Horse Trailer Tune-Up
Whether or not you used your trailer all winter, it’s time to tune it up for this season’s trail-riding adventures. A well-maintained trailer will be safer than one in shoddy shape, for both you and your horse. Here is a point-by-point rundown.
Note: Unless you’re a truck/trailer-maintenance expert, ask a reputable trailer dealership or someone experienced in trailer-maintenance to perform most of these tasks for you. With this information in hand, provide this person with guidance on what you want done to your trailer, and check the trailer over when you pick it up.
Check all tires.
Check all trailer tires and spares; they should have good tread (at least one-quarter inch) and filled with air to the tire manufacturer’s recommendation—low tire pressure is a major cause of blowouts. They should also be free of dry rot and weak spots.
Invest in spares.
You should have at least one—preferably two—spare tires for your trailer. One blowout can damage other tires. If your tires are heavy duty, they might be difficult to replace on the road and away from home.
Rotate your tires.
Tire rotation will even out the tread wear. While the tires are being rotated, lubricate the wheel bearings. Also, make sure the axle ends have minimal signs of wear so that you don’t lose a tire and wheel while driving.
Check the brakes.
The brake pads or shoes might need to be replaced. Turn (machined on a lathe) the drums/rotors at least once every 10,000 miles, or more often if they stick, make unusual noises, or aren’t properly braking your trailer.
Tighten the lug nuts.
When replacing the tires, tighten the lug nuts to the manufacturer’s suggested level manually so that you can loosen them in an emergency with a lug wrench on the side of the road. Make sure they aren’t rusted or stripped.
Lubricate the metal.
With spray lubricant, lubricate every metal part in the trailer such as latches, hinges, pins, etc. This minimizes rust development and makes it easier for you to remove these in an emergency. Lubrication also minimizes the noise your horse is exposed to in the trailer. For further noise reduction, tape down anything that hangs, bumps, jiggles, or swings.
Check the lights.
Make sure all the trailer lights work (parking, running, flashers, brake, and turn signals).
Check for loose wires that need to be tied up inside and under the trailer, or any exposed or rubbed wires that might need a coat of electrical tape. If they are too damaged, be prepared to replace those wires. Light problems are usually traced to wiring that’s shorting out somewhere under the trailer.
Check the emergency brake controller battery.
It is best to have a system that bleeds power to the battery to charge it at all times. If you don’t have this type of system, take the battery to an auto-parts center and have them check it for power. This battery is crucial! If your towing vehicle and trailer separate it initiates the brakes to stop your trailer. Also, make sure the plastic switch is in good condition and that the cable is connected to your towing vehicle’s frame.
Check the break controller.
Verify that your brake controller is working. To do so, check the manufacturer’s instructions. They’ll usually ask you to drive at a slow speed towing your empty trailer, then engage only the trailer brakes. That way, you can adjust the brakes to a setting that complements the action of your towing vehicle. When you load your horses you’ll need to adjust the setting to match the load.
Level your trailer.
Is the trailer level? If your hitch is set too high or too low you will have difficulty controlling your trailer. Plus your horses will be standing at an angle, which will stress their joints.
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