“Sorry we are so late, we had a blowout on the trailer on the way.” We have all heard it, time and time again. It’s a huge problem and they can be really dangerous too. Sometimes, the tire blows and it isn’t a big deal, just the cost of a new tire. Other times it can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your trailer. “It’s winter time, no one ever has blowouts in the winter, can’t I just go back to my cocoa and warm fire?”
What if I told you, blowouts are preventable. “That’s a lie, they happen to everyone, it’s just one of those things.” Not true, I have never had a blowout, on my truck or trailer. “So you are lucky. Good for you.” No, I take care of my tires, and don’t overload my truck and trailer.
With TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), most cars will tell you when the tire is low on air, I got one just the other day, this was on my car, the tires are supposed to be at 30psi. “Whoop-dee-freakin-doo it’s only 1psi down, once you drive around it will warm up and go away.” Maybe so but it shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately horse trailers don’t have TPMS, so you don’t know if you tires are low or not.
Here is how a tire works, when it is properly inflated, the tread will lie flat on the ground, if over inflated, the center of tread touches the ground, if under inflated the edges touch the ground. In the winter, when your tires become under inflated because of the cold, the outside of your tires run on the pavement, they aren’t made for this.
“So what do you want me to do about it?” So right now, get a tire pressure gage and go out to your trailer. “A tire gage? What is a tire gage?” Well you probably have seen the thing in the picture on the left, if you have ever been in a tire shop. My dad gave me one to keep in my glove box when I was headed off to college. Who knows, you may still have on in your glove box. If you haven’t used one of these, you go to the tire, find the stem (the little tube that sticks out in the middle of the tire). There should be a cap on the stem, remove the cap, put it in your pocket so you don’t lose it. Then you push the side with the hole on top of the stem, you have to kind of push hard, you may hear a little air hiss out. The other end of the gage will pop out, a white stick with numbers on it, you are looking for the side that says “PSI”. Depending on the vehicle this should be between 30 and 75psi, maybe even more. Most horse people are pretty smart and tough, you may have one of these and know how to use it. Did you know that this one isn’t right for most horse trailer tires? Some are rated for passenger cars thus usually up to 50psi, some are higher though, pull the end out and see what the highest number is, if you click the link above, that one is rated to 100psi. They have digital ones as well, which are easy to read in low light, like those 5am stops on the side of the road or at the gas station.
“Between 30 and 75 psi? WTH, that’s a big range, how am I supposed to know what it’s supposed to be?” If you read my post about CDLs, CMVs, and EDLs you would know where to find the stickers on your truck and trailer. Your trailer will have a sticker dedicated to tire pressures or the sticker/plate that has your VIN and trailer weights will have cold tire pressures, this means you read the tire pressure before you leave the barn. Once you start rolling down the road the tires will warm, thanks to friction, even if it is cold out. For my trailer, all tires including the spare should be inflated to 65 psi.
“Well then what about my truck?” The sticker on your truck has the same information, thanks to the hand in the way, it’s hard to see on the left side that it says “FRT, RR, SPA”. “OOO Spa, I love the spa, I would like a massage, a facial and a pedicure.” Spa stands for spare. If you look closely, the front tires are supposed to be inflated to 65 PSI, and the rear tire and spare tire are to be inflated to 80 PSI. “Why are they different? They are the same tires on the same truck.” Well, I am not a tire professional but I think they do this in anticipation of a large load. In theory, if you put a large load on the tires, it will squish them flatter which will cause it to rub on the side of the tires. Any improper wear on the tire can leave it susceptible to a blowout, especially when you run over something or when something hits the tire. “Time to just inflate all my tires to like 100psi and then I will be good!” That can also cause problems, not only will you wear down the middle of your tires which can also make them prone to blowouts, but because only a small portion of the tire is making contact with the road, you have less control. Nothing is scarier than the possibility of losing control of your truck and trailer.
“Sounds to me like you would have a blowout any time of year, but everyone always blows out in the summer.” I think this is due to the weather, we tend to travel to shows and events when the weather is nice, we also tend to overload the trailer more. In the winter, usually you are just going short distances with few horses. Then come spring and summer when the weather warms up, we load the trailer up and head out all over the country to fun horsey things.
“Well what do I do if I do have a blowout?” So the first thing you instincts want to do is to hit the breaks, this is ok if the blowout is on the trailer, if the blowout is on your vehicle, hitting the breaks is bad, it can cause you to spin out or swerve into other traffic. You actually want to hit the gas, this will help you maintain speed and help you stay in your lane, then pull over in a safe spot to asses the damage. Also, be careful, the tire is going to be hot! If you have US Rider, AAA, or any other roadside assistance, this may be the time to call them.
A few things to keep on hand, in case you have a tire emergency:
- A spare tire for the Truck
- A spare tire or the Trailer
- A jack for the truck
- A Trailer-aid or something similar for the trailer. This is a huge time saver, just remember to loosen the lug nuts before you drive up on the trailer-aid.
- A 4 way Tire Lug Wrench, these make it a lot easier to break lug nuts when you are a small person like I am, but check to make sure it fits on your trailer, and as an added bonus, make sure it fits your truck too.
- A can of Fix-a-Flat, this can void tire warranties and the tire can not be repaired after you use this stuff, so use with caution.
- A car powered air pump.
- It wouldn’t hurt to have some road flares, gloves, a flashlight, and maybe a high visibility vest.
Disclaimer: I am not a tire sales person, I do know how to change a tire, but that is the extent of my tire expertise. Consult a tire professional if you have a question, they are happy to help.
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