Trailer Maintenance

Know Before You Tow

Repco | 27th June 2022 | 10 minutes to read

  1. Jockey Wheels
  2. Trailer Bearings
  3. Trailer Coupling
  4. Security Options
  5. Tow Ball
  6. Trailer Braking
  7. U Bolts
  8. Weight Distribution

Jockey Wheel

If you're kitting out your towing setup in preparation for a camping trip with the family, hauling tools to the worksite or just doing the occasional tip run, choosing the right jockey wheel for your application is essential. With a few different variations on offer and all catering to different applications and towing setups, it can be challenging deciding which jockey wheel to choose to make attaching, detaching and manoevering your trailer easier.

Are you a tradie or someone who tows regularly for work?

Swivel Jockey Wheels are the perfect solution for you. Swivel Jockey Wheels have a spring-loaded folding clamp which allows the jockey wheel to remain mounted to the trailer, even when towing and not in use. It maximises trailer and car storage space by keeping greasy, oily jockey wheels mounted to the trailer.

Are you towing or storing your car on softer surfaces or gravel?

Pneumatic jockey wheels do away with traditional solid wheels and feature an air-filled tyre with more flexiblity and surface area. These are prefect for soft surfaces such as grass to prevent the trailer sinking and rough surface such as gravel since this wheel won't get caught up on small rocks.

Do you only tow once every few months for the odd task around the home?

A standard jockey wheel, although lacking the convenient features of the high-end models, is still an essential piece of the puzzle for your trailer and will do just fine for the odd tip run, picking up a new sofa or large whitegoods and most importantly storing the trailer when not in use.

Trailer Bearings

How do I check my trailer bearings?

Checking your bearings isn't a quick process, but it's something worth setting an afternoon aside for every 10,000kms or 12 months, but what exactly are you looking for?

After removing the wheel and hub, remove and clean your bearings so you can have a proper look at them. If you notice any visual damage to the rollers, roller cage, bearing or bearing race or any discolouration or evidence of excessive heat and friction, it's time to fit some replacement trailer bearings. Make sure to use quality grease when re-assembling the bearing assembly.The more care you take now, the less likely you'll need to repair or replace on the side of the road, should something go wrong.

When taking the assembly apart, it is important not to overlook the seals. If they are damaged, dry, brittle or cracked in any way then they must be replaced to ensure the assembly stays lubricated. It's worth taking into consideration that all of these components are relatively inexpensive and can be replaced before the due date to prevent any future damage or breakdowns.

If you tow regularly or subject your trailer to extreme conditions, bearing protectors are a great idea to maximise service life of your bearings and seals. These handy little accessories protect your bearings and seals from dust, dirt and water which can break down bearing grease and damage seals. They also add a greaseable point for quick service without dismantling the entire assembly.

Trailer Coupling

Your trailer's coupling is one of the most important parts of towing. It is the only part which connects your trailer to your tow-ball, so you need to be on top of maintaining it and ensuring it's in great condition.

How do I check my trailer coupling?

There are a few things to look at when inspecting your trailer coupling. Making sure the adjustment screw is correctly set is a great place to start. This screw ensures the coupling and tow ball keep a tight, strong connection while towing. Incorrect adjustment makes it difficult to connect the trailer or can result in the trailer becomming unnatchached during towing. This adjustment should be checked every 12 months, 10,000kms or anytime you replace the tow ball.

A visual check for any unusual looking wear inside the coupling where the tow ball sits is great practice too, as well a quick inspection of the entire unit to check for any serious rust, fatiguing or cracks in the housing. These simple visual checks should be carried out every time you use the trailer.If your visual inspections pick up any of the mentioned issues or your adjustment screw is maxed out, it's time for a new trailer coupling.

Security Options

How do I keep my trailer secured and locked up?

Whether you tow an expensive caravan, camper trailer or a box trailer with an expensive library of tools, keeping your trailer safe from pesky thieves has never been easier. With more anti-theft devices on the market than ever, locking up your trailer is a breeze.

A coupling lock is a handy accessory which are used to secure your trailer when it has been disconnected. Coupling locks prevent your trailer from being connected to a tow ball and being stolen when out of sight. Some coupling locks also allow the trailer to be locked to your own tow vehicle so it can't be removed without a key.

For an additional line of defence from theft, a wheel clamp is a great idea for locking down your trailer. Whilst they will physically stop the trailer from moving or being towed away, they are highly visible and will help to deter thieves from even trying to steal your gear.

Another handy accessory to prevent theft of your towing gear is a lockable hitch pin. As you know, replacing tow hitches is a costly exercise. Since they are generally only being secured by a basic hitch pin, thieves can make light work of your tow hitch. Lockable hitch pins can only be removed with a key, safely securing your tow hitch from the hands of thieves.

When it comes to security, there's no such thing as too much. A combination of the accessories mentioned above will ensure that your trailer stays right where you left it.

Tow Ball

Tow ball weight scales suit standard 50mm couplings and ensure an accurate weight reading so you can balance your load easily and safely without any guesswork or damaged towing componants.

What is tow ball weight and why do I need to measure it?

When loading up your trailer or caravan, most of the weight is supported by the trailer's suspension, however some of the weight is applied to the trailer coupling, tow ball, tow bar and chassis of the car. This weight at the coupling is known as towball weight. Tow ball weight varies every time you load your trailer, being higher with more weight at the front of the trailer or lower with more weight at the back. Trailers which are too heavy in the rear are also succeptible to dangerous handling characteristics and swaying, so balancing this weight is imperitive as towing setups carry a maximum ball weight limit which cannot be exceeded for legality and safety reasons.

Trailer Braking

For larger trailers and heavier loads, trailer brakes are essential. Just like on your car, maintaining your trailer brakes is key for safety, handling and ultimately stopping power when towing heavy loads. Without correctly functioning trailer brakes, stopping power and handling is massively reduced. We recommend performing these checks every 10,000kms or 12 months.

How do you maintain your trailer brakes?

There are a few simple steps for checking and servicing your trailer brakes to ensure the best performance when towing.

First of all is the brake pads. A simple visual inspection is a great starting point. Check the amount of friction material left, if the thickness is approaching 1.5mm or less, your pads are due for a replacement. If the pad thickness gets the all clear, next inspect for any stains from oil, grease and check for any uneven wear or strange marks. If you notice any of these issues, the brake pads should be replaced now.

The other component is the magnets. Magnets are the next most important part of your trailer braking system, when the magnet gets an electrical signal from the trailer wiring it actuates the brakes. Using a straight edge, check to make sure the magnets are wearing evenly. If the straight edge doesn't line up, its time to fit some replacement trailer brake magnets. Next, using a multi-meter, you can do a simple electrical test on the magnets. With 12 volts applied, each magnet should draw roughly 3.2 amps. If yours don't, its time for a replacement unit.

U Bolts

Another essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to towing is your U Bolts. U Bolts keep your trailer on the frame and axles, If these fail due to corrosion or damage then your caravanning holiday or boat trip is over.

How do I check my U Bolts?

Checking U Bolts is similar to checking any other fastener. Check that the nuts on your U Bolts are torqued correctly with a good quality torque wrench. Even if they look tight, any movement or vibration can sheer U Bolts due to the amount of weight that they are holding over rough surfaces. If you notice any stretching or damage of the threads, rust or wear between contacting parts or any evidence of cracking or stress marks, a set of replacement U Bolts is a small price to pay to potentially save your trailer. Thanks to their low cost, U Bolts are a great part to replace if you're unsure about the above.

When replacing your U Bolts, we recommend fitting galvanised units such as the Repco U Bolts due to their corrosion resistance for greater life. This is particularly necessary on parts which sit outside and are exposed to constant road grime or even salt water at the boat ramp.

Weight Distribution

Weight distribution is one of the main things to take into consideration for towing safely. How the weight is distributed about the trailer or caravan and how the weight is applied to the vehicle and has huge impacts on traction, braking and steering. When towing, altering the vehicle's weight balance is inevitable, but balancing the weight as best as possible is essential for safe towing.

With too much weight on the front of the trailer, weight over the rear axles of the car increases, causing the front end to become light, reducing steering and braking effectiveness. With too much weight at the rear of the trailer however, dangerous handling characteristics such as swaying and snaking pose a whole new set of issues.

How can you balance trailer weight distribution?

Weight distribution hitches balance the weight of your trailer, boat or caravan by altering the pick-up point where weight is transferred to the vehicle. By doing this, it distributes the weight evenly over both axles on your car and restores braking performance, steering, traction, reduces tyre wear and offers an overall better towing experience.

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