Getting ready to travel involves a lot of preparation for most people. You must plan your route, pack clothes, check the weather, ensure that the car is road worthy and so on. Traveling with horses adds another set of tasks, such as prepping the horse for shipping, packing feed and supplies for the horse, tow vehicle maintenance, to name a few. A critical item to check before hitting the road is air pressure. This applies to the tires on your tow vehicle tires as well as those on the trailer.
“The number one reason horse owners end up on the side of the road is tire issues,” says Mark Cole, managing member of USRider. With its Equestrian Motor Plan, USRider provides peace of mind for travelers. USRider’s motor plan surpasses other roadside assistance plans by also covering horse vans, horse trailers, tow vehicles and horses.
Flat tires are the leading cause of disablements involving horse trailers. To help those who travel with horses lessen their risk of having tire troubles, USRider offers a variety of suggestions and tips on its website, www.usrider.org.
“As good stewards for our animals, we believe that we can never over-prepare our vehicles when trailering,” Mark continues. “Moreover, we have an obligation to maintain our vehicles to avoid putting ourselves, our loved ones and our four-legged friends on the side of the highway because of a disablement.”
Besides having two additional axles, a set of trailer brakes and lighting on the trailer, tow vehicles are classified as “heavy-duty” vehicles – hauling and towing precious cargo – that require commercial standards of maintenance. Moreover, while the risk of breakdown can never be totally eliminated, taking the proper steps can certainly minimize the risk. To help reduce the risk, USRider offers the following suggestions for preventing accidents related to blowouts and other tire issues.
“Responsible horse owners should know the air pressure requirements for their trailer and tow vehicle tires,” Mark asserts. Air pressure requirements for horse trailers can be found on the trailer tire itself. For tow vehicles, air pressure requirements can be found in the owner’s manual or on the tire inflation information placard decal, usually located on the driver’s door. Note: all readings are for “maximum cold inflation pressure.”
Before every trip, check the air in your tires. It’s important to check the air pressure when the tires are cold because tire pressure changes as tires heat up from travel. Under inflated tires create more resistance and overheat, resulting in a blow-out. Also, be sure to check the spare tire’s air pressure along with other tires. Most blowouts can be avoided by simply maintaining the proper inflation.
In addition to enhanced safety and performance aspects, properly inflated tires contribute to increased fuel economy. If you do not own a quality air gauge, purchase one today and learn how to use it. While responsible owners should be able to check their own air pressure, most national tire chains will check air pressure free of charge.
Make sure your tires are roadworthy. Tires can look new and have excellent tread, but they could be old and dry rotted. Tires that are dry-rotted are an accident waiting to happen; they pose significant performance and safety issues. Tires should be replaced every three to five years. When checking tires, don’t forget to inspect the spare as well. In many cases, we find that a member’s spare tire is old, dry rotted, underinflated or otherwise not road worthy, explains Mark.
Make sure you’re using the right type of tire. For example, don’t use a car tire on a horse trailer. Horse trailers require trailer-specific tires. Make certain tires have an adequate load rating for loaded weight of trailer. Also, never use re-tread tires on horse trailer or tow vehicle.
Get Good Tires
Invest in good quality tires. “All tires are round and black, but the similarities stop there,” says Mark. “Good tires, like high-quality, Italian leather shoes, only hurt once,” he adds, “and that’s when you buy them. Quality tires that are properly inflated will reward you with many miles of trouble-free travel.”
Purchase tires from high-volume tire dealers to get “fresh” tires: Only those with recent manufacture dates. The dealer should be able to provide you with this information from manufacturer/distributor. Low-volume dealers or dealers that do not sell a high volume of trailer tires may have tires for sale that are actually several years old when you buy them. The bottom line: Insist on “fresh” tires.
Use a tire pressure monitoring system and carry a second spare tire. Keep in mind that a tire pressure monitoring system and carrying a second spare are meant to supplement – not replace – good tire maintenance practices.
A less common disablement, but one that is more difficult to resolve, is wheel bearing failure. To avoid disablements related to wheel bearings, horse owners should service their trailer’s wheel bearings every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Annual service is recommended regardless of mileage due to moisture buildup, which will seriously diminish the effectiveness of bearing grease and cause early bearing failure. Also, when servicing wheel bearings, make certain that a high-quality, high-temperature wheel bearing grease is used. The use of incorrect grease will lead to bearing failure.
In case of wheel bearing failure, USRider recommends that horse owners purchase and carry a spare set of wheel bearings. “It is much easier to locate a mechanic to make a repair than to have to locate specific axle parts,” adds Mark.
The side of the highway is a dangerous place to be under the best circumstances. If you do have a breakdown, pull as far off the road as possible to a safe place. If you can “limp” to a safer place – do so. Chances are driving on a damaged tire for a short distance will not damage your wheel.
“Even if it does damage your wheel, wheels are inexpensive and a small price to pay for the safety of you and your horses, as well as the safety of the service provider who comes out to help you,” Mark concludes.
Article provided by USRider, which provides roadside assistance and towing services along with other travel-related benefits to its members through the Equestrian Motor Plan. It includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance and lock-out services, plus towing up to 100 miles and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, emergency stabling, veterinary referrals and more. For more information about the USRider Equestrian Motor Plan, visit www.usrider.org online or call 800-844-1409.
For additional safety tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider website at www.usrider.org.