It’s technically fall, but in many areas winter has already arrived. Is your trailer ready?
The temperatures are dropping and, in some areas, snow is already on the ground. Some of us have already been dusting off the Carhartts, getting out the water trough heaters and blanketing our horses. What does all this mean? It means that it’s time to winterize your horse trailer (if you haven’t already done so).
The best way to make sure your trailer lasts and you are ready to go — with minimal effort — come spring is to properly winterize your trailer now. Here are 10 steps you can take to make sure trailer is properly tucked in for the colder months.
1. Learn how to override your brake controller. No matter what the season, you will want to know how to manually override your brake controller. Your brake controller is in your tow vehicle and powers the trailer brakes whenever you step on the brake pedal. The manual override is usually a slide, button or squeeze bar on the brake controller box. It allows you to engage your trailer brakes without hitting your tow vehicle’s brakes.
Although this is useful no matter the temperature, it can be especially helpful if you will be driving on cold, wet and/or icy roads this winter. The manual override can help if you start skidding or sliding. The override will brake your trailer and pull your truck back, stopping the slide.
2. Wash off all road salt. Road salt does a great job of deicing the roads, but it is also very effective at corroding metal (yes, even aluminum). Before you stow you trailer for the winter, be sure to wash your it — including the frame and undercarriage — with hot water and soap to remove any dirt, salt or road grease. Any time you drive the trailer on a salted road, wash the frame and undercarriage as soon as you get home. If you have access to a pressure washer, this is the most effective way to go about cleaning your trailer, but any washing is better than none.
3. Drain all water tanks and pumps. Draining your water tanks and pumps is imperative. Any water left in your tanks, pumps and lines can freeze and crack or blow open these vital parts of your trailer. This includes your grey and black water tanks (if you have them). If you have a pump, be sure to run it for 10 seconds after the tank is empty to get rid of any excess moisture. Note: when you drain your hot water heater, remember to put the drain plug back in or small animals may nest inside.
4. Lubricate all metal fixtures. Go over your trailer and grease up all hinges, locks and other moving metal fixtures. Doing so will keep them from locking up or corroding when they aren’t in use.
5. Remove and recharge your batteries. Take out your breakaway brake battery and main cabin battery (if you have one) and recharge them. Store them in a warm, dry place until you are ready to haul again.
6. Remove batteries from any appliance that is staying in the trailer for the winter. Don’t forget the smoke detectors.
7. Remove all food, bedding and paper products. Not only will food rot and go stale, but also it can attract mice. So do paper products and bedding. Make your trailer as unwelcoming to rodents as possible so that they will find someplace else to spend the winter.
8. Turn off the propane tanks and main power switch.
9. Get an antifreeze service. If you have a living quarters trailer or one with a weekender package, get an antifreeze service. For any trailer with living quarters — whether it’s a horse trailer or an RV — have a professional run antifreeze through the water pipes to protect them from freezing temperatures. This process usually involves hooking up a bypass line in order to avoid the hot water heater and draining all the moisture from the valves. Once you intend to use your living quarters again, you will need to de-winterize the trailer by flushing out the antifreeze.
If you plan to use your living quarters throughout the winter, do not put antifreeze in the system. Instead, keep the trailer hooked up with the heat running just enough to keep the water in the pipes from freezing.
10. Cover your trailer and park it on hard ground. Once your trailer is cleaned, drained and winterized, you’ll want to park it for the season. Covering it will protect it from the elements. Word to the wise: buy an RV trailer cover and not a horse trailer cover. Many horse trailer covers are too short and will leave your tires, bearings and fenders exposed. RV trailer covers tend to be longer and, therefore, more effective at protecting your trailer from the elements.
The best place to park your trailer is on gravel asphalt or concrete. Grass traps moisture and invites pests, which can lead to a number of problems with your trailer. If you don’t have solid ground on which to park your trailer, you can put wood planks over grass to help protect your trailer.
Stay warm and go riding!