Snowmobile Safety Tips

It’s that time of year when the temperatures drop and fun winter activities such as snowmobiling become the norm here in Minnesota. However, it’s always a good idea to review some safety tips before hitting the fluffy white stuff every year.

Snowmobile Safety Course

Not only is taking a snowmobile safety course a good idea before hitting the snowy trails but in a majority of the states you are required to get a safety certificate.

Taking this course will teach you how to ride and operate your snowmobile safely, be responsible, and teach you all the rules you need to know to be compliant to your state’s requirements.

Always Check The Weather

Winter weather has a way of changing on a dime. It’s always best to check the weather forecast before heading out and making sure you are prepared for whatever it has in store for you.

Checking the weather allows you to dress appropriately as well as perhaps change your plans to another day if necessary. No one wants to be caught off guard by blizzard conditions while in the middle of nowhere.

Dress Appropriately

As mentioned in the previous tip, knowing what to expect from the weather allows you to choose the appropriate clothing for the day. Heading out for a day of fun in lightweight gear might be perfect at the beginning of a ride. However weather conditions can change at any time and being caught away from home in less than perfect winter gear when temperatures drop can be uncomfortable at the least and down right life threatening at worse.

It is always best to dress in layers under a snowmobile suit so that you can adjust what you’re wearing according to the weather conditions. Wear clothing made of polyester blends so they wick moisture away from your body. Cottons can get wet and freeze once temperatures drop.

Always wear a full-face helmet or at least goggles or a face shield, bring waterproof gloves, a winter hat, facemask, and winter boots. It’s vital that you wear a DOT-approved helmet as well to protect from injury too.

Check Your Snowmobile

Before even heading out it is always prudent to make sure your snowmobile is in good condition and running well. Keeping the snowmobile up to date on its service maintenance schedule ensures that it is running well.

Check all the fluid levels and as well as the fuel level, battery, brakes, lights, and every other mechanical part before heading out. It’s best to find out about any issues while still safe at home then when out in the open somewhere.

Bring Friends

Playing in the snow is always more fun with friends. It’s also safer. Having someone with you on your ride ensures that you have someone to help you if you break down or have an accident especially because many remote areas do not get great cellphone coverage.

It’s also a good idea to let the people at home know where you’re going to be riding as well as when they can expect you to be back. This way if you don’t return when expected they know where to start looking for you.

Be Prepared

No matter how perfectly you followed the above advice, things do happen and it’s best to be prepared for them.

Always bring an emergency kit in case you get stuck with things like waterproof matches, flashlight, blanket, compass, map, water, and snacks.

Also, remember to have a repair kit with things like duct tape, tools, spare belt, rope, spark plugs, and anything else you might feel is necessary should you have to do repairs out in the open.

And last but not least, have a first-aid kit with you in the event that there is an accident and you have to fend for yourself while waiting for rescue.

All of these things help to keep you more comfortable and possibly save your life should something unexpected occur.

Be safe

It can be tempting to go off the trail to explore where no man has gone before but there’s probably a reason why they haven’t gone there. There could be unseen dangers such as barbed wire fences, drop offs, or it may lead to someone’s private property.

Also, when it’s extremely cold it can seem like a great idea to drive across rivers or lakes. However, there is no way you can really know how thick that ice is and the weight of you and your snowmobile can crack even the thickest of ice. So it’s best you avoid taking chances like that.

Another thing to adhere to is the speed limit. Many  trails have posted speed limits for a reason. Abide by them. Even if the trail you’re on doesn’t specify a set speed limit, it’s best to drive at a moderate pace. In the snow there’s no way to tell what is underneath and be prepared for everything. Make sure your ride is a fun one by being safe and responsible at all times.

Other safety advice consists of not overloading your snowmobile, not pulling anything behind the snowmobile and, of course, not drinking and driving. Save the drinking for afterwards when you’re safe and sound at home by the fire recounting your fun adventures from the day.

For more information on snowmobile safety, rules and regulations, or taking a snowmobile safety training course see Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources website by clicking here.

How To Tow A Trailer Safely

No matter if it’s a first vacation with a new travel trailer, another day hauling waste from a job site, or taking the family and its toys out for some fun, following basic trailer towing safety tips is essential to arriving at your destination safely. In order to be fully equipped for safety: check your trailer from hitch to brake lights, inspect your towing vehicle, and alter your driving habits once you hit the road.

Hitch and Weight

Safe towing is a weighty issue – the weight of your trailer, its load, and the capacity of your towing vehicle.

It is always important to make sure the weight of your trailer – fully loaded — does not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle. Towing a trailer of any sort that is too heavy is a serious safety risk – making it very difficult to stop quickly and safely avoid road hazard.  Towing a load that is too heavy can cause your engine to overheat and puts your tires at risk of a blowout.  Check the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) — the combined weight of your own vehicle with the fully-loaded weight of the trailer – before hitching up.  The GVWR of your tow vehicle is listed in the owner’s manual.  The GTW is the weight of the trailer and its maximum load and that number can be found on the specifications for your trailer.

Once the safe towing weight is established, make sure the hitch is up to the task. Hitches are rated for the weight they can tow and the tongue weight they can bear.  The tongue weight is the amount of weight that bears down on the trailer hitch. Too much weight on the tongue can cause unsafe towing conditions and affect vehicle’s steering.

Make sure the hitch is in good repair and includes safety chains, crossed under the hitch with enough slack to turn, but not so much that the chains drag on the ground.

Check all electrical connections in the wiring system to be sure they are clean and in working well. Before heading out, it’s also important to check to make sure that the trailer’s brake lights and signals are in good working order.

Getting Ready

It is also very important to always make sure that your towing vehicle is up to the task as well. Check the tire pressure and fluids as towing will be hard on your vehicle so regular maintenance upkeep is critical.  A large trailer may require larger rear-view mirrors or extensions that will allow you to see to the rear of the trailer.

As you load your trailer, take care that the weight is distributed evenly front-to-back and side-to-side.  An uneven load can cause sway and make it harder to control the towing vehicle.  Secure all loose items in the trailer to prevent shifting during the ride.

Before heading off, it’s a good idea to walk around the tow vehicle and trailer to make sure all is well.  When hitched properly, with proper weight distribution, the vehicle and trailer should remain level.

Safety on the Road

An suv with a matching silver trailer heads down the road.

When you finally do hit the road make sure to put safety ahead of speed when towing a trailer.  Maintaining a moderate, steady pace means less wear and tear on the tow vehicle, less chance of sway, and more time for you to react to road hazards should they arise.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Board offers a list of common sense tips for safe trailer towing:

  • Avoid sudden stops that can cause the trailer to sway or jack-knife.
  • Avoid sudden turns and swerves that can cause the trailer to sway and the load to shift.
  • Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
  • Make wide turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer’s wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
  • Control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, by releasing the accelerator pedal to slow down and keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • Allow more distance for braking.
  • When passing a slower vehicle, signal far in advance and be sure to leave plenty of room for the vehicle and trailer when re-entering the lane.
  • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills. On long downgrades, apply brakes at repeated intervals to keep speed in check.
  • Don’t “ride” the brakes as that may cause them overheat.
  • Anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.

Backing up and Parking

For those new to towing, backing up and parking may be the most harrowing aspect of towing a trailer.  Learning to back up and park a trailer requires practice, patience, and sometimes a partner.

The NHTSB offers simple instructions for an often-frustrating task, “Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you whenever possible.”

Once the trailer is situated, use chocks, or blocks, on either side of the tires to prevent rolling before uncoupling from the hitch.

How To Choose The Right Dump Trailer

Make the load lighter and work quicker with the right dump trailer for your job site, do-it-your-self project, farm, or business.

Dump trailers come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and functionality and choosing the right one can be a long-lasting, time and labor saving investment. Deciding if a dump trailer is for you or which dump trailer fits your needs means assessing your work needs, knowing your towing capacity, and having a budget.

Dump trailers can be towed by a truck or other vehicle, filled with debris, tools, planting or building materials then lifted at an angle to spill the materials out without manual unloading. Most dump trailers are powered by a hydraulic pump that can be operated with a remote in newer models, a switch or button on the trailer itself.  Unlike larger, more expensive dump trucks, dump trailers can be unhitched and left at a job site, however remote. An investment in the right dump trailer can save hours of costly labor.

Size, capacity, height and configuration are all points to ponder when selecting a dump trailer.

Dump Trailer Configuration

Look for dump trailers to be built as a bumper pull or gooseneck hitch with the bed above a deck or with the bed inside the wheels, to ride low, or above the wheels, for greater ground clearance.

For greater ground clearance, traveling over uneven surfaces, and loads that are small to moderate in weight, consider a dump trailer built on straight axles with a bed that sits above and are in line with the tires.

If hauling equipment, carts or mowers is on the duty list for your new dump trailer, consider a low rider or drop axle configuration, which allows the trailer to sit between the wheels for a lower ground.  A drop axle is a good choice for hauling wheeled equipment and towing on even surfaces.

For serious hauling with hefty loads, consider a deck over dump trailer, a trailer configured atop a stout trailer platform with the trailer tilting up, sometimes with a scissor lift, from the middle of the platform.

Capacity

Payload capacity is a weighty matter in dump trailer selection. Look at the Gross Vehicle Weight of any dump trailer you consider. The Gross Vehicle Weight is a combination of the trailer’s weight and the maximum weight the trailer can carry.

Consider what your dump trailer needs to haul and the capacity of your towing vehicle, which will have its towing capacity listing in the owner’s manual.

The smallest of dump trailers, those rated for less than 1,800 pounds, may be light enough to be towed behind a rugged four-wheeler for chores like clean up and grounds maintenance.

Do-it-yourselfers, small businesses, and grounds keepers may find a light-duty dump trailer a suitable choice. Light duty dump trailers are stout enough to tote equipment to a job site and will generally have a GVW of around 3,000 pounds.  While not mandatory, light duty dump trailers may be equipped with an electric braking system.

Heavy duty dump trailers may have a GVW of up to 20,000 pounds and will usually be equipped with electric brakes and dual axles. Heavy duty dump trailers can be up to 20 feet long and are a valuable tool for construction projects, industrial work, and farming.

A dump trailer is a versatile addition to the work arsenal – replacing dumpsters in hard to reach project areas, saving hours of manual labor unloading dirt, gravel, mulch, and other loose material, able to carry and unload equipment, all while withstanding the elements.

Find the right dump trailer at M&G Trailer in Ramsey, Minn., where a large selection of dump trailers from top manufacturers such as H&H, Sure-Trac, and Midsota are available to meet your needs.