With spring here and summer on the way now is the perfect time to give your trailer a maintenance check up so that it is ready for use at a moments notice. You never know when you will get the urge to take your boat out, or if you need to use the trailer to clean up after a summer storm.
Keys for maintaining your trailer cover a range of items across the trailer in a similar manner to a car service. The 8 basic areas that require your attention include wheel bearings, tyres, brakes (if fitted), electrical wiring & connections, lights, coupling and physical condition of the trailer body (e.g. winch cables and rollers on a boat trailer; or the tray, gate, cage and tool box on a box trailer), and signage.
1. Wheel bearings – these are a basic part to your trailers performance and need to be repacked every 2 years, or every year if your trailer has a heavy work load (e.g. you are travelling long distances or working in harsh conditions). The last thing you need in the middle of a job or towing your boat is to have the wheel bearing fail on you, so it is best to have it serviced by a qualified mechanic who will strip, clean and repack the bearings and replace the seals.
2. Tyres – this is both tyre condition and tyre pressure of the tyres on the trailer plus your spare. Check the use on the tyres looking for cuts, stones and metal objects that may be encased in the rubber. Your tires need adequate grip for effective braking and to help stop the trailer ‘fish-tailing’ or being blown across the road. And you don’t want to have a blow out, so replace worn tyres. Also have your tyres inflated to the correct pressure, allowing for the load you are expecting them to carry. It is always better to have your tyres inflated to a few psi higher than the recommended pressure. This spreads the tyre grip more effectively, allows you to be ready for heavier than expected loads and generally gives you better fuel economy.
3. Brakes – if you have a large trailer, or are towing a boat then correctly operating brakes are an absolute must for safe motoring. already if you have a large 4wd means, they are not designed to stop heavy loads on their own without additional braking capacity. Make sure your brakes are clean and adjust to get the correct braking load. Your local mechanic can help you with this.
4. Electrical wiring and connections- check your wiring to make sure it is clear of cuts that may otherwise allow corrosion or wiring failure. Clean all connections and check for corrosion. It is recommended that you clean with electrical contact cleaner (this is a spray that you can buy for around $10 a can). And then apply dielectric grease to all connections. This protects the electrical contacts, prevents corrosion and keeps them in good condition.
5. Lights – Test and upgrade lights. With the trailer attached to your means test all brake lights, indicators, and night lights. If you nevertheless have old bayonet or festoon lights on your trailer (which are typically high maintenance) now would be the ideal time to upgrade your lights to LED lights, which are more efficient, brighter and have longer life.
6. Coupling – clean the coupling and check its integrity and grease as required. Also check the adjuster bolt at the front, this helps limit the rattle between the cup & tow ball.
7. Body – check the physical condition of the body of your trailer looking for use and rust, treating with rust proofing paint as required. If you have a boat trailer then check the winch mechanism and cable integrity, in addition as the rollers. If you have a box kind trailer then pay attention to the condition of the tray, side and cover, in addition as the tail gate and its hinges which are highly prone to use. Also check the condition of the cage and tool box if fitted. Apply grease to hinges and rust proofing paint to points of possible corrosion.
8. Signage – check that your number plate is clearly visible and well lit at night. No need for registration labels any more, put a reminder in you phone or calendar for due date.
These simple checks will ensure that your trailer is ready to go for work, camping or boating. Your local mechanic can help you service your trailer and make sure it is roadworthy so you can enjoy the best use out of your trailer what ever kind it is.