If you bought a new competition horse you would do everything you could to take care of it, right? You’d feed and water him regularly and have the vet come if he showed any signs of illness. You’d provide him with a comfortable indoor stall and spend hours grooming him until he gleams.
A brand new horse trailer often costs as much or more than a show horse, so it makes sense that you would take care of it too. Many trailer owners don’t do what it takes to keep their trailers looking shiny and new. To remedy this problem, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you keep your new trailer looking and performing its best for years to come!
What Happens When You Store Your Trailer Outdoors?
Before we look at how to best take care of your new horse trailer, let’s look at some of the problems that can develop if your trailer is stored outdoors in the elements. Many people think of snow and ice as the main outdoor villains. In fact, year-round sunlight, pollen, and storms can quickly take your trailer from shiny to shabby.
The sun is the worst. Allowing your trailer to site outside unprotected is like being in the Sahara without sunblock….it isn't pretty! For instance:
Paint: Like many things in life, paint deteriorates and dulls when exposed to prolonged sunlight. With more exposure, you will see quicker fading of colors and breakdown of the paint integrity.
Roof: Most horse trailer roofs have a seam around the entire perimeter which is sealed using a petroleum based roof sealer. Any petroleum based product is sensitive to temperature, and sunlight. Eventually the UV from the sunlight breaks down the sealant (causing it to become dry and brittle). Don’t be surprised leaks develop on your roof.
Horse Trailer Windows: Most trailer windows are sealed with a rubber gasket behind the window, and most (if not all) have a rubber gasket on the exterior for water protection. Rubber (another petroleum product) breaks down from sunlight, temperature, and air exposure. Keeping it out of the sun helps tremendously. Even the window stoppers and holders are normally rubber so protecting those from sunlight is crucial to long term durability.
Tires: Here are more rubber (petroleum based) products that are sensitive to heat and sunlight. We’ve talked before about how tires rarely "wear out" but rather "age out.” Even with perfectly good tread, the rubber can become cracked, weak, and more likely to blow-out. Keeping tires covered from sunlight can help tremendously to avoid this issue.
Lights: Most horse trailer light fixtures have a rubber gasket that surrounds the light. For some extra protection, we normally seal with a small bead of silicon. The sunlight eventually destroys the silicon seal.
Miscellaneous Items: Horse trailers generally have vinyl graphics of some sort, door hold backs, rubber stoppers, rubber handles to cover latches, rubber gaskets, rubber bumpers, and other comfort items to make things easier during use. Each one of these items is going to weaken and degrade faster if left outdoors for storage.
If you own a steel trailer, you are also going to risk increased rust from outdoor storage. Double D Trailers have a Z-frame chassis so rust isn’t going to be a problem.
However, salt or road treatment chemicals used during winter storms can still cause corrosion on axles, brakes, and steel couplers common on all trailers regardless of the brand.
One of the best things you can do for your trailer is keep it indoors, under a shelter, or covered. Protection from the sun and rain will dramatically increase the lifespan of the trailer’s tires, paint job, steel parts, and all petroleum-based components.
What Regular Maintenances Should Be Performed On Your Trailer?
We recommend that you care for your new horse trailer in the same manner you would a prized automobile. Wash and wax the exterior surface regularly and keep it out of direct sunlight.
In fact, a trailer may require even more maintenance than your automobile. Many brands have an aluminum roof and the aluminum tends to 'bleed' black streaks down the side of the trailer. Left unattended, these streaks can actually stain the paint and it's almost impossible to get off.
To combat this problem, we recommend a product called ‘black streak remover.’ It should be used at the first sign of a problem to prevent long term stains.
Double D Trailers have a fiber composite roof system BUT there is an aluminum band around the top perimeter so some 'black streaks' can still result from that. The aluminum band on our trailers is a trim piece between the roof and flat vertical walls. It includes a plastic insert (and yes – this insert can also deteriorate from prolonged sun exposure, so keep it covered.)
Besides caring for the paint job on your trailer, we also recommend that you regularly lube all hinges on your trailer. Let’s think back to your prized automobile. It likely gets serviced every 3,000-5,000 miles for a “lube and oil.” Lube means the tech greases vital parts on your car. Your trailer should get the same regular attention.
This means you should grease door hinges, divider hinges, latches, and window latches. Even your window slide tracks need some attention. If your window is difficult to slide open and closed, it could be because the rubber gasket is acting as sand paper against the glass. A little bit of Vaseline or WD-40 will make a tremendous difference. Even door locks (the actual keyhole) needs to be lubricated. If it can move, it should be lubricated.
Hopefully we don’t sound like a broken record, but the BEST thing you can do to keep your trailer looking new is to store it inside. Brad Heath (Double D Trailers owner) says, “Indoor storage is absolutely THE BEST! Inside a barn or garage will eliminate a lot of future problems….in fact, you can roll a trailer indoors, let it sit for 10 years and when you roll it out it will still look almost new. Think about that compared to a trailer sitting outside for 10 years…ugh.”
How to Protect Your Horse Trailer with a Cover
If indoor storage simple isn’t an option, then a horse trailer cover is the next best option. Your trailer will still get ‘dirty’ while underneath a fabric cover since most covers are ‘breathable.’ Still the cover will protect your trailer from relentless sunlight.
Most trailer cover manufacturers offer various sizes so you’ll need to pick the one that fits your trailer best. You can opt to buy a universal size or pay the extra money for a custom fit trailer cover.
CalMark Cover Company is one brand that offers custom made-to-order trailer covers. You might also check out Adco (formerly Beverley Bay) for custom fit covers. They even let you specify the location of a zipper so you can enter the front tack room door without removing the entire trailer cover.
AquaShed Trailer Covers from Adco are available on Amazon. Click the links below:
Finally, if you can afford it, our top recommendation is the Sunbrella covers. They are the most durable and will last many years. The universal fit are much less expensive and will last 3-4 years. Plus, you can buy 2 or 3 universal fit covers for the same cost as one Sunbrella ‘custom fit.’
Check out this article for more information on how to do a spring check up on your trailer to make sure it’s ready for the road.
We hope these tips help you keep your trailer looking its best for years to come. If you have any questions about trailer maintenance or covers, don’t hesitate to contact Brad Heath.