Readying Your Trailer For The Show Season

Posted by Butch Patchell on 03/11/2013

An important thing which you can do when readying your trailer for the show season is review the manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual for your trailer.  4-Star Trailers, and nearly all other manufacturers who are members of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) provide downloadable versions from their web sites.  The 4-Star Trailers Owner’s Manual is available here and includes a check list to help owners with those items requiring periodic inspection.  Although the manual is designed for owners of trailers built by 4-Star, the information included in the Inspection and Periodic Maintenance sections is applicable to any type of trailer. All of the obvious things such as inspection of tires, brakes, coupler, etc. are covered as well as the not so obvious.

The importance of having and following a check list before and during transport of your trailer cannot be overstated. You’ve probably seen many examples of people following check lists for even the most routine of procedures. Pilots with hundreds of flights and thousands of hours of flying time use a pre-flight check list which they follow religiously before each flight. The safety of yourself, your horses and passengers, as well as that of fellow travelers is at stake each time you hitch up. At 4-Star Trailers we feel that a Pre-Tow check list is so important that we devote an entire section of our Owner’s Manual to it. The list not only tells one what to inspect, but references those sections of the manual which show how and what to inspect for.  The following is Section 6 of our manual. It deals with those parts of the trailer and tow vehicle which should be inspected before and during towing.

Before towing, double-check all of these items: See Section 9.1, “Inspection, Service & Maintenance Summary Charts,” for more information.            

· Tires, wheels and lug nuts. See “Major Hazards” in the “Safety” Section.              

· Tire Pressure. Inflate tires on trailer and tow vehicle to the pressure stated on the respective VIN /Certification label.  

· Coupler secured and locked. See “Coupling and Uncoupling the Trailer” Section.              

· Safety chains properly rigged to tow vehicle, not to hitch or ball. See “Coupling to the Tow Vehicle”        Section.                

· Test all lights.    

· Test trailer brakes.         

· Safety breakaway switch cable fastened to tow vehicle, not to safety chains. See “Coupling to the          Tow Vehicle” section.                 

· Cargo properly loaded, balanced and tied down. See “Loading the Trailer” section.         

· Tongue weight and weight distribution set-up.                 

· Doors and gates latched and secured.  

· Fire extinguisher.

· Flares and reflectors.     

After each 50 miles, or one hour of towing, stop and check the following items:                  

·               Coupler secured.              

·               Safety chains are fastened and not dragging.       

·               Cargo secured.  

·               Cargo door latched and secured.

Most of the items in the Pre-Tow check list address issues of safety. You’ll probably want to add some items to the list that address comfort, such as making sure that adequate food and water are on board.  Comfort, and in particular, the comfort of your horses leads us to the next and sometimes overlooked component of a trailer; the suspension. Many problems arise from a trailer’s suspension being out of spec. Trailer axle requirements for a smooth ride are similar to your car or truck. Proper caster, camber, and alignment are critical factors in ensuring a smooth ride. All of the aforementioned can be adversely affected by many factors including pot holes, clipping or jumping curbs, or improper load distribution. Excessive vibration caused by suspension problems can be the source of premature wear in latches, hinges, and other components as well as adding unwanted stress to the horses. Your horses will appreciate a smooth ride and your trailer will last longer when you seek the help of qualified professionals who can inspect for and correct problems with your trailer’s suspension.

Things To Make Your Trip More Enjoyable

Adding a few options to your trailer can make your trip less troublesome and enjoyable. Some of the old standbys include extra lighting, storage spaces, ramps, water tanks, and hay racks. In recent years we’ve seen the introduction of some high tech gadgets that can really improve your trailering experience. Some are offered by trailer manufacturers as optional equipment and some are available through aftermarket channels.

  • Horse Trailer Alarm System

There are systems available which sound a loud alarm as well as activate bright flood lights. Some of the more sophisticated systems actuate the trailer’s brakes to prevent movement.

  • Video Surveillance

Systems that allow the horse compartment to be observed from the cab of the tow vehicle are common. Advanced systems allow remote monitors to be placed in motel/hotels rooms enabling the trailer to be monitored when parked.

  • Solar Battery Tender

These are invaluable for keeping batteries conditioned and charged whenever the trailer is not in use. They can be especially useful for living quarters trailers which are typically equipped with multiple batteries.

  • Enclosed, Roof Mounted Hay Pod

Unlike an open hay rack, these are fully enclosed and weather resistant. They are considered indispensible for those who wish to bring their own hay or feed so as to not risk a dietary change which could affect horse performance. They also offer a great way to increase available storage.

  • Air Ride Suspension

Air Ride has become increasingly popular as an option. The ability of this suspension to absorb vibration makes a difference to passengers in the tow vehicle as well as reduces stress to the horses due to its relatively smooth, quiet ride. The reduction in vibration also reduces wear and tear on trailer and tow vehicle components. Some have reported better fuel economy over torsion axles.

  • Remote Tire Air Pressure Monitoring System

Many blow outs are caused by overheating due to under inflation. This affordable system can save a lot of headaches and inconvenience.