering the added capability. For those doing more aggressive or extended plowing, a stronger and heavier-duty pickup is still the best choice.
Cars.com photos by Tim Esterdahl