Top 5 Trailer Maintenance Checks for Summer


Must-Do Summer Maintenance List

Just because the weather is bright and balmy doesn’t mean your trailers are out of the maintenance woods. You have to make sure that your heavy-duty haulers don’t have a corrosion hangover from a multitude of winter deicers and that they’re ready for the cavernous potholes of orange barrel season. So when you feel the warm breeze and see sunsets stretching late into the evening, these are your go-to trailer maintenance must-dos.

1 Tire Maintenance is Always in Season

The best tire maintenance program starts with proper inflation— and that goes for every tire position. It’s a common refrain in the commercial tire industry: The tire doesn’t carry the load, the air does. With that in mind, you want to make sure that your tires are properly inflated for their application. For many trailer tire applications, the sweet spot tends to be around 85 to 90 PSI, but again, check your load requirements and operating environment to be sure.

Both over- and underinflation have their consequences. Overinflated tires will tend to have a smaller, shorter footprint that reduces wet performance and shock absorption and can increase suspension wear. Underinflated tires tend to have a larger and longer footprint and they will generate more heat, leading to faster wear and loss of traction in turns.

And, if all that wasn’t enough to make tire inflation important— for every 10% a tire is underinflated, 1% fuel economy is lost.

2 Fix Your Roof While the Sun is Shining

The roof is the first line of defense against summer’s torrential downpours, so make sure that your trailer roofs are inspected. Roof sheet sealant needs to be reapplied when needed to prevent water intrusion. Additionally, the connection areas on all trailers are the most vulnerable to outside weather forces. Keep a close eye on where the walls meet the front and rear corners, the top rail to the roof, TCU mounting to the frame (in a reefer’s case), where the floor meets the walls, and the door gasket mating surface with the frame.

3 Focus on Flooring

Now that you’ve checked the top of the trailer, it’s time to tilt your head down and take a good look at the flooring. Moisture intrusion is a common wood flooring issue after the floors have taken a beating all winter with wet weather and forklifts dropping onto the trailer. In dry vans, hardwood floors that have been exposed to water will show signs of staining, which appear as darker areas on the floor.

Your load can also cause wear and tear on the floor. Overloading can also cause de-lamination. Cracks in the glue lines or hardwood sticks are telltale signs that the trailer had seen its fair share of overloading.

When the trailer has its turn in the maintenance batting order, be sure to reapply floor coatings to restore protection.

4 Seal the Door

The door seals and gaskets are one of the most weather-vulnerable areas on a trailer, and you need to ensure that you’re keeping your cargo safe and secure. Inspect all seals for damage often and repair or replace seals and gaskets as needed.

Here are a few other must-do trailer door checks:

  • Check the door panels for cracks and replace damaged panels as needed.
  • Check door and lock alignment to ensure a proper fit.
  • Lubricate hinges as needed.

5 Put the Brakes On, You Aren’t Done Yet

Brake system and wheel end service issues are one of the biggest contributors to unplanned trailer service instances, not to mention a huge safety liability. Brake systems alone tend to make up around 28% of out-of-service instances.

Here’s a quick checklist for keeping your trailer brakes up to snuff:

  • Inspect your brake friction: The thickness of the friction material on brake shoes, and pads should not fall below the minimum recommendations. Also ensure that it’s wearing evenly, as uneven friction material wear can be caused by the brake pad, shoe table, caliper, s-cam bushings, or other hardware. Brake friction material that is cracked or crumbling is a telltale sign of corrosion.
  • Inspect the rotors or drums for stress cracks. If you find some, ensure they’re within allowable levels. If not, replace.
  • Boots and calipers: Check for moisture intrusion and contamination. Ensure that the calipers slide as designed.
  • Lubricate cam bushings and slack adjusters. Moving to the rest of the wheel end, check to see if there has been any moisture that has seeped into the hubcaps, and make sure that the wheel ends have proper lubrication and that there are no signs of water contamination.

Fix It Right the First Time

Regardless of the needed maintenance, ensuring that you fix your trailer issue correctly the first time can go a long way in keeping that trailer on the road for years to come. Too often, maintenance shortcuts are taken and end up costing more in additional downtime and repairs in the future. Sticking to regular maintenance intervals and stressing the importance of pre-trip inspections with drivers can help reduce your overall trailer repair costs.

For more detailed maintenance recommendations, check out the Great Dane Maintenance manual, TMC Recommended Practices, and component manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures.