Springtime Maintenance Checkup for Your Trailer
Trailers are common for people in Michigan. From hauling equipment from downstate to a northern residence to recreational equipment for just pure fun. The best way to make sure your spring and summer plans are not disrupted is to perform seasonal trailer maintenance.
A trailer is subject to the extremes of Michigan’s winter weather. Unlike other vehicles that will continue to be driven, most trailers just sit collecting moisture. This is how many problems develop with trailer, through rust developing by sitting.
Believe it or not, trailer repair and maintenance is actually much simpler than most people realize. When you take the time to do this every year, you will not only save time and frustration, but also money in more substantial repairs.
All trailer maintenance should start with a visual inspection. The structure is the first thing you should inspect. This is the frame, the restraints, and the walls. Everything that can be visually seen should be inspected.
For the structure, you want to look for any points of rust. Pay specific attention to the weld joints. You want to look for any signs of weakening, including cracks and dents. These may seem like only a cosmetic issue, but they represent weak points in your trailer.
As you travel, the bumps in the road will only continue to weaken these points, until you eventually experience a catastrophic failure. If you have welding equipment, these are not difficult to repair and reinforce. Otherwise, a trailer repair shop will be able to perform simple repairs.
Tires are a key component to proper trailer maintenance, especially when it has sat for months without being moved. This is where dry rot can set it and cause a blowout on the road.
Like everything, start with a visual inspection. You want to check for cracks in the rubber. Be sure to also check the tread and make sure there is still 2/32 inch of tread left. You can also use a quarter. If you put Washington’s head down, and the tread comes up to the top of his head, you are good to go.
Next, grab a tire pressure gauge and check the pressure in your tires. It is common for the pressure to be low after sitting all winter. If the pressure is low, this will affect your handling and reduce your tire life.
If your trailer is equipped with brakes, double-check their condition. First, check to make sure they have not frozen over the winter. It is common for the brake pads to rust and stick to the rotors or drums.
Also, check to make sure there is plenty of pad material left on the pads. The last thing you want is to get a point where you need to stop hard and find out you have lost all stopping power due to worn pads.
Before taking it out on the road, double-check that there is not any grinding when you are driving down the road. This would indicate the pads are not releasing properly after breaking and is a really simple fix even for the basic home mechanic.
Lights are a simple check. Once your trailer is connected, check to make sure all the marker lights are working. With someone on helping you, apply the brake and make sure the brake lights come on.
If any lights are not on, remove the bulb and check to make sure it is not blown. Replacing it is simple if you find this is the case. If you are using LED bulbs, just try to replace it.
Next, you need to check either the connection or the wiring if replacing the bulb does not work. This can get difficult, so it may be good to enlist the help of a mechanic.
Suspension & Axle Shafts
The first test of the suspension is simply looking at how your trailer sits. If it is sitting low, then there may be something wrong with the suspension. Most trailers have leaf springs in place of shocks or struts. Visually inspect those springs to make sure they do not have any cracks in the leaves.
For the axles shafts, check the grease boots to make sure they are not split and there is no sign of leaking. This could lead to dirt getting into the axle bearings, causing them to wear more quickly and to rust.
The final component to check is the coupler that connects to the trailer hitch. You want to check for rust and that the locking lever moves freely. You also want to check to be sure that when you set the coupler on the ball, that it seats properly and latches. Be sure to also check that the coupler arm is not twisted or bent in any way.