56 MARCH 2020 scca.com
With the 2020 Solo season coming up fast, it’s time to think about tow
vehicle and trailer maintenance. Put simply,
travel adventures are never good, and
“preventative maintenance” is well named.
So, before you find yourself stuck at the
side of the freeway, let’s look at what you
can do to keep moving down the road.
First, this isn’t intended to be a
comprehensive list – but it is a start. Also, if
you’re driving your competition car to events,
that simplifies life since presumably your
car gets regular maintenance like drive belts
and wheel bearings, but don’t forget about
checking your street tires. Losing a car tire
won’t usually do as much damage as a truck
tire, but it won’t make for a smooth trip.
Onto tow vehicles. These larger rigs
aren’t usually our daily drivers, so they
tend to sit a lot over the off-season. Keep
an eye on the build dates on your tires. The
industry may take a conservative approach
when they say they should be replaced
after six years, but that doesn’t mean they
are completely off base. Also, I recently had
a U joint failure, which reminded me that
I should have been checking that sort of
thing, too. I wasn’t towing and it wasn’t an
SCCA weekend, but it was still a hassle.
Trailers are another challenge. Traveling
down the road, trailers are a bit remote
from us, so it’s hard to tell when something
isn’t quite right until it’s really wrong.
Trailer tires seem to be unusually prone
to failure. Without a tire pressure monitoring
system, it’s hard to tell if a tire is losing
pressure and, for some reason, belt separation
is common. I’ve heard of some people
replacing their trailer tires every couple of years
just to be safe – and for trailer tires near their
load capacity, that may be worth considering.
Trailer wheel bearings should be
maintained regularly. Generally, that
means an annual re-greasing. Ignoring
this issue will eventually lead to spending
days in some undesirable remote location
chasing parts and doing major work without
the proper tools. Ask me how I know.
Trailer wiring is also prone to issues. Even
if the tires are balanced, a trailer tends to
see a lot of vibration while it’s bouncing
down the road. Check the bulbs, especially
if they are not LEDs. When was the last
time you checked your trailer’s suspension
bushings? If you’ve got a weight distributing
or sway control hitch, does it have moving
parts? Does it need adjustment?
There’s a lot of other equipment we use that
we don’t always keep a good eye on. Towing
equipment always seems just great – up to the
point where it fails. Hitch balls, ball mounts,
hitch pins, the list goes on. Cargo ratchets
and tie-down straps wear out. Ratchets
need lubrication, even if they are used in an
enclosed trailer. Even chains can wear out.
There’s a lot of equipment that goes into
getting to an event, so let’s make sure ours is
well maintained. Failure of something simple
can be a major hassle even if it doesn’t
make for a serious safety problem.
With the SCCA Autocross season fast approaching, it’s time to check
your trailer and tow rig | WORDS Paul Brown | MAIN IMAGE Courtesy Chevy
TUNE IT UP
Like your tow rig (MAIN)
and racecar, your trailer
a trouble-free weekend.