School is out for the summer, and that means hitting the road for summer vacation. With unrealistically high gas prices, if you are like me, you will be staying closer to home. My family and I have planned a couple of long weekends, taking the camper out and hauling the kayaks to the river for the day. If your plans are kind of like mine, you will be using a trailer that has probably been sitting for a while. Save yourself the stress and let’s make sure your trailer is ready for the trip. Avoid ending up on the side of the road or in the repair shop when you are supposed to be enjoying your family vacation.
Let’s start with the tires. In my opinion, tires are the most important because they are constantly in use when pulling a trailer. Start by checking each tire for adequate tread depth and look for any sign of abnormal wear. Check all sides of the tires for dry rot or any damage that might have occurred during a previous trip. Check tire pressure to make sure it is at the correct pressure, as indicated on the sidewall of the tire. Also, it is important to make sure your tires are the appropriate tires for your trailer. This is going to be found on or around the V.I.N. tag of your trailer. Undersized tires are cheaper, but they create a significant safety issue for you and other motorists. Don’t let a blowout blow up your plans on the road this summer.
While we are at the tires, let’s also check out our wheels. Pushing a jacked up tire in and out is a great way to check for bearing issues. Excess movement is an indication that something is not holding your wheel to the axle like it should. Some movement is acceptable, but if you are concerned, it is much safer to get it looked at before you have a problem. If your axle spindle is equipped with a grease zerk fitting, add a couple of pumps of grease to the hub. Be careful not to overfill your hub with grease as this can cause your outer seal to blow out. This will most certainly eventually ruin your bearings and potentially cause much more expensive damage. If your axle does not have these, your trailer bearings have not been repacked in several years, or you are uncomfortable doing this on your own, take it in to have it checked out. Issues that occur with wheel and bearing failure are not only inconvenient, but also can be extremely expensive and dangerous. If your trailer is equipped with brakes, make sure they are functioning properly. To check these, have a friend stand near the tire and coast forward, use the brake actuator on your trailer braking system to engage the brakes. Check to make sure both sides are working. Next, take your trailer for a test drive to check your trailer’s braking ability under normal driving conditions. Make sure to adjust your gain up or down to find the appropriate level of braking.
The final thing to look at when checking out your wheels and tires is the trailer suspension and axle. Check your springs for any damage and make sure they are appropriately attached to the axle and the body of the trailer. Inspect your hangers, shackles, and equalizers for wear. Generally forgotten, I have seen customers come in with shackles and equalizers so worn that they fall off when the bolts are loosened. There is a vinyl bushing that goes in the bolt holes to prevent the metal to metal contact that causes them to wear out if not functioning correctly. These are the components that keep your axle in place and protect it from being damaged when you go over bumps in the road. Inspect your axle to make sure there is no major bend or damage to it. Uneven tire wear, or tires that look to not be in line with the other are a good indication you have axle damage.
Take time to check out your trailer before you hit the road. Not only will spending time fixing a problem during a trip be aggravating, but the price of maintenance in most cases is far cheaper than fixing whatever goes wrong on the road. Back 40’s shop is no longer open, but we sell all the components that the do-it-yourselfer needs for the project. We also work closely with Texan Repairable, a shop in town, that does great trailer work and repair.
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