No matter where you take your camper trailer in this great country, proper care and maintenance during down time will ensure major repairs are a rarity. Regular inspection, cleaning, greasing and adjustment of many minor, but integral parts of your trailer will allow you to keep on top of the warning signs that could turn your next camping trip into an epic fail. Setting up a simple maintenance schedule will not only provide plenty of trouble free weekends, it will no doubt mean you and the family are never stranded out the back of Bourke.
Insects, plants and the weather can all take a toll on the canvas of your camper trailer. To avoid long term damage to the fabric, tree sap, bird droppings and other debris should be removed as soon as possible and not left to accumulate by using a soft brush and lukewarm water. The use of detergents and soaps will damage the canvas and reduce waterproofness over time, so a simple spray down with the hose is best and will keep dust and dirt from becoming ingrained. Most people check the weather forecast before leaving on any trip, so if rain is scheduled it’s a good idea to prep the camper by setting it up outside for a couple of nights to expose it to the humidity and let the fibres expand and contract to maximise their waterproofness. If you do get caught in the rain and the inside of the camper gets wet as well, set it up as soon as you can in dry weather to minimise mould growth that can degrade the canvas and make your family sick. If you find mould, dab on a solution of nine parts water to one part vinegar and let the canvas dry completely before you remove any traces with a brush and vacuum cleaner. Chemical mould removers or bleach products can reduce waterproofing, UV protection and fade the colour. When you arrive home, especially from a long trip, look over the canvas for small rips and tears which can easily be repaired with specialised patches or tape.
There are few things on your camper trailer as important as your tyres so be sure to check them regularly. As a rule, you should change your tyres every 3 to 5 years depending on the distance they have travelled and they must be rotated regularly to make sure they see their full lifespan. Incorrect inflation and poor maintenance are the usual suspects in premature breakdown. Inspection for wear and tear should be done before and after every trip and must include the spare even if nothing appears to be wrong. If your trailer has been parked for some time it may be susceptible to dry rot which occurs when the tyres dry out and have cracked or splitting rubber in the side walls. It is a serious problem that dramatically increases your chances of a blow out and subsequent accident. So, if you suspect dry rot, get them checked by a professional; it may be time for replacement.
Wheel bearings should be inspected every 20,000km or sooner if you’re doing regular off-road travel via dusty roads and through water crossings. By jacking your trailer up one side at a time you can gently rock the tyre back and forth to see if there is any ‘play’ in the wheel. If you detect a reasonable amount of wobble, then it’s probably time to change or at least repack them. Dirt, salt, sand and water can all contribute to the breakdown of your wheel bearings so make sure you have all the tools you need to service them properly and invest in a trailer hub kit that matches your bearing type and contains the wheel hub, bearings, seals, dust cap and wheel nuts for repair and replacement on the go.
While you’re down on your knees servicing the wheel bearings it’s also a great time to make sure the axle is in good working order. If you have recently hit the underside of the trailer on some rocks or given the wheel a good bash on a kerb you may have bent the axle. Check to see if one of your tyres is facing out or if you have uneven tread wear. Pay extra attention to where the axle meets the wheel bearing as this is the most likely place for a fracture to occur which usually starts at the bottom and is often missed. Take your trailer to a mechanic or camper repair workshop to have suspected issues properly seen to.
Any concerns about the performance of your trailer brakes need to be addressed immediately by a professional. Maintaining bolt tension and keeping the nipples greased will go a long way to keep your brakes working smoothly, however paying attention to the places you have travelled recently will give you the best indication of potential issues that may arise. There is a chance of picking up debris from rocky roads and water crossings which will result in a scraping noise each time you brake. In most trailers, the wheel bearing must be removed to access the brake drum, so you may have to nurse your camper to the nearest workshop if this is required. And don’t forget your suspension. Check all rubber mounts and the coils or leaves themselves for wear or cracks and make sure all nuts and bolts are at correct tension.
The underside of your camper is usually the most common area that people forget to check. Flying rocks, mud and water can chip away at paint and quickly leave exposed steel susceptible to rust. Early detection means you can patch and fix easily without it becoming a major job. Metal fatigue or cracks in the chassis may appear as flaking paint or radiating lines from the stress point. Additionally, stones and debris can get lodged between your water tank and the shield which will eventually wear a hole, so remove these as best you can.
Gas hoses can perish and usually become sticky, just like your tyres as they start to deteriorate. Use soapy water over the entire system and watch for bubbles to check for leaks. Keep your battery permanently hooked up to a multi stage charger when stored to ensure the battery is at full capacity each time you go away and follow the length of all 12v leads regularly to check for cuts or abrasions as well as the trailer and Anderson plugs to make sure all pins are straight and making good contact. Regular inspection and routine maintenance can go a long way to extending the life of your camper trailer, but don’t be dismayed if you eventually have to replace it entirely – safety and functionality for your family is paramount.
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