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Old 11-01-2015, 04:06 PM   #1
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Towing in the snow with AWD?

We are heading for Yosemite in a week, just as the first snow of the year is blowing in. They said to be prepared for chain advisories on some roads. We tow the Caravel with an AWD Ford Flex, with an equalizer hitch and friction sway control. What should we know about towing in snow?
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Old 11-01-2015, 05:33 PM   #2
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Personal opinion - if you don't already know how to drive in the snow and ice, towing a trailer is not a good idea.
But maybe I'm an opinionated retired Colorado native that has seen too many vehicles off the road by accident.
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Old 11-01-2015, 05:38 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
We are heading for Yosemite in a week, just as the first snow of the year is blowing in. They said to be prepared for chain advisories on some roads. We tow the Caravel with an AWD Ford Flex, with an equalizer hitch and friction sway control. What should we know about towing in snow?
In a word: don't.

Adjust your plans to a no-snow area and be safe.
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Old 11-01-2015, 05:40 PM   #4
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Read the manual on the tow bar some do not recommend using anti sway in rain I would guess the same goes for snow.
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:25 PM   #5
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We tow the Caravel with an AWD Ford Flex, with an equalizer hitch and friction sway control. What should we know about towing in snow?
All wheel drive will do you little good if you have no traction because your tires are not suitable for the temperature or road conditions. If you want to make the trip, get snow (winter) tires on a spare set of rims for your Flex or get chains for all four wheels and learn how to use them. So-called "all season" tires are NOT adequate when there is actual snow accumulation on the roads.

In Alberta it's still legal to use studded tires and if I was trailering in the winter that's what I would do; in some provinces in Canada it's now mandatory to have winter tires on your car in the winter. Some might balk at the $800-$1200 that it costs, but any accident you have due to inadequate tire performance is going to be far more expensive than that.
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:35 PM   #6
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One second you're driving... and the next your truck & your Airstream have parted company and both are totalled - It'll take six months to completely finish the insurance paperwork and pay the last of the bills that you thought you health insurance should have covered.

That happened to me on a clear summer day.

Wouldn't wish an accident on anyone, but towing in snow is an invitation to lose traction and even if only one wheel starts to slide, the whole combination can go flying any which way in a fraction of a second. If it starts to snow, get to a safe place at 20 mph with flashers going, then wait for the weather to clear before proceeding.

Seriously avoid the snow! A few square feet of black ice lurking in a shady spot and you're slip sliding away.

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Old 11-01-2015, 06:38 PM   #7
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By asking the question, you have already given the answer in my opinion:

Don't

If you are not experienced driving your rig in the snow, heading into Yosemite at this time of year seems like a bit crazy IMO.
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:47 PM   #8
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I'm spent my life before retirement in BUFFALO, NY snow capital of the US. AWD is glorified traction control, period, four wheel drive locks the wheels, period. Towing in snow or ice knowing before hand that's what you're going into is a new kind of stupid!
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
We are heading for Yosemite in a week, just as the first snow of the year is blowing in. They said to be prepared for chain advisories on some roads. We tow the Caravel with an AWD Ford Flex, with an equalizer hitch and friction sway control. What should we know about towing in snow?
If there's snow on the ground, stay put or find a different route!
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:56 PM   #10
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Don't do it , the ditches are full of inexperienced drivers without a trailer, you might some money,stay home..
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Old 11-01-2015, 07:29 PM   #11
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AWD or 4-wheel drive does not stop any faster than 2-WD. As they say up here, 4WD just gets you stuck 50 feet further without the proper tires.

I would not pull my trailer on snow and ice.
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Old 11-01-2015, 07:47 PM   #12
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I have mucho experience driving in snow. I would never knowingly tow an Airstream into the likely conditions you have described for all the reasons described above. And I have a true 4x4 with M&S tires. There you have it. Hope this helps.
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Old 11-01-2015, 07:57 PM   #13
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My only question is whether you have chains for all 4 wheels of the tow vehicle plus chains for one axle of the trailer? It is not only your tow vehicle but also one of the trailer that needs to be considered.

Take all of our advice as just that - advice, then make your decision and go from there.

You didn't ask me but having towed in some nasty situations I would ask you: WHY?

Feel no obligation to reply here. Just be safe.

Also, check chain requirements in the lands of where you want to drive. They can require chains on the tow vehicle as well as the towed vehicle.

Be safe and be aware.

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Old 11-01-2015, 08:02 PM   #14
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I would never tow our AS in the snow. That said, I wouldn't cancel your trip either. There are plenty of RV parks in the Sierra foothills within a short drive to Yosemite. Stay below 2,000 ft. and take day trips to the park. If you get a really freak storm you can always stay in the foothills and go wine tasting at the numerous wineries.
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Old 11-01-2015, 08:58 PM   #15
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Generally I don't drive anywhere that requires being chained up, but my feeling on this is that it will probably have snowed and the roads will be cleared by the time we get there. I am just wondering what extra considerations there will be for having a trailer.

Though I don't think it's super helpful to say 'don't do it if you don't already know how' because everybody has to do it for the first time sometime. Though obviously I will use my judgement for conditions at the time, and if we have to lose out on the site we reserved and paid for already, we will.
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Old 11-01-2015, 09:02 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bganso View Post
I would never tow our AS in the snow. That said, I wouldn't cancel your trip either. There are plenty of RV parks in the Sierra foothills within a short drive to Yosemite. Stay below 2,000 ft. and take day trips to the park. If you get a really freak storm you can always stay in the foothills and go wine tasting at the numerous wineries.

^
X2


Have traveled many white knuckle 4wd Winter miles from WNY to the Adirondacks.....WITHOUT the AS, not fun at all.


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Old 11-01-2015, 09:12 PM   #17
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Hi Stefrobrts, fellow Northwesterner😄. We're heading to Death Valley via 395 on the east side of the Sierra, also looking at snow forecasts. We'll defer to Mother Nature and either sit tight or take an alt route if need be.

Definitely recommend checking with Caltrans for road condition updates. DOT.ca.gov.

Safe and happy travels!

Cheers,

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Old 11-01-2015, 09:50 PM   #18
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Towing in the snow with AWD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
Generally I don't drive anywhere that requires being chained up, but my feeling on this is that it will probably have snowed and the roads will be cleared by the time we get there. I am just wondering what extra considerations there will be for having a trailer.

Though I don't think it's super helpful to say 'don't do it if you don't already know how' because everybody has to do it for the first time sometime. Though obviously I will use my judgement for conditions at the time, and if we have to lose out on the site we reserved and paid for already, we will.

Check CA DOT, but usually "chain laws in effect" means if you have 2wd you need to put the chains on, 4wd and AWD are ok.
My favorite tires for snow are Blizzaks, but that was on AWD cars.
Horror story ...
I grew up in Colorado and drove my new 69 GTX 2wd to my weekend volunteer ski patrol job no matter how bad the weather or roads, never used chains and never had a problem. I also never saw many vehicles off the road in the snow.
Fast forward to present day and the advent of AWD.
One Christmas we drove from the LA area back to Colorado. Due to a late start we got to St George around sunset and it was starting to snow. My traveling companion wanted to stay in a hotel so we did.
The next morning there was 2 feet of snow on the ground and still snowing. I had one of those Subarus with real 4wd that you could adjust the ride height on, so we put it up in the air, locked in the 4wd and headed for home at a max safe speed of 35 mph.
We probably counted 30 SUV AWD things of one make or another upside down, in the median, stuck on top of the guard rail, off in the trees, buried in snow etc, before we got to Colorado.
So that is why I said, if you don't already know how to drive in the snow, this is not the best time to learn, especially with a trailer.
It's not that it can't be done, but again, why?
(no need to answer)
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Old 11-01-2015, 10:25 PM   #19
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Live in Denver and head to AZ twice a year. Christmas/New Years and Spring Break ( mid April). In 20 years I have never missed a trip. While I have not kept track of the last 40 or so round trips snow has been heavy at times and really bad on a few occasions. I only tow with 4D or AWD with newer Michelins TV and Trailer. I go slow and careful. Usually pick out a newer big rig from one of the larger companies (most experienced drivers) and trail as far back as I can while still seeing tail lights and how the trailer is tracking. It is not a pleasant drive and as others have suggested, if you can, plan otherwise.


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Old 11-01-2015, 11:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
Generally I don't drive anywhere that requires being chained up, but my feeling on this is that it will probably have snowed and the roads will be cleared by the time we get there. I am just wondering what extra considerations there will be for having a trailer.

Though I don't think it's super helpful to say 'don't do it if you don't already know how' because everybody has to do it for the first time sometime. Though obviously I will use my judgement for conditions at the time, and if we have to lose out on the site we reserved and paid for already, we will.
If your site is reserved in Yosemite NP you can probably cancel the reservation a day or two in advance, and get a refund for all but your reservation fee. Thinking that the roads will be cleared might be true but it might not be. For one thing, in a lot of mountain areas the snow plows don't run at night. The state DOT and a weather service app should be of some help.

I've lived in snow country all my life and have yet to pull a trailer in the snow. We hope there will never be a "first time" and we plan our shoulder-season routes specifically to avoid high elevations and known weather systems. However, we have pretty beefy studded snow tires, so we could probably manage it better than most. The thing about chains is that by the time you think you need them, you can already be in squirrelly driving conditions.

If we were to encounter snow with the AS, we would probably pull off the road in the nearest town and hang out till the weather improved.

Stay safe, eh?
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