How To Change A Flat Tire on Your Horse Trailer
Yes, it’s true. S**t happens and yes, it happened to us on our trip to Fl. I thought I would share my experience and knowledge about changing a trailer tire so you can be more prepared if it happens to you.
1. Turn on your warning flashers for safety. As soon as you realize that you have blown a tire, start to slow down gradually and start looking for a place or exit to pull off. Have your passenger call anyone who might be traveling in your pack to let them know to get off or pull over.
2. Find a safe place to pull over with plenty of room to change the tire. You'll need a minimum of 12 feet from traffic lanes. You might consider going slowly to the next ramp off of the interstate or a parking lot. (That’s what we did) While that may destroy the rim of the wheel, you will be able to safely deal with the situation without getting hit by other drivers.
3. Apply the parking brake to make sure the vehicle or rig does not roll or accidentally move when you are trying to change the tire or assess the situation.
4. Turn off the vehicle and take the keys with you. This way no one can accidentally move the trailer while you are working with the tire or jack. (Also prevents your corgis from stepping on the lock button on the door!)
5. Chock the wheels so that there is no chance for the truck and trailer to roll by any available means. It's preferable to use commercially available wheel chocks, but use rocks or logs if that's what's available. Stabilize the trailer and do not separate the vehicle from the trailer. The truck, with the parking brake on, is the best way to make sure that the trailer stays put, especially with the weight of potentially upset horses on board.
6. Check on the horses through a window or opening. Do not let anyone get into the trailer or open a door. Any stimulation may cause the horses to get excited and try to back out or scramble. If the horses seem okay, leave them be.
7. Coordinate for alternate trailer transport if the trailer has suffered severe damage. If you have an equine roadside trailer assistance service, call them. For example, USRider.org has lists of local hauling services, veterinarians, and even overnight boarding facilities while your truck or trailer is being fixed. Note that Triple AAA does not assist with horse trailer disablements. (We called our US Rider, but were in the middle of nowhere and it was going to take too long.)
Changing the Tire
Once you've worked through your plan of action, then you can get busy changing the tire.
A List of tools that MUST be in your TRAILER TOOL BOX TO CHANGE A TIRE.
A. Tire iron that fits the tires for the trailer.
B. Drive up onto trailer block or heavy gauge bottle jack.
C. WD 40
D. Flat head screwdriver
E. Special head for wrench if you have decorative lug nut covers.
F. Plastic zip lock bag. (To put the lug nut covers and rings into.)
G. Flash light
1. First, remove one of the spare tires and ensure that the bolt attachment pattern on the spare is the same as the tire you are replacing. You should not be on the road with your horse trailer if you have not checked this at home! Note… your tire iron for the horse trailer tire and the truck MAY NOT BE THE SAME. Make sure you have checked this also before you hook up. (My rig needs two separate tire irons, and not all horse trailers are the same either. You need one with you in your trailer tool box that works)
2. Remove the decorative lug nut covers and aluminum rim if there is one. You will need a wrench with a special hexagon shape to match the lug nut covers. There is one lug nut cover that is the anchor that has a little cross piece in the middle of it. That is the one you use to loosen the rim. Your regular tire iron WILL NOT remove these.
3. Use the tire iron to slightly loosen the nuts on the flat tire before driving the trailer up onto the trailer jack. With the weight of the trailer on what is left of the tire and wheel, it will be easier to slightly loosen the nuts without the tire rotating. If the nuts are stuck, spray them with a WD-40 type of lubricant to loosen them.
4. Drive the trailer up onto the trailer jack or use a bottle-type jack to raise the trailer.
5. Loosen the nuts completely. Pull the tire and wheel straight out from the bolts and set them aside. They will be heavy. Check to make sure that the blown tire did not damage or remove parts of the trailer, such as wiring to the brakes or lights, or tear off part of the wheel well. Sometimes the damage may not be easily fixable on the side of the road. NOTE TO SELF… make sure to look at which way the old tire was put on. There is an inside and out to the way the new tire should be put on the bolts!
6. Mount the spare tire onto the bolts. Spin all the nuts loosely onto the bolts to hold the tire in place. Make sure you put the nuts on in the right direction; they have a front and a back.
7. Use the tire iron to tighten the nuts a few spins at a time in an alternating "star" pattern. This will ensure an even tightening of the wheel onto the axle. Tighten as far as possible until the wheel starts to rotate.
8. At this point, back the trailer off the jack so that the tire is in contact with the ground. Do a final tightening of every nut, as tight as you can.
Take turns checking the lug nuts and double checking each step. It’s always great to have a good cheering section!
Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated and walk away! YOU CAN DO IT!
Always work as a team and then celebrate like one too!
After checking the safety of the on board horses take another walk around your rig and make sure that everything is put away and that you have no other issues. If you have made it to a parking lot, take a short drive around and then check the lug nuts again. Make sure that everything else like your lights and breaks are still in good working order and that your tire issue did not do any damage to anything else.
Get back on the road as calmly and quickly as you can. Call ahead to your next stop to find a tire dealer who can replace your spare and check the tire that you replaced.
Be sure to have a big bowl of pasta and a big glass of wine (or WHINE) when the day is over! Thanks to my crew, Con (dad), Melissa, Callie and Skylar… our blow out was fairly uneventful and we were back on the road in an hour with all horses and passengers unscathed!