utility trailer thread?

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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
497
California redwood coast
I've been reading the scattering of threads about utility trailers. Some are debates about trailer design, others about repairs or maintenance. Not sure if a thread would be worth the while. I'm thinking a thread, similar to the Blaze King thread, just for trailer stuff might be worth the while. Maintenance, trailer design debates, etc.

On that note, I have 5x10 with single 5200lb axle w/ brakes, long tongue. With the 2-3K mountain passes around here, I don't feel comfortable loading it up anywhere near its limit with only my 1997 4runner as the tow vehicle. A 1/2 ton pickup is in my future, I suspect. Still practicing the back-up techniques, but getting better. Not so light of a trailer that I can walk it more than a very short distance into position when empty on graveled ground & slight inclines, without risking injury.

As to specific questions, do any of you keep an emergency jack specifically for the trailer in your tow vehicle or trailer? (One downside of a single axle, I suppose.) There's a small Toyota provided bottle jack in my 4runner, but to be honest, I've never tested it out on the trailer. I have a bottle jack/jack stand combo (Amazon product) on order, and will test that out.

Then I need to learn how to adjust the brakes. Any YouTube video that you think is especially good?

And seasonal maintenance? Any of you try to fight the rust with periodic touch-up painting or do you just let nature take its course?
 

duramaxman05

Minister of Fire
Aug 17, 2014
680
Perryville, Mo
I've been reading the scattering of threads about utility trailers. Some are debates about trailer design, others about repairs or maintenance. Not sure if a thread would be worth the while. I'm thinking a thread, similar to the Blaze King thread, just for trailer stuff might be worth the while. Maintenance, trailer design debates, etc.

On that note, I have 5x10 with single 5200lb axle w/ brakes, long tongue. With the 2-3K mountain passes around here, I don't feel comfortable loading it up anywhere near its limit with only my 1997 4runner as the tow vehicle. A 1/2 ton pickup is in my future, I suspect. Still practicing the back-up techniques, but getting better. Not so light of a trailer that I can walk it more than a very short distance into position when empty on graveled ground & slight inclines, without risking injury.

As to specific questions, do any of you keep an emergency jack specifically for the trailer in your tow vehicle or trailer? (One downside of a single axle, I suppose.) There's a small Toyota provided bottle jack in my 4runner, but to be honest, I've never tested it out on the trailer. I have a bottle jack/jack stand combo (Amazon product) on order, and will test that out.

Then I need to learn how to adjust the brakes. Any YouTube video that you think is especially good?

And seasonal maintenance? Any of you try to fight the rust with periodic touch-up painting or do you just let nature take its course?

Adjusting the brakes is like the ones on back of an old truck with drum brakes. Its good to check the hub bearings and grease once a year if you pull it alot. I try to keep my paint in good shape by touching it up. It keeps it from rusting and makes it looks good too.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
You know, it' funny... my trailer has a spare tire mounted to the side, and I did verify my truck's lug wrench will work on the trailer. But I never gave any thought to a jack! I suppose the scissor jack provided with my truck would probably work, the trailer frame is lower than the truck frame, but I should try it out. Mine is a tandem with a 6-ton tongue jack and rear kick-stands, so I can always use that to get an axle off the ground, in a pinch.

As duramax said, they're just drum brakes, adjust them right to the feather's edge of dragging, like you would the parking brake on most modern vehicles with drum in disc parking brake design. Most old drum brakes had auto-adjusters, which would adjust the brake as the pads wore in. The drum-in-disc parking brakes I've worked on never have that, and I can't even remember now if my trailer has them, but I assume it does not.

If you meant adjusting your brake controller, that is somehow something most people selling or pulling trailers don't know how to do. Heck, when I bought my first trailer with brakes, the guys at the trailer dealership told me to just set the brake controller to max, all the time. I was lighting up those trailer tires every time I touched the brake pedal, on my first trip home with it, until I had a chance to pull out the controller manual and learn how to properly use it.

The controller adjustment procedure I like is to coast at 25 mph on level ground and hit the trailer brake full-on, without touching your tow vehicle brake pedal. Using this technique, adjust the controller so it's just short of locking up the trailer brakes at 25 mph. After a few pulls with different loads on the trailer, you'll know pretty close where to set the thing before even doing this test, and it will be a quick thing you do as you first pull onto the road. Obviously, don't do it if someone is tailgating you.

I touch up the paint on my trailer every spring. Just a can of Rustoleum gloss black, which matched the trailer nearly perfectly when it was new. As the paint on the rest of the trailer ages, this is less of a match, and it's starting to look a little like black-on-black camoflauge... but it's just a trailer.
 
For a two axle trailer this is a must
1647435651801.png
 
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salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,877
Northern Canada
One thing i do is check the trailer bearings for heat when i pull one.
A hub that is running substantially hotter than the rest is trouble waiting to happen.Just remember don't use your brakes to stop before feeling for heat.
My tandeam axle trailer had the seals and shoes replaced and bearings re-greased when i bought it 20 years ago.I did the work,previous owner had bearing buddy's on it.He over greased it.The seals had been pushed out and the drums /shoes were full of grease.
I tossed the bearing buddys,i was renting the trailer out and didn't want a repeat of the mess in the brakes.
The bearings haven't needed grease yet,it's hauled heavy loads when i use it.Hubs all run about the same temp.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
One thing i do is check the trailer bearings for heat when i pull one.
A hub that is running substantially hotter than the rest is trouble waiting to happen.Just remember don't use your brakes to stop before feeling for heat.
My tandeam axle trailer had the seals and shoes replaced and bearings re-greased when i bought it 20 years ago.I did the work,previous owner had bearing buddy's on it.He over greased it.The seals had been pushed out and the drums /shoes were full of grease.
I tossed the bearing buddys,i was renting the trailer out and didn't want a repeat of the mess in the brakes.
The bearings haven't needed grease yet,it's hauled heavy loads when i use it.Hubs all run about the same temp.
I had meant to say something about this, but forgot. Bearing Buddies are great for boat trailers, likely the best solution on the market for anything you have to regularly dunk in water. But they're about the worst thing on earth for any trailer with brakes, as most of the grease ends up in the brake drum. Also, people tend to over-grease BB's, you really only need enough to show a little compression on the spring, never more than 50% compression.

My favorite hubs for trailers with brakes, or really anything not marine, is EZ Lube hubs. When greasing these, the new grease goes into the center of the axle stub, travels thru a path to the rear of the bearing, and then forces the old grease back outside, away from the brake drum. Look it up, it's a beautiful system.

For anyone who doesn't already know, the Bearing Buddy is simply a spring-loaded cap that gets pressed into the end of the hub, and filled with grease. The spring keeps a constant low pressure on the mass of grease in the hub, but leaves the back of the hub (i.e. your brake drum) as the only escape path, which pretty much ruins brakes. It has its place, as it's the only hub which will never take in water when a warm hub is dunked into cold water, which has been the ruin for many hubs not wearing Bearing Buddies. But if you're not regularly backing your trailer into a salty bay or lake, and especially if your trailer has brakes, you really have no business wanting Bearing Buddies on it.

Unfortunately, my both of my boat trailers have EZ Lube, and my wood-hauling trailer came with Bearing Buddies, the worst of both worlds. I'm not sure what these trailer manufacturers are thinking, even considering Bearing Buddies for a non-marine application with brakes, but that's what they shipped with.
 

Isaac Carlson

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2012
946
NW Wisconsin
Trailer brakes need to be set differently at different loads. Lighter when empty and heavier when loaded.

Is there a jack on the tongue? If not, get one. I don't like moving trailers by hand without rolling jacks.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
I don't know about where you guys live, but trailer inspections in PA are a complete racket. They charge something like 3x more than the truck I'm using to pull it, and I don't think they even check anything, as it's never moved even one millimeter when I go to retrieve it. It's like paying $150 for someone to peel and stick a sticker, every 12 months.

I try to convince myself they at least jack up each wheel and check the brakes for operation, using some portable battery rig they roll out to the lot. But given the lot is cinder, and often damp when I pick up, I've never seen evidence of any wheel marks, jack marks, or other evidence they touched the thing.
 
Inspection ?????
 

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
1,075
Central Ohio
No inspections here. Ohio also allows you to title home built trailers, that's another topic for another day.
 
Last edited:

tlc1976

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2012
1,143
Northwest Lower Michigan
No inspections here. Ohio also allows you to title home built trailers, that's another topic for another day.
Same for Michigan.

I set my brakes so they always lead the tow vehicle, but before they lock up. That way I know the rig will stay straight. Essentially I can stop the whole rig with the trailer brakes alone. So I use little tow vehicle brake normally, and in a panic stop I got both systems full on. Also in the event of vehicle brake failure I can still get home. Has happened a few times in my 20+ years of towing.

I put an electric over hydraulic system on both my trailers when I got them. A bit overkill but it’s been nice over all these years. Especially towing with either a car, minivan, or Jeep. Still on the original brake pads.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
Inspection ?????
PA requires yearly inspection for any trailer with brakes. They also require brakes on all axles over 3000 lb, whereas most states require brakes on only one axle of a tandem. No inspections required on light trailers without brakes, though.
 
Not in mass.... ;)
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
That's fine. I'm so used to getting things inspected, that I've grown to think it's a good thing. I'd rather know the guy rattling down the expressway next to me at 75 mph is pulling a trailer that's been inspected, with a vehicle that's been inspected, than not.

I'm hoping my suspicion is wrong about the thoroughness of my local inspection station, or if not, that at least others are better.

It's an expense, but not a hassle. I hook the trailer to the truck, when I take the truck in for inspection. Drop the trailer in one lot, the truck in the other, and get one of their drivers to take me to work. They're both done on the same day.
 

EatenByLimestone

Super Moderator
Staff member
I have similar views on DOT stops and inspections. If something was to go wrong and you weren't inspected, lawyers would have a field day.

On one of my trailers for work, we had the breaks, suspension, lights, etc gone over as it hadn't been touched, yet had seen fairly heavy use for 4 years. They confirmed our preventitive maintenance was working fairly well. Wevpretty much only had bushing wear. 2 weeks later I was pulled over in a DOT stop. I've never been so at ease at a stop, lol.
 

mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
497
California redwood coast
One thing i do is check the trailer bearings for heat when i pull one.
A hub that is running substantially hotter than the rest is trouble waiting to happen.Just remember don't use your brakes to stop before feeling for heat.
My tandeam axle trailer had the seals and shoes replaced and bearings re-greased when i bought it 20 years ago.I did the work,previous owner had bearing buddy's on it.He over greased it.The seals had been pushed out and the drums /shoes were full of grease.
I tossed the bearing buddys,i was renting the trailer out and didn't want a repeat of the mess in the brakes.
The bearings haven't needed grease yet,it's hauled heavy loads when i use it.Hubs all run about the same temp.
Your comment on checking the hubs for heat reminds me of the main reason why I bought my infrared thermometer. I had completely forgotten that point. ( Instead I use it to check to see if my cast iron pan is the right temperature to fry an egg...)
 

mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
497
California redwood coast
Adjusting the brakes is like the ones on back of an old truck with drum brakes. Its good to check the hub bearings and grease once a year if you pull it alot. I try to keep my paint in good shape by touching it up. It keeps it from rusting and makes it looks good too.
I've read the manual on my P3 brake controller and have adjusted it according to the manual, but only when empty. Unfortunately, when I'm coming back from the mountains with a load, there's no safe or flat space to experiment & re-adjust the controller level. I guess I should make a point, once I'm back near home with a load, to experiment in a safe area so I have at least a rough idea of the proper setting for future non-empty heavier loads.
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
497
California redwood coast
No inspections in California either, just the brakes on anything over 3k pounds.

What California does have, though not heavily enforced, is a 55mph speed limit for trailers and semi trucks. I don't think any other state has this. The commercial trucks certainly don't follow this, but I have heard of travel trailers getting tickets above 55. As always, I'll assume enforcement is at the discretion of the highway patrol officer. ( Reading about the stopping distance between a heavy load at 55 & 65, however, does make the logic sensible, apart from time consuming.)

From Utah's Dept of Transportation...

1647750084214.png
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
No inspections in California either, just the brakes on anything over 3k pounds.
I don’t follow this. They do inspect brakes, or they don’t inspect brakes?

When I said trailers get inspected in PA, it’s only trailers with brakes, as stated above. Since I’ve never seen trailer brakes on any axle under 3500 lb, that’s generally the cutoff for PA trailer inspections. My trailer is tandem 3500, so 7000 lb. Light trailers require no inspection.
 

mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
497
California redwood coast
Sorry for the confusion. In my haste, I was thinking all utility trailers needed inspection in PA, brakes or no brakesm

No yearly inspection on any utility trailer, regardless of brakes in CA.

As a separate statement, brakes are required on trailers with over a 3k capacity. I think that is true for most states.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,651
Philadelphia
Sorry for the confusion. In my haste, I was thinking all utility trailers needed inspection in PA, brakes or no brakesm

No yearly inspection on any utility trailer, regardless of brakes in CA.

As a separate statement, brakes are required on trailers with over a 3k capacity. I think that is true for most states.
Sounds the same as PA, minus the ambiguous and confusing use of the term “utility trailer”.

Here, any trailer not having brakes = no inspection. Any trailer having brakes = inspection. Pretty simple.
 

duramaxman05

Minister of Fire
Aug 17, 2014
680
Perryville, Mo
I've read the manual on my P3 brake controller and have adjusted it according to the manual, but only when empty. Unfortunately, when I'm coming back from the mountains with a load, there's no safe or flat space to experiment & re-adjust the controller level. I guess I should make a point, once I'm back near home with a load, to experiment in a safe area so I have at least a rough idea of the proper setting for future non-empty heavier loads.
If you are going down the mountain with out a load, I would set it high to make damn sure you have enough brake going down a mountain. Then once you get leveled out you can back it off little at a time.
 

tlc1976

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2012
1,143
Northwest Lower Michigan
If you are going down the mountain with out a load, I would set it high to make damn sure you have enough brake going down a mountain. Then once you get leveled out you can back it off little at a time.
Also gear down so you barely need the brakes in the first place.
 

hedge wood

Feeling the Heat
Mar 1, 2009
312
Eastern NE
I carry a smaller three ton floor jack that is in a plastic case a small bottle jack and a good sized four way to change trailer tires. No trailer inspections in this state. Any trailer over 3,000 GVW better have brakes on all axles. Its best to have a break away that has the test light on it for DOT.