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Spring Cleaning Your Horse Trailer: Use This Checklist So Your Trailer is Ready to Roll!

double d trailers logoSpring is finally here!  It is time for sunshine, horse shows, and wildflowers everywhere!  We hate to remind you, but it’s also time for some serious spring-cleaning.  Your trailer has likely been sitting in the field all winter long being bombarded by the elements.  Now, you need to check it over from hitch to bumper to make sure that everything is operating smoothly and safely.  Here’s an 8-point checklist to help:

1. That Sneaky Metal Eater – RUST!

One of the first things you should do when you’re ready to bring your trailer out of its winter hibernation is look for rust spots that may have developed over the winter.  Every trailer, even aluminum or composite brands, will have common steel parts like the gooseneck coupler, axles, and landing gear.
Double D Trailers expert Brad Heath explained, “Small rust spots that occur on those are mostly cosmetic and do not present any danger but it's important to keep your trailer looking good long term.”  He recommends slightly sanding the rusty spots and touching up annually to greatly improve the overall appearance.  Plus, this will make you feel better knowing that your rig looks good! 

Besides these cosmetic fixes, it’s also good to check areas of the trailer that will be around the horse’s legs. Nobody has time for a rusted fixture that cuts their horses’ legs!  If you have a steel frame trailer, areas around the back doors may get nicked from horses loading and unloading, so check these areas carefully.

Finally, if you have an all-steel trailer, the thin sheet metal on the body of the trailer can actually rust completely through.  This can be extremely dangerous.  Horses could kick through these weakened walls and really injure their legs.  Plus, a weakened trailer structure will not hold up well in an accident.  Have any rusted-through areas repaired professionally before loading up for a trip.

2. Brittle Blow Out – Check Your Tires

check your tiresAfter you’ve cleaned up any rust spots, you should look down at your trailer tires.  Brad explained that tires rarely wear out but rather age out.

“On used trailers it is very common for advertisements to read, ‘Tires Like New’ or ‘Good Tread,’ all of which are very misleading and can lead to a serious blow out.”  Just because an old tire has a good tread does not mean that the rubber hasn’t degraded and weakened over the years.

Most tire manufacturers recommend that you change your tires every four to five years depending on usage.  The best way to avoid tire problems is to be pro-active and get on a routine of replacing tires every four years to be safe.

Brad also added that it is import to keep the proper amount of air in your tires for every single trip.  He explained, “Running a tire one time over inflated, or under inflated can cause excessive heat build up and actually weaken the tire and greatly shorten the life expectancy - a blow out could occur at a future date.”

3. “The Left One's Not Working” – Lights and Brakes

Testing your lights and brakes is something you should do every time you take your trailer out on a trip, but spend a few extra minutes that first time out.  It’s easy to test your lights - generally they either ‘work’ or they ‘don’t work,’ so a visual inspection will suffice. 

Some brake systems are self-adjusting, so they will automatically adjust as the pad wears until the brake is exhausted.  Others are manual.  Brad explained that a professional should also service the brakes and bearings annually.

trailer brakes and bearings maintenance

Source Info - Dexter Axle

4. Don't Let Your Floors Fall Down On The Job

check your flooringWe’ve talked extensively about the importance of checking your trailer floors before each and every trip.  In the spring, you should spend some extra time looking things over. Believe it or not, even aluminum floors can develop white rust that weakens the integrity of the floor. 

Brad shared, “If it's a wood floor, mainly check for soft spots in the wood where moisture may have built up and rot occurred.  If it's an aluminum floor, visually crawl underneath the trailer and look for signs of corrosion and pull the mats back and inspect for corrosion.”

We just heard yet another sad story of a mare who was traveling in a trailer when the weakened floor gave way.  Her leg was dragged along the asphalt for several miles before a police officer spotted the situation and pulled over the rig.  Her injuries were extensive and painful; so don’t let this happen to your horse! 

5. Dental Floss to the Rescue!

paddingAny sharp corners, exposed screws, or frayed window screens can cause scrapes or cuts on your horse.  That is why it’s always a good idea to repair or replace any torn padding, torn window screens, or wall linings in the interior of your trailer.

Much of this repair work can be done yourself with a sturdy sewing needle and some dental floss.  It’s stronger than any other thread and you probably have a whole roll unused in your bathroom!  However, if the damage is more severe, or you don't like the look of dental floss, you may need to bring in a professional who can replace damaged parts.  While you’re in the trailer, also check to make sure that all of the partitions and latches work properly.

6. Something's Rotten in the State of ... Your Living Quarters Horse Trailer!

living quartersThe living quarters in your horse trailer basically make it an RV or Camper with the ability to haul horses.  This means that any standard maintenance for your trailer living quarters should match that of your RV.  When asked about this, Brad exclaimed, “Living quarter trailers work much better when they are in use constantly...  ‘Sitting’ is the worst!”

This means that if you are using your trailer on a regular basis, you are much less likely to have problems like window leaks, stinky tanks, broken appliances, rotten awnings, and faulty AC. 

RV repair centers are often the best ‘go to’ source for living quarter horse trailers and we recommend dropping off your horse trailer fall and spring.  Systems should be winterized in the fall using RV/anti-freeze chemicals.

In the spring, there is a laundry list of items that should be checked and inspected to insure a full season of worry-free use:

  • Check the air conditioner seal on top.  They can ‘age out’ and begin leaking unexpectantly causing significant damage.
  • Check awning fabric since it tends to mildew and dry rot with age.
  • Check the refrigerator.  RV refrigerators are notorious for going ‘bad’ while sitting.  Dust/dirt builds up on the burner so it needs a thorough cleaning and testing prior to use.
  • Have your fresh water system sanitized. You don't want to take a shower in algae filled fresh water tanks!
  • Holding tanks underneath should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent build up.
  • Heating system should be cleaned and tested.
  • Check for leaks to insure a fitting hasn't cracked through the winter or o-ring/seal fatigued and begin to leak.  RV's have a lot of ‘sealants,’ which dry rot over time so it's important to stay ahead of those on a routine maintenance schedule for all living quarters horse trailers.

7. Lubricating and Liberating – Hinges and Keyholes

keyholeThere’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to open a door when the key is getting stuck.  Here’s a neat little trick. 

Stick your trailer key into a jar of Vaseline and work it in and out of the keyhole to loosen the workings.  Voila!  Your key will turn smoothly!

While you’re in the mood, go through your trailer and lubricate all of the hinges with something like WD-40.  This way you can avoid that embarrassing ‘SQUEEEEAK!!’ when you open your doors.  Plus, it will ensure that your doors operate smoothly when you need to use them.

8. Keeping It Dry – Roof and Window Seals

windowsOur final tip of the day has to do with leakage…

Remember that rubber parts become stiff and brittle with age, and the seals on your windows are no exception.  Reseal your windows in the spring to avoid windows that leak air and moisture.

Finally, check out the roof!

Brad shared, “This is one area of maintenance most folks fail but having a ‘leaky’ roof on a living quarter can result in thousands of dollars of repair bills.” 

Do you want an even easier solution to roof leaks?  Consider purchasing a trailer cover for around $200-400.  Brad said,  “It can be one of the best investments an owner can make.  It prolongs the life of the roof, window seals, and even the tires if they are covered from sunlight.”

Ok, we understand that it may be hard to fit in these cleaning chores between the sunlight basking and flower-picking, but try your hardest.  Use these spring-cleaning tips and your trailer will be ready to go when that first show or trip comes along.  Remember that doing regular maintenance on your trailer not only prolongs the life of your vehicle, but also ensures the safety of you and your horse!

What tips or hacks do you have to help people clean up their trailer this spring?

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