Towing in the Snow - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-02-2006, 11:09 AM   #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, 11:25 AM   #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, 11:47 AM   #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, 12:09 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, 05:04 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, 07:46 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, 08:18 PM   #7
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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, 08:28 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, 11:49 AM   #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, 05:53 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, 09:30 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 25°F 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, 10:34 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, 10:47 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 20°F than one that near 32°F. 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, 12:58 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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Old 10-24-2006, 04:20 PM   #15
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Brian, while I concur with your "driver over-confidence" conjecture, the #1 car in the ditches in reduced traction conditions around this neck of the woods are front-wheel-drive. Rear wheel drive vehicles give at least a little time to recover through steering and fore-aft weight redistribution "feathering" the throttle. Although they do well in snow, when a front wheel drive car loses traction, control is lost, and it's very difficult to regain.

Around here, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive are usually the ones getting where they need to go. Most of the folks who have them recognize what they're limitations are and drive accordingly. The other biggies here (as I said in my earlier post) are the 80,000 lb 18 wheeled behemoths who end up in a snowstorm and then in the ditch. I'm always amazed when I can barely see two car-lengths in front of me at any speed and traction is scarce, to have a trucker whiz by me at 70 mph. I guess it's a miracle that more of them don't crash under those conditions. I really appreciate the responsible drivers who recognize the limitations of their equipment and their skills under those conditions.

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Old 10-24-2006, 05:27 PM   #16
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I dunno Roger,

I still see more 4wds in the ditch up here than anything else.

My best handling snow car: a 1998 Honda Civic, chained, front only. Engine right over the drive wheels.

That is IF the road was plowed somewhat. The thing had no height to it, and it would bog if the snow was over 4 inches. My Element is far better in this aspect, but seems a bit less stable all the way around for other stuff. Might be the wheel base?

I cannot conceptualize a RWD handling better. I have had a couple, and in the snow, they handled like.. er, not well. All my FWDs have felt way more stable.

As a matter of fact, this is not snow, but IS traction related.. I got my new RWD Jeep stuck in a spot on a forest service road I have been over many many times with the Element

My guess is that the back of the Jeep effectively has no weight on it, but I could be wrong..

I only know what my experience and comfort level is..
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Old 10-24-2006, 05:57 PM   #17
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Quote:
I cannot conceptualize a RWD handling better. I have had a couple, and in the snow, they handled like.. er, not well. All my FWDs have felt way more stable.
Generally speaking, and especially in good traction conditions or poor traction conditions at slow speeds, you're right. However, once you lose it with a FWD, unlike RWD, you have little chance of recovering. All of my patrol cars right now are FWD and in service in city driving. However, out in the country on the gravel roads at speed, or on reduced traction surfaces again at speed, they scare me silly. I can also tell you that Ford RWD sedans have, for years, been the worst handling cars in the world for snow and ice traction. I used to get them stuck parked at the curb in my little town in NW Iowa, and that was AFTER the streets had been plowed! The Chevy Caprice had a much better track record for snow handling than the Crown Vics. Our Sheriff's Dept won't buy anything but RWD. With a RWD though, you generally have some kind of notice that you're losing it, and backing off the accelerator will allow enough weight transfer to gain your steering until the traction wheels can lock up again. With FWD, there's not notice when you're getting close to overdoing it, AND when you've lost traction in a FWD, you've lost steering. Game, set, match.

Quote:
I got my new RWD Jeep stuck in a spot on a forest service road I have been over many many times with the Element.
I can't tell you how much I used to cuss when out four-wheeling with my friends in their Land Cruiser FJs and International Scouts when I got my CJ-7 stuck and they had to come and pull me out of places they'd just been through, or I couldn't get through and they'd pass me and then come back and pull me out. I loved my Jeeps, but frankly after the CJ3A, they've not been the most competent 4WDs on the planet. I followed my friends' lead, switched to Toyotas, and haven't been stuck since.

(AND... for all you Monday morning quarterbacks... before you tell me it's me... I have driven all OVER the back country of Lake, Colusa, and Mendocino Counties in CA on forest service roads, logging roads, and no roads, and LED processions where the 4WDs got stuck... in a 2WD Aerostar VAN with street tires! Nobody believed where I could take that van. I regularly got "do you wanna park it and ride in the 4WD before you bury it?" I only got it stuck once in seven years, and that was fording a river... I was too soft on the gas when I shoulda gunned it... <sigh> and then a kindly old rancher brought out HIS '72 Jeep Wagoneer and pulled me out... )


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Old 10-24-2006, 08:31 PM   #18
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I`ve never owned a 4x4 and never really needed one...think that if I did have one I`d just get bogged down deeper and further from help......The best car in snow that I`ve owned was a 76 Honda station wagon with studded snow tires on the front.....snow a foot and a half deep was no problem for this vehicle as long as the front wheels were kept spinning.....if you backed off the throttle and climbed up onto the snow and tried to get out you`d hang the car up and that was that......I used to go out in snow storms to bring neighbours home from the city and they`d be amazed by that little Honda......if it was icy and the car got a bit loose you could just hit the throttle and pull it straight...no problem.......seems that worst cars were the ones that I`d put the widest possible snow tires on....got stuck everywhere I went, LOL ......on ice the best vehicle I had was a 69 Plymouth with studded snow tires front and back....was great for highway driving on ice......if there is a chance that the roads are slippery, I always like to hit the brakes or accelerator just to check conditions while I`m still driving slow, rather then get a surprise later......problem is that with my current truck with the ABS, you can`t tell how slippery it actually is....have to use the accelerator, and I`d rather be able to tap the brakes......these days if there is a blizzard or other inclement weather like that, I just sit in the living room and watch neighbours 4x4`s try to get out of the drifts and ditches.. ...Benny
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Old 10-24-2006, 09:32 PM   #19
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Quote:
in good traction conditions or poor traction conditions at slow speeds, you're right.
And that would sum up my personal experience. I do NOT try to break land speed records in the snow, or ice. I can't recall ever going even mildy fast in those conditions.

The only time I felt loss of control was in my RWD Opel, and I did a slow motion slide into a ditch. Fortunately, the only damage was to my ego.

I don't have to chase bad guys tho!

As far as towing in the snow, I'll do light powder, but only to get somewhere safe. Otherwise, it gets parked and I enjoy the trailer until conditions improve.
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Old 10-24-2006, 10:04 PM   #20
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With any vehicle there's limitations on how they handle in snow and ice. All have the same stopping problem. I drive a 4X4 Chev Blazer. I got the 4X4 because we spend a lot of time driving around in the mountains, sometimes on what appears to be parallel cow paths with ditches across them(not winter driving). There's also one big advantage of 4X4 with M&S tires here in Oregon. Oregon's chain laws say that when they post the signs "Chains Required" I don't have to get out and put chains on. All I need to do is push a button. I still have to drive with caution, that doesn't change. We were going skiing 3 week-ends out 4 when I bought the Blazer.

When we first started skiing I went through chains pretty fast. Oregon mountain roads will often go above where there's snow on the road then back below that point then above. To prevent chaing breakage you would have put on and take off chains every couple miles.

Then came a sting of front wheel drive cars. Winter time and they were outfitted with 4 studded tires. Travel without applying chains was great as long as I slowed down.

The Blazer has been about the best of the bunch with a front wheel drive Doge Aries second. I found that it was too easy to loose front end control with rear wheel drive. But maybe that's comparing apples and oranges, cause I only had traction devices (chains or studded tires) on the rear wheels on rear wheel drive vehicles.
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