Dealer Corner: Readying Your Trailer for Spring
It’s time to get your trailer ready for warmer weather! After a long winter sitting unused, make sure your trailer is safe before you hit the road. Below are recommendations for readying your trailer for use. For more information about safe trailering and proper maintenance, visit www.TrailerSafetyWeek.com.
Check the tires on both the trailer and tow vehicle, looking for damage after long winter months. Make sure you inspect the tread for uneven wear. Verify that tire pressure is correct, and don’t forget the spare tire. Proper tire pressure affects vehicle handling and safety. You can find the correct tire pressure for your tow vehicle in the owner’s manual or on the tire information placard. Under-inflation reduces the load-carrying capacity of your tow vehicle or trailer, may cause sway and control problems, and may result in overheating, causing blowouts or other tire failures. Over-inflation causes premature tire wear and affects the handling characteristics of the tow vehicle or trailer.
Inspect all wheel lug nuts and make sure they are tightened to specifications.
Inspect the springs, spring bushings, and hangers for wear and cracks. This kind of preventative maintenance can save your trailer from a dangerous and expensive breakdown on the road.
Wiring and Lights:
Make sure connector-plug prongs and receptacles, light bulb sockets, wire splices, and ground connections are clean and shielded from moisture. Lightly coat all electrical terminal connections with nonconducting (dielectric), light, waterproof grease. Make sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights are working. Verify the wiring is connected correctly, not dragging on the road but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or damaging the wires.
Verify that you have two safety chains and inspect for wear or damage. When you hook to the towing vehicle, cross the chains, so if the hitch comes loose, the crossed chains will catch the hitch.
Check your wheel bearings before returning your trailer to regular use and be sure to replace according to the trailer manufacturer’s recommendations. Have the bearings serviced, which requires a repack, new grease, a new bearing, and a new bearing race. Refer to your owner’s manual for maintenance information.
Make sure dust caps are still in place and have not cracked or otherwise been destroyed. Replace if necessary.
Verify the brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer are operating correctly. Regularly have the brakes on both the trailer and tow vehicle inspected. Be sure the necessary adjustments are made, and any damaged or worn parts are replaced. Check to see how much brake pad material remains. The start of the warmer months is a good time to replace them if they are getting close to the end of their life expectancy.
Ensure the breakaway system lanyard is connected to the tow vehicle but not to the safety chains or ball mount.
Hitch, Coupler, Draw Bar:
Make sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly secured and adjusted. Check the nuts, bolts, and other fasteners to ensure the hitch remains secured to the tow vehicle, and the coupler remains secured to the trailer. Lubricate the connection point if necessary, to permit free movement of the coupler to the hitch ball. Inspect the coupler ball socket to ensure it is not bent or dented. Any indentions could cause the ball not to seat properly, which can lead to detaching from the trailer.
If the trailer is loaded, check that all items are securely fastened on and in the trailer. Check load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and trailer are properly balanced front to back and side to side in accordance with the owner's manual specifications.
Jacks and Accessories:
Be sure the trailer jack, tongue support, and any attached stabilizers are raised and locked in place. Put all jack stands up, and do not forget to bring the wheel chocks.
Tow Vehicle Maintenance:
Tow vehicles have frequent maintenance requirements. Spring is a good time to change the oil in the engine and transmission, lubricate components, inspect brakes, inspect belts and hoses, top off fluids to their recommended levels, check the radiator and cooling system, inspect the battery, and check the air conditioning system.
Tow Vehicle Mirrors:
Inspect tow vehicle mirrors for damage and cleanliness to make sure you have good visibility.
Tow Vehicle Tools, PPE, and Accessories:
Make sure you have a jack and lug wrench secured in the tow vehicle that is the appropriate size for the tow vehicle and trailer lug nuts. Verify the jack you packed up is suitable for both the vehicle and trailer capacities. Pack work gloves, safety glasses, and a mat or blanket in case you need to complete maintenance procedures or change a tire. Make sure all the tools are functioning correctly before packing.
Flooring, Body, Fenders, Cargo Securement Attachments, and General Trailer Structure:
Inspect trailer flooring for chips, cracks, and excessive wear. Make sure body panels and fenders are secure and in normal functioning order. Visually inspect the trailer structure to make sure nothing has rusted out or worn out during the harsh winter months. Replace or secure parts if necessary.
Give the trailer a once over visual inspection for cracked welds. Welds often break, especially when trailers are regularly subjected to heavy loads. Inspect carefully, as even hairline cracks can escalate quickly to much larger problems. Pay special attention to the stress points of the trailer when inspecting. In particular, check where the tongue attaches to the trailer and the points where the spring hangers are welded to the trailer frame.
Ramps and Tailgate:
Make sure the ramps are secured to the trailer and whatever pin or locking device that holds the ramps in place is still in its proper location and functioning. Verify the tailgate is secure but still allows for free movement. Lubricate hinges and other components if necessary.
Trailers with Dump Bodies and Hoists:
Check all fluid levels, hydraulic hoses, and the hoist unit. Clean and inspect the power unit for the hoist. Check electrical wires and battery corrosion for wear. Apply grease to hoist grease fittings, or zerks, as needed. Replace parts if necessary.
Plan ahead and determine your route by checking for restrictions, bridges, tunnels, and avoidable construction zones.
For more information about proper trailer maintenance, refer to your trailer’s owner’s manual. Trailer safety resources are also readily available and free to use at www.TrailerSafetyWeek.com.