Driving a vehicle in wintery weather requires vigilance especially if you are towing a trailer. Nevertheless, a few simple tips can help you to arrive safely when conditions fall short of ideal.
Before you go anywhere, get on top of basic maintenance – obviously this isn’t specific to driving with a trailer but if it’s been out of use for a while, the last place you want to find out that your trailer needs maintenance is actually on a journey in bad weather.
According to UK legal requirements, depending on the Gross Vehicle Weight, you may be required to have fitted trailer brakes. These help to spread the braking force between the trailer and the vehicle towing it to provide more control in challenging conditions. As fitted trailer brakes connect the trailer to the towing vehicle through a mechanical linkage system, this must be checked to ensure everything is working properly. For an unbraked trailer, the braking is all done by the towing vehicle.
When towing a trailer in snow, be very aware of your speed. Stopping times and distances in snow are likely to increase and going too fast increases the chance of the trailer swaying which can be difficult to correct at best.
Something else to remember about speed when towing in snow is not to use cruise control. Cruise control has no way to account for the weather conditions. What may be perfectly safe on a journey during clement weather adds unnecessary risk on a snowy journey as the system could accelerate or decelerate at the wrong time – for example on ice. Besides this, if you use the cruise control, you may not be quite as vigilant as you would be with more direct driving engagement.
If you’ll be driving regularly in snow, consider fitting winter tyres to both the trailer and possibly the towing vehicle to improve traction, control, and driver confidence. It might feel like significant expense, but they can always be swapped and stored as it’s likely they’ll only be required for a relatively short length of time during the year.
Although this isn’t a specifically weather-dependent tip, in any conditions towing a load requires the weight to be distributed properly. For heavy loads, a weight distribution hitch can help with steering, braking and turning – and the dreaded trailer sway. Basically, it’s designed to distribute the weight of a trailer across all four wheels of the tow vehicle, levelling the trailer and vehicle and preventing the trailer tongue from nosing down and the front axle of the towing vehicle from lifting up.
Following these tips should help you have a safe and stable journey when you’re towing in snowy conditions. Nevertheless, good advice always is to take it easy and factor in more time for your journey.