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Video: Loading and Unloading Snowmobiles

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Video Transcript
Rob

All right. So with all the potentially dangerous riding conditions that we face with these snowmobiles, you’d think that one of the safest things we could do is load them up, right? Well, that’s why it’s ironic that so many accidents actually occur loading, unloading, and transporting these snowmobiles. But not us. So let’s start with the trailer.

There are several types out there. We prefer the open-tilt bed because, well, it tilts for easy loading and unloading. And that way we don’t have to mess with ramps. All right, let’s get started.

Preparing the Trailer

Haley

Our ball and hitch system—that’s the trailer and its load and our hitch latch—is locked and secured. And our safety chains are in an X pattern. And, of course, our tires, lights, and reflectors are up to snuff.

Rob

All right, it looks like we’re ready to load. Now unless you have a winch, this is actually a two-person operation. So why don’t you stand off to the side and let us load this one?

Loading

Haley

We always load in a flat, open area that’s clear of traffic. And of course, we cleared our trailer of any gear. And I’m going to stand on the side, opposite where Rob’s coming up, so he doesn’t run over my foot. I hate that.

Wear your helmet while loading, just in case something goes wrong. Make sure you have enough distance from the trailer to get some momentum, and stay seated for safety. Loading from a posting or standing position might eject the rider if the snowmobile stopped suddenly.

OK. I’m ready. Nice, steady momentum is the secret here, not speed. Once the ski’s engaged the bed, I step back and ta-da. Once we’re stopped, we hit the kill switch, apply the parking brake, and remove the key. Next, we secure the ski hold-down bar.

Rob

All right, one down, one to go. Why don’t you try loading the next machine?

Loading the second one is essentially the same deal. Keep the momentum nice and easy. Hit the kill switch, apply the parking brake, and remove the key. Next, we secure the ski hold-down bar, and make sure the tilt bed is secure.

All right. Now let’s ratchet strap these babies down, so we can hit the road. Move the machine so you have about 2/3 of their weight ahead of the trailer wheels. Ratchet down the back until you compress the rear suspension to prevent bouncing or shifting. Don’t use rope or rubber straps. Stick with quality ratchet straps that have metal hooks. Remove your key, any loose gear, and secure the snowmobile covers.

All right, remember there are many different types of trailers. For instance, some people use the covered tilt bed trailer. Other common types include the V-Nose, which lets you load from the back, unload from the front. The covered non-tilt and the basic non-tilt. The trick with those is to securely latch the ramp system to the trailer, so they don’t come off when the machine goes up.

Plus the ramp needs to be designed to handle a snowmobile. Boards from the lumber yard won’t cut it. And after you’re loaded, remove or secure the ramp so they don’t fall off onto the road.

Haley

There are also a few common sense things to avoid that can seem innocent. Using ramps on a tilt bed trailer is a no-no. The trailer isn’t designed for that, and you can damage the tilt system. Another issue is running the machine inside a closed trailer with the door shut. That can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. So keep the doors open. And what’s really crazy is trying to load from a snow bank or drift. Snow is unstable, and that’s caused all kinds of wrecks and injuries.

Rob

All right, let’s go.

Haley

All right. Let’s unload.

Unloading

Rob

All right. So unloading is basically the reverse of loading, with one exception that we’ll point out. It is a two-person job. And again, we’ve parked in a flat, open place, free of obstructions and traffic.

First, remove the covers. Unhook ratchet straps, and remove the ski hold-down bar. Disengage the machine’s parking brake.

Now here’s the part that’s different. Using two people, we pull the snowmobile backward and down off the trailer. If you are by yourself, or with a rider that can’t help pull off the sled, carefully back the sled off the trailer using the engine. But don’t use too much throttle. It could damage the machine, and you could hurt yourself.

The same basic rules apply for unloading other trailers. Make sure to wear your helmet, stay seated, and accelerate slowly.

Haley

Here we are, where the road ends and the trail begins. See? Loading and unloading safely is worth it.

Rob

Now let’s just get out to that lake for our fishing trip tomorrow.

General Guidelines

The snowmobile trailer must meet safety requirements for lights, hitching, coupling, and safety chains. A solid ball with lock washer and nut is often considered legal as well. Also consider these important features.

  • Use a snowmobile trailer with a tilt bed for ease in loading and unloading.
  • Make sure the towing vehicle has a heavy-duty flasher and rearview mirrors, inside and outside.
  • Know your trailer’s weight capacity rating, and don’t exceed it.
  • Avoid rope or rubber tie-downs since they are frayed easily by metal edges and any stretching may allow movement.
Trailer with safety chains