Anyone who has traveled extensively has experienced that dreadful situation-you're stranded on the side of the road, late at night, changing a flat tire or making other repairs. It is a bad situation to be in, and certainly not the safest. This year alone I have traveled with our team's trailer on 10 long trips. On two of these we found ourselves broken down on the side of the interstate, and the first time we broke down it cost us all of our practice time at the speedway.

Sometimes these things happen without any warning. Many problems, however, stem from having too much trailer for the tow vehicle. If this is the case, your engine will end up with blown head gaskets, worn oil seals, and many other problems that can ruin your weekend.

When you choose a trailer, take a look at what you need to haul and how far you need to haul it. Make sure that you're not getting something you really don't need. For instance, if you are going to be running a Friday night show at a dirt track that's 10 minutes away, you really don't need a 42-foot, enclosed gooseneck trailer. Keep it simple. You could still have an enclosed trailer, but an 8x20 is fine. And depending on what you're driving, you probably won't have to upgrade your truck to tow it.

While searching online, I found an '07 Pace 8.5x20-foot trailer for under $7,000.

Once the racing season is over, your trailer will probably sit for three or four months before you use it again for racing purposes. The following are some basic maintenance procedures for your truck and trailer that should take place annually to prevent breakdowns.

Regular Maintenance
At the top of the list should be a check of the tires on your truck and trailer. Make sure they are properly inflated, as underinflation is the greatest enemy of tires. A tire can lose a lot of air before it even appears to be flat, so make sure that you are checking your tires on a regular basis, not just once a year. Also, look over the tire to make sure there are no flat spots or cracks in the sidewall.

If you have a diesel tow vehicle, be sure to check the intercooler hose coupler during regular maintenance. This sleeve has two constant torque bolts attached to it. You should be checking these on a regular basis because over time this sleeve will start to wear and slide around on the connection pipe. You will know when it slides all the way off because the engine will lose power. If you are towing, you will be forced to pull over because the engine will not produce the necessary torque and horsepower to move the trailer. The good news is that when it does sideline you, it's an easy fix. Merely pull out a socket and tighten it back up on the connection pipe. Every time the coupler in our truck has come off, it has been while the truck was experiencing extreme conditions, such as traveling up a mountain with a trailer that was packed to the ceiling.

Once you have finished performing all of the regular maintenance, you should move to repairing the places on the trailer that might need a touch-up. For instance, the first wheel on one side of our trailer clipped a wall at Motor Mile Speedway when we were leaving the track, and the contact damaged the bearing protector on the wheel. The protector did its job, and only the protector needed to be replaced.

Also, make sure you repair the spots on the floor inside the trailer where the surface might be torn or where the siding is coming up. Most of the parts you will need are probably going to be found at your nearest trailer dealership.

At this time you should check all of your wiring connections to make sure you don't have exposed wires. Also check that none of the wires have any hard bends or cuts in them. If they have a cut, just spend the money and replace them; it's not worth saving money if you are running the risk of losing your trailer brakes.

Take a second to inspect your trailer chains as well. If your chains are welded to the frame of the trailer, make sure that the welds are still of good quality. The welds on our trailer have held up so well that the welded spots on the frame have actually bent the steel around it. Look at your hitch as well and be sure to put a very thin layer of grease around the ball to ensure that the ball doesn't rust under the extreme conditions it'll face.

The Wheel Bearings
During the off-season, you should also make sure to pack your wheel bearings. It is actually very simple to do. The details might be slightly different from trailer to trailer, but it is basically the same process for most trailers. First, pull the wheel. You may be told that you don't have to pull the wheel, but I've found it's easier to do so. Make sure that your jack is rated high enough for the weight of your trailer, and put a jackstand underneath it in case it should fall.

Once you have pulled the wheel, remove the dust cap or bearing protector. You might be able to grab a pair of channel locks and pull it straight out, but after about 30 minutes of trying that on mine, I had to get a chisel and hammer to knock the cap off. Once the cap is off, you will see the axle nut and a cotter pin. The trailer I was working on actually didn't have a cotter pin, but rather a yellow locking mechanism that I had to pull off. With the cotter pin or locking mechanism removed, you should be able to loosen the axle nut. Once you undo the axle nut, there should be a washer with the bearing right behind it.

From here you just need to treat it like a bearing on your race car and pack it the same way. There will also be an inner bearing inside of the hub. Knock the inner bearing out with a large screwdriver and a hammer and check the "race" that it sits in. If there is a scar or cut in the race, you will need to replace the race and the bearing altogether. When you do this, you will more than likely damage the rear seal, but that's OK because you need to replace it anyway. When you have both bearings out, make sure you use heavy-duty grease designed for your trailer.

Now all you have to do is put it back together. Once you have the bearings on, tighten the axle nut, making sure not to tighten it with a wrench. Tighten it until you cannot move it with your hand. Grab the hub and try to move it back and forth. The hub should spin easily without any wobble. If your cotter pin doesn't line up, use a wrench to tighten it up enough so the pin lines up correctly.

Packing the bearings sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be an all-day project, taking about 20 or 30 minutes per wheel. Taking a couple of days to go over your truck and trailer, making sure that everything is in good working order, could save you a lot of hassle and wasted time during the racing season.

Pace American Trailers