KEYWORDS: trailer, car, tire, wheel, jack, wheels

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 21: Roadside Repairs

David Berg

(—And more! Ha!)DFO812-2114/7/79

—By Father David

1. THERE IS ONE PROBLEM YOU MAY HAVE‚ & THAT'S A ROADSIDE BREAKDOWN OR BLOW-OUT‚ which happens & will happen sooner or later to almost every one, no matter how good care you take of your car & tires. You may have run over something that has damaged the tire & you didn't know it—a rock, a sharp-edged curb—& the tire is damaged inside & you can't see it. But eventually it will weaken the wall so it will blow out, especially when hot & at high pressure, & with a heavy load you may have a blow-out—certainly with old tires, retread or reconditioned tires or patched-up tires, if you've got an old rig like I often had!

2. ON ONE TRIP FROM CALIFORNIA TO TEXAS I HAD SEVEN BLOW-OUTS! SO IT'S POSSIBLE! But always be prepared for it, have a firm grip on the wheel, & even if a front tire blows out at high speed, if you have a firm grip on your steering wheel you don't have to have an accident or a sudden swerve into oncoming traffic or into the bank, ditch or tree or over the side of the mountain! If you have a firm grip on the wheel‚ keep a very steady grip, you needn't swerve at all!

3. IF A TIRE BLOWS, YOU'LL USUALLY HEAR IT BLOW if it's on the car or trailer‚ or you can tell by feeling or motion, it has blown. Sometimes you won't hear a trailer tire when it blows, but you'll usually quickly hear a rumbling from the rear! If you can feel the vibration clear through the tongue of the trailer into the car you'll know that you've got a flat, whether it blew out or just went flat. When you hear that rumbling from the rear & you feel a slight drag‚ more than the normal drag of the trailer‚ pull over as soon as you can onto the shoulder off the traffic lane as soon as you can safely do so.

4. TRY TO PULL CLEAR OVER ONTO THE SHOULDER OF THE ROAD, completely off any travel lane of the highway, clear of the traffic, so that you have plenty of room to work & be safe, especially if the flat happens to be on the traffic side. You've got to have room to operate there with your jack & lug wrench to remove the wheel & have the flat repaired or get a new tire. This is very important!

5. YOU'D BETTER HAVE A GOOD POWERFUL JACK IF YOU HAVE A HEAVILY-LOADED TRAILER! Because if you're on a shoulder of a road that's pretty steep & the trailer's leaning over that direction‚ you've got most of the weight of the trailer on that side. If the shoulder of the road is quite sloped & steep, you've got a tremendous load, almost the whole trailer to lift with that jack to get a wheel off of that low side of the trailer!

6. I USED TO USE TWO JACKS & WOODEN CHOCKS in case any jacks or both jacks failed or the whole rig rolled & collapsed & came down, it'd have something to land on & not fall all the way down! And I always made sure to keep my hands & arms & legs & feet out from under the trailer or away from any possible direction of fall in case it did roll off the jacks. Always be sure you chock some of the wheels with blocks or rocks, so that your rig will not roll even slightly either forward or backward, or it could roll right off the jack & plop down on the pavement! Then you've got a real tough time trying to jack the trailer up—or car either—after you've got the wheel off, if it suddenly falls clear to the pavement! Happily we hope it missed you, at least! But then it is so low onto the pavement it's almost impossible to have a jack that's small enough to get under it lift it back up again!

7. SO I'D ADVISE YOU TO HAVE FOR WHEEL & FRAME CHOCKS SEVERAL BLOCKS OF WOOD OF ABOUT A 4 x 4-INCH OR 6 x 6-INCH SIZE! They don't have to be more than a few inches long, maybe 8-10–12 inches long‚ but thick enough that, as you get the trailer jacked up little by little, you can keep slipping another block of wood under it‚ so that if the jack fails or it rolls off the jack, it will land on the blocks. Then also while it's jacked up, it's not dependent totally on that jack, but also on frame chocks.

8. BECAUSE VERY LIKELY YOUR WIFE & FAMILY WILL WANT TO BE USING THE TRAILER WHILE YOU'RE STOPPED in this emergency & jacking up & changing wheels & getting tires fixed‚ as it sometimes takes hours. You might also have to detach the car from the trailer & drive it into someplace to get the tire or wheel or something fixed‚ & it may take quite awhile. Meanwhile the family are hungry or sleepy or whatnot, & they have to use the trailer, it's their home.

9. SO TO BE PREPARED FOR THAT, YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO JACK UP THE TRAILER SECURELY enough so that their movement of walking around in the trailer & getting in & out of it will not cause it to fall off either the jacks or the blocks! I used to carry a number of these big heavy blocks‚ & you've got to have someplace to carry'm even though they're heavy—it's a safety measure to save your life or limb—or even your trailer!

10. WE HAD ONE POOR BOY WHO DIDN'T JACK UP HIS CAR SECURELY working on one of the Family cars in Texas, & it rolled off the jack & landed on him, & he's been paralysed from the waist down ever since! So it's being penny wise & pound foolish to have a cheap jack or too small a jack or a not powerful enough jack‚ or not carry several heavy blocks of wood & pieces of plank with you to be able to prop up your car or trailer securely when necessary, so that you don't depend totally on just a jack!

11. WE USUALLY CARRIED TWO JACKS OF DIFFERENT SIZES, one very small jack that I could get into the very lowest places if the axle or frame was very close to the ground; then I carried another very tall jack which was very powerful & very big & could lift the trailer or camper or cruiser way up until I could put blocks under it. As fast as it goes up, keep slipping, another plank or another board or another block in just to fit, so if it falls, it would only fall just an inch or so, & securely onto these blocks or chocks.

12. THERE ARE ALSO CERTAIN TYPES OF TRIPOD JACKS or stabilizer props which you can use on trailers or vehicles like that once you get'm jacked up high enough to get'm under it. But I've found that a number of ordinary wooden blocks & pieces of board & planks of various sizes & thicknesses are the very best thing you can possibly use to have a good sound solid foundation for your trailer when you get it jacked up & you're ready to take off the wheel.

13. ALSO BE SURE YOU DON'T TRAVEL WITHOUT A GOOD STRONG LUG WRENCH which not only fits your car wheels but the nuts or lugs on your trailer wheels as well! Of course the reason you don't have to carry a spare tire with most trailers is that usually you can disconnect the car & take the trailer wheel to some nearby garage to get it fixed. However, you might be very happy if it turned out that your trailer wheels & car wheels are interchangeable! In which case, you could use your spare tire from your car to put on your trailer & drive to the next point & get your tire fixed then. But normally most trailers, especially light camp trailers, don't carry an extra heavy spare wheel & tire & they're not interchangeable with your car! For one thing‚ you don't have any place to put it, & it's just that much extra weight you don't need, & you won't need it often enough to require it. Because you can jack up your trailer, remove the wheel, disconnect the car, & take it to get it fixed. Be sure that the trailer is very firmly chocked, chock all the wheels when you jack up a trailer like that, so that it can't roll forward or backward or twist.

14. YOU'LL HAVE A PROBLEM IF YOU'RE ON A STEEP SLOPE LIKE THE SHOULDER OF A ROAD: Even if you have the trailer wheels chocked on one side & you set the tongue down on the dolly wheel, the trailer & dolly wheel will have a tendency to roll down the embankment & turn the trailer & twist it right off the jack, stabilizers or the chocks! So you have to chock in front & in back of the wheels on both sides of the trailer. That means you need at least four good heavy chocks of 4-by-4's for in front & back of the trailer wheels on both sides.

15. NOW IF YOU HAVE A FOUR-WHEEL TRAILER, you still only need chocks in front & in the back of the wheels on both sides, both in back of the back wheels & in front of the front wheels on each side, they must be in both front & back of the wheels on both sides to prevent the trailer from twisting & turning when you disconnect it from your car, & thereby rolling off the jack & maybe down into the ditch, & then you've got troubles! So be sure you have it chocked up properly.

16. THE FRONT LITTLE DOLLY WHEEL ALSO USUALLY WILL HAVE TO BE CHOCKED. Before you raise the trailer tongue & hitch high enough to release it from the ball, be sure that the dolly wheel is faced in the direction of the low side of the road, whichever way the road is slanted, & put a chock under it so that the dolly will not have a tendency to roll. Be sure it's turned toward the low side so that the chock will remain under it firmly. Otherwise if you have it facing forward or backward, it still has a tendency to turn, & it could turn just enough to shift the trailer just enough to roll it off your jack or your chocks! So face your dolly wheel towards the low side & put a chock underneath the tire so it will not roll.

17. THEN WHEN YOU CRANK DOWN THE DOLLY & crank up the tongue of the trailer so that it lifts off car, the trailer will not move, will not budge in any direction, because it's jacked & chocked up so very well! This is especially important on a slanted shoulder of a road where you're most apt to have your problem & be parked when you're doing an emergency repair.

18. ALSO REMEMBER WHEN YOU'RE DETACHING THAT YOU HAVE TO RELEASE THAT HITCH SOCKET CLAMP of the trailer tongue to release the car ball, so that the tail end of your car can drop out of the socket, the car ball can drop out of the socket. Otherwise, as you're cranking up the trailer tongue‚ if you haven't released that socket lock, it will just lift the ball & the rear end of the car with it, & will keep on lifting it up until pretty soon you've almost got the back wheels of the car off the ground! Don't forget that!

19. ONCE YOU'VE GOT EVERYTHING CHOCKED UP SECURELY & even before you start cranking up the trailer tongue to unhitch, lift that latch which unclamps the trailer socket from the car ball‚ & then crank'r up, & she'll come right off the ball! As soon as it has cleared the ball & you have disconnected the cable & safety chains & light cord, your car's cleared away to throw your disabled tire into the car & drive off to the nearest repair spot to get it fixed.

20. IF YOUR TIRE'S BLOWN OUT, OF COURSE IT'S GONE, & YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO BUY A NEW TIRE—or a used tire. Frequently we bought used tires, as we couldn't afford new ones. Sometimes you can buy fairly good used tires: Somebody's come in & their tires were only worn, so they decided to buy new ones, but the old tires were not completely gone & were still usable.

21. TRAILER TIRES DON'T GET A LOT OF WEAR, because there's no traction & not much braking, so they wear very slowly & they will last a long time, & they do not necessarily have to have a lot of deep thick thread on them. However, the old carcass or basic sidewalls & body of the tire must be in good condition because of so much weight.

22. SO IF YOU ARE EVER BUYING ANY USED TIRES, CAREFULLY INSPECT THE INSIDE & OUTSIDE SIDE WALLS OF THE TIRE to see that there are no loose threads‚ no patches‚ no boots‚ no holes, no weak spots. Because a trailer is very heavy & those tires must carry a lot of weight, & a weak tire with a weak sidewall or any weak spots in it at all could easily blow out under all that weight! So even if it hasn't got much tread on the bottom, if it's got a good sound carcass‚ good solid & walls & is good solid tire, you often can pick up a used tire much cheaper than a new one, if you can't afford a new one. But of course you're always better off & much safer with new tires if you can afford them.

23. IF YOUR TRAILER TIRE JUST WENT FLAT because you ran over a nail or a little piece of glass or something sharp or you hit a sharp rock, it can usually be repaired. The inner-tube hole can be patched, & if there is a slight hole in the tread of the tire they can put a small boot over it inside the tire to make sure it's strong enough to hold the pressure. Then they tuck your patched tube back inside your patched tire, inflate it some, put it back on the wheel, inflate it once again to full pressure‚ & you're ready to go back & put it back on the trailer or the car, whichever.

24. IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THESE LITTLE THINGS—THEY MAY HELP YOU, & THEY MAY EVEN SAVE YOUR LIFE OR LIMB! Because jacking up that heavy a vehicle, whether car or trailer, means you have got a lot of suspended weight & it's dangerous! I used to use two or three jacks sometimes with the Cruiser, because it was so big & heavy—five tons to lift!—Especially if it was a rear tire where most of the weight was! It had huge big truck tires & dual wheels, & I had to struggle with them to pull them off! Getting a wheel off a trailer you can wobble the trailer until it wobbles right off the jack if you don't have it securely chocked! So I always used a stack of good heavy chocks that couldn't possibly fall down even if the jack fell out, unless it actually rolled, & I made sure it couldn't roll by chocking all the wheels with big pieces of wood or rocks so it couldn't roll in any direction, which is very important to your safety in changing tires or jacking up your vehicle for any type of repairs that are required.

25. THEN PLEASE DON'T FORGET THAT IF YOU HAVE A FLAT OR A BLOW-OUT ONLY ON THE REAR TIRE OF THE CAR, YOU DON'T HAVE TO JACK UP THE WHOLE TRAILER WITH IT! If the trailer's fairly heavy, the tongue's fairly heavy. But with most of these new modern camp trailers there's very little weight on the tongue—only up to as little as 75 kilos weight on the tongue itself & thus on the car‚ which is very good. Some trailer tongues only have 25 to 50 kilos of weight, meaning on the ball of the car & thus on the rear of the car, so they're very light with not much weight on the car itself. There's mostly only pull weight, inertia weight.

26. BUT IF YOU HAVE A HEAVY TRAILER THAT IS VERY HEAVY ON THE TONGUE & THUS THE CAR, YOU SHOULD DISCONNECT TO JACK UP THE CAR with a flat rear tire. Chock both your car & trailer wheels, set all your brakes, disconnect, pull or push a few inches away from the trailer hitch, & then just jack up the rear wheel of the car only, so you don't have to lift the trailer with it. Because if you leave the car & trailer attached, you're going to have to lift the trailer too as you jack up the car, & that's a lot of weight!

27. ALL THESE LITTLE THINGS YOU'D THINK ANY FOOL WOULD KNOW & any common-sense person with a little bit of horse sense would understand! But I've found that unless people are pretty mechanical, it's amazing how dumb they can be! So with trailer travel & hauling a trailer & having trailer problems, you had better know something about what you're doing, or you are going to have big problems instead of little ones!

28. —AND THERE'S ANOTHER REASON TO JACK UP YOUR TRAILER & CHOCK & BLOCK IT UP VERY SOLIDLY & SAFELY & chock the wheels good: If you're broken down quite near the travel lane of the road & you're just barely off the highway on the shoulder—passing trucks! This is a danger even when you're driving, when these huge tractor trailers & trucks pass by! You'll find they roar by sometimes at 70 mph, & the amount of wind they create hits your trailer like a blast, & rocks it & shakes it all over, & it will shake it right off the jacks & off the chocks if it's not really well blocked up! So that's another reason to get it chocked up firmly & well!

29. YOU'LL FIND THAT FAST PASSING TRUCKS CAN CAUSE YOU TROUBLE even when you're driving your trailer peacefully, happily & sensibly along in your own little lane at a safe speed! Suddenly one of these monstrous trucks comes roaring down a hill or from behind you & passes you at 75, 80 or 90 mph within 5 or 6 inches or a foot of your vehicle, roaring by you at top speed!

30. THE FIRST THING YOU FEEL, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE PULLING A TRAILER & you've got a lot of wind resistance, a lot of surface exposure to the wind, it will suddenly first give you a push to one side then suck you back the other direction in their wake! If they're passing on your left, this huge truck roaring by, the first effect you feel is a sudden push to the right that almost pushes you off the road! Then suddenly just as it's racing by you it creates such a suction that it suddenly jerks you back to the left almost into the other lane! It can swerve your car & trailer as much as one or two feet left & right by this sudden gust of wind & sudden suction! At first it's a push to the right & then a pull to the left.

31. SO WHEN THOSE BIG TRUCKS ARE SPEEDING BY YOU AT HIGH SPEED‚ BE SURE YOU'VE GOT A FIRM GRIP ON YOUR STEERING WHEEL & you're ready for that sudden push to the right & jerk back to the left! Also you will find out that some places they'll even have wind warnings beside the road! You pass a certain pass or a spot between two mountains or hills where the wind comes roaring down‚ & there are powerful gusts of maybe 75-80 mph that have been known to overturn those huge big heavy trucks & trailers! So if you don't know what you're doing & you don't have a firm grip on the wheel & you're not driving properly, that gust of wind might hit you so suddenly it will cause you to suddenly swerve in such a way that you could overturn your trailer!

32. SUDDEN SWERVES YOU MUST AVOID AT ANY KIND OF SPEEDS, because the slightest swerve with the weight & size & top-heaviness of your trailer can cause it to turn over. If you just swerve your car just a bit too suddenly to the left or right, it can flip the trailer right over! So you must watch out how you drive & keep a steady straight course, & when you curve or turn you must do it very slowly & not make any sudden jerks to the right or left, or you may find yourself a jerk landed out on the highway with your trailer on one side!

33. TRAILERS ALSO SOMETIMES HAVE A TENDENCY TO WAG LIKE A DOG'S TAIL, & once they start to wagging, if you don't know how to handle it, it will flip itself right over! If you're an insecure unsteady driver & you have a bad habit of weaving back & forth as you drive, you can easily start your trailer wagging‚ & it's hard to pull out of it‚ like a tailspin! I've seen lots of people drive like that—they don't seem to know how to drive in a straight line! They keep weaving back & forth, back & forth! This action can build up in the trailer until it's actually rocking back & forth, until the trailer begins to pull the car tail back & forth, & it will get into a kind of a rock or spin until it flips itself clear over onto one side!

34. A FELLOW DRIVING JETH'S TRAILER ONE TIME IN LOUISIANA in our big 40-car convoy at normal speed got to swerving back & forth until he didn't know how to control it! He kept pulling the wheel this way & then that way trying to stop it, but instead he just made it worse! He should have just held the wheel still & steady in one position & slowed down to stop the trailer from rocking back & forth. But instead of that he tried to keep up with the speed of the caravan & kept turning the wheel back & forth trying to stop the trailer sway, & instead of that he just caused the trailer to wag back & forth like a tail until it flipped itself right over on its side!

35. LYDIA & SEVERAL OF THE CHILDREN WERE INSIDE THE TRAILER AT THE TIME, & it was a miracle of God they weren't all hurt or killed! It was a miracle of God the trailer landed on the left side that did not have the door, so they were able to quickly open the door & all pile out! A lot of terrible things could have happened! They shouldn't have been riding in the trailer in the first place! It's forbidden to ride in trailers in most States & countries‚ because it's not safe! Trailers can too easily have accidents & overturn, & if it overturns on the door side, some trailers have no way to get out!

36. THANK GOD MOST MODERN TRAILERS TODAY ARE BUILT WITH LARGE WINDOWS WHICH ALSO ACT AS SAFETY EXITS in case of accident or fire or whatever, so remember that! Remember: Don't block them off with too much junk stored on the bed or somewhere so that you can't get quickly out the window if you have to!

37. TRY TO STAY ON GOOD SMOOTH PAVED LEVEL ROADS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Try to stay out of the hills & high mountains & off steep grades & narrow winding or bumpy rutty roads, or gravel or dirt roads. Try to stay on the superhighways & the main highways with a trailer. It's safer & easier & smoother, & you won't get into so many difficult situations that you may find difficult to get out of, such as difficult passing close to nearby ditches or very close to the edge of a road that drops off & where it's almost impossible to pass another car, much less a trailer!

38. IT'S ALSO VERY HARD TO PULL A TRAILER THROUGH GRAVEL OR A DUSTY OR SANDY ROAD. There's a tremendous drag‚ & you might find you might even get stuck & unable to pull it out!—Particularly in mud, of course! Try to stay away from unsurfaced roads. You may have to drive off of the surfaced roadway into an unsurfaced campground‚ but watch out when you do, so that if it's been raining or even if it hasn't rained, you don't get stuck into soft ground!

39. WATCH LOW PLACES, SANDY OR MUSHY GROUND, soft ground or ground that has holes in it, where you can get one wheel into a hole & your car just hasn't got enough power to pull it out of that hole with all that weight of the trailer behind you! Everybody else may have to get out & push! So avoid surfaces of any kind which are not paved or surfaced or at least very good hard dry or rocky ground. Watch out even for grassy ground! It may look beautiful, but grassy surfaces are usually soft & wet‚ or there wouldn't be any grass there!

40. HARD ROCKY OR PAVED SURFACES ARE BEST IN YOUR CAMPS FOR PARK SITES. You may see a nice grassy spot & think, "Oh, I'd love to park my trailer in that nice grassy spot with that beautiful clean grass for the children to play on! Let's back in there!" Well, you may happen to get it backed in, but it may sink down to the hubcaps in that nice green grass & soft soil, & you may not be able to pull it out! So watch out for that too. Stay on the hard-surfaced roads & the hard-surfaced ground & try not to get your trailer into a situation you can't get out of!

41. —AND OF COURSE WITH COURTESY & LOVE, ALWAYS PLEASE TRY TO "DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU" (Mt.7:12 & Lk.7:31) & in parking, try not to take up too much space. Even pulling into a filling station, try not to stay too long: You're taking up two spaces! Try to move along as soon as you can. Get the kids & wife out of the toilets quickly! If they are still not ready to come, then pull out of the pump space & pull over to one side somewhere out of the way of others who may want in. Pull out of the pump space & pull over to one side somewhere out of the way. Happy Mobile Ministry!