Many trailer accidents and malfunctions can be attributed to inadequate preventive maintenance. Don’t let trailer maintenance take a back seat to boat maintenance. After all, it’s the only thing between the road and your beloved ski boat. Use this checklist to make sure your trailer is ship shape before the season gets underway.
Check brake-fluid level, integrity of the brake lines and associated components, and the brake linings for excessive wear (replace if lining is 1⁄8 inch or less). Also, replace the brake fluid at least every two years in order to keep condensation in the brake system from causing corrosion (conventional glycol-based brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs water).
2. Wheel bearings
Remove the wheel hub assembly and inspect the axle spindle, bearings and races for pitting due to corrosion and scoring and discoloration usually due to excessive heat. Replace bearings and races if necessary and use a new rear seal.
Check tail lights and running lights to ensure that they properly illuminate. Check the trailer wiring harness for bare wires and cracked or chafed insulation, and check the plug terminals for corrosion. Apply a small amount of dielectric grease to light-bulb bases and plug contacts to prevent corrosion.
Check tire pressure on a regular basis. Tires lose a few pounds of pressure a month just sitting. Also, use a penny to determine if the tread on your tires is too low by inserting a penny in the tire tread. If part of Abe’s head is covered by the tread, it’s OK.
5. Bunks and rollers
Check bunks for rotting, loose mounting bolts and worn carpet. Check rollers for cracks, splits and freedom of movement.
Inspect entire trailer for any signs of rust. It’s more than just a cosmetic concern. If left unattended, it will eventually lead to structural issues.
7. Winch Assembly
Lubricate gears, inspect entire winch (strap, rope and cable) for damage and replace if necessary.
8. Hitch Coupler
Make sure the coupler is adjusted with the correct amount of tension. A loose connection may cause the coupler to disconnect or to rattle. Also, slightly grease the coupler to prevent corrosion.
9. Tongue Jack
Grease the jack with wheel-bearing grease. Some jacks have a grease fitting. If your jack does not have a grease fitting, remove the top plastic cap on the jack and apply a generous portion of grease to the gears. Re-install the cap and crank the jack completely up and down several times to distribute the grease.
10. Wheels and suspension
Check the wheel’s lug nuts. If loose, torque them to manufacturer’s specifications. Visually inspect leaf-spring suspension components for rust, pitting, cracking, loose fasteners, elongation of bolt holes and sagging or broken springs.
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