Preparing for Winter Trailer Storage

While it might be hard to imagine that winter weather is only a few months away, now is the time to perform preventative maintenance on your horse trailer so that your rig is road-safe and ready come spring.

"Your trailer has safely transported your four-legged friends all season, don't just unhook from the trailer and neglect it during the off-season, or when it is not going to be used for a significant time," said Mark Cole, managing member of USRider, a roadside assistance plan designed with horse owners in mind. "Trailers represent a significant investment and carry precious cargo and should be well maintained--even when not in use--to ensure performance and longevity."

A recent research project co-sponsored by USRider illustrated the importance of maintaining horse trailers and showed that a leading cause of trailer wrecks is lack of proper maintenance.

With input from Neva Kittrell Scheve, who, along with husband Tom, has been involved in the horse trailer business since 1983, USRider maintains a trailering and equine travel safety area on its Web site at www.usrider.org.  

The posted horse trailer preparation tips include:

  • Remove the emergency breakaway battery and store inside, out of the weather. Charge the battery at least every 90 days.
  • Jack up the trailer and place jack stands under the trailer frame so that the weight will be off the tires. Follow trailer manufacturer's guidelines to lift and support the unit. Never jack up or place jack stands on the axle tube or on the equalizers.
  • Lubricate mechanical moving parts, such as the hitch and suspension parts that are exposed to the weather. Note: On oil-lubricated hubs, the upper part on each roller bearing is not immersed in oil and is subjected to potential corrosion. For maximum bearing life it is recommended that you revolve the wheels periodically (every 2 to 3 weeks) during periods of prolonged storage.

In addition to these recommendations, USRider advised horse owners to store the trailer inside, out of the elements if possible. If inside storage is not available, horse owners should consider purchasing a cover. Also, if storing the trailer outside, cover its tires. Tire covers are available through trailer dealers and RV dealers. (Be sure to note the size of your tires when purchasing covers.)

Oil or grease the trailer's moving parts, such as hinges and jack stands. It is also important to wash and clean your trailer's interior and exterior thoroughly, and wax its painted surfaces before storing it. This will help maintain the exterior surfaces. Prior to cleaning interior, remove any floor mats.

When preparing a horse trailer for off-season storage, it's a good time to take stock of the trailer--evaluate the tires, breakaway battery, and overall condition. Then make a list of equipment and any repairs that are needed. Moreover, go ahead and schedule those repairs and other upgrades to be performed to beat the rush and be ready for next season.

Cole also reminded equestrians to check the contents of their equine and human first aid kits. "Any depleted and out-of-date items should be replaced," he said.

For additional safety tips, visit the equine travel safety area on the USRider Web site at www.usrider.org.  

USRider provides roadside assistance and towing services along with other travel-related benefits to its members through the Equestrian Motor Plan. It includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance and lock-out services, plus towing up to 100 miles and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, emergency stabling, veterinary referrals, and more.

"A good roadside assistance program is something all horse owners should have but hope they will never have to use," says Mark Cole, managing member for USRider. "To that end, our mission is to continually educate horse owners about trailering safety."

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