7 Ways to Prevent Utility Trailer Disasters
1. Tires: Always replace trailer tires with “Special
Trailer” (ST) tires (never passenger-rated tires).
ST-rated tires have stronger sidewalls and are built
to handle heavier loads. ST tires have a maximum
life of five years from the date of manufacture.
Replace yours accordingly.
2. Tire pressure: Inflate trailer tires to the
pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. Or, if the
sidewall pressure conflicts with the recommended
pressure shown on the trailer manufacturer’s
nameplate, follow the manufacturer’s
pressure recommendation. Low tire pressure is
the No. 1 cause of trailer tire failure. Overloading
the trailer is No. 2.
3. Lug nut/bolt torque: Tightening lug nuts
or bolts to the proper torque is critical. If you’re
not using a torque wrench, you’ll never get it right.
The recommended torque should be listed on the
trailer manufacturer’s nameplate, and it’s usually
much higher than for cars and trucks. Never drive
a loaded trailer with a missing lug nut or damaged
4. Safety chains: Always cross the safety
chains when you hook up to the hitch. The crossed
chains catch the tongue and prevent it from hitting
the pavement if it ever detaches from the receiver.
Leave only enough chain slack to allow for turns. If
your chain is longer than that, shorten it. Secure
the coupler throw latch with a lock or clip to prevent
it from popping open.
5. Wheel bearings: Failed wheel bearings are
the No. 2 cause of all trailer breakdowns. Repack
the bearings at least once a year (see Repacking Trailer Wheel Bearings for step-by-
step instructions). And don’t
pack the hub with grease. Extra grease in the hub
generates heat that can cause premature bearing
6. Load placement: Place 60 percent of the
weight toward the front of the trailer to prevent
sway and fishtailing.
7. Lubricate the ball: If you don’t, you’re
wearing out either the ball or the coupler. And that
wear can cause a sudden and dangerous disconnect.
Sure, grease is messy. But it’s the only way to
reduce heat and wear. Grease it or lose it.