We weren’t too far into December before we started having snow. While we didn’t get much here on the coast, there were plenty of places in the UK that had a fair bit. And as we all know, when the UK gets snow, everything comes to a stand-still. Trains get cancelled (at least they have an excuse this time), schools close, roads are closed and people are warned not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
However, what if you do need to go out? Or worse, what if you attempted to go out and you’re car has gotten stuck?
Or, what if you have a car that has towing capabilities, and you want to help those who are stuck in the bad weather?
Regardless, if you are going to need to tow (or be towed) then you will need to know how to do it.
In this article, we are going to give you some top tips for winter towing, and how to drive safely in the snow.
Top Tips for Towing in the Winter
1. Alert others
Make sure that other drivers know that you are going to be towing another vehicle. Use warning triangles and put them around your vehicle and the vehicle you are towing.
It is also advisable for you and the other driver and passengers to wear reflective vests so that drivers can also see you and other people.
Along the same vein, make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing. This includes heavy duty boots with a lot of grip, gloves and a jacket to keep you warm. Towing can take a while and if you are cold then this can make things worse.
2. Use the right equipment
It can be tempting to use ropes that aren’t specifically designed for towing cars, but don’t do this. Only use manufacturer specified towing eyelets, they have been extensively tested for these conditions and will ensure that you can tow safely.
There’s no minimum length to the tow ropes but of course, you will have to leave enough distance between the two cars so that the one behind has time to react to brakes and turns. There is, however, a maximum length of 4.5 metres.
If you have a rope that is longer than 1.5 metres then British law states that you will need to attach a flapping piece of coloured cloth to the middle of the rope so other drivers spot this. While you may not think that other drivers will exploit such a small gap, you would be wrong. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You should also put the ‘On Tow’ sign that comes with the tow rope on the back of the car being towed. This is to alert other drivers that the car in front is being towed. We also recommend making sure that your winter tyres are fitted as these make driving in winter easier and in turn, make towing easier.
3. Build up tension slowly
Move off gradually to prevent vehicle damage. We recommend pulling away in second gear to reduce loss of grip.
Keep your speed as low as possible (as long as it’s safe, of course) and pull away slowly. Modulate the clutch to avoid snatching the rope, this will stop a jerking action in the car being towed and will also stop the tow rope snapping.
Brake lightly in advance to give the tow car warning that you will be braking soon. This is the same as when you are going to indicate, do it well in advance to signify that that is what you are expecting to do.
Avoid any dramatic manoeuvres such as braking or acceleration to avoid any accidents. If the tow car doesn’t have a running engine then it won’t have power assisted steering or brakes so be aware of this when you are towing.
4. Tow it straight
This will reduce strain on the towing eyelets and helps stop the towed car taking off in another direction
5. Keep it loose
Check the towed vehicle’s steering is unlocked and that all its wheels are pointing in the right direction. Sometimes this can be difficult if you are in heavy snow but take the time to double check.
6. Be neutral
Keep the towed car in neutral, with the engine ticking over. This allows the brakes to carry on functioning.
7. Short is sweet
Only tow the snowed in vehicle for the smallest possible distance. We know it’s not ideal, but try and tow for as short a time as possible. Make sure that you reach a place where the tow car can move off using its own steam. Come to a controlled, progressive halt and then follow the same process as before you were towing. This means putting warning triangles out and putting on the reflective jackets.
8. Don’t go downhill
This is quite an obvious one, but one you do have to be aware of. If you tow downhill then this risks the towed car running into the back of your car or overtaking you. As you can imagine, this would be a disaster.
Top Tips for Driving in the Snow
Now you’ve read our top tips for towing in the snow, here are some of our general tips for driving in the snow.
Take it slow
The first places to freeze are bridges and overpasses. Drive slowly and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction. Keep your speed low at all times, when it is safe to do so of course. Watch out for black ice, the road may not look icy but black ice can catch you out and can be dangerous and cause accidents.
If you brake quickly then this can cause lock-up and lose steering control. If you have anti-lock brakes then you will have to apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal. Keep a good distance between you and the car in front, more so than you would normally. Your stoppage time can be impaired if you are on icy or snowy roads.
Make sure your whole car is clear from snow
It is an offence to have snow on the roof of your car so make sure your whole car is clear of snow before you leave the house. Defrost your entire windscreen, don’t pour hot water over it but use de-icer or a scraper. It might take longer but it will be better for your car. Make sure you can see out of the back window and if it’s still snowing, use your wipers.
Know what to do if you get stuck
If you do get stuck in the snow then don’t floor it and spin the tyres. Straighten your wheels and accelerate slowly. If you can, try and use sand or blocks under the wheels.
In conclusion, when you are towing another car make sure you drive slowly and don’t brake, accelerate or turn corners too quickly. Make sure that you have the right equipment and put out warning triangles before you start towing the vehicle to let other road users know what you are doing. Hopefully this has cleared a few things up about how to tow safely and given you some top tips on how to drive in extreme weather.