Maintain Trailer Axles for Safe Hauling

Trailer axles have a lot riding on them--take good care of this crucial element of your rig. One of the more debilitating disablements for a horse trailer is axle failure. In addition to putting you and your horse at great danger on the side of the highway, axle failure presents an on-the-scene repair challenge.

"In most cases of axle failure, it will be necessary for you or your motor plan to locate emergency stabling for your horses, as well as alternative transportation to the stabling facility," said Mark Cole, managing member of USRider, a roadside assistance plan designed for horse owners. "This will require you to unload and reload your horses in an undesirable area."

The main reason for servicing your trailer axles annually--even if you have not used your trailer in the past year--is that moisture can build up in an axle. This can cause the grease to become diluted and break down, rendering it unable to properly lubricate. Thus, it is important to perform this simple maintenance annually, even if you do not use your trailer often, or at all. In addition to bearing failure, irregular axle maintenance can lead to axle damage, requiring the axle to be replaced, thereby turning an inexpensive maintenance procedure into an expensive repair.

Make certain that your trailer axles are serviced annually, or every 12,000 miles. This requires taking your trailer to a trusted mechanic who will inspect the axle, replace any worn parts, and re-pack the bearings with high-temperature bearing grease, or change the 90-weight oil for oil bath axles.

This simple maintenance should be done even if your trailer has hubs that are equipped with grease fittings. Although the grease fittings will allow you to add more grease, they do not provide a means to remove old, moisture-diluted grease. When adding grease, be very careful not to add too much and damage your grease seals. These seals keep oil or grease in and moisture out.

For oil bath axles, which are lubricated by an oil reservoir, USRider recommends changing the oil bi-annually. Even if the oil is full, these axles should be checked by a qualified mechanic. Proper looking oil will have a golden or amber appearance. If an oil bath system has dark or cloudy oil, have the axle serviced immediately.

USRider also recommends that horse owners carry a spare set of axle bearings when traveling. "It is much easier to locate a mechanic to make a repair than to have to locate and dispatch specific axle components," Cole explained.

This is especially important if you travel great distances, or on nights and weekends, as many parts suppliers are closed from noon Saturday until Monday morning. Contact your trailer dealer or manufacturer for the correct replacement bearings for your axles.

Worn trailer axles will also cause tires to wear improperly, introducing a number of other hazards for traveling equestrians.

If you experience axle failure, try to pull to a safe place, off the highway as far as possible.

More information about USRider and more equine trailer safety tips.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More