Prevent Horse Trailer Tire Trouble

Getting ready to travel involves a lot of preparation for most people. Traveling with horses adds another dimension, requiring additional tasks such as prepping the horse for shipping, packing feed and supplies for the horse, and maintaining the trailer and tow vehicle.

Among the tasks involved, one critical item to check before hitting the road is air pressure. This applies to the tires on your tow vehicle as well as those on the trailer.

"The number one reason horse owners end up on the side of the road is tire issues," said Mark Cole, managing member of USRider, a national provider of roadside emergency assistance for horse owners.

Flat tires are the leading cause of disablements involving horse trailers. While horse haulers can never totally eliminate the risk of a breakdown, the risk can be minimized by taking the proper steps.

USRider offered the following suggestions for preventing accidents related to blowouts and other tire issues.

  • Before every trip, check the air in your tires. It's important to check the air pressure when the tires are cold since tire pressure changes as tires heat up from travel. Under inflated tires create more resistance and overheat, resulting in a blow-out. Also, be sure to check the spare tire's air pressure along with other tires. Most blowouts can be avoided by simply maintaining the proper inflation. Air pressure requirements for horse trailers can be found on the trailer tire itself. For tow vehicles, air pressure requirements can be found in the owner's manual or on the tire inflation information placard decal, usually located on the driver's door. Note: all readings are for "maximum cold inflation pressure."
  • Make sure your tires are roadworthy. Tires can look new and have excellent tread, but they could be old and dry rotted. Tires that are dry-rotted are an accident waiting to happen; they pose significant performance and safety issues. Tires should be replaced every three to five years. When checking tires, don't forget to inspect the spare as well.
  • Check to make sure you're using the right type of tire. For example, don't use a car tire on a horse trailer. Horse trailers require trailer-specific tires. (For more on this see Trailer Tire Anatomy.) These tires must have an adequate load rating for loaded weight of trailer. Never use re-tread tires on horse trailer or tow vehicle.
  • Invest in quality tires. "All tires are round and black, but the similarities stop there," said Cole. "Quality tires that are properly inflated will reward you with many miles of trouble-free travel."
  • Be sure to purchase tires from high-volume tire dealers to get "fresh" tires. Purchase tires only with recent manufacture dates. The dealer should be able to provide you with this information from manufacturer/distributor. Low-volume dealers or dealers that do not sell a high volume of trailer tires might be offering tires for sale that are already several years old when you buy them. The bottom line: Insist on "fresh" tires.
  • Use a tire pressure monitoring system and carry a second spare tire. Keep in mind that a tire pressure monitoring system and carrying a second spare are meant to supplement--not replace--good tire maintenance practices.


A less common cause of disablement, but one that is more difficult to resolve, is failure of wheel bearings. To avoid problems related to wheel bearings, horse owners should service their trailer's wheel bearings every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Annual service is recommended regardless of mileage due to moisture buildup, which will seriously diminish the effectiveness of bearing grease and cause early bearing failure. Also, when servicing wheel bearings, confirm that a high-quality, high-temperature wheel bearing grease is used. The use of incorrect grease can lead to bearing failure.

To be prepared for wheel bearing failure, USRider recommends that horse owners purchase and carry a spare set of wheel bearings. "It is much easier to locate a mechanic to make a repair than to have to locate specific axle parts," Cole said.

The side of the highway is a dangerous place to be under the best circumstances. If you do have a breakdown, pull as far off the road as possible to a safe place. If you can "limp" to a safer place, do so. Driving on a damaged tire for a short distance is unlikely to damage your wheel.

"Even if it does damage your wheel, wheels are inexpensive and a small price to pay for the safety of you and your horses, as well as the safety of the service provider who comes out to help you," Cole said.

For additional safety tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider Web site.

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