How To Check the Strength of a Trailer

A trailer needs to be strong and rigid so that it will serve its purpose best: to carry heavy loads and transport them.  Accidents can happen if a trailer breaks loose or some of its parts come off.  Knowing the strength of your trailer can help you avoid such accidents.  This article will describe some of the things to look for when checking the strength of a trailer.

An important factor in trailer strength is its load capacity.  Not all trailers are equal.  Some are designed for light loads, while others are meant for heavy loads.  Generally, trailers designed for light loads are made of lighter materials than trailers designed for heavier loads.  You may want to check the material that the trailer is made of, as it will give you a clue about its intended use and its load capacity.

Another critical factor to consider when checking a trailer’s strength is the design or construction.  Bolted joints and welded joints each have an effect on the trailer’s capacity to handle too much stress from the load it is intended to carry.  Generally, trailers with welded joints are stronger than those with bolted joints.  If your trailer has bolted joints, make sure that the bolts have lock nuts or retainers to keep the bolts from coming loose when they are exposed to extreme vibrations.  If your trailer has welded joints, check for small and/or short welds—these usually indicate weakness.

Also try to check whether the trailer is designed to get its strength from either its frame or from its sides.  Most light-duty trailers have light frames with very rigid and strong sides.  Such trailers rely so much on the sides for strength that if one side is damaged, the strength of the trailer may be weakened.

In examining the trailer’s design, look for gussets.  These add strength and rigidity to the trailer’s frame.  

Also check the part of the trailer where the stress is highest when it is carrying a load: the axle springs.  The presence of additional reinforcement material in the axle springs can add strength to the trailer and can make it withstand the extreme stress from the load.

You can try a quick test to check the trailer’s construction quality.  With the trailer hooked up to your vehicle, jump up and down at each of the trailer’s corners.  The trailer should bounce up and down as you jump, but the frame should never twist.  If it does, then your trailer may have been designed or constructed weakly.

The flooring material and the spacing between the flooring support are also items to check when examining a trailer for strength.  Your evaluation of this area may vary, depending on your intended use for the trailer.  If your trailer is intended for evenly distributed loads (e.g., boxes that you can spread out on the trailer floor), the floor won’t need as much strength as that of a trailer used for point loads (e.g., big bikes, tractors, and the like) whose weights are concentrated on just a few areas on the floor.  The general rule is a basic one from physics:  when weight is distributed in a bigger area, the stress will be lower than when it is concentrated in a smaller area.
Inspecting a trailer for strength is critical to safety when transporting loads.  Knowing your trailer’s strength is very important especially for utility trailers, which are meant for many different uses.  Knowing how to check your trailer’s strength will help you avoid trailers that will prove to be more of a hazard than a useful tool on the road.


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