All posts by Jessica

What to Do When Your Trailer Brakes Lock Up in Reverse

Some people spend their disposable income on things like travel, gadgets, and home improvement projects. Others want every dollar to go toward experiences that make life worthwhile. The one thing we can’t get is more time, and the adventurers among us want to spend it on boats, jet skis, motorcycles, dune buggies, snowmobiles, and any other vehicle that gets them outdoors and feeling the rush of the wind in their hair.

Of course, carting these recreational vehicles from point A to point B requires a truck and a trailer. Most of the time, trailers are pretty user-friendly, which is to say they’re relatively simple to hook up to your truck and once you have all the cabling attached, the lights and brakes should work just fine.

Unfortunately, you may encounter problems here and there, such as brakes locking up when you go in reverse. Although you can try to go forward at all times to avoid this situation, it’s not really feasible. At some point you may have to put your rig in reverse. What can you do when this problem arises? Here are a few things to try.

 Check Your Harness

Harnesses to hook up the electrical components of your truck and trailer can be different in a variety of ways. Some are only for brake lights while others control electric brakes. They may have different numbers of pins or wires (4 or 5), they may require adapters, and so on. You need to make sure that you have the right harness and parts for your setup.

In addition, you should check to make sure that the voltage readings are correct for all components (generally 12V). If not, you could be dealing with issues like corroded connections or improper wiring, just for example.

Trailer Brake Lockout Key

Ideally, you have a brake system for your trailer that includes an electric reverse lockout that will automatically prevent the brakes from locking (provided everything is working correctly). Most trailers come with something known as a trailer brake lockout key, which is used to manually prevent the brakes from engaging when backing up. However, it’s easy to lose the key.

The good news is that you can get replacement keys, or there are a variety of aftermarket products that can do virtually the same job. You could, for example, use a lockout cap that replaces the standard cap on the brake fluid reservoir on your trailer. You simply have to rotate it one way to lock out the brakes and rotate it back to reengage.

Get Help

If you check your harness, replace your lockout key, and still find that you’re having problems with trailer brakes locking up in reverse, it’s time to get some professional help. It could be a simple problem that you’ve somehow overlooked, or perhaps some repairs or replacement parts are in order.

Either way, a qualified mechanic can fix you up and get you back on your way, or at least give you some insight into how to solve this problem should it occur in the future. Don’t let your trailer sit idle and your dreams of boating or 4-wheeling go unfulfilled. In most cases, this problem is easy to fix.

How do Trailer Brakes Work?

You know the brakes on your trailer are very important and need to be well maintained and checked often for wear and tear, but have you ever wondered how they work? Unlike the brakes on your tow vehicle, trailer brakes are designed specifically to insure maximum safety and thus operate differently than the brakes in a car or truck.

Trailer brakes are available in three different systems: hydraulic, electric, and electric over hydraulic (EOH). Depending on where and how you tow your trailer will influence which brakes are best for you. Hydraulic trailer brakes use a surge actuator/coupler. When your tow vehicle stops, the surge actuator releases fluid into the brake which triggers the mechanism in the brake itself to activate. Hydraulic surge brakes are an entirely self-contained system and need no hookups to the towing vehicle. However, there is a split second delay between wherein the trailer load pushes the tow vehicle and activate the surge actuator. This does require a longer distance to stop your rig so make sure to be wary of this while driving.

Electric brakes immediately call up a lot of questions because of the concern of electricity and water. They are not used for boat trailers because of this and are primarily for utility trailers. However, electric over hydraulic (EOH), is a combination of the two. They contain an electrical brake component and a hydraulic component which work in tandem to allow heavy duty boat trailers to stop safely and without damaging the braking system. The electrical part is in the front (ie. standard coupler, emergency brake kit, in cab electric brake controller). You purchase an EOH controller which acts as the brake coupler. The driver can control the output of the electric brakes and the signal goes into the EOH controller that converts that into a hydraulic output that sends the brake fluid back to the calipers or drums. This is typically used on heavy duty boat trailers (30-42 feet) as well as for drivers that going over hills or through the mountains. EOH are preferable in these scenarios because when you are going down hills with the standard hydraulic brakes, the coupler compresses which activates the brakes and will cause the brakes to burn up. With the EOH there is no coupler so the brakes will not activate until the brake pedal is pressed.

 

3 Tips to Maintain your Brakes

No matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving, one of the most important parts is the brakes. Whether you are biking through a forest trail, or driving a sixteen-wheeler down the highway, you need to be able to stop as quickly as possible in case of emergency. When you’re hauling a trailer, it is even more vital that your brakes are in excellent condition. Not only does your towing vehicle need to have quality brakes, but also the brakes on your trailer need to be well maintained.

Check For Rust and Corrosion
Your trailer brakes regularly come close contact with water (fresh or salt). Even if you have hydraulic brakes, they are still susceptible to rust and corrosion. You should check your brake components on an annual basis. Remove the wheels and hubs and check all parts for rust, corrosion, and wear.

Check Brake Fluid Levels
Brake fluid levels should be checked monthly. Many of the symptoms associated with a brake problem are the result of brake fluid issues.

Washdown Drum Brakes
Also note that drum brakes need more upkeep than disc brakes—they require a freshwater washdown kit to clean the hub drums after being used. Washdown kits are also used to clean the whole boat down at the end of the day. They usually include 2V DC pump with an integral pressure switch, a hose and nozzle, an inline filter, wiring, circuit protection and connectors.

 

Lube Up! Tips About Greasing Your Bearings

You know your wheel bearings need to be greased, but when? And with what kind? Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about greasing.

What type of grease should I use? It ultimately depends on how your trailer was assembled, so check with your local mechanic first. However, Champion Trailers recommends CRC StaLube Marine Grease. It is is great for boat trailer applications and utility trailer use.  This marine grease is a blue tacky, aluminum complex grease using a highly refined base oil. It has been formulated with a polymer to provide adhesive, non-blend and water wash-out characteristics. It will resist water under the most severe water conditions.  Each 14 oz cartridge will repack a standard 4 or 5 lug trailer hub and is great for grease guns.
What is the best time to check and add grease? Your hubs are often subjected to water infiltration when you launch your boat. This can cause your hot grease to reduce, so add grease to displace the water. Also be sure to monitor hub conditions at each gas stop when towing long distances. Add grease when necessary.
Should I add grease after retrieving my boat? Often, this is not necessary because the trailer has sat at the ramp all day and cooled. However, if you store your trailer more than a few miles from the ramp, you should add grease after retrieving your boat.

 

What Size Are My Wheel Bearings?

By now, hopefully you have a general idea of what your wheel bearings are and what they do. If not, refer to our previous posts from this month. Perhaps you’ve realized that you need to replace your bearings, or you just want to be more in tune with the inner workings of your trailer. Either way, it is important to know that one size wheel bearing does not fit all.

Trailer wheel bearings are specific to the spindle installed on your trailer axle. To determine the size you need for your trailer, you will need to take apart your hub. Make sure the trailer is supported with a jack, then remove the wheel and tire. Next, take off the grease cap, cotter pin, and washer. If you are already confused, you may want to take a look at some of our other blog posts about trailer hubs, or call your local mechanic. If you’re sticking with us, the next step is to remove the spindle nut, and then the hub itself.  Once the hub is removed you will be able to get the part numbers from the inner and outer bearings to determine the correct replacement parts.

When is it Time to Repack My Bearings?

If you’re new to trailer ownership, you likely don’t know all the ins and outs of trailer maintenance yet. One important pro tip you should be aware of is to regularly repack your bearings.  Trailer bearings are a collection of metallic (usually steel) balls held together by a ring known as the race. This goes on the inner part of the wheel to help it spin smoothly around the axle and decrease friction upon rotation. Without bearings, the wheel and axle will wear out much faster and cause damage to your vehicle.

 To find out if your bearings need to be repacked, jack the trailer up and put a jack stand beneath it. You can tell if you need to repack your bearings by attempting to shake the wheel up and down and side to side. If it moves, this indicates the bearings are bad.
You can either take your trailer to a mechanic and have them repack the bearings for you, or you can attempt it yourself. It is not the easiest process, so we recommend you ask a friend with experience to help you out. You can also use our handy guide.

 

Bearing or a Bearing Kit? Which to Buy

Sellers like us often carry two different types of trailer bearing products: bearings and bearing kits. If you’ve never changed your own bearing before, or aren’t entirely sure what you’re looking for, read on to find out which is most suitable for your needs!

Bearings are different than bearing kits because they don’t come with parts for the whole hub. They are cheap, usually between $2 and $6 individually. They often can be bought in bulk, too. If you are simply needing to replace the bearing on your boat, enclosed, cargo, or utility trailer, this is your best option.

If you need to replace the entire hub, you should consider a bearing kit. These kits contain bearings, as well as trailer races, trailer seals, washers, and pins.* They are often priced between $10 and $15, and are labelled by size and requirements the same as an individual bearing.

*Based on bearing kits from Champion Trailers. Contents of kits vary on seller and brand. You should always check to make sure you are purchasing what you need before purchase.

Which do you prefer to purchase when you replace your trailer bearings?

Tips on Towing Trailers

Did you know that there is, in fact, a wrong way to tow a trailer? Incorrect latching, too-heavy or unevenly distributed loads can result in inefficient hauling or accidents.
Here are a few strategies and tips on towing your trailer.

Hitch it right. The gross trailer weight (GTW) and maximum tongue weight are not equal. Your hitch class needs to correspond with the appropriate weights to ensure a proper and safe hitch. Don’t forget that this can include your load weight too!

Generally speaking, the bigger the hitch ball, the greater the capacity. This is not always the case and you should refer to the manual before purchase, but it is something to keep in mind.

Chains are a helpful, last resort precaution. Though hopefully they won’t be needed, crossed chains under the tongue should keep your trailer from swinging off drastically in the event of a hitch failure.

If your trailer is swaying when you drive, make sure you keep that your tongue weight is optimized and that your load is balanced. It doesn’t hurt to check your tires as well; a low or flat tire can cause uneven wear and driving capabilities.

How to (Safely!) Load a Utility Trailer

Just like everything else in life, there are proper and improper ways to use utility trailers. To maximize its longevity and your safety, here are a few things to remember when you’re loading it up.

DO load it heavier up front unless the manual specifies otherwise. The common “ideal” ratio is 60% in the front and 40% in the back.

DO make sure your load is properly secured! This is not an area to skimp on when purchasing tie-downs.

DO load the heavy items first. By securing these well in place, you’re less likely to find your smaller items (which should also be secured) sliding.

What’s the first thing you do when loading your trailer?

Our 3 Favorite Uses for Flatbed Utility Trailers

We love utility trailers. They’re practical, versatile, and… well, useful! You may have come across this article by accident, or received it because you’re a part of our mailing list (if you aren’t, it’s easy to join). Either way you clicked it because you’re interested in knowing just why we keep raving about them.

Moving. Dining room table? No problem. Sofa? No problem. Kitchen set complete with mega-sized, double-door refrigerator and oven? Yes, even that. Forget trying to squeeze your stuff into the bed of a pickup truck; a utility trailer will make the move a million times easier.

Equipment and vehicles. Maybe you run a small business that requires transportation of things like lawn mowers or multi-terrain vehicles. Or maybe you enjoy taking your dirt bikes and four-wheelers out for a spin every weekend. Utility trailers make transporting these across long or short distances simple.

Building supplies. Hauling wood, paint, ladders, cinder blocks, and more is a breeze in utility trailer. You just load, secure, and haul.

Considering buying a utility trailer? Check back next week to read our checklist guide for deciding what kind you want and need.