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Main Content

Trailer Care

Whether you're a boat owner or prefer hitting the trails on your ATV or motorcycle, proper care of a trailer can get you and your toys there safely. Utility trailers used for hauling come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the job. But all trailers have something important in common: the need for proper maintenance. Taking care of your trailer helps ensure an accident-free transport season no matter the job or sport. Basically, a trailer that's well-maintained and ready to go won't let you down. Use the following tips to get your trailer ready for all the adventures on your bucket list.

Get It Clean!

It may seem trivial compared to other jobs, but when it comes to proper maintenance, washing your trailer is one of the most important things you can do. Grime, dirt and salt build up over time and lead to corrosion of metal. A good washing can eliminate these things before they become a problem. Wash your trailer thoroughly at least twice each year, and especially at the end of the winter season. A high-pressure washer set on low or a powerful garden hose and some mild detergent, like dish liquid, will do the job. Pay particular attention to the areas behind mud flaps, inside wheel wells, rims and tire treads where dirt can build up and pebbles can lodge. And don't forget to give the entire trailer undercarriage a good rinsing, since damaging debris can hide in places you can't see.

Check the Tires and Wheels

The weight of your trailer as well as its contents can cause wear and tear on your tires over time. Check tires thoroughly and on a regular basis for bulges, worn edges or steel belts that are showing through. All of these are signs a tire needs to be replaced. Regular rotating of trailer tires can cut down on improper wear. For boat trailers and other heavy-equipment carries where items remain on the trailer when in storage, consider jacking up the trailer and removing the tires for winter storage to remove unnecessary strain during the off season. And before each use, make sure all of your trailer tires are properly inflated.

Another important part of tire and wheel maintenance is servicing the trailers wheel bearings. A wheel that won't roll won't get you to the lake or trailhead. Pop off the dust cap, remove as much of the grease as possible, and wash all the parts and blow them dry with compressed air. Inspect the bearings for pits, rust or other signs of damage and replace them if needed. Repack the bearings with grease by hand or with a bearing packer, rotating it as you go to be sure it's properly filled. Tap the bearing and dust cap back into place with a rubber mallet. Perform this maintenance at least once each year.

Lubricate Moving Parts

Trailers are designed with moving parts to make turning, parking and moving items onto and off of the trailer easy. Inspect all moving parts for rust, wear and any spot that makes too much noise when in use. Lubricate with a grease gun or with cans of WD-40. Check that hinges, locks, suspensions, plugs and hitch parts are all free from rust and in good working order.

Check Lights and Brakes

A trailer that isn't properly lighted can be a hazard to other drives and a danger to you and your equipment. Having a trailer light go out is also an invitation for a ticket and a hefty fine. Once your trailer is in place and hitched, check that all lights are functioning properly. This includes running lights, brake lights, turn signals and backup lights. Replace bulbs and wire connections as needed. Check lights again before each use.

Trailer brakes can be tested in a few ways. The first and most obvious is testing that the brakes are actually working without grinding or squealing as you compress the brake pedal in your vehicle. You can also test the brake magnets with a multimeter that reads amps and ohms. Do this by severing the brake magnet wires and connecting the multimeter to the positive terminal of a 12-volt battery and one of the magnet wires. If the amperage reading is more than the specified amount for your particular brakes, the magnet should be replaced.

Boat trailers come with breakaway kits that allow the boat to stop by activating electric brakes on the trailer should the trailer become disconnected from the vehicle. Make sure the breakaway battery is fully charged, and test the breakaway kit by doing the following:

  • Unplug the connector from the tow vehicle.
  • Pull the pin out of the breakaway switch. You'll need 40 pounds of pull to do this.
  • Try to pull the trailer with the tow vehicle. The wheels will rotate a little as the breaks is applied. The brakes should then engage and keep the trailer from rolling freely.
  • If the trailer continues to roll, the breakaway system needs servicing or replacing.

Tractor Supply Co has a complete line of walk-on utility trailers for all of your light towing needs. We also have ball hitches, hitch extensions, trailer dollies and maintenance supplies to keep your trailer running strong all season long. Whether you're doing heavy-duty towing or light-duty lawn maintenance and equipment moving, Tractor Supply Co can help.