What you need to know about vehicle maintenance and repairs

It's important to ensure your trailer, horse float, caravan or camper is properly maintained.

Box trailers

  • It’s best to keep your trailer under cover, but if this isn’t possible, store it with the draw bar raised so water can’t pool.
  • If your trailer has drain holes make sure they are kept clear.
  • Avoid leaving grass clippings, vegetation or soil etc. in it for extended periods, as this is a certain way to cause rust.
  • Regularly inspect for early signs of rust and if necessary treat affected areas with a good quality rust converter and then repaint.
  • Springs, shackles, and U bolts should be regularly checked for damage and security.
  • Tyres deteriorate from standing so they should be inspected before every use.
  • Wheel bearings should ideally be serviced at least annually as they can deteriorate from standing for long periods.
  • Most small trailers will not have brakes, however where fitted, their operation should be checked every time the trailer is used.
  • Trailer couplings, safety chains and lights must be maintained in good working condition.

Boat trailers

While boat trailers are generally of fairly simple construction, the environment in which they operate is particularly harsh. Therefore, special attention to their maintenance is required.

  • Salt water is very damaging to virtually every part of a boat trailer so it’s important to wash the trailer after use with fresh water to remove as much salt as possible before it is stored.
  • Non-galvanised components should be kept painted to protect against rust and the whole trailer should be inspected regularly to identify rust areas so they can be treated before it becomes a major problem.
  • Springs, shackles, and U bolts should be checked occasionally for damage and security while tyres should be inspected for damage, deterioration and correct pressure every time the trailer is used.
  • Wheel bearings need frequent attention, as even a small amount of water will cause a very rapid failure.
  • Additionally, wheel bearings can become pitted from standing for long periods and can fail quickly when put back into service.
  • Brake systems are also very prone to water damage, so it’s best to avoid immersing the brake assemblies where possible.
  • If immersed, they will generally require dismantling and cleaning if they are to work when required.
  • Trailer brake operation should be checked every time the trailer is used and their adjustments should be checked at least annually.
  • Rollers and slides must be adjusted properly and be in good condition if damage to the boat is to be avoided.
  • Winch cables are potentially dangerous to the operator if they break so they should be regularly checked for damage, wear and corrosion and replaced as necessary.
  • Maintain winches in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Salt water also affects electrical equipment and connections so it’s important to check that all lights operate properly each time the trailer is used.
  • Trailer couplings and safety chains must always be in good working condition.

Horse floats

  • Horse floats and their passengers are heavy so it’s important to have good suspension, brakes and tyres.
  • Trailer couplings, tow bars and safety chains must also be in first class order to avoid problems.
  • An unsettled horse can easily damage a float and in the process injure itself so it’s important to keep interior barriers in place and in good condition.
  • Horse floats should be kept clean inside, and as far as possible dry, to avoid rust problems.
  • Floats also generally have rubber mats to prevent the horse from slipping so it’s important to keep them secure and in good condition.

Caravans and campers

  • Maintenance of caravans and campers is much the same as for the other types of trailers already mentioned.
  • However, the operation of the braking system, tyre condition and suspension maintenance is even more critical with a heavy caravan.
  • If you have an off road camper or caravan and you use it on the beach, attention to potential rust problems is also vital.

Tow vehicle maintenance and repairs

  • Heavy towing is hard on a vehicle so expect to spend more on servicing and maintenance if you tow regularly.
  • Most vehicle manufacturers regard towing as severe use and vehicle maintenance schedules usually outline what additional servicing is required.
  • Don’t overlook the fact that things like tyres and brakes will also wear out faster when towing.


Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.