7 Step Trailer Inspection Checklist
Enjoy a safe road trip by inspecting your trailer first with our step by step guide
Trailers, camper trailers and caravans are like cars and need to be maintained and serviced. There is no point in servicing your vehicle before the big trip, leaving, and then finding that half the unit’s parts you are towing is spread around the country because nobody checked it before the trip.
The inspection is not difficult and can be performed in your own driveway by following a simple step by step programme, looking at things systematically so you don’t miss anything. Simply start from the ground and work your way up.
STEP 1 – Tyre Condition & Pressure Checks
Tyres need to be checked for any rips or tears. As the tyre has usually been sitting in one place for a long period of time there may be a flat spot on it. Also, as trailer tyres usually stay on the trailer for a long period of time due to lack of use during the year, the rubber can become hard and start to perish. This will be noticeable by small cracks appearing on the sidewalls.
Once the tyre has been inspected and found to be in good order (don’t forget the spare), it is time to check the air pressure. If you have a touring type trailer it is recommended that you use a light truck tyre, which should have a working pressure of between 45 and 65psi. If you are using off-road tyres on a trailer they will have a working pressure of between 32 and 45 psi. The required pressure will vary depending on the weight being carried.
STEP 2 – Wheel Hubs, Bearings and trailer axle
Now that you have finished checking the tyres you should check your hubs, bearings, and axles. This is done simply by jacking the wheel off the ground. Once this is done grab both sides of the wheel and wobble it. If you get some movement in the wheel you may have to nip up the bearings. Spin the wheel and if there is a rumble, the bearings will need to be replaced. When the wheel is spinning it should be silent.
While you’re down there you should also check the axle. Make sure that the axle is straight and square. Also check that the axle is sitting on the center pin of the spring.
STEP 3 – Check your trailer brakes
While the wheel is off the ground, check the brakes, if there are any.
There are three main types of brakes used on trailers:
- The electric magnet type that require a controller in the vehicle.
- Hydraulic type brakes that have a reservoir on the drawbar of the trailer
- Mechanical override disc brakes.
All these need to be checked for adjustment, wear and tear on the pads or shoes, and the hydraulic fluid level needs to be checked.
STEP 4 – Suspension components
Your suspension is the next system that needs to be checked. Trailers have different suspensions depending on the work they are doing.
Things that should be looked for and checked are:
- Cracked or broken leaves
- Leaf separation
- Shock absorber leaks
- Tighten all bolts
- Check all bushes are not perished or split
- Check all bolts and look for wear marks, as some trailers are metal on metal.
Suspensions are like vehicles, they should be serviced on a regular basis, and when they have been in the bush they should be cleaned and blown out so that dirt does not build up between the leaves.
STEP 5 – Trailer Chassis checks
While lying on your back, informing everybody that you are actually being productive under the trailer and not just having a sleep, cast your eye along the chassis and crossbars.
You will be looking for any evidence of cracks in the welds, in the steel, or any major rust problems that may need to be reinforced with new sections. Also check the bolts that may hold the body to the chassis, if applicable.
STEP 6 – Trailer lights & wiring
Now that you have appeared from under the trailer and risen to your feet it would be a good time to hook the unit to the vehicle and try out the lights.
Take your lenses out and clean any dust that may be inside as the dust makes a big difference to the intensity of the lights, increasing the safety and visibility of your trailer for other vehicles on the road. While the lens cover is off, it’s a good opportunity to take out all the globes and make sure that the connections are all clean. If they are slightly dodgy then they can be cleaned using some emery paper and a rag.
Make sure all wires and connections are good, as sometimes the weather can have an adverse effect. Do not forget all the clearance lights if applicable. If you still have some problems then move to the front of the van and check the plug. Often you will find that the plug is full of dust and moisture. This can cause corrosion and a poor connection from the car, resulting in lights not working properly or doing weird and wonderful things, more suited to a nightclub than a trailer.
STEP 7 – Tow Hitch
The last step is the inspection of the hitch. Lubrication to these parts will be required. If you have a Treg type hitch then the pin will need to be inspected as well as the nylon block. Make sure there is no wear on any of these parts. There will be grease nipples on the trailer mounting section of the treg for the rotating shaft. This must remain lubricated.
If you have a normal ball mount, make sure that all moving parts are lubricated and move freely. At the same time you can adjust you mechanical over ride brakes if necessary, as the adjuster is at the back of the mount.
Once you have finished this simple inspection your unit should be ready to travel with confidence. However it never hurts to carry some spare parts for the longer more rugged trips. A spare hub or at the very least a set of bearings is a must. If possible, it makes sense to match the tyres and rims to those on your vehicle, providing you with an extra spare if needed.
One last thing to remember is to check that the unit is licensed, insured and you have the registration tag attached.