Too often we forget how important our little trailers are to our farms.
A lot of us don’t think about our little trailers that we use a lot to haul our four-wheeler or a skid loader. We just generally hook it onto the truck and go. Nobody thinks to look at it until something goes wrong. Our bigger trailers — the semi truck trailers — we tend to look at more, but we don’t think about the maintenance for our little trailers until it is too late.
For example, you don’t ever think about checking the wheel bearings until you throw your four-wheeler on the trailer to go visit a buddy in Indiana and you get halfway there and a wheel blows off on the interstate. Then you are stuck. On the little trailers we really try to look at the wheel bearings and seals once a year.
If you have an older trailer you have to take it apart to inspect the bearing and seals and re-pack them with grease. Some of the newer trailers have a grease fitting built on the hub to grease the wheel bearings and that is fine, but you don’t want to over grease it. If you over grease it, the grease will push passed the seal and get on the brakes and then you have the hassle of trying to clean or replace the brakes or replace the seal. So make sure to use caution if you have that style of hub.
Other things to look at on our winter little trailer checklist include:
• The lights: check once a year to make sure they are working.
• I generally look at the suspension components: the leaf springs, the shackles, the u- bolts on the axles. Check for wear and make sure they are not loose. Some of us maybe aren’t as nice to our trailers as we should be and we put too much weight on them because we’re in a hurry, so you might want to inspect those things.
• You should also lube the jack once a year and check the hitch.
• Make sure lug nuts are tight.
• Check tire pressure.
• Inspect ramps and mounting hardware.
• Electric brakes: if your trailer has electric brakes on it, a lot of the newer trailers have a breakaway kit that consists of a 12-volt battery and a plunger with a cable on it. If it comes unhooked from the truck, it pulls that plunger and puts the brakes on. A lot of people don’t think about those batteries, but on most trailers the battery is not tied into anything to charge it back up. You need to check that battery to make sure it is charged up or replace it. A lot of the newer ones have a nice little panel on them. You just push a button on it and it has a light on it that tells you if it is dead, needs charged or it’s good.
• Brake shoes: most brake shoes don’t have automatic adjusters so you have to manually adjust those.
• Surge brakes: they are not very common any more, but if the trailer has surge brakes on them you need to check the hydraulic brake system. Just like the brakes on your car, it uses the same fluid. You want to check the hydraulic fluid in them. Grease rollers and the plunger.
• If you do have surge brakes and you do a lot of backing it can be difficult because if you are trying to back up a hill, it is trying to put the brakes on the trailer. There is a little solenoid that can be put in the brake line to lock the brakes off when you put the truck in reverse, so you can back up a hill without it trying to put the brakes on.