How many times have you been travelling somewhere, and you see a car with a trailer or caravan on the side of the road with a missing or blown tyre?
The trailer is normally loaded to the max and the driver is not looking too happy! Don’t let this be you next time you’re towing a trailer or van!
A little bit of maintenance before you head off can go a long way to avoiding a lot of problems when you’re on the road, away from home. Maintaining something while you can is a lot easier to do than trying to repair it on the side of the road somewhere.
Not only is a breakdown frustrating, it can be dangerous. Keep in mind your safety and the safety of other road users.
For example, poorly maintained wheel bearings can overheat and cause a stub axel to break, sending the wheel flying up the road on its own! A runaway tyre could cause a very bad accident.
There are of course different levels of maintenance and not everybody is a mechanic, but the following are just a few tips that should be done no matter what skills you have.
The easiest step - have a walk around the trailer or caravan, and look for any damage or wear. Also check that it is securely attached to the towing vehicle. Sounds simple, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
SAFETY CHAINS - look for wear or damage. Has it been dragged on the road or stretched
RATED D SHACKLES - It is a legal requirement to have Rated D shackles. Check them out at your local auto store
LIGHT PLUG - Look for wear or damage. Make sure the lead is secure in the back of the plug
BRAKE FLUID (if it has hydraulic brakes)
DRAWBAR - does it look ok? No damage or cracks in the main frame?
TYRES - look for wear or damage
If the tyres are worn on both sides of the tread this could indicate low pressure
If the tyre looks worn in the middle this could indicate the pressure is too high
A tyre that shows wear on the inside of the tread can indicate a bent axle or loose/worn wheel bearings
SPARE TYRE - does it have air in it? Is it secure?
LIGHTS - Make sure the lights look ok with no broken lens.
REGISTRATION - Is the trailer registered?
INSURANCE – Make sure you are adequately insured
Making sure your lights are in working order is not only for safety reasons, but also to make sure you don’t get pulled over and fined or defected – which is the last thing you want on a trip away!
Before you head off, get someone to help you check the lights:
SIDE LIGHTS (if it has them)
Trailer brakes can be checked by jacking the wheels just off the ground (you’ll need your mate to help you again). Most trailers will have a manual lever or hand brake. Spin the wheel around and then get your helper to apply the brake.
While the wheels are off the ground you can check the wheel bearings. The wheel should spin easily – listen to make sure there are no grinding sounds. While the tyre is still off the ground, hold the top of the wheel and try and move it in and out - the tyre should be firm. If there is movement, this would indicate the wheel be aring is loose and will need adjusting.
The trailer will probably have a few grease points on the brake coupling and spring assemblies. Repacking wheel bearings should always be done with the right type of grease. General purpose grease will not handle the heat and will
break down in a very short time. This leaves the bearing dry and could possibly even catch on fire.
All Auto shops should have a pretty good range of appropriate grease. You’ll also need to know, if your trailer has brakes, are they disk or drum.
ADJUSTING AND/OR REPLACING
Changing a tyre, replacing or adjusting wheel bearings are a few good skills you should be able to do yourself,
and you only need a few basic tools. That way, if you do happen to break down out bush, you can fix the problem and get back on the road. Check the internet for how-to videos. Remember, it’s all about keeping yourself and others safe on the road, so if you’re not confident enough to tackle these jobs yourself, find a good mechanic before you head