Wheels and tyres
Wheels and tyres are fundamental to road safety so carry out a visual check for any cuts, cracking, bulges or nails over the whole tread area and sidewalls.
The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm as for cars, but more often than not caravan, motorhome and trailer tyres need to be replaced because of deterioration due to age rather than tread wear. The NCC recommends leisure vehicle tyres should be replaced ideally every five years and certainly not be left for more than seven years.
If the unit has been stored for some months without being moved the tyres may have developed flat spots indicating they need to be replaced. Raising the tyre pressures (within the identified rating) can help reduce this but remember to lower them before going on the road. Correct tyre pressures are vital so obtain a good quality pressure gauge to check them. Your handbook will indicate the recommended tyre pressures, but if the tyres have been replaced – or you have bought a second-hand unit – check the specification of the tyre on the unit is the same as in the handbook.
It’s a good idea to regularly check the wheel fixing bolts – indicators like these will help show if any are loose. Image courtesy of Milenco.
It is always worthwhile checking the wheel fixing bolts with a torque wrench before setting off. Consider marking the bolts or fit a reusable indictor so you can monitor if movement occurs.
If the handbrake has been left on all winter there is a chance the brake shoes may have seized on to the brake drums. Check the handbrake and make sure the wheels are free running when unbraked. With overrun braking mechanisms push in the hitch too.
Hitch and towball care
Grease on the towball and hitch attracts grit, so it is worth cleaning both and applying fresh grease at the beginning of the season. A dry towball (used with some types of stabiliser hitch) should be cleaned with brake cleaner and any surface rust removed with fine wet-and-dry paper. Do not forget to check the friction pad wear guide on your stabiliser hitch and wipe the pads with fine wet-and-dry paper. If the pads are deeply contaminated they will need to be replaced.
For both types of towball do not forget to clean the inside of the towball cover before replacing it. If you have a detachable towball check the receptor is clean and free of grit and corrosion and when fitted check for any movement of the towball. When not towing a detachable towball should ideally be removed from the receptor and stored in a clean bag. Check the fixing nuts have not come loose on fixed towballs. If you have any doubt about the security of the towball fixing or the towing bracket get it checked by a towbar specialist.
Lights and electrical connections
Rain has a way of getting into light fittings and electrical connections so check all your road lights are working correctly. Sometimes if a light refuses to operate all it needs is to have the bulb removed, cleaned and the contacts cleaned before being smeared with a little Vaseline and reassembling.
The electrical connection between towcar and trailer or caravan often gives rise to problems after winter storage, so it is always worth spending a few minutes to clean the pins and sockets. A quick spray with a water dispersant such as WD40 will help the cleaning process. Older seven-pin plugs and sockets may also benefit from light use of fine wet-and-dry paper to clean the exposed metal contact areas. Avoid the use of any abrasives on 13-pin plugs and sockets so you do not damage the rust-resistant finish on the pins.