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Trailer Tips That Really Work
Dale McLaen’s trailer tips can add years to tire life, improve suspension systems and keep brake light and turn signal cables clean, dry and intact. Until he retired, McLaen ran an equipment repair business on his farm.
“One of my biggest complaints about my car trailer was how quickly the tires would develop a choppy diagonal wear pattern,” says McLaen. “Once this pattern starts, it gets progressively worse and is impossible to stop.”
It’s a pattern he has seen many times over his years in the repair business. He’s also seen it on the rear tires of front-wheel-drive cars.
“With cars, it’s almost always due to worn shocks,” says McLaen. “Since my trailer and 100 percent of every trailer I’ve worked on have no shocks on any axle, I decided to add them to my trailer and see what happened.”
McLaen welded the lower shock mounting bolts onto the bottom of the spring plates. He then measured the total amount of vertical axle travel and worked with his local NAPA dealer to pick out shocks that matched those dimensions.
McLaen describes the results as one of the best things he could have done. With the shocks in place, the tires began to wear evenly.
“My tire life pretty much doubled,” says McLaen. “I can’t say if the load rides any better, but the reduced tire wear and longer life are a big improvement.”
McLaen understands that adding shocks to a new trailer when it’s being built would increase the price. However, he thinks the change would be well worth it.
“I wouldn’t buy a car or pickup that didn’t have balanced tires and a good set of shocks,” says McLaen. “I’d never buy a trailer again without tires balanced and shocks on every axle for the same reason.”
Another trailer sore spot with McLaen is car trailer suspension, in particular, the nylon bushings and hard-to-lubricate bolts at spring ends, shackles, and equalizers.
“They’re not very robust, and they just don’t hold up to the heavy loads they have to support,” says McLaen. “Worse is that if the bushings wear through and the shackle bolts near the spring ends wear the spring end holes oblong, the springs will need to be replaced and the suspension rebuilt.”
McLaen replaces the nylon bushings with bronze and the shackle bolts with bolts that have grease zerks.
“The zerks allow you to periodically lubricate all the bushings at the pivot points, extending the suspension life,” says McLaen. “It helps to jack up the trailer until the suspension hangs free before greasing it. That ensures grease gets into the portion of the bushings usually under the most load.”
McLaen orders his suspension kits online. He notes that if they come with nylon bushings already installed, it may be necessary to order extra bushings. “You can press out the plastic bushings and push the bronze ones in their place,” says McLaen.
McLaen has an easy way to prevent trailer connections from getting drug and damaged. He stores them up and out of the way.
“I butt welded a piece of 2 1/2-in. exhaust tubing to the tongue with a notch at the top for the connector cord to fit through and an open spot at the bottom for moisture to escape,” says McLaen. “I added a cover to the top, which keeps the cords from dancing out and also keeps out most of the elements.”
As a bonus, connector pins also stay clean for years because they’re out of the weather, notes McLaen. “I put these on every trailer and haven’t had anyone, including me, accidentally drag a connector since.”
McLaen takes his trailer wiring maintenance one step further with an enclosed 7-pin junction box. He mounts a black weatherproof rectangular box at the base of the connector cord retainer tube. It’s sized to hold a junction box connected to the trailer wiring. A pigtail cable plugs into it and connects to the tow vehicle.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dale McLaen, 13756 Hwy 11, Rutland, N.D. 58067 (ph 701-678-5232).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #2