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Popular Trailer Terminology
Trailers are used for multiple purposes by equestrians, boaters, and campers to transport heavy or large objects to their destinations. Learning their ins and outs is important if you’re looking to buy one, have one repaired, or simply to know more about its working parts. Here are 10 terms you’re bound to come across when working with detached and or flatbed trailers.
Hitch – A device attached to the rear part of a vehicle’s chassis that allows for towing.
Axle – A shaft that attaches and allows rotation between two wheels.
Semi-trailer – A trailer without a front axle that is supported by a vehicle driving in front of it or a detachable front axle known as a dolly. Semis are meant to protect and transport cargo and are no longer than 57 feet.
Flatbed – A vehicle that possesses a long, flat area equipped for toting cargo.
Full trailer – A large trailer that possesses both front and rear axles which are pulled by a solid coupling called a drawbar.
Winch – A mechanism used for lowering cargo such as boats on or off a trailer. This equipment can be manual or motorized.
Jack – Manual or motorized equipment used to lift a trailer off the ground, usually used when hitching to a vehicle or during repairs.
Gooseneck – A type of camper or livestock trailer that has a front end extending over the bed of the truck hauling it, creating a pivoting point over the bed so the trailer can be easily turned.
Fifth-wheel coupling – A horseshoe-shaped piece installed on a vehicle that unites a semi, recreational vehicle, or gooseneck with a coupling pin.
CAN bus – Stands for Controller-Area Network, which is an electrical system that communicates a trailer’s brake and turn signal lights with the electrical system of its tow vehicle.
Trailers come in many types and sizes, and are used for many purposes. Given they are often kept for many years, repairs and replacement parts are vital.
Most trailers are hauled by pick up trucks, although cars can often handle the lighter bumper pull trailers. Trailers, although not powered, have many of the concerns of motor vehicles. Tires are, of course, important and have to be replaced fairly regularly. Brakes need to be checked and sometimes repaired. Wheels and axles are subject to the same wear and tear as cars or trucks. Most trailers also have suspension to some degree, especially campers. In some cases, trailers may be designed to allow people to travel in them, but most carry only cargo. Axles are constructed to allow for a certain weight.
Trailers carry a variety of loads. Flatbed trailers might be used to move anything that will fit on them and be appropriately secured. Common uses for flatbeds include moving cut logs and stacks of hay. Specialty trailers are used to transport boats, motorcycles and horses. Boat trailers often experience additional wear and tear from being backed down ramps into water. Trailers are often bought used and then refurbished. Renting trailers is also a cheaper option, especially for a specific purpose such as moving. Utility trailers, which can be put into various configurations, are often rented.
Trailer parts also include various accessories and equipment. These may include ties and chains for securing loads and more powerful lights. Replacement hitches are also important, including ones to ensure compatibility with a different towing vehicle. Jacks for working on trailers are also important, as is equipment for their overall maintenance.