Good weather ahead means it’s time to take your favorite recreational vehicles — cars, bikes, boats, ATVs — on the road. How well that goes depends on your trailer and how well it’s working after being kept in the garage all winter. Before you hit the road this summer, invest some time in trailer maintenance.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Start with the tires. If you haven’t had your trailer out since the end of last summer, you’re probably going to need air in the tires. Step one of trailer maintenance is to give the tires a full checkup. Get your tire pressure gauge, see where the tires stand and then bring them back to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
Now check the sidewalls. How’s the tread depth? Are there are any cracks, balding or flat-spotting from having been parked in one place for months? If you see any of these signs, for safety’s sake, it’s time for new tires.
Now look at the parts that interact with the tires — namely the wheels and brakes. Get the wheels off the ground and give them a spin. If you’re hearing noises (creaking, cracking, metal-on-metal sounds), you need to either lubricate your wheel bearings or replace them altogether.
Because some trailers have drum brakes, all the workings (apart from the pads) are hidden from view. Check to make sure you don’t have any leaking fluid from the drum, and eyeball the pads to make sure they’re not worn. Bad brakes on a trailer are bad news.
A Little Light Maintenance
After you’ve ensured that the tires, wheels and brakes are in good order, it’s time to check the trailer lighting. Brake lights, turn signals and running lights are important when it comes to safety; they’re required by law to be in working order. Check everything from the wiring harness (making sure nothing’s loose and no wires are worn or frayed) right down to the bulbs themselves. Those lights help other drivers see you and your precious cargo.
Passing the Plate
If you live in a state where your trailer is required to have its own license plate, check that out, too. Is it securely mounted? Is it wearing this year’s tags, or is that in a kitchen drawer somewhere? If your state issues inspection stickers for trailers, is yours current?
It might look like a lot, but trailer maintenance is fairly easy, quick and painless. Do it routinely at the beginning and end of trailer season, and it gets easier still.
Check out all the trailer products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on maintaining your trailer, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.