Following on from last month’s feature on trailers, editor Grant Dixon, in conjunction with Voyager Trailers, offers the following quick guide to six-monthly trailer health check-ups...
Without them, we and our trailer boats are not going anywhere. If you have been on the road this holiday period, you will have most likely come across some unfortunate holidaymaker stranded by the wayside, let down by his trailer thanks to a lack of maintenance. Routine checks may well have gone a long way to preventing this unfortunate situation.
Ensure the park brake is on and/or the wheels are chocked so that the trailer can’t move. Attaching your trailer to a tow vehicle is another method to secure the trailer. Jack up one side of the trailer to allow the wheel/wheels to spin freely. Spin each wheel to ensure that there is no bearing rumble or end-play – while spinning the wheels check the tyres for tread depth and wear. If there is any noise coming from the bearings they should be immediately replaced. If there is any end-play movement in the bearings, tighten up sufficiently to stop the movement – do not over-tighten. Re-grease bearings and spin the wheels again to check for rumbling. If the bearings rumble, replace immediately.
Brake fluid level. If fluid level is down, top up to the maximum fill line on the inside of the master cylinder reservoir. If the reservoir needs topping up it will pay to visually check the brake lines for leaks. If any wet spots or leaks are found, the trailer should be taken to an automotive mechanic or boat dealer for maintenance. Operate the brakes by activating the hand brake lever. This should feel firm and activate pad movement at the callipers. If the hand brake feels spongy, the brake lines may need bleeding by a mechanic. Check pads for wear. This can be done by viewing the thickness of the pads from the side of the brake calliper. If pads are worn, fit replacement pads.
With the trailer attached to the tow vehicle, check the coupling for movement. If there is excessive play on the tow ball, check to see that the tow ball size matches the coupling. Adjust by tightening the bolt on top of the coupling where fitted. Grease the coupling every six months.
Check lights for operation. Now that LED lights are used, these seldom need servicing, but it is very important to check the light operation prior to any road trip
This trailer's main frame and springs are reaching the end of their useful life, although stripping it down and regalvanising it is an option.
Ensure that the tyres have the correct inflation. The recommended tyre pressure is engraved on to the ID plate on the drawbar of most trailers. If you can’t read this there will be a maximum tyre pressure recorded on the wall of the tyre. Check tyres for signs of wear and damage and don’t forget the spare.
Wheel nuts should be checked regularly to ensure that each nut is fitted to the correct torque setting. With varying temperatures and forces during normal operation, wheel nuts can loosen from their factory torque setting. It is essential that wheel nuts should be re-torqued manually with a high-quality torque wrench after an initial run-in period of at least 50km. An impact/rattle gun, if used, must only be used to ‘nip up’ the wheel nuts (for speed). An impact gun should never be used to achieve the final wheel nut torque setting. The correct nut torque sequence for the wheel must be used, to correctly and centrally locate the wheel on the hub of the trailer. Torque settings must be checked at regular service intervals not exceeding six months.
When the time comes to check those brakes and bearings, trying to get wheel nuts like these undone will more than likely require a bit of heat
Check the springs to ensure spring leaves are bound together and to ensure there are no cracked leaves within the spring. Visually check to ensure spring retaining fasteners are secure and not loose.
Check winch rope for wear and replace if necessary. Check winching hook for damage or wear. Replace if necessary. Check safety chain to ensure U-bolts are tight and chain is adequately secured. Check winch for operation to ensure spindle bushes are not worn. Spray winch drum and moving parts with a corrosion inhibitor regularly. Apply some marine grease to the drum gears and ratchet. Lubricate and check wire winch ropes regularly.