Modifications for hauling loads in hot weather: explained

Many of us haul trailers during the summer months. If you do, make sure your vehicle has been modified for hauling. Vehicles that have trailer packages built into them usually have a beefed-up suspension, larger radiator, and auxiliary transmission oil cooler.

The need for a beefed-up suspension is obvious. A trailer taxes the vehicle’s suspension because of the extra weight from the tongue, not to mention the weight that is dragging on the rear of the vehicle stressing the springs and suspension parts. Excessive towing by a vehicle that is not built for it causes premature suspension failure and excessive tire wear.

Hauling excessive weight also requires a larger radiator. Why? Because the engine produces more heat as it works harder. The coolant heats up faster and to higher temperatures. If the radiator is not big enough, the coolant passes through it too quickly, and the coolant doesn’t have enough time to release its heat. Consequently, heat builds up in the coolant and the engine overheats.

To avoid transmission damage when hauling a load, you may need an auxiliary transmission oil cooler. When hauling a trailer load, the transmission produces more heat because it’s working harder. Like the engine, the transmission must be constantly cooled. This is accomplished by circulating the transmission oil through an oil cooler located in one of the radiator tanks. If the cooler is too small, then the oil isn’t cooled fast enough, and the transmission overheats and cooks the internal rubber transmission seals to a brittle crisp.

Another effect of overheating is the actual burning of the transmission oil. When it’s burnt, the oil loses its lubricating and cooling properties as well as its ability to create hydraulic pressure within the unit. At that point, you might as well pour water into the transmission because the oil isn’t doing anything anyway.

Having adequate brakes is essential to any vehicle, and even more so for one that is hauling a load on a trailer. When brakes get overheated because of intense use, they crystallize, which causes “brake fade.” The friction material gets so hard from overheating that it doesn’t stop the vehicle. No matter how hard you press the brake pedal, the vehicle keeps moving. Picture that happening while cruising down one of the mountainous highways in West Virginia. Makes you want to check out your brakes, doesn’t it?

“Toy” Trailers: If you’ve put many miles on the roadways in the summer, you’ve seen refugees from junkyards masquerading as toy trailers careening down the highway behind some big SUV. Hauling a deathtrap behind you and compromising the safety of other motorists as well as yourselves is simply irresponsible. During the summer season, these trailers often carry boats and are submerged in water regularly. What do you think happens to the wheel bearing lubricant? How about the wiring and lighting, not to mention the effects of rust on the frame, suspension, and brakes of these trailers? At the end of the season, what do most people do? They put the trailer away until the next season. No maintenance, no upkeep, and no repairs. The following season, they haul it out, plop their toy on it, and careen down the road in front of some family taking a Sunday drive. A message to boaters and personal watercraft owners: Take care of your trailers, please. Get your trailer inspected before hauling it down the highway.

A typical trailer inspection includes the following:

  • Check the wiring for cracked or chafed insulation, poor electrical connections, or corroded light sockets.
  • Check over the frame for compromised integrity from rust.
  • Check tires and wheels for safety.
  • Check the brakes.
  • Make sure all the lights work: turn signals, brakes, and running lights.
  • Inspect the wheel bearings and axles for wear or lack of lubrication. Make sure the wheel bearings have good seals and are adjusted properly.
  • If the trailer has a wooden floor, make sure all floorboards are in good shape. Rotted or broken floorboards can cause your payload to shift in transit and fall off the trailer. An ugly scene indeed, especially for the guy following in the car behind you.

As you can see, hot outside temperatures can do serious damage to your car and cost you a lot in terms of money, time, aggravation, and compromised safety. The good news? Now you know how to avoid these problems and get the most mileage out of your car, with peace of mind and without having to take on a second job.