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It's that time of year...
...that I start getting the itch to plan our travels and camping this summer with our trailer. I have a list of things I do to get our trailer ready each year. (As well as a "to-do list" compiled during our travels last year.) Of everything on my lists, here are the really important tasks to prevent a major (and possibly dangerous) disruption to your travels.
Is it time for new tires?
Look your tires over carefully. Be sure to check the tread depth and look for signs of dry rotting. Every bit as important though is to check the age of the tires. Often tires simply deteriorate with age on the inside and show no problems during a visual inspection. The life expectancy of a trailer tire varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most are between 3 to 8 years.
It's always a tough decision to part with your money to replace tires that visually look good. For me, however, I'm a believer that it's better to be safe than sorry. I got four years out of our last set but decided it was time to replace them this year. I was starting to think about it too much!
How to read the data on a tire sidewall
The most important item here is the date the tire was made. When you purchase new tires you should always check this date. Make sure you are not purchasing tires that have been sitting around in a warehouse for a long time.
Do your wheel bearings need to be serviced?
A wheel bearing that fails can leave you stranded on the side of the road. I've heard all kinds of recommendations to minimize this risk. My approach is to replace our wheel bearings every year if we've taken a long trip. Otherwise, at least every two years. It's pretty inexpensive and helps avoid one of the worst scenarios I want to run into on the road.
Years ago when we had a pop-up camper, our trips were rarely far from home. I would just inspect and repack the bearings myself. At this point, I pay to have it done by someone whose entire business is trailers. I've also found that it's no more expensive to have them replace the bearings than to repack them.
If your trailer has brakes, this is also the time to service them if needed. It's an easy check since the wheel hubs must be removed in order to do the wheel bearings.
Is your hitch too loose or too tight?
I don't know if this is a common problem, but it always scares me a bit whenever we hit a big bump. I just imagine our trailer becoming disconnected from my truck. Yes, the safety chains are supposed to catch it if that ever happens, but...I guess I just like to have a little something to worry about!
Adjusting the coupler on your hitch is very quick and easy. There's really no excuse for not doing it each year. It will only take you a few minutes. Click on the photo below to see a short video on YouTube that shows you how to do it.
And while you're on the road...
Once you start your travels, there are two things you should be checking along your way related to the items above.
Other than deterioration of a tire due to age, the three main causes of blowouts is excess speed, excess weight and improper tire pressure. All three of these are under your control First, make sure you don't overload your trailer. Second, have the patience and discipline to hold your speed down. Third, check your tire pressure every day before you start travel.
A overly hot wheel hub is a good indicator that a wheel bearing is failing. You should check the temperature of each wheel hub while you are towing, every time you make a stop. The quick and easy way is to put your hand over each hub and feel it. If it feels similar to other metal on the same side of your trailer, you're good. But, if you burn your hand, you probably have a problem.
I prefer taking it easy on my back and also not getting my hand dirty at every stop, so I use an inexpensive Infrared Thermometer. You simply aim the laser beam at the hub and the digital readout shows you the temperature.
The Amazon links below are to the devices I use. They are both quite inexpensive and I've been very satisfied with both of them.
So I hope this gets you going, thinking about your camping and travel plans this year. Have a great time, but be sure to take the time to properly prepare and stay safe. When you have some time, check out all my website has to offer. If you like what you find, please bookmark it so you can find it again, and maybe even share it with others. And by all means, if you have any questions, please send me a note.