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  • Loads & distribution

    Loads & Distribution

    When driving with a trailer, obtaining the correct weight distribution is critical to a safe journey. At best, improper loading will result in a bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable journey, as well as some serious wear and tear on trailer parts.

    The worst-case scenario however is much more worrisome as incorrect weight distribution can cause you to have a serious accident because of jack knifing or flipping the trailer.

    There are several key factors to bear in mind to obtain and maintain correct load distribution:

    Loading - Wherever possible loads should be distributed evenly in the trailer and in such a way as to keep the nose weight within the recommended limits (this can be found on the axle of the trailer). If the loads you carry do not permit this and are uneven, then load in such a way as to ensure that no individual axles or wheels are overloaded.

    There mustn’t be any projections in the load that could cause harm to other road users. The load must  also be securely tied down and sufficiently restrained with ratchet straps.

    Inertia - An important concept to bear in mind when towing a loaded trailer is the physical force of inertia. Inertia is defined as ‘a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

    ’This essentially means that objects in motion tend to stay in the same motion and that objects that are still tend to stay still.

    Therefore, if you make a sudden stop or sharp turn during driving the towed trailer and contained goods will want to continue in the same forward motion, causing imbalance and potentially subsequently loss and damage.

    It’s important to be aware of the big difference towing a load can make while handling a vehicle, especially when turning or braking. Unsecure loads can move around and cause imbalance while taking corners and can shoot forward whilst braking sharply or heavily.

    Light items can be lifted out of the trailer by the slipstream if they’re not secured properly. The best way to secure all items in a load is by using a trailer cover. If this is not possible then ensure everything is suitably secured with ropes and ties

  • Does my trailer lighting meet requirements?

    Does my trailer lighting meet requirements?

    Ever since The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations was passed in 1989, it has been a legal requirement to have the correct lighting fixed to your trailer.

    Making sure other drivers can properly see your trailer is vitally important when it comes to road safety. That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to keep you in check with government regulations.

    What you need to be compliant to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations:  -

    Red stoplights (x2)

    Red reflective triangles (x2)

    Sidelights (x2)

    An illuminated number plate

    Amber indicators that flash between 60-120 times per minute.

    A light or buzzer that enables you to let the driver know your indicators are working properly.

    It is also important to note that there are additional requirements for the age and size of your trailer.  If your trailer was built after 30th September 1990, it will require white front reflectors. In addition, any trailers that were made after October 2012, and have brakes, are required to be fitted with an additional reverse light.

    Arranging your Trailer Indicators:

    As a minimum, make sure your trailer indicators are 400mm apart from each other.

    They should be at least 350mm, and no more than, 1500mm from the ground.

    Be sure to keep them no further than 400mm from the side of the trailer.

    What about the Trailer Fog Lamps?

    If you have a single fog lamp, it should be mounted to the back, anywhere between the centre and the offside edge of the trailer. For two fog lamps, they must be positioned at opposite ends of the rear of the trailer. Keep your fog lamps separated from the tail lights by at least 100mm. They should be a minimum of 250mm, and no more than 1000mm, from the ground and at least 400mm apart.

    Positioning your reflective rear triangles is also important. Keep them a minimum of 250mm and a maximum of 900mm from the ground, with a minimum separation of 600mm and no more than 400mm from the sides.

    These measurements might sound complex, but it’s important to ensure your trailer lighting is within the regulation standards.

    ATE UK have a large supply of Trailer Lights and Electrical Equipment and are more than happy to help you meet the correct legislations.

  • Removing your brake cable: A quick and concise guide

    Removing your brake cable: A quick and concise guide

    Removing a brake cable on a trailer can become complicated if the process is rushed or the components are in a poor state. Here at ATE we have compiled a few pointers which will make the task easier and ensure that your trailer brake cables are removed safely and efficiently.

    Before getting started your trailer will need to be lifted safely so that the underneath can be accessed easily. We recommend using a hydraulic trailer lift, but if you don’t have access to this, you could also use a car jack or ramp, providing they are safe.

    Once your trailer has been securely lifted into the air, locate each end of the brake cables. Consider using mole grips to remove the end of the brake cable that is attached to the back plate of the brake.

    As the cable is removed, take care to look for a small metal plate that may come off with it. This is a cable cover plate and it is important for when the new cables go on.

    Examine it for any signs of wear, as a badly corroded or bent out of shape cover plate will need to be replaced with a new one. Removing a brake cable can prove tricky if the cables have become seized or badly rusted. The best way to tackle this problem is to cut the cable into pieces.

    Checking for wear and tear and identifying the new brake cables. After the removal of the brake cable, check the bottom of the trailer for rust or wear. This will help you identify any future problems.

    Now the cables are removed you can begin identifying what type of new brake cables you will need. Different brake manufacturers use different fittings and connections.

    Be sure to check you’ve acquired the correct type of cable for the job, as the wrong type will not fit correctly on your trailer.

  • Loose Wheels

    Loose Wheels

    With wheel-offs being an increasing incident that happens on the road, we thought we would share with you some information and tips to ensure your wheels are safe.

    Loose wheels on a trailer can be caused by many variables; it is always important to check your wheels whilst doing your daily checks.

    Some issues that may influence your wheel to come loose are: improper mating surface, loss of lubrication, thermal contractions, incorrect installation, lack of maintenance, suspension, axle, wheel bearing or loose wheel fasteners.

    Many of the faults above can happen at the same time, so ensuring you keep a close eye on your wheels to eliminate potential faults is key. If your wheel fasteners are loose it can cause the wheel to wobble, this will result in the wheel losing lubricant and the bearings failing. This is just one example of how one issue can lead to many.

    Regular checks on your wheels are important. If your wheel fasteners are too tight it will damage the bearing causing the fastener to lose lubrication, whilst making the fastener overheat and the seal to break.

    From reading the information above, you may be aware of how important it is to fasten the wheel nuts to the right tightness. This all depends on the variables of the wheels, remember this, as a simple mistake can cause a lot of damage.

    When it comes to loose wheels, it is crucial to make sure you have a clean and secure mating surface when fastening your wheel nuts. From everyday use, our vehicles gather dirt, grit or even rust, if this settles on the mating surface it may result in false clamping force or false torque when the nuts are being tightened. Another issue that can arise when your wheel nuts are too loose, is the result of the studs snapping. As they become looser they then push more pressure vigorously onto the studs which can result in the stud breaking which will end up with the wheel falling off.

    Other external factors that can result in your wheels becoming loose and, more seriously, wheel loss are road vibrations, shock forces, vertical forces from the wheel and wheel turning when breaking or accelerating. One way to ensure your wheel nuts are safe other than doing daily checks is by using tools such as wheel nut indicators.

    Wheel nut indicators are great for making you aware when there is an issue with your wheel safety. The indicators are fixed to a nut and if they rotate, this is a warning of a problem.

    If you are looking for something that will not only just indicate if a wheel nut is loose, but also retain that nut in transit, then we would suggest looking at WheelSentry

    As a safety-first company, here at ATE we like to promote and offer a range of high quality, high performing products that are going to keep you safe out on the road.

  • Adjusting your overrun braking system

    Adjusting your overrun braking system

    Overrun brake systems are fitted to all trailers in the UK that are rated above 750kg weight capacity. It is vital to your own safety, and that of other road users, that your braking system is correctly adjusted and your trailer can stop properly when required.

    The adjustment sequence always follows the same pattern, starting with the brake drum, then moving on to the compensator and finally, the brake rod.

    Before starting the adjustment ensure that the handbrake is fully off, and the trailer coupling drawtube is fully extended. The adjustment should ideally be carried out on level ground and disconnected from the towing vehicle.

    Trailer Brake Drum

    In the trailer brake drum, adjust the linings so that resistance can be felt when rotating the drum forwards. Always rotate the drum forwards rather than backwards to prevent the auto reverse mechanism kicking in which will prevent accurate adjustment. Repeat this on all brake units on the trailer.

    If an over centre handbrake is fitted remove any locking pins and untie the lever. Apply the brake to ensure the brake shoes are correctly aligned. Once you’re satisfied this is the case refit the locking pins.

    Compensator

    Ensure it is clean from grease and dirt with a dry cloth. Tighten the inner cable to get rid of any excess slack but ensure it’s not taut. Tighten all nuts sufficiently and add fresh grease.

    Brake Rod

    To provide the correct support the brake rod should pass through the centre of the anchor point by at least 50mm. Adjust it so that the overrun lever just touches the rear end of the draw tube shaft and tighten all locking nuts.

    Once you have completed the adjustments it is wise to perform a road test to ensure that braking is effective at various speeds. Where possible, carry out these tests on private roads or roads free from other vehicles to avoid inconveniencing or possibly endangering other road users.

    If you need any help in deciding which parts you need our TechTalk team are always on hand. Alternatively, you can look at our website that specialises in Trailer Parts.

  • Replacing your trailer brake cable cover plates

    Replacing your trailer brake cable cover plates

    What is a brake cable cover plate?

    The cable cover is made up of two plates that slot together which are held in place by the brake cable itself. They are designed to form a protective covering for the exposed area of the brake cable that connects to the brake expander. One of these plates is fixed to the back plate of the trailer brakes, the other is attached but can be removed easily in the event of an emergency.

     

    It’s important to check your brake cable covers often – due to their frequent exposure to water and dirt on the surface of the road, they are often one of the first parts of your trailer to show signs of corrosion. Regularly maintaining these will ensure you can avoid a build-up of corrosion which can lead to either of the plates breaking or snapping off.

    Small levels of corrosion are unavoidable, but if it is superficial and there is no lasting damage to either of the plates then it is possible to clean them up with a wire brush and to continue to use the same set.

    How do you change a brake cable cover plate?

    To replace your brake cable cover plates:

    • Firstly, remove the weld that keeps it fixed to the back plate by using a grinder. Take extra care not to damage any other part of the brake while doing this.
    • After separating the weld, it should not be too hard to manually pull the old cover plate from the brake back plate.
    • Use a hand file to clean up the area you have just been grinding to ensure the area stays clean and easy to work with.
    • Slot both parts of the new cable cover together and position them in the back plate.
    • Weld the top cover plate in place.
    • It’s very important to remember that only the top cover plate needs welding to the brake back plate and that the bottom cover plate is held in place by the brake cable. This is to ensure it can be quickly released to allow access to the expander.
    • The weld only needs to be about an inch in length, just enough to hold the cover plate in place.
    • Providing that the expander inside the brake is in working order, you can then use a wire brush to clean up the rest of the brake and re-assemble it. This is done by connecting the end of the cable to the expander, re-fitting the bottom cable cover plate, and sliding the metal cup of the cable over the ends of both cover plates to hold them together.

     

    If you need any help in deciding the parts that you need, our TechTalk team are always on hand. Alternatively, you can look at our website that specialises in Trailer Parts.

  • Tyred & Worn Out

    Tyred & Worn Out

    Tyre blowouts were shown to be the most common reason for car accidents in Britain last year, accounting for 446 accidents over the 12 month period, and beating faulty brakes to the top spot by 81. Though this is mainly to do with the mainstream car industry, here at ATE-UK we can do our bit to ensure that trailers are maintained correctly so we do not come across the same issues.

    Disappointingly these issues are usually caused by poor maintenance of the trailer wheels and tyre assemblies. Whilst there are many factors that cause damage and wear to tyres, we’ve detailed the most common issues to look for when carrying out your regular trailer maintenance checks.

    • Always keep an eye on the tyre pressure

    Maintaining the correct tyre pressure is one of the most effective ways to avoid a blowout. Both too low or too high pressure can cause lasting damage and excessive wear to your wheels. While all tyres are different and require different pressure levels, they all lose pressure naturally over time, so we’d advise regularly checking the pressure is correct.

    • Never over or under inflate

    Over inflation can cause the rubber to stretch and then burst, while under inflation can result in overheating on the surface of the tyres which eventually will also lead to a blowout.

    • Avoid too much weight

    Drivers don’t usually connect overloading and blowouts but filling your trailer over its weight capacity puts additional strain on the tyres, which can cause a lot of damage very quickly. If you do not know the trailer weight capacity, it is usually found on the trailer axle.

    Unlike tyre pressure and over or under inflation, too much weight in your trailer is detrimental to all tyres fitted to it, and therefore either one or more can blow out mid trip.

    • Speeding

    Just another of the many reasons to avoid speeding – driving quickly and carelessly on the road can lead to tyres becoming damaged and bursting. Driving at high speeds can lead to a quick loss of air pressure which can lead to overheating, and subsequent blowout.

    In addition to this, debris on the roads or poorly maintained roads can also cause sudden damage to tyres which can also lead to blowouts.

    • Ensure tyres are balanced and rotated correctly

    Correct rotation and balance ensures an even wear on the tyre tread and also an even weight distribution on the wheel too. If tyres are incorrectly balanced or aligned this puts additional pressure on certain parts of the tyre, weakening these areas and making it more likely they will blow out.

    If your tyre does blow, then you will need a full wheel and tyre assembly to replace the shattered parts.

  • Guide to Replacing Trailer Wheel Bearings

    Guide to Replacing Trailer Wheel Bearings

    Trailer wheel bearings can become damaged and worn out through general wear and tear, just like any other vehicle, so it’s important to ensure you check them frequently, especially before any long journeys. The wear and tear on a trailer wheel bearing is a gradual process, but additional damage can be easily inflicted by poor driving and maintenance habits.

    Give your wheel bearings the longest life possible by avoiding these mistakes

    One poor driving habit is overloading the trailer; adding more than the recommended weight puts additional stress on the wheels, tyres and axles. Whilst the wheels themselves aren’t likely to break (depending on just how much you’ve overloaded by!) the wheel bearings are much smaller and can experience a lot of damage from this. If you do not know the weight bearing of your trailer, then you should investigate this. The easiest was would be to look at the trailer axle, or you can call us with the information of the trailer and we would be able to help.

    Loading the trailer unevenly also leaves your wheel bearings at risk of extra damage. This causes major stability issues. Also, the uneven pressure an incorrectly weighted trailer puts on the wheel bearings causes incongruous wear on the side of the extra weight. For example, a trailer loaded heavily to the right hand side will cause the right hand side wheel bearings to work much harder than those on the left and will therefore shorten the right hand side bearings lifespan significantly compared to their left hand counter parts.

    How to change your wheel bearings

    • Check the condition of the shaft on the suspension unit. This should be free of rust and debris.
    • If it requires cleaning, use sandpaper to rub the unwanted matter off.
    • Identify which bearing is the front and which is the rear.
    • The new bearings need to be thoroughly greased and prepared for fitting, for best results be sure to grease new bearings by hand.
    • Slide the rear bearing onto the shaft, ensuring it is pushed all the way back.
    • Grease the inside of the hub and insert the front bearing with the tapered edge facing in.
    • Slide the hub onto the shaft remembering that the wheel nuts face out.
    • Grease the front bearing again now it is in the hub and place a washer on top of it.
    • Tighten up the axle nut to the correct torque setting then rotate the hub by hand to settle the bearings. Continue to loosen and re tighten the nut by hand until there is no or very little play in the bearing. Make sure you don’t over tighten because this will result in premature bearing failure.
    • Turn the castle nut back a little bit until you can see the small hole that the split-pin passes through.
    • Push the split-pin through the hole and open it out with a screwdriver and small hammer.

    Once you reach this point, all that needs to be done is to refit the hub cap to ensure you keep the bearings protected from as much dirt, water and rust as possible to ensure the longest lifespan.

    New Trailer Wheel bearings are available from ATE UK, if you are unsure on which type that you need, please do feel free to speak with our TechTalk team on 01206 585439.

     

  • How to check if your coupling damper needs replacing

    How to check if your coupling damper needs replacing

    Coupling dampers are designed to give a smooth and efficient braking sensation when towing a trailer with a full load, therefore it’s very noticeable when the damper has failed and is due to be replaced.

    A good coupling damper will last for both many miles and years providing it is checked and adjusted regularly and is kept well maintained. We do like to suggest that you should check all parts of your trailer before you set off on any long trip. Here is a ‘Quick and Simple Checklist for Maintaining Your Trailer’

    If the Coupling Damper has been adjusted incorrectly, or has had poor maintenance, this can lead to premature wearing of the damper and shorten its life considerably. This is also true in the case of bad driving habits such as regular hard braking and snaking across the road.

    Coupling dampers assembled within overrun couplings are pressurised, so it is difficult to check if they are working correctly because it requires a great deal of pressure to push the coupling back by hand. If you find that you can push the coupling damper back easily, this is a good sign that the damper needs to be replaced. ATE UK specialise in Coupling Damper Parts, so you will always find what you are looking for. If you cannot find the exact part, or need help, then our TechTalk Team are on hand if you call 01206 585439.

     

    Before replacing the damper, it is worth checking that your brakes are correctly adjusted. This is done by loosening the brake mechanism at the compensator and the coupling and then, starting at the brake drum, rotating the brake adjuster.

    This can be done several ways, depending on what brake set up you have:

    • Turn the brake adjuster bolt clockwise until some resistance is felt when the brake shoes begin to grip the drum. Then turn it back anticlockwise until the wheel begins to rotate freely again.
    • Advance the adjuster using a screwdriver through the hole in the rear of the brake back plate until resistance is felt as the brake shoes begin to grip the drum. Then slowly turn the brake adjuster back a few clicks until the wheel begins to rotate freely again.

    Continue this process on all drums and take up the slack at the compensator and coupling.

    Ensure you don’t over tighten because this will result in the brakes overheating. You can use the handbrake to check whether the compensators and brake shoes are correctly seated.

    You can tell they’re correctly seated if:

    • The compensators rest at a 90 degree angle to the brake rod.
    • The travel of individual brake cables should be between 2 & 5mm.
    • The drums should be able to spin freely.

    For more information on Coupling Dampers please do get in touch with our team

  • Attaching a trailer

    Attaching a Trailer

    Hitching up requires a series of key steps all of which are vital to safely securing your trailer, therefore it’s best to follow a precise routine when hitching and unhitching so that you don’t forget any anything important.

    Firstly, begin by applying the trailer handbrake and wind the jockey wheel to the required height – the trailers hitch should be a little higher than the tow ball hitch on your vehicle. Then back towards the trailer. It’s helpful to have someone to guide you in this instance, but if that’s not possible you can either use something leaned up against the hitching point as a guide, or you might have to get out at points to check where you are in proximity to the neck of the trailer.

    Try to position the vehicle’s ball hitch directly underneath the trailer hitch if the trailer is too heavy to move, if the trailer is light enough backing up close is entirely suitable and you can move the trailer manually if required.

    Ensure that the trailer hitch is unlocked with the handle positioned at a right angle to the neck of the trailer. Use the jockey wheel to lower the trailer hitch onto the tow ball of the vehicle.

    Check your coupling head – some have locking handles that automatically lock onto the ball, others are manual and have to be held, producing an indication to show when the ball is in place.

    Once you think the coupling head is locked on properly, lower the jockey wheel to lift the back of the vehicle to make sure, and after you are satisfied fully raise the wheel, unclamp it and lock it fully raised. This will ensure there is no damage to the wheel during your journey and also that it will not interfere with the coupling overrun mechanism.

    If your trailer has chains to prevent it from becoming detached, then cross them over and attach to the bottom of your vehicle trailer hitch. If it has a breakaway cable instead, attach this to either the special rings some tow bars have, loop it around the bar or around the tow ball neck if there is no alternative. Regardless of whether you are using chains or a breakaway cable, ensure that both have enough slack for cornering, but that neither drag on the ground.

    If your trailer has an eye coupling, ensure that the safety locking catch is on and that the pin is fitted. This makes sure that the trailer doesn’t become unhitched at any point.

    Once the trailer is attached, there are a few checks to be made before starting your journey. Check the lights, break lights and turn signals by attaching the trailers electrical plug to your vehicle’s electrical system. Adjust both external mirrors so that a view down both sides of the trailer can be obtained. (If you can’t see adequately then extension mirrors should be fitted). Check that your load does not exceed the gross maximum weight, and that it is distributed effectively with the correct weight in the nose.

    Once all these steps have been taken you are then good to go – happy towing!

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