You waited 6 months for the right weather, the time off from work and a special friend to share the day. On the way to the boat launch, you heard a noise and felt a jerking of the trailer. With smoke coming from the right trailer wheel, you had the sickening feeling that there would be no fishing today. So how can we avoid the disappointment of a broken trailer? Care of a boat or utility trailer will include the tires, axle alignment, bearings and seals, brakes, wiring and lights.
Tires will age and deteriorate from exposure to sunlight. Often trailer tires will need to be changed, even if they still have sufficient tread. Tires over 5-7 years old should be inspected for surface cracking, sidewall bulges or uneven wear patterns. Maintaining proper inflation with nitrogen (available at most tire stores) will extend the life of the tires by reducing the destructive oxidation of regular compressed air. (For More Info - http://goo.gl/1LKIU1)
Trailer axles need to be checked for alignment. This includes the camber and toe-in of the wheels. Camber will be affected by weak springs, age of the axle or increased carrying load weight. Toe-in is the difference in measurement of the distance between the front of the tires and the rear edge. The tires need to be 1/16 – 1/8” inch closer in the front. Toe-in can be changed by hitting potholes on the roadway or “snagging” a curb when turning right in a parking lot. As little as a 1/4" change in toe-in can quickly destroy a tire. An experienced alignment technician can properly set the camber and toe-in for optimum tire wear.
Trailer hubs on boat trailers are always under assault from lake water intrusion when loading and unloading the boat. Inspect bearings annually for roughness or grinding noise and checking to see if the bearing grease has mixed with water. Grease takes on a milky appearance when contaminated by water. Rough or noisy bearings need to be replaced. Clean all bearing and hub surfaces and reassemble with fresh grease and new axle seals. (For More Info - http://goo.gl/pq2jOR)
Trailer brakes can suffer from long periods of inactivity as moisture corrodes drums, pads and control mechanisms. Inspect, clean, lubricate and adjust.
Safe use of a trailer is dependent on other vehicles properly seeing your actions when hauling. Side marker lights are vital at night. Brake lights and signals will prevent a rear end collision. Inspect all lights for broken lenses, burned bulbs, corroded wiring or broken grounding wires.
Maintenance before the fishing trip can guarantee a safe travel and fish in the box. Happy trailering!
Winter is on the run, with spring coming soon. As frozen roads are warmed by the sun by day, and re-frozen at night, we find the appearance of the enemy of every vehicle suspension – the pothole. Small potholes are annoying, ruining your comfortable ride. Large ones can be dangerous, both to your safety and to the integrity of the vehicle you drive. Hit a pothole with a sharp pavement edge, at a high speed, and you might rupture a tire and make the vehicle uncontrollable. Even lesser speed hits can change the alignment settings or damage portions of the vehicle suspension.
A hard hit can bend a rim, or “bruise” a tire resulting in a bulge. If the car bottoms out with a hard hit, it might break a coil spring or shock absorber. At times even the exhaust system might strike the roadway. If damage occurs, the result could be excessively poor tire wear, or a lack of vehicle stability on slippery roads or a new noise when driving.
How will I know something is wrong? Just take a moment to look, listen and feel.
Look at the portion of the vehicle that hit the pothole. Notice anything unusual? Any marks on the tire or rim? Any tire bulges? Is the steering wheel properly centered when driving? At the next oil change, do the tires show excessive wear?
Listen to the sounds of the vehicle you drive. Anything sound different? Any clunk noises when turning or entering a driveway? Any rotational noise or noise that changes pitch as speed increases or when brakes are applied?
Feel any new vibrations? Is there a shaking to the steering wheel that was not there before the pothole? Do the brakes vibrate when braking?
Careful driving can help to avoid most potholes, but eventually one will be unavoidable. When that happens, an inspection by a qualified suspension and alignment technician can relieve any concern about damage, and make sure that you have a safe and comfortable ride.
Ever stretch an old rubber band and have it break? Ouch!!
Ever drive on an old tire and have it blow out? Ouch!!
Like all forms of rubber compounds, tires degrade with age and use. The new tire you bought was nice and flexible, with a tread face that was nearly 1/2 inch deep. But through many miles driven or years installed on the car, that tire has aged. By some standards a tire more than 6 yrs. old should be changed regardless of the tread left on it. As the tire wall hardens and the effects of UV take a toll, the ability of the tire to flex is reduced. Or maybe you drive lots of miles each year. No aging problem for you. But as you approach winter, how much tread depth is left? If the surface tread has less than 5/16 inch of depth, that tire may not be able to dissipate water & slush from the winter road surface. So from age or wear, now may be the time to replace the tires on your vehicle. It could be the best move to give you a safe and comfortable ride this winter.
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Don’t Take A Vacation…
…from vehicle maintenance. Summer is the time for light-hearted days in the sun, hours away from the office and more time spent at the lake or on the links. But before you lay aside all serious thinking – take a minute to consider….
Other than the frigid nights of January, summer is the biggest struggle for any vehicle. Trips to the beach and ballpark add miles at a quicker pace. Heat and humidity add pressure to tires & cooling systems. Oils thin out and breakdown; transmissions work overtime.
Basic vehicle maintenance is all about common sense and a desire for a SAFE and COMFORTABLE ride. To say nothing of maintaining the value of your investment (2nd only to the mortgage on the house).
It begins with regular oil and fluid changes because like tires they wear out. Filters plug up with pollen and dust, making it hard for the engine to breathe. Tires need sufficient tread depth to grip the road and pushing them “a little longer” could be a fatal mistake. A noise or vibration that is different is worth checking out. Afterall repairing on your schedule is much better than a breakdown on the highway and a ruined vacation day.
So as the weather heats up and you set out, take the time to care for the vehicle that will carry your loved ones on vacation.