Don’t Forget Trailer Inspection and Maintenance
It’s hard to imagine a construction operation that doesn’t count trailers among its equipment fleet. But sometimes these assets don’t get the same level of attention as the machines they haul. With seasonal work opening up and a (hopefully) busy summer ahead, it’s time to make sure your trailers are ready to roll.
Just like other vehicles and machines you use every day, trailers have moving parts that must be properly maintained in order to prevent accidents or damage to the tow rig, load, or the trailer itself. A simple system of regular inspection and maintenance is by far the most cost-effective way to protect your assets and your work schedule.
It’s especially important to give your trailer extra attention after it’s been stored over the winter or otherwise unused for more than a few weeks. Just because it was fine when you last used it doesn’t mean something hasn’t changed. That means eyes-on, hands-on inspection:
- Step back and look at the trailer to confirm it looks straight and square all around. It should sit level when hitched.
- Check that the ball is the right size for the trailer hitch.
- Check every latch, pin, and hinge to ensure it is tight and secure.
- Closely inspect tires, looking for bulges, cuts, and worn tread or areas where the steel belt shows through.
- Adjust tire inflation as needed to meet pressure recommendations listed on the tire.
- Check brakes to be sure they’re in good working order.
- Check the electrical system to be sure brake lights, signals, and running lights all work.
- Determine if you can avoid drooping safety chains, for example by crossing them before hooking them up. This will keep the chains from catching on something.
Pre-Flight Every Trip
Giving the trailer a thorough once-over at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean you should assume all is well before you hit the road. Every time you go out, take a few minutes to:
- Visually inspect the hitch, bolts and chains, looking for cracks or other signs of wear.
- Check that the ball is tight.
- Double-check tautness of load anchors.
- Double-check tire pressure and everything electrical
- Check the breakaway system, including battery charge and switch operation.
- Test the brakes! Remember to adjust the brakes as needed to properly accommodate this trip’s loaded weight.
Before you pull out, make sure you have other essentials on board – things such as vehicle and trailer registration certificates, insurance card, and a copy of the latest inspection (if necessary).
In addition to regular inspections, be sure your trailer is getting scheduled maintenance according to the owner’s manual. For example, Felling Trailers recommends this schedule:
- Check tire pressure and adjust as needed.
Every 3 months/3,000 miles
- Check wheel torque
- Check and adjust brake clearance
- Check wheel nuts and bolts against specified torque and tighten as needed
Every 6 months/12,000 miles
- Inspect brake magnets for wear and current draw
- Check brake controller amperage and modulation
- Inspect suspension parts for loose fasteners and signs of wear or bending
- Inspect wheels for cracks, dents or distortion
Every 12 months/25,000 miles
- Re-adjust brake operating clearance, if needed
- Inspect brake linings for contamination or signs of wear
- Check brake cylinders for leaks or sticking points
- Inspect brake lines for cracks, leaks, or kinks
- Inspect trailer brake wiring, looking for frayed or bare spots
- Inspect the hub/drum for signs of scoring or abdominal wear
- Clean and repack wheel bearing and cups, inspecting for signs of wear or corrosion
- Inspect seals and replace any that are leaking. If you remove a seal, replace it.
- Inspect springs for wear and flattening of the arch
- Inspect the hangar welds
- Double-check tire pressure and adjust as needed
Just in Case . . .
No matter how well-prepared you are, things can go wrong. A little extra preparation can make it easier to handle minor mishaps and repairs and help you avoid a serious disaster. Good items to stow include:
- An extra set of cables
- Tire chocks
- Fire extinguisher
- A basic toolkit
- Tow chain
The time you spend inspecting and maintaining trailers can repay you handsomely in smoother running operations and unnecessary expense, so you can look forward to a more profitable 2020.