A few nights ago, as I traveled on Highway 101 from Arroyo Grande to Santa Maria and back, I came across a truck with horse trailer attached in distress two different times – one each direction. This followed a recent conversation I had with a riding buddy who found herself with a flat trailer tire, a loaded trailer and no help available on a remote highway.
Whoa! Do you need to run through a truck and trailer safety checklist before hitting the road?
“There I was alone on the side of the road with a flat trailer tire and my horse in the trailer,” my friend recounted her recent experience to me. “My cell service was weak and my husband was not available right away, and my brother couldn’t come help either.”
She also discovered that her AAA roadside service didn’t cover her horse trailer. She was in a pickle but she ended up replacing the flat with her spare and getting home then replacing all the tires on the trailer that next week.
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The show season puts you on the road with your horse more often. The beautiful hills will beckon us out more frequently to ride the trails. These activities will put our horse trailers to work.
We should take the time now to do a basic safety check on our tires, and make sure that we are prepared to handle a flat trailer tire in the event that it happens.
How can we best prepare for fixing a flat horse trailer tire while on the side of the road with a loaded trailer?
First, be Prepared for a Flat Horse Trailer Tire
Obvious, I know, yet we can still use a reminder and a checklist of things we should have in the trailer.
- Emergency flares and reflective caution cones and/or triangles – use these to warn approaching vehicles of your presence.
- A jack – Jiffy Jack is recommended, or if it is a regular jack also have a block to go underneath it so the wheel well can be raised high enough to pull off the damaged tire.
- Lug wrench – be sure this fits your trailer tires’ lug nuts.
- A decent spare tire – nothing will be more frustrating than having a crippled spare tire. Spare tires can sit and bake in the sun so routinely check the condition and age of your spare tire. A tire more than seven years old should be replaced. Information on how to check the condition and age of a tire follows.
- Trailer hitch stand and tire blocks. Don’t leave these items at home!
Develop a Trip Pre-check to Catch Issues Before Hitting the Road
Sometimes we can catch problems before hitting the road. Developing the habit of checking your truck and trailer before heading out with your horses in tow, can spare you of a roadside emergency. Sometimes rigs get messed with by ill-meaning folks while at your destination. So check your rig EVERYTIME!
Be Able to Call For Help
Second, have a way of calling for help. As equestrians we can find ourselves in remote areas where cell coverage is poor. Consider an Onstar system in your rig. Also consider getting AAA roadside assistance coverage. You will need to upgrade to the RV and Trailer level to get coverage for your trailer. This level of coverage gets you 100 towing miles and four tire changes or calls – like help when stuck in sand or mud – for the trailer per year in addition to the four tire changes or calls you get with basic coverage on your vehicle.
Have A Back-up Plan
Third, have a backup plan for getting your horse home in the event that your trailer will not make it home that day. A list of stables for overnight stays can be found at HorseTrip.com. Have in mind a friend or two you can call for help. Keep the Show Manager contact number handy if you are close enough to get assistance near the show. Contact horse transportation services in the event that your rig won’t make it home for awhile.
How far can you limp home if needed? That depends on each situation. You may be close enough to gingerly drive home to get the horse safety tucked away. Since the trailer has two wheels on each side this gives you some grace, but each situation must be judged for its criticalness. In the event that you decide to go this route, use your hazard lights, drive very slowly, take roads with good visibility, and check your mirrors constantly. Understand that doing this may damage your “wheel” and require you to spend more money on the fix, but it may be worth it depending upon circumstances.
How Can We Minimize The Risk?
Pack the Wheel Bearings
How can you minimize the chances of getting a flat while pulling your trailer? Carly Wilken of Central Coast Trailers in Paso Robles shares her knowledge of trailer tire maintenance. “Proper trailer maintenance is key and starts with getting the wheel bearings packed on a regular basis. If you don’t, the wheels can seize up or even come off while you are rolling down the road!” Carly cautions. “Wheel bearings should be packed every 8 – 10,000 miles or once a year.”
Store a Horse Trailer Tire Jack in Your Trailer
Carly recommends Jiffy Jack as the tool for easily jacking up the trailer to change a tire. You drive the good tire up on Jiffy Jack and this allows you enough room to get the bad tire off. You can purchase a Jiffy Jack and get your wheel bearings packed and more at Central Coast Trailers.
Keeping yourself on the road requires tires that are in good condition. Carly helps us to gauge the age and condition of our trailer tires.
Do a ‘Weather Check’
“We recommend doing a ‘Weather Check’ where you check the sidewalls of the tires for cracking which will cause a blowout,” says Carly. “The tread will not wear out before the tire needs to be replaced. Checking the sidewalls is the best way to evaluate tire condition on all the tires, even the spare.” Carly went on to explain how to discover the exact age of a tire, “You should also know how old the tires are. Tires over seven years old should be replaced. To check this look at the date stamp found on the sidewall in a box. There will be four numbers: the first two are the week of the year and the last two are the year. For example, 4315 means the tire’s date is the 43 week of 2015.”
Check the Break-Away System
Carly also suggests checking the trailer’s break-away system at least once a year. She says, “The battery in the brake-away system only lasts about a year. A dead battery will not activate the trailer brakes to stop the trailer if the trailer comes off the hitch.”
Get Out and Go
As you take off to enjoy your equestrian travels, be sure you are ready in case of an emergency. Prepare beforehand, making sure you have the right tools on board to help you get down the road and home. Evaluate the condition of all your tires and replace them as needed. This minimizes the possibility of being stuck on the side of the road with your horse. If you do end up stuck, be sure you have a means of communication to get help if you need it. Develop your back up plan now. In the event you are unable to return home with your rig in a timely manner, you’ll need to get your horse(s) home.
Get out and go travel with your horse with peace of mind. You can be prepared with a means of calling help and you have a back up plan.
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Get ready to hit the road with your horse in tow. Developing your trip pre-check of your horse trailer and truck is made easier using our downloadable checklist. You can bring it up on your phone to use as a guide. Also you can print it out, slip it in a plastic sleeve and mount it inside your tack room door. Using a wet erase pen, you can then mark on it every time you haul horses. We’ll continue to add horsing around stories to our website. You can stay up-to-date by becoming a SLO Horse News herd member. Get your Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check Checklist here >.