Why TRAILER ASSISTBy Pat Piper
Published: Summer 2013
Advice from our TRAILER ASSIST professionals.
The most common service call we get is for a failed wheel bearing. When this occurs at high speed, the wheel can lock and come off, the axle hits the ground, and it can lead to catastrophic accidents. This doesn't happen to the guy pulling a 20-foot Boston Whaler as much as it happens to the guy pulling a tri-axle trailer with a big boat, who is more cavalier about maintenance. We commonly hear, "I wasn't going that far."
Check your bearings before you leave home. If you’ve got Bearing Buddies (bearing protectors) and they look dry, that means you need to add some grease. Keep a log of the mileage when grease is added.
Failed bearings are what we see all the time. I see it with trailers that have sat unused and then are taken on the highway, submerged in saltwater, and nobody takes a moment to maintain them by adding grease. One piece of advice I have: Pull your trailer for about five miles, pull off the road, turn off the engine, and put your hand on each trailer hub. If it feels hot, that's a sign there'll be a bearing failure soon or that more grease needs to be added.
Bearings are the main reason we're called to make a roadside repair. Customers don't understand the importance of doing preventive maintenance by replacing and inspecting bearings. People usually know what to look for with a tire because they do that with their tow vehicle. They can relate to having good tread depth because, unlike bearings, it's visible.
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TIP If boat trailer bearing grease looks white, this means water has gotten into the bearing assembly
TIP If you can’t back up a trailer with disc brakes, 90 percent of the time this means the reverse solenoid on the actuator is stuck. This occurs most commonly when backing up a hill. Adding some grease may help. Sometimes, a screwdriver can be placed in a hole in the coupler on the driver’s side, just behind the locking latch. This will keep the brakes from engaging. However, once the trailer is backed into position, remove the screwdriver; otherwise, you have no brakes when underway on the highway. Other causes include the tow vehicle’s reverse lights not working.
TIP If the actuator’s master cylinder is full but you have no braking power, there’s air in the system.
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