There’s still plenty of time for your customers to squeeze in a camping, boating or fishing trip. Before they load up their trailer with camping gear and kids, there are some important safety checks and maintenance items that should be addressed.
Important areas that need a qualified inspection are brakes, tires and wheel bearings. Just because last year’s trip went off without a hitch doesn’t mean this year’s trip will turn out the same.
The brakes and wheel bearing must be inspected by a qualified RV technician. Over the years, I’ve worked as an automotive technician and an actual RV technician. Although RV and automotive brakes share a number of common components – such as drums and shoes – they’re engaged and act quite differently. All automotive brake systems are engaged by hydraulic pressure, and camper brakes, for the most part, are engaged magnetically. That’s why it’s better to have the trailer inspected by an actual RV technician.
Something that travel-trailer owners rarely realize is that when trailers or any kind of vehicle sit for long periods, the bearing grease dries out and hardens. Also, tires dry out and harden from just sitting over the winter.
To ensure safe operation, trailer owners should have a technician remove the wheels and brake drums to inspect the tires and brakes, pack the bearings and replace the seals – every year. That simple inspection will go a long way toward preventing your customers from sitting alongside an interstate for hours in the heat of a summer day.
The other basic safety items to be inspected are all the lights on both the tow vehicle and trailer. When the trailer is hooked up to the tow vehicle, your customer should turn on and operate all the different lighting systems such as running lights, turn signals, brake lights and headlights. All of the lights should operate and be as bright as all the others in that system.
One great little item to have along on the trip is a trailer-light tester. With this handy item, when there’s a light not working, the owner can determine if the problem lies in the tow vehicle or the trailer. All they have to do is plug one of them into the tow vehicle’s trailer plug and operate the tow vehicle’s lights. The LED lights on the tester will indicate if the lighting systems are getting the signal back to the trailer plug.
An area that most trailer owners can inspect just fine themselves are the utilities in the trailer, such as freshwater tanks, holding tanks, all the interior lights and appliances.
Your customers will be far ahead of the game if they follow these recommendations before kicking off the summer camping season – ideally a few months before the first trip. That’s because if they find a problem a week before the trip, there may not be parts or a good technician available.
This holds true for the tow vehicle also. I had one experience years ago in which a day before the planed vacation, the tow-vehicle owner brought the vehicle to my shop to have the transmission serviced because of a little problem. Well, you can guess what happened next: Two days into the trip with the trailer towing along behind it, the transmission failed completely. The customer blamed us because we were the last ones to work on it. Now with all that said, let’s hit the open road! One thing that I’ve learned from my wonderful wife is that you should bring actual maps with you to find different points of interest along the way. Plus, if you’re in an area where there’s no GPS connectivity, the maps will come in quite handy.