Horse Trailer Maintenance
by Debora Johnson
Off Season Trailer Maintenance
For those of us who own a horse trailer and pulling vehicle it is important to remind ourselves that they are our life lines when hauling. Time passes and regular maintenance is pushed aside because of busy schedules and because this is a nuisance chore--at least for me! USRider has an Equine Trailer Safety Area on its web site that is excellent. USRider also provides roadside emergency help for horse owners. USRider It is important to know that many tow trucks will not tow horse trailers, especially with live cargo.
I have this procedure done once annually. Also, if I am taking a long haul to Kentucky, for example, I take the trailer in to have it fully checked. For those of you who live in my area, I use American Truck and Trailer in Manassas, VA. They are excellent.
- Remove and inspect all wheels and hubs or brake drums.
- Inspect suspension for wear.
- Have your trailer frame checked for rust.
- Check tightness of hanger bolt, shackle bolt, and U-bolt nuts per recommended torque values.
- Check brake linings, brake drums, and armature faces for excessive wear or scoring.
- Check brake magnets with an ohmmeter.
- Lubricate all brake moving parts, using a high temperature brake lubricant.
- Remove any rust from braking surface and armature surface of drums.
- Inspect oil or grease seals for wear or nicks. Replace if necessary.
- Inspect and grease wheel bearings.
- Check all trailer tires and spare for dry rot, air pressure, air valves, wear and tear.
- Tires should be replaced every 3 to 5 years no matter what.
- Only use tires specifically designed for horse trailers and no others.
- Check wheel bearings yearly.
- Carry a spare wheel bearing in your trailer in case one goes bad. This happened to me.
- Have lights and wiring inspected yearly.
- Have door latches and closures of all sorts inspected yearly.
- Have your floor inspected yearly.
- Have trailer checked for stress cracks.
- Have all moving parts inspected and lubricated yearly.
- Make sure your hitch and hitch fittings are safe.
- Make sure that your hitch ball is greased.
- Have emergency contact info in your trailer in case it is needed.
A Special Word About Trailer Tires
- Before loading your horses check your tires every time you trailer.
- Keep your tire pressure inflated to proper specifications, including your spare. All readings are for "maximum cold inflation pressure."
- Check for dry rot, tread, and any other visual problems.
- Tires should be replaced every 3-5 years depending to trailer use and weather.
- Use only trailer specific tires, only new tires, quality tires, and fresh tires. (not older stock)
- Check manufacturer's dates to make sure the tires are recent. Your tire dealer can provide this info.
- I also carry two extra sets of wheel bearings in my trailer tongue box.
Your Towing Vehicle
Have your towing vehicle in top working order always. I take my towing vehicle in and have it checked every time the oil is changed (approximately every 3-4 months). My trailer is a surge trailer from England (no electric brakes) so I am totally dependent on my towing vehicle's braking system. Make sure to carry a first aid kit for yourself Equine First Aid Kit and your horse. I always carry banamine,* an antibiotic, gauze, scissors, bute, needles and syringe, tri-hist, leg wraps, local equine vets and numbers in whatever area I am traveling (in case of emergency), and a list of horse hotels, as well. Of course, always carry a charged cell phone.
*Banamine is a sterile solution of flunixin meglumine used for alleviation of pain and inflammation associated with colic and musculoskeletal disorders in horses.
Hooking Up Your Tag Along
When you are hooking up your trailer to your towing vehicle there are several important things to know. The following is a check list that we use for every trailer outing:
- Check inside of trailer for wasp nests before you load horses.
- If using a hay net make sure it is fastened properly.
- Ball of trailer is greased
- Ball is correctly secure in whatever kind of fitting you may have.
- Chains are criss-crossed under your trailer tongue. In case your coupling detaches for some reason your trailer tongue will fall into the crossed chains and not onto the road. The chains will act like a cradle for the detached trailer tongue.
- Safety brake is attached (If you have one)
- Insert light coupling
- Make sure all lights are in working order.
- Check tires
- Make sure all doors are secure, including the escape door.
- Make sure floor has no rot.
- Have water
- Have first aid kit for horses and self
- Have cell phone and important emergency numbers
- Do an eye inspection of the entire trailer.
USRider offers these safety tips for using turn signals:
- Make sure all signals are in good working order. Have a friend check your lights from time to time. Do not pull your horse trailer if the turn signals are not working properly.
- Turn your signals on before you make a turn or maneuver, not during the turn or maneuver.
- Get into the habit of using turn signals all the time, not just when other drivers are present.
- Be an aware driver and be sure to turn signals off when you have completed your turn or maneuver.