The days are getting colder. Snow is on the way — or already falling, depending on your location. And you finally bought that snowmobile you’ve had your eye on! Now all you need to worry about is how to safely tow it. Never fear. We’ve got everything you need to know about safe towing practices right here.

First, get the facts

While smaller winter toys like sleds, snowshoes, ski scooters, and snow tubes can be packed safely inside a car or truck bed, larger ones like snowmobiles must be hauled using a trailer. Without being safely secured on a legal trailer, there’s risk of putting other drivers in danger.

The Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program (SSAP) recommends having all the proper equipment to attach the trailer to your vehicle, including “safety chains, the proper size hitch ball, and the proper electrical connections to ensure you have lights that are in working condition.”

Research the manufacturers of both your tow vehicle and the trailer for specific instruction on the weight limit, amount of required tire pressure, and towing capacity for your particular combination.

Once you determine how your vehicle, snowmobile, and trailer work together, hitching it up and heading for the snow will be simple.

Best practices for towing your snowmobile

1. Determine your state’s specifics

Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for local regulations. Additionally, explore more detailed information on your state’s laws for trailers and towing.

2. Invest in a quality trailer

Most snowmobiles are longer than a standard truck bed. And homemade hitches aren’t the safest choice. That means it’s time to go shopping.

There are 2 main types of snowmobile trailers: an open flatbed and a taller enclosed trailer. For a more luxurious feel, consider a custom trailer with options like grip guides, floor rails to tie down smaller winter toys, thick tires for better weight distribution on snowy highways, salt shields, or even designer lighting systems for inside trailers.

3. Hitch it up

Now connect your trailer to the towing vehicle. Once it’s properly secured, load up your snowmobile. This is definitely a task that involves 2 adults — one to drive or winch and the other to help. Drive the snowmobile very slowly partway onto the trailer and then cut the engine. Turn off the snowmobile’s fuel valve and check to see that the fuel cap and oil cap are properly installed. Then pull it the rest of the way onto the trailer. Set the brake and tightly fasten the snowmobile to the trailer. The SSAP recommends that 60% of the weight should be forward of the trailer axle, which places more weight on the “tongue” of the trailer. Lastly, don’t forget to grab the ignition key so it doesn’t fly off while en route. If using a cover, batten that down.

Now you’re ready to hit the open road and head to the slopes!

How to maintain your winter toy

Just as as important as towing a snowmobile safely is ensuring it’s maintained properly. Keeping your snowmobile in tip-top shape will help with its longevity and safety. Store your snowmobile throughout the spring and summer, and each fall, inspect it before taking it out again for snow season. Refer to your owner’s manual to confirm specifics for your particular snowmobile, but come winter, you can check your snowmobile to verify everything is still in working order. A cursory checklist includes:

  • Filter
  • Throttle
  • Brakes
  • Track
  • Wheels
  • Skis
  • Headlights and taillights
  • Oil and other fluids
  • Spark plugs
  • Drive belt
  • Exhaust system

If you encounter any issues, bring in your baby to a professional mechanic before hitting the powder. And once you do get out on the trails, steer that winter toy safely!

Does auto insurance cover towing?

Maintaining your snowmobile and towing it safely are great practices, but still don’t protect against everything. And that’s where snowmobile insurance comes in handy. Although it’s not required in every state, snowmobile insurance is mandatory in some — and the smart choice regardless.

Depending on the type, snowmobile insurance could cover harm from hitting a tree or an animal, or if your snowmobile incurs damage from inclement weather or falling debris. It could also help if your snowmobile is stolen — or even if you get into an accident while towing it. Get a free snowmobile insurance quote from Esurance.

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about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.