Stay safe while towing a trailer this winter with a little extra planning, preparation and common sense. As the weather gets colder and the snow starts to fall, it’s more important than ever to keep you, and everyone else on the road safe this winter. No matter what you’re towing, these tips will help you and your trailer arrive at your destination safely.
Be Sure your Tow Vehicle is Properly Equipped to Handle Snow
Before hooking up a trailer, make sure your vehicle is ready for the winter roads. Have a mechanic winterize your vehicle, paying special attention to your brakes and tires. Depending on how often you will be driving through snow and ice, you may want to swap your tires for a set of dedicated snow tires, which will provide added traction and control. Having a set of tire chains on hand is a good idea as well, in case you encounter a snow storm or your route takes you through an area where chains are required. If you are going through a tire chain control area, carry a set of chains for the trailer too; some states, like Oregon and California, require a set of tire chains to be installed on trailers equipped with brakes. If your tow vehicle is equipped with a trailer brake controller, it is generally recommended that it be adjusted to provide less braking power. This will help prevent the trailer tires from locking up and going into a slide; however, stopping distances will be increased.
Properly Load your Trailer
Even when towing a trailer in good weather, it’s important to balance the load in your trailer so more weight is distributed at the front than at the back; typically you want 60% of the weight toward the front of the trailer. Having a balanced load will prevent the trailer from swaying back and forth, a condition known as “the tail wagging the dog.” In addition to properly loading your trailer, investing in a weight distributing trailer hitch with an integrated anti-sway system will eliminate virtually all trailer sway. Be sure to secure your load with tie-down straps to keep cargo from shifting during transportation.
Know how to Safely Control your Trailer while Driving
A jackknifed trailer is dangerous in even the best driving conditions. Add snow and ice, and you’re in an incredibly hazardous situation. It’s critical to know how to not only prevent your trailer from jackknifing, but also how to regain control of your trailer to prevent accidents. Many such accidents can be prevented by remembering to brake in a straight line before you reach a turn, and accelerate in a straight line after the turn. If your trailer does jackknife, accelerate to get the trailer back in line, then brake to regain control. This takes practice, and can be difficult to master. Some companies offer snow driving school, which helps you learn what to do and how to react in the case of an emergency, while offering other helpful snow trailering tips to avoid such an event in the first place.
Slow Down and Plan Ahead
Leave plenty of room between you and the other cars on the road, allowing plenty of time for you to brake suddenly if necessary. Keep in mind you may have to stop more frequently, so plan extra time into your trip. If the roadways are too icy and hazardous to drive on, it might be better to wait until the roads have cleared. Always pack an emergency supplies kit, in case you end up stuck for an extended amount of time.
Use your best judgement when determining if it’s feasible to tow a trailer, in some cases it might be best to wait until the roads have cleared up a bit. Buckle up and drive safe this winter!
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