How Trailer Maintenance Works

Washing a Trailer
This is precisely the kind of power washer you don't want to use on a trailer with an automotive finish like this one has.
This is precisely the kind of power washer you don't want to use on a trailer with an automotive finish like this one has.
Greg Nicholas/iStockPhoto

For starters, we'll give that old trailer a nice washing. It's a good idea to keep your trailer clean, especially if you have an enclosed trailer. Often, these trailers are given an auto finish with several coats of paint and sealant. As such, you should wash these trailers with warm water, using soap that's specially formulated to take it easy on auto finishes. If you don't have a trailer with an automotive-grade finish, soapy fresh water will suffice. Use a regular hose to rinse off; high-powered pressure washers can damage the finish and degrade the trailer body. Be sure to spend time cleaning the reflective plates and lights to let them shine. Don't forget to rinse off the undercarriage, as road dust can accumulate and degrade moving parts.

If you have a boat trailer, you must wash it after every use, especially if you use it around salt water. Salt water can accelerate corrosion, so be sure to pay extra attention to the wheels, suspension and brakes. Salt water can collect on these parts and evaporate, leaving a salt residue that can wreak havoc on metal.

Look for rusted parts and areas as you wash. Sand away any patches you find with sandpaper or steel wool. After you've finished washing and the trailer has dried, touch up the areas with rust-proof paint. Once the paint dries, apply a healthy coat of wax on your trailer's painted metal parts. You should do this even if your trailer didn't require any touching-up. Keeping your trailer waxed sounds a bit over the top for all but the nicest models, but it protects metal parts from the elements and prevents rusting.

As you're washing, you may realize you're facing a challenge: Trailers can be awfully tall. Not to worry, there are plenty of tools on the market to help you get every square inch of that trailer clean. Telescoping wash brushes and chamois can make your life a lot easier. Of course, there's also something to be said for a sturdy, non-slip step ladder with good tread on each step.

The old trailer looks nice and shiny now, doesn't she? Unfortunately, it's time now to get down and dirty. Read the next page to learn about keeping your trailer properly greased and lubricated.


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