Safety is the number one reason to having a routine maintenance schedule for your trailer. You want to feel confident and safe every time you’re on the road. Having a routine safety maintenance schedule provides safety, extends the life of your trailer as an investment and protects the resale value of the trailer.
A great time for a detailed trailer inspection is during slow winter months. Address any issues or safety concerns before the spring or when your season picks up for a confident start to your next busy work season. Not to forget, the benefit of getting any issues taken care of before the tax year is up may help you capture more business deductions.
Here’s what to look for when doing routine trailer maintenance. Make sure to download the FREE YEARLY TRAILER MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE below.
Tires can be one of the biggest flaws on a trailer and are extremely important to inspect because they aren’t made like truck or car tires and unfortunately don’t hold up as long. They are exposed to the elements and are susceptible to cracking or weathering. Knowing what to look for and proper maintenance will save you time and money. If you’re ever unsure of what to look for, ask a trusted professional. Here are a few key things to check to extend the life of your trailer tires.
On the tire itself it will indicate a cold tire pressure based on what you are running. Every size of tire is going to be a little different. Look on the side wall make sure that the low tire pressure is above its minimum. Always inflate the tires according to the recommendation when in use and in storage.
Look for anything that has deep cracking in it. Trailer tires are famous for the insides coming apart, so be sure to check for bulging. Feel around the tire and make sure there aren’t any lumps in it. If your trailer seems to be excessively bouncy or shaky, generally it’s due to a tire coming apart and will need to be replaced.
Cracking or weathering happens to all tires and will warrant replacement. Temperature, weather conditions, and sunlight all cause cracks to appear on the tire sidewalls and at the base of the tires tread grooves. Under or over inflating tires will also cause them to age and minor cracks to deepen. Most tire manufacturers offer a warranty on tires. If cracks happen within the warranty time frame, have them replaced.
Don’t forget to check your spare! Often during the busy season, a spare tire may have been used and then stored without inspection. It’s no fun to need your spare and your spare be no good! Check your spares tread wear and always keep it properly inflated.
Storing your trailer properly has significant impact on the life of the trailer tires. When possible, store vehicles on surfaces that are petroleum free, such as cement, and indoors. Avoiding extreme weather conditions will extend the life of your tire. If your trailer will be on frozen ground for long periods of time, place something under the tires to prevent them from freezing to the ground. Keep the tires out of direct sunlight during hot weather and cover to avoid damaging ultraviolet rays.
Lighting keeps your trailer legal and safe. Don’t skip out on lighting inspection! Regularly perform a detailed inspection and make sure the lights are working properly. A thorough inspection of your lighting at the end of the season and fixing problems will help the start to your season run more smoothly. Here are a few things to go over when checking your lighting:
With someone helping you, do a routine check of all your lighting (Running lights, brake lights, both sides of blinkers, and reverse) and make sure they are working.
Inspect the wiring plug at the coupler end. Clean the contacts with 400-grit sandpaper, and lubricate with dielectric grease or contact cleaner.
At the end of the season, before and several times during, take the time to take a look at every inch of your wiring. Make sure loose sections are secured to the frame and any wire ties or cable clamps are not damaged. Look for nicks in any exposed wiring that could cause a short circuit.
Lugnuts, Bolts, Screws
Lugnuts need to be routinely checked for damage and torqued for safety. Over time, bolts and screws can become damaged or loose. A quick check at the end of the season, and a few times during the season can save you a lot of headache during the season by preventing loss or damage to lugnuts, bolts, and screws. Replace anything that’s damaged and tighten up anything that’s become loose.
Couplers, Safety Chains & Jacks
For adequate safety, always check the condition of the couplers and safety chains. Make sure that the coupler is adjusted right, that it’s clamping onto your ball correctly, and that there’s not a lot of play in it so you don’t run the risk of bouncing off. Make sure your safety chains is on and correctly fastened. Tongue and jacks also need, at a minimum, yearly maintenance check for proper function, lubrication and safety.
Brakes & Breakaway System
Check the breakaway system so that if the trailer ever comes off it will engage the battery to lock up the trailer brakes. Any dual axle trailer with brakes should have a breakaway system on it; smaller utility trailers may not, but anything that has brakes on it should have a breakaway system as standard equipment. Test the battery annually to make sure it’s in operating order; using a voltmeter or simply by pulling the plunger. Remember to immediately re-install the plunger! Breakaway batteries have a limited life expectancy. If you have a tandem axle trailer you should have a brake controller on your truck.
An easy way to make sure that your brakes are working is start driving and engage that brake controller in your truck. If you turn the brake control all the way up those brakes should lock up if they’re working, then you can adjust it from there. If you are empty, you’re not going to be adjusted very high. Adjust the strength of the trailer brakes depending on your load weight. When you pull away and you’ve got an empty load, check that you can that you can feel a little nudge to it, not much more than that.
The brake controller works on pressure and how firm you push on your break on your truck, so if you’re empty and you end up having to hit the brakes hard it’s going to hit those brakes a lot harder. In a sense it’s good, but you don’t want your brakes to lock up either. A tire that doesn’t lock up has a lot more traction than one that does. As you increase cargo weight, you should adjust your brakes to be able to feel it. You want to be able to stop by using the manual brakes when traveling 5 to 10 mph with any load. This will not be an immediate or fast stop, but a stop regardless.
Two of the biggest causes of trailer damage are no grease and over greasing wheel bearings. A quick easy way to check wheel bearings is to lift up the tire to check for play. If there is more than 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of play you should repack your bearings before your next load. A good rule of thumb is that if you use your trailer as often as two or three times a week, add a few grease pumps every 6 months. Just a few; no more than three or four. Also, check the color of the grease. If it looks burnt or if it’s runny then there’s some damage that needs to be fixed.
Upkeep is important. Any scratches, nicks or dents are better to get taken care of than letting them go. Trailers that have been caked with dirt and grime will rust out quicker. Treat any wood on your trailer often, every six months or at least once a year. The paint job is only as good as its care so create and be in the habit of keeping it clean and using preventative care to extend the life of your trailer.
So easy to forget and even easier to get caught once forgotten!! Keep your trailers registration up to date and the VIN # tag legible and visible!