If you're a new ATV owner, chances are you are now the proud owner of a small trailer. Trailers are wonderful tools that will transport your machine to far away places. There's only one problem; trailers without some minimal maintenance and user care can be cranky, dangerous, and ironically strand you in the middle of nowhere possibly making you rely on your ATV for roadside assistance.
Let’s start with safety. Your ATV needs to be securely attached to your trailer. Leaving your bike in park, and tying a single piece of rope to the front grill will not accomplish this. Remember that every time you place your bike on the trailer, the machine should become part of the platform. The bike should be left in park with the brake engaged and securely strapped from four points. This means that the bike needs be strapped down tight enough that the suspension feels stiff with no sway.
Use 2000-pound minimum rated adjustable ratchet straps connected to the frame of the bike. Tighten them down to load the suspension. When the load is right, you can shake the bike and the trailer will feel like it’s part of the machine with no play. Now that the bike is loaded, keep a few tips in mind:
If your trailer didn’t come with bearing buddies, get a set, they’re about $25.00. The bearing buddies will keep you hubs full of clean grease and will keep your trailer rolling smoothly down the road.
Just because your trailer is new, doesn’t mean the bearings are full of grease. I’ve brought brand new trailers and the wheel cavities were nearly empty. Fill them with a levered grease gun until the small plate around the nipple moves to the outside of the case. Be sure not to keep pumping, or you may blow out the axle seal on the inside of your wheel allowing all the grease to spin out.
Bearings should be checked or filled before every major trip, or once a month. On a trip when you stop for gas, make a point to touch the bearing and feel for heat. If it’s hot, add grease. Warm is normal; hot is not. A bearing failure will leave you roadside with a seized wheel that may require a welding torch to free it, and all the parts will have to be replaced. Count on it happening at 2 a.m.
Tires are the next “weak link” in the system. Be diligent about checking the tire pressure by following the manufacturer’s specifications. Underinflated tires can shred, and overinflated ones can wear out very quickly. Like the bearings, touching the tires can help you determine if there’s a problem. Again, warm is fine; hot is not. Always check your tire pressure before embarking on a trip or once a month.
When you have a tire problem (and you will) you’ll need a spare. Many new trailers are sold with used tires and no spare to lower the cost. Once you get a spare, check it for air once a month.
Trailers don’t come with changing kits. You will need a tire iron to take off the bolts and a separate jack. Do not assume that your truck’s tire iron will fit the often-smaller bolt or that the truck jack can be used. Buy a small hydraulic jack and put it away in a kit with your new trailer tire iron. Whether it’s backing up, loading a bike, or driving down a bumpy road…slow down, take your time, and don’t rush it. You’ll stay safer and hold your insurance rates down.