Written by Randy Gerdin on October 1, 2015
Autumn is a great season in the upper-Midwest, and it one of my favorite times of the year. Autumn also brings thoughts of hunting season and the inevitable winter. Each autumn also brings about our “fall projects”, which cover everything from getting our watercraft put away to getting our trailers and fish houses ready.
We see numerous trailers each season, and most folks have different trailers for different activities. One thing they all have in common is the wheel bearings. Although wheel bearings in our cars and trucks have changed, the wheel bearings in most of our trailers have had the same design for over 50 years, and they do indeed need service. Every couple of years they should be taken apart, cleaned, inspected, and repacked with grease.
Another big issue with trailers is the lighting. Trailer lights seem be subjected to a lot of abuse. They are exposed to the elements as well as being submerged in water, dragged through the mud, and across a frozen lake. They need to be inspected and repaired as needed. We see so much abuse, wiring corrosion, and pulled apart connectors on trailers. Each year we find trailers that have been repaired so many time, that they require a complete rewiring, including new lighting fixtures. There is nothing more frustrating than getting ready for a trip and finding out that the lights do not work.
We recommend that when bringing in your trailer for repairs, you also bring in the vehicle that will be doing the towing. We see plenty of times when the vehicle doing the towing is partly, or mostly, responsible for the lights not working. In many cases, the wiring on the truck has been added to the vehicle as an aftermarket product. We see improper wiring done to the truck as well as trailers. Many towing parts manufactures create kits for the do-it-yourselfers. They may use a system that pierces the wire through the truck’s insulation. This does work for a while. However, salt, water, and the like, will eventually corrode the connection and the wire may sometimes physically break. The proper way to tie into a vehicle is to splice, solder, heat shrink, and tape up any connection so water cannot get in and compromise the integrity of the wiring.
Many of the new vehicles come with trailer towing packages, and come with wiring that is factory installed and works great. But over time, these too can fail. Many factory wired vehicles also come with circuits that are fused with fuses especially made for the trailer circuit. This may cause the lights on the truck to work fine but a blown fuse on the truck may be the cause of inoperative lights on the trailer. Many trailers are very sophisticated and have circuits for locking out surge brakes or have circuits for charging on board batteries that may run accessories on the trailers. Some trailers may have electric brakes and require an electric brake controller on the truck.
Another “trailer” issue we see causing problems are the tires. Trailer tires are different from regular car tires. Usually they have different tread patterns and different load ratings. Trailer tires often do not get many miles put on them; however, in some causes, the miles traveled are very hard miles. Many times, the tread of the trailer tires will not wear out, but the tire will fail in the sidewall. Often we see trailer tires with great tread but the side walls are all full of cracks. If you are ever unsure about any trailer issue, have an expert check it out. You don’t want to be one of those people stuck along the side of the road with a broken down trailer. I Hate When That Happens!