For years I had a two-place enclosed snowmobile trailer and never gave much thought to towing capacity and maximum trailer weight. As much as I enjoyed the nimbleness of a compact trailer, my teenage boys informed me that I should spend more of my hard-earned cash on a nice four-place trailer. That way I could haul their snowmobiles, too.
Winter arrived with a few small storms followed by a good 18-inch dumper. We were ready to roll. While hooking up the new 4-place trailer I became a bit concerned about all the snow on the roof.
Beyond the painfully obvious dangers of flying icebergs crushing little cars in its wake, it’s also a good way to get pulled over and receive critiques on your rooftop ice sculptures by the man in blue. Rightfully so, I might add.
Snow build-up on the old two-place wasn’t a big deal because of its slanted shape, it just slid off the minute you touched it. Not so on this new monster.
Clear Snow Off Snowmobile Trailer
Fearful of heights, and terrified of shoveling, my sons dutifully climbed onto the trailer roof and removed about two-feet of compiled snow from the 8×22-foot rolling aluminum shed.
It was slick underneath all that white stuff, as a good inch of ice had formed from thawing and refreezing of earlier snow.
While unloading at our destination an hour later, another four-place trailer pulled in beside us.
The gent complemented us for shoveling off the roof. He then stated that he found out the hard way. I figured he got ticketed.
Surprisingly, that would have been a wet kiss on the lips by Kate Upton compared to the major mechanical failure he suffered.
It seems the excess weight of snow on the roof had overloaded the trailer’s maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, and snap went the axles. As unbelievable as that sounds, the math doesn’t lie.
Towing Capacity and Maximum Trailer Weight
My Blizzard dual-axle four-place snowmobile trailer has a GVWR of 5,000lbs (two axles at 2,500lbs each) and a dry weight of 1,920lbs. That leaves a 3,080lb payload capacity, which is more than enough for the sleds.
To calculate your towing capacity and maximum trailer weight look for the decal on the trailer. There are huge variations between makes and models, so don’t make assumptions. I’m talking major differences.
Based on published reports I’d estimate each sled, fully loaded with accessories, fuel, oil and a filled trunk bag, hit the scale at around 600lbs.
We’re talking 2,400lbs of total sleds. That doesn’t even account for all the snow stuck in the track and tunnel from previous rides.
We typically throw our riding gear in the trailer during a trip, I’d estimate about 25lbs per person, for 100lbs. In addition, I have a few gallons of oil, spare carbides and other odds and ends that easily equal 100 big ones.
Loaded for a road trip, this trailer has 480lbs of reserve towing capacity left. The factory clearly did the math.
How Much Does Snow and Ice Weigh?
While snow varies from fluff to wet cement, most experts agree a cubic foot of settled snow weighs 15lbs, on average. My shovel agrees.
If the area of the trailer roof is 187 square-feet, that means one-foot of snow adds an additional 2,805lbs of worthless ballast. Dangerous is a better term, as the trailer is now overweight by more than one ton!
Now factor in the inch of ice, weighing 5.2lbs per square foot, for another 972lbs. We are currently overweight by one Kia Soul, not counting the hamsters!
Typical Loaded Trailer (5,000lbs Max GVWR)
|Trailer Dry Weight:||
|Gear and Other Stuff:||
|Available Capacity: 5,000 – 4,520 = 480lbs|
Loaded Trailer Plus Snow and Ice (pounds)
|Foot of Snow on Roof:||
|Inch of Ice on Roof:||
|Trailer Max GVWR||
Overloaded Trailer Axles, Tires and Brakes
Not only are the axles over the limit but so are the tires and brakes. Hold on to that steaming cup of Joe, you may have unwittingly exceeded the towing capacity of your truck with the additional 3,777lbs of ice and snow you are now schlepping around.
Throw in whatever fantasy fudge factor excuse you want -“my truck is underrated” or “my trailer is heavy duty”- this is a ton of extra blubber to be hauling on snow-covered roads in zero-degree temperatures.
Now that I’ve scared the icicles out of you, or perhaps the far more intelligent person that occupies the passenger seat, take a few minutes to read the specifications label on your trailer.
Figure out the GVWR of the axles, the dry weight of the trailer, and calculate the payload capacity. Also, be certain the tire capacity matches the GVWR by multiplying the maximum load written on the sidewall by the number of tires on the trailer. It should equal or exceed the GVWR. Check the tire pressure while you’re at it.
Regardless of the trailer type or size, you should do the math, and always remove snow from the top of the trailer. All told, it will tow easier, you’ll get better mileage, and it will be far safer going down the road. Plus, you may avoid a conflicting encounter with law enforcement and save a bundle on the axle replacement program.
Curious about the snapped axle photos? Read about our adventure from hell.
Do you and your significant other have issues hooking up a trailer? This story will make you feel better.