Trailer maintenance tips
Photo courtesy of Featherlite Trailers.

Regular trailer maintenance ensures you and your horses stay safe while on the road.

Before you and your horses embark on a road trip, give your trailer some TLC. Following these trailer maintenance tips on a regular basis will give you peace of mind – and add years to your trailer’s life.

1. Keep your trailer clean, both inside and out.

This will help prolong the life of your trailer and ensure it maintains its value. Thoroughly wash your entire trailer immediately after exposure to road salt and de-icer fluid during the winter months – this will help prevent the aluminum from corroding.

2. Clean mats, walls and floor.

Horse trailer floors are subjected to corrosive urine and manure. Every three months (or more often, with heavy usage), remove the floor mats. Wash them on both sides, and the floor underneath, with soap and water. Thoroughly wash the walls. Be sure the mats and floor are completely dry before replacing the mats.

3. Examine doors, hardware, roof and windows.

Ensure the feed doors close and fit securely. Clean and lubricate the latches before the first use after storage, at least every three months during use, and at the end of the season. Some trailer manufacturers recommend a spray lubricant containing Teflon®. Depending on the wear on your latches, you may need to see a dealer for replacement. Also inspect hinges, doors and dividers every three months, and repair or replace if damaged. Remove dirt or build-up in your sliding windows and roof vents every six months.

4. Inflate your tires.

Well-maintained tires improve the steering, stopping, traction and load-carrying capability of your trailer. Underinflated tires are a major factor in tire failure, which can lead to breakdowns or an accident. Tire information placards should be attached to your trailer or found in your owner’s manual. Rotate trailer tires every 5,000 miles; thoroughly inspect the treads and sidewalls every six months. Don’t forget to check your spare tire as well.

5. Check the lights.

Before each trip, check that all taillights, stop lights, clearance lights and turn signals are operating properly. Verify that the connection to your vehicle for the lights is clean and tight.

6. Test your brakes.

Properly functioning brake shoes and drums are essential to safety. Test your brakes before each trip, and visit your dealer for a full brake inspection; check your owner’s manual for the recommended frequency.

Remember to consult your owner’s manual for maintenance instructions specific to your trailer. You might also need to visit your local dealer for issues requiring extra care and service.

7. Inspect the breakaway battery and switch.

Your trailer’s breakaway battery supplies the power to operate the trailer brakes if it uncouples from your tow vehicle; the breakaway switch causes the breakaway battery to operate the electric brakes in the event of an uncoupling. Check the breakaway brake system before each trip. Make sure the battery is fully charged, connections are clean, and test the switch operation.

8. Check the wheels.

Consult your owner’s manual as to when wheel bearings or hubs should be inspected. Lug nuts or bolts should be checked for tightness before each use – especially on a new trailer, or if a wheel has just been remounted.

9. Grease the ball hitch, landing leg and jack.

Before each tow, coat the trailer’s ball hitch with a thin layer of automotive bearing grease to reduce wear and ensure proper operation. If you see any cracks, flat spots or corrosion on the ball or coupler, see a dealer to determine the proper action. You should also grease the landing leg or jack at least once a year.

As you get ready to head out on the road with your horses this spring and summer, safety should always be top priority. Take the time to tune up your trailer, then enjoy the ride!