Keeping your trailer in good working order and making necessary repairs will save you money in the long run and ensure that your fun or profit isn’t ruined by a breakdown. NAPA stocks a range of trailer hitches, wiring adapters, wiring harnesses, trailer lighting, hub bearing kits, trailer brakes, brake controllers and more.
We spoke to Elliott Johnson, a guy that probably does more towing than the average driver. Elliott runs a canoe rental business that depends on trailers to move equipment. He also has a small, vintage camper–called “Canned Ham” because of its shape—that he and his family tow to the woods to get away. Since he uses his equipment for both work and play, Elliott carefully maintains his trailers with quality trailer parts and replaces aging components before they fail. Or at least he tries to.
Prepared as he is, a small problem can sometimes get in the way of profit or a fun weekend in the woods. Elliott recently told me about one instance when things didn’t go just right.
“We were at Indian Creek Campground in North Carolina, near the Smokies,” Elliott said. “It was right at checkout time, of course. I set the camper trailer tongue down on the ball, but I never picked up the latch, so it wouldn’t seat.”
“That’s when the old, 1961 trailer jack decided to quit. It just gave out; the gears just stripped completely out at that point. It hadn’t given me any indication before that it was going to go out, but there was nothing I could do. I had to get the car jack out and jack the trailer up to get it back on the ball right.”
Fortunately, the jack from the towing vehicle worked. But the failure of the trailer tongue jack meant he needed to replace the part immediately. Back home, Elliott welded on a new jack, one of many trailer repair and maintenance projects.
Aside from the occasional repair, Elliott also dedicates some time to making his trailers better, or just keeping them in good, working order. He updated another trailer to make it more compatible with his existing equipment.
“I put a new coupler on my jon boat trailer, just so I can use a 2-inch ball for all my trailers and don’t have to switch,” Elliott said. “I also used Bearing Buddies on it. In fact, now I’ve got Bearing Buddies on everything except the camper. I think they’re good to have, even if you don’t put it in the water. If I bought a new trailer, I’d go ahead and get bearing buddies for it.”
I asked Elliott what other trailering and towing equipment he’d recommend from his experience.
“I only have brakes on the camper, and they work great,” Elliott explained as we looked over his equipment. “I put a brake controller in both vehicles, and I put a 7-pin connector on my truck. Now I have 4-pin and 7-pin on that vehicle. The best thing I bought for the camper, though, was a trailer sway control arm. I got a lot of sway from the camper. I think it’s partially because it’s moving a lot of wind, and also because it’s short, and the truck has a short wheelbase, too. The sway control arm is a huge improvement.”
Elliott pointed out that, generally speaking, trailers aren’t complex machines, and that it doesn’t take much work to keep one up. But whether you have a small utility trailer or boat trailer, a fifth-wheel RV or a horse trailer, a little bit of maintenance is essential to safe operation.
“Trailers are pretty low maintenance,” Elliott told us. “You need a grease gun and some wheel bearing grease, and you’ve got to be sure your lights are working properly. I’m always chasing a short or replacing a lighting component on one of these. And it’s important to have good tie-downs so you arrive with everything you left with.”
Check out all the towing products
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.