Towing in the Snow - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-02-2006, 12:09 PM   #1
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Hi there!

I'm looking for advice about towing my trailer in the snow.
It's a 10 foot long 1972 Minit and we plan to use it for skiing.

The flakes are about to start flying here in Oregon and I'm wondering if anyone has any tips about how to tow safely in the snow. I'm a little nervous about it because my trailer doesn't have brakes.

Should I put chains on the trailer? I'm towing with a 4WD Ford Ranger that will have chains...
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Old 10-02-2006, 12:25 PM   #2
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A lot of people pull trailers with snow mobiles in the snow.

Oregon laws require chains or studded tires on the tow vechicle when towing and chains are required.

If were to have brakes on the trailer, you would also be required to have chains on the trailer when chains are required.
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Old 10-02-2006, 12:47 PM   #3
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Go slowly, and remember that the friction that you count on to keep the tires on the trailer from sliding around behind you and trying to pass you is gone. Also remember that you'll have reduced traction for braking with the tow vehicle, and a 1,000 lb trailer pushing your reduced braking ability. Stops and steep down-hills should be done with great caution.

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Old 10-02-2006, 01:09 PM   #4
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Brian: After attending a Casita ralley last May we were on the way home to the west slope of Colo. We were driving through Puter Canyon and climbing a mountian pass. I was driving the 63 Pontiac Bonnevill Convertable towing our 17 ft Casita. I have all season radials on the car and it was snowing quite hard.

As we got closer to the summit the road got very slick and we found ourselves un-able to go any farther up the mountian. We were on a two lane road and had no traction to move forward.

I had to negotiate a turn around in these conditions and go back down the road a couple of miles and wait till the snow plow came by.

Well it was late morning and we had not had lunch so we just got into the camper, cranked up the generator, microwaved something to eat and wait.

Everything worked out ok but it was quite nerve racking for a little while.

Harv in Colo.
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Old 10-02-2006, 06:04 PM   #5
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Brian,

Don't tow in the snow. Best thing to do is get off the road and wait for better conditions. It just isn't worth the risk!!!
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Old 10-02-2006, 08:46 PM   #6
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Flakes in Portland???

I thought that only happened when I show up.

I'll take a leap here and guess you are going up the 26? Ice would be a bigger concern than snow. Whatever the law is (And I recall looking when I towed there last winter) that any axle with brakes needs chains, as Byron mentioned.

Law or no, I would chain up anyway.

Folks from Minnesota are laffing now. I hear them..

You could try taking your trailer up west Burnside on the first snow. If you don't end up with all the other sliders, you should be fine.
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Old 10-02-2006, 09:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Flakes in Portland???
Ya! I'm afraid there's a few "flakes" in Portland and getting more every day.

Quote:
You could try taking your trailer up west Burnside on the first snow. If you don't end up with all the other sliders, you should be fine.
Sheesh, you trying to get him killed. Stay away from west Burnside all the time.


Actually what I plan on doing is trying to take my ski trips with trailer when chains aren't required. There's very few days in the winter when they actually required. Make sure you carry chains. I'll have to carry them for both the trailer and my 4x4 Blazer.
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Old 10-02-2006, 09:28 PM   #8
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You guys are really helpful But Gina is right...if you can make it up West Burnside in the snow (and traffic) Mt. Hood is a piece of cake.

All I can say, is if chains are required and you don't have them (tug and probably tow) and get stuck...you certainly won't like the fine OSP will hand out.

But, let's face it. Mt Hood depends on skiers and ODOT does everything possible to keep traffic moving. I think the toughest part will be in the ski area's parking lots (and that's no joke), expecially if it snows overnight.

When you pack, put as much weight over the trailer axle as practical...without sacrificing the tongue weight. And remember, you're going to end up with lots of moisture inside...so prepare your bedding for it!

Sounds like fun...and I wish you much success!
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Old 10-03-2006, 12:49 PM   #9
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I have pulled snowmobile trailers in the snow a number of times and never experienced any problems. I would have to agree with Roger that the key is GO SLOW. I recently experienced two Colorado mountain passes in the snow, pulling my Scamp 13 home. Going up does not present much of a problem for stopping, so I just maintained a fairly slow steady pull, keeping the momentum up. I did see a guy who lost control of his trailer coming down that side. When I reached the top and started down the other side, I slowed to 25MPH and maintained a LOT of space between me and the guy in front of me. We all made it down OK, though there were folks going up that side who lost sufficient traction to continue.

It's risk management. There are many factors to consider, like:
Are the tires good?
Trailer weight vs. tow vehicle weight
Confidence and ability of the driver.
Available alternative plans (like time available to park it and wait it out).

As far as trailer brakes, I dont' have them for my little trailer, and I think that they could be a liablilty in snow, unless using chains on the trailer. If not adjusted perfectly, they could lock up and cause the trailer tires to slide. In that case, you are likely to see the trailer through the side window as you are skidding sideways down the road. Bad news.

GO SLOW ENOUGH THAT YOU ONLY NEED LIGHT BRAKING TO COME TO A STOP!
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Old 10-24-2006, 06:53 AM   #10
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I just stole this post from AirstreamForums.com, by Michelle on the subject. I should add that Michelle is a full-timer with substantial towing experience. Her truck is sized adequately for the trailer, and she's equipped properly.

Quote:
[b]A little adventure into a big one

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After finishing working in Boise this summer I decided to take a little time off and tour Idaho. I worked my east and ended up in Wyoming. A little further than I wanted to go but I was so close to Yellowstone I just had to visit. I spent Saturday in the park and Saturday Night in the camp Ground.

I raised up the jacks and left around 9:15 Sunday morning. I made as far as 5 miles west of West Yellowstone, MT. THis is where my truck and trailer ended up in a ditch pointed the wrong way.

Fortunately the trailer broke free from the truck when the truck rolled. The truck twisted out of the trailer, the chains broke and the breakaway switch activated.

I was going well below the speed limit. I was slowing down beacuse the road ahead looked slick. I backed off the gas and the rear of the truck broke free, I counter steered, the truck swung the other way and by the time I countersteered again I was sideways and knew I was just along for the ride. By the time the I was slidding off the road everything was fairly straitened out. The truck rolled and the trailer slid on the Spare tire frame and the rear frame.

There is damage underneath, in the rear and at least on of the drawers has pulled off its slides. It is still livable but will be going the Airstream dealer in Eugene, OR (info good or bad appreciated).

Oh, I am ok. I was briefly trapped because the windows would not come down. I broke the passenger window with my 3 D cell mag light, gathered up my purse, camera and iPod. I crawled out stood up and was shaking like a leaf. Once the adrenilin wore off I realized I may not be ok. My lower back hurt the put me on a back board and transported me to a hospital a hour away. After being examined I was declared ok, a few pulled muscles, a scrape on my hand and small cut on my cheek.

Some would say I had a bad day. I disagree. I walked away from an accident where a simular one killed someone else 5 minutes later. According to all the EMTs I was very lucky. They usually have to extract people from a roll over and call in a life flight. I was taking pictures of the wreck when the EMTs arrived. They looked in the vehicle and shouted where is the driver. The people who stopped to help me pointed to me. The EMTs were amazed.

All in all a good day.
I am hoping they total the truck. However they are leaning towards repairing it.

Michelle (a little sore)
Rebecca (the Ford F-250) undergoing major surgery
and Butter Cup (the trailer) under observation

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Old 10-24-2006, 10:30 AM   #11
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The obvious thing here is she may have been going well below the speed limit, but she was going to fast for the conditions.

Trailers are towed millions of miles every year in the snow. On any given week-end in the winter I can find 20 to 30 trailers parked in snow play areas. Some are hauling snow mobiles, some are travel trailers, some are trailers hauling camping gear, etc.
There's hundreds of automobile accidents every day. Some include trailers, many don't, so what does that mean? We should stop because of accident. NO.

But maybe slowing down would help. Be aware of road conditions. One thing everybody should be aware of, the air temperature does NOT corralate with road temperature. Many vehicles have air temperature indicators that when the air themperature gets to some magic point an ice indicator comes on. It's too late. I have seen as much as 25F difference between air temperature and road temperature, with 10 to 15 common.

How do I know this? I'm part of the engineering team for this product.
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Old 10-24-2006, 11:34 AM   #12
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Byron, you're absolutely right. The one thing that screams in my mind is the line from "The Long, long Trailer"... "TRAILER BRAKES FIRST!!!!"

The purpose of my post was to point out what CAN happen. The "whys" are undoubtedly manifold. The things she could have done to correct the situation before she got into it are arguable. It's easy to Monday morning quarterback the accident but the point is, she was an experienced trailer tower, and it still happened to her.

Towing on snow and ice is risky, no matter how many miles are done in the snow a year, or how experienced the driver is. The bottom line is that folks crash, and someone, and sometimes many someones crash every day somewhere that it snows. Last winter, in January, Interstate 80 through 30 miles of our county was littered with some 80 tractor-trailer rigs and other trucks and miscellaneous vehicles off the road with merely an inch snowfall. That IS, I suppose, the reason your company is developing your device...

Roger
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Old 10-24-2006, 11:47 AM   #13
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The product has been on the market for 10+ years. Several things I've learned in the process about traction.

The worst traction is near freezing. That's when most accidents happen. The road really gets slick when it's just above freezing and snow falls on it. A thin layer of water is under the snow and provides a great friction free surface. As the road gets colder traction increases. It's safer to drive on a road that near 20F than one that near 32F. One of the reasons it's good to have an idea what the road temperature is.

You learn how to handle a car first on dry roads then on slick roads. Driving on slick roads without a trailer takes a different skill set than on dry roads. Driving with trailer on dry roads takes yet another skill set, which is added to the dry road driving skills. Now you add a trailer to slick roads, it's best to know how to drive on slick roads without the trailer before attempting to drive with it.

I'll probably take mine up into the mountains this winter, but will watch the weather pretty closely. Here the chain laws would require my trailer and TV to both have chains. I don't much care for that idea, but it's better than the trailer in the ditch.
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Old 10-24-2006, 01:58 PM   #14
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The F-250 in the ditch just looks like a 4x4 in its natural state to me. In my observations of vehicles which have left the road in winter conditions here, it seems that 4x4 trucks and truck-like SUVs are rolled in the ditch, all-wheel-drive passenger vehicles are upright in the ditch, and two-wheel-drive cars are still driving down the road - at sane speeds. The bigger and knobbier the tires, the further the vehicle is off the road, due to the excessive speed chosen by the overconfident driver.

Seriously, all-wheel-drive can be very beneficial, but it is not a magic solution to traction. As others have said, appropriate tires and driving choices are required, whether or not a trailer is attached.

Some time ago, the idea of chains on trailers was discussed in Snow chains.., How do YOU deal with 'em. In the California rules, the general theme was that if a trailer has brakes, it needs chains. In (over-)simplified terms the logic is that only by having brakes can the trailer wheels be locked, so with brakes you need traction to resist that locking and subsequent loss of control.

This makes sense to me, but I don't see chains as the requirement; instead, appropriate tires are required, just as on the tow vehicle. In both cases, this may mean chains, but it may also mean studs, or non-studded effective winter tires.
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