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Check your trailers, then check them again

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 8:18 p.m. CST

You always hear people talking about how things happen in threes. If someone you know breaks an arm, someone else might get pneumonia, and then a third person might need surgery. I don’t know if that old adage is true or not, but it sure seems that it is. I, however, hope it is not true. Especially since I have had two troublesome incidents this summer regarding trailers and fishing.

The first instance occurred as a friend and I were trying to head to the DuPage River to take a float trip for some awesome smallmouth bass. We always take two vehicles since we put into the river at one place and take out at another. My friend was following me and I had a small 8-foot boat on a trailer attached to my vehicle.

Everything was going just fine, until we crossed the Des Plaines River bridge on Interstate 55. The trailer bounced over a couple of bumps, and then suddenly I heard a loud crash. I quickly looked into my rearview mirror and saw that the trailer was dumped and the rear end was dragging across the asphalt at 65 MPH. Ahhh!

The first thought that flashed through my brain was that the trailer had bounced off of the ball on the hitch. No big deal. The safety chains would hold and I could slow it down on the shoulder of the road. I did that.

As morning commuter traffic was flying by me I carefully walked to the back of my SUV to assess the situation. What I saw next took my breath away. The neck of the trailer was still attached to the ball. It’s just the neck was no longer attached to the rest of the trailer. There was just a small sliver of aluminum holding the two halves together. My friend walked up next to me and realized how close we were to being involved in a serious accident. That trailer would have probably bounced right through his windshield.

We lashed the two pieces together enough to pull off the interstate and call for help. Thank goodness my dad and uncle were able to come to the rescue. It’s nice to have farmers in the family with big trailers and trucks. It took a couple of days, but the nerves finally calmed back down.

The next trailer incident occurred on my way back home from fishing the Mississippi River. We were about an hour away from the cabin when, once again, we hit a bump in the road. The trailer bounced a little. So what. But after the little bounce all of us heard a weird clanking sound. I immediately pulled over.

I inspected the trailer from front-to-back and side-to-side. Nothing. I got back in the car and we continued on our way. The next time we hit a bump I heard that weird noise again. I pulled over again, inspected the trailer again, and again, found nothing. What in the world was going on?

More than four hours later, my family pulled into our driveway. We unpacked and I backed the boat into the garage. After I unhooked it I plugged the batteries in and looked down and the trailer fender. The nonstick tread on top of the fender was bubbled up and melted! It looked like someone had taken a blowtorch to it. I knelt down and did a little more looking. The fender was tipped down and actually resting on top of the tire. It was quite clear that the friction of the tire hitting the fender is what caused this. There was only one problem; the tire shouldn’t be hitting the fender. That could only mean one thing. I looked further under the trailer and sure enough. The leaf spring had snapped. That would explain the clanging sound.

Once again, my nerves jumped. We could have had a major blow out and didn’t. I showed what I had found to the rest of the family. It was at the at point that Cody piped up, “I thought when I turned around to look at the trailer, the wheel was rubbing.” Great. Just great. Maybe next time he will actually tell me.

That was two scary trailer mishaps in just a few months. I hope that things do not always happen in threes. What did I learn? Never take trailer maintenance for granted. Check, check, and double check.

• Steve Rogers is an outdoors columnist for the Morris Daily Herald. He can be reached at srogers@shawmedia.com.

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