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5 Winter Towing Tips for Safe Trailering in Ice and Snow

A snow-covered trailer ready for winter towing.

Winter towing with your truck, SUV or car can mean dealing with road conditions that are less than ideal. Much like any form of winter driving, towing safely during the colder months means properly preparing your vehicle beforehand, adjusting your behavior behind the wheel and keeping a few tips in mind that can save you trouble down the road.

Check out these five winter towing suggestions that will help you get your trailer from point A to point B safe and sound.

1. Choose the Right Tires

Snow and ice can significantly impact your vehicle’s ability to grip the road. Since traction is an important part of winter towing, it’s imperative that you give yourself every advantage in this department. Outfitting your tow rig with winter tires will go a long way toward providing you with the traction you need to accelerate, stop and turn with confidence—even when hauling a heavy load.

2. Install Trailer Brakes

Predictable trailer behavior is key to avoiding nasty surprises on slippery roads. One of the best ways to maintain steady control over your load when winter towing conditions get treacherous is to install a set of trailer brakes. By distributing the braking force between the tow vehicle and the trailer, you’re far less likely to experience trailer fishtailing or sliding. You also take the pressure off of your rig’s tires to handle 100 percent of the stopping duties.

3. Stay Smooth; Stay Alert

Winter road

When facing reduced traction on the road, it’s always prudent to drive as smoothly as possible. This means reducing your inputs on the steering wheel, brakes and accelerator so that you gradually apply power, stopping capability and steering angle.

Towing in the winter challenges you to stay smooth and alert at all times, because changing conditions might not give you the chance to correct a mistake made behind the wheel. Pay extra attention to the road beneath your wheels and the weather up ahead so that you can adjust your driving strategy accordingly.

4. Maintain Momentum

Asking your vehicle to haul extra weight in the wintertime is going to place serious demands on its available traction—even with a good set of winter tires installed. In order to avoid getting stuck on ice or in deeper snow, it pays to maintain your car or truck’s forward momentum, especially if you find yourself dealing with a hill. Try to avoid stopping on an incline or in an area where snow has piled up.

5. Don’t Use Cruise Control

Cruise control is a great, convenient feature that you should never engage while towing in the winter for two important reasons. The first is that, by letting a computer take over your throttle inputs, you become that much less engaged with driving and will be less likely to react quickly and safely in a dangerous situation. Second, the cruise control system isn’t able to detect what the weather is like or how packed the snow is on the road, and it may downshift or accelerate at the wrong time, potentially destabilizing your rig.

Follow these basic tips and you’ll get through the winter season without any towing troubles.

Check out all the towing products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on winter towing, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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