Basic things a New (bee) Trailer Owner Should Know
In no particular order.
The weights of your trailer listed by the manufacturer may not be your reality. The manufacturer is in the business of selling trailers. The dry weight and tongue weight claimed may be optimistically low . You need to go to a scale to know what your rig really weighs.
Most vehicle tow ratings need a formula to calculate the true trailer towing capacity. For most North American vehicles the passenger weight, cargo, fuel, etc. will subtract from the listed tow capacity found in the operator manual. Again, a scale is the only certain way to know your rig.
Too little tongue weight can be as bad as too much tongue weight. Too little tongue weight can cause the trailer to not track well. To the extent that your tow vehicle capacity and trailer allows, a bit more tongue weight is better than less.
Always cross your trailer safety chains. It is required by law in some states. Do not ever twist the chains to shorten them. Use a bungee cord to hold them up if necessary or apply made for the purpose replacement hooks to shorten. I use a heavy rubber band or piece of bicycle inner tube over the open end of the chain S hooks as a keeper if a hook keeper isn't provided.
Be certain to use a properly rated tow hitch and proper sized trailer ball. The trailer should sit level when connected to the tow vehicle. This is particularly important with dual axle trailers. If your trailer has electric trailer brakes you will need a brake controller. One is not necessarily included in all vehicle trailer towing packages. A proportional controller generally gives better performance over a more basic timed unit.
Most special trailer tires are speed rated to 65 mph. Speed rated is not speed limited. Tire pressure can affect the speed range. Too little tire pressure is a greater sin than too much pressure. Consult your tire manufacturer information.
Most all trailers have an AC power system (like in your home) and a 12 volt DC power system (similar to your car battery). You should familiarize yourself with where the power panels are located. The AC power will have circuit breakers. Typically the DC system has fuses for protection.
The AC power is supplied though a cord from a campsite power pedestal, or by a 120 VAC home type receptacle by using an adapter (commonly called a "Dog Bone"). If using a temporary extension cord it is best to use a #12 AWG rated cord. Some trailers may have a generator or inverter to supply AC power (most often at some limited capacity compared to pedestal power). The 12 vdc power may be supplied by the trailer battery or by a built in charger/converter supplied by the 120 VAC cord system.
Typically the interior and exterior lighting of your trailer is supplied by the 12 vdc system. If your interior lights work when plugged into the AC power system, but don't if you unplug, then you are using the charger/converter only and likely you have a battery related problem. Other 12 vdc equipment is the trailer breakaway emergency braking system, propane gas detector, possibly your smoke detector?, furnace control and fan power, refrigerator control power when on propane, refrigerator when on 12 vdc select, sound system, fresh water pump, bath fan, and any slide out or jacking motors.
When your trailer is not plugged in to AC power the battery will be drained. Even just sitting, the battery state of charge will deteriorate through internal resistance and chemical reaction. Most trailers also have a Propane Detector which is constantly connected and drawing power from the battery. You should never run your battery below 50% charge. It significantly reduces the service life of the battery. The battery should be a special deep discharge type battery, not a typical vehicle starting battery.
Typically the 120 VAC power feeds your home type power convenience receptacles, air conditioning, microwave, and refrigerator (when on 120 VAC select). The convenience receptacles should be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter GFCI protected. Often this is accomplished by using one feed thru type receptacle. If you lose one section of receptacle power and the circuit breakers are all OK, then check for a tripped GFCI receptacle. A common place to locate that GFCI is in the bathroom. Larger trailers will likely have more than one GFCI receptacle common to a group of receptacles.
Your propane tanks valves are required to be secured in the off position before entering any tunnel. Fire regulations state that open flame appliances like a refrigerator running on propane must be turned off before entering the pump apron area of fuel filling stations. (Running a refrigerator on 12 vdc select is OK.) Your trailer propane tank controls have an automatic flow limiter. Always turn your propane valves on very slowly. If the valve is opened quickly it may trigger the flow limiter and prevent your gas appliances from operating. For safety most propane manufacturers suggest that propane tanks should be secured in the off position while traveling.
If your propane detector starts beeping turn off your propane tanks. If no propane smell is detected, next check the battery voltage. Propane detectors have a low voltage monitor. That monitor will trigger if your battery discharges too much (typically below the 50% charge mentioned earlier) or there is some other 12 vdc power system problem.
Carefully visually inspect your roof system at least 2 times per year. Use proper compatible sealant (EPDM trailer roofs are common) or Eternabond tape to repair any questionable roof areas. When looking at a used trailer any evidence of added sealant and repair maintenance is a good thing. It indicates that the owner inspected and cared. Finding no evidence of any roof repairs on an older trailer is not necessarily a good thing.
At least twice per year storage and other outside access compartments should be checked for evidence of moisture damage. Always be aware of discoloration of the vinyl floor covering. It can be a sign of water leaking into the trailer. Remove drawers and open cabinets to check for leaks also. Finding and repairing leaks early on is very important in travel trailers. When you change the A/C air filter always inspect for signs of water leaks. There is a roof seal for the roof mounted A/C unit which has a history of leaking over time.
The seals around windows and doors should also be periodically inspected. If the seals deteriorate then water can get in. (Opinion: I recommend against using silicon seal. Once silicon seal cures I know of nothing which will properly bond to it. Not even more silicon seal. It needs to be THOROUGHLY cleaned and removed before resealing. I like Sikaflex 221 polyurethane as one sealant example. BoatLife Life Caulk, moisture cure polysulfide rubber, is another good sealant, but it is not recommended for plastics like plastic vent flanges. It is available at most marine stores. It is usable for long after any expiration date on the tube. Polysulfide is rated good for EPDM use. To verify compatibility search using polysulfide "Thiokol".)
You typically will have 3 tanks mounted low (under) in the trailer. One is for toilet waste called "Black" water. One for sink drains called "Gray" water. One for potable water or drinking water typically referred as "Fresh" water. Some larger RV's and trailer may have additional duplicate tanks of one type or another. It is best for weight and fuel economy to empty the tanks before traveling, or at least minimize how full they are.
Your sinks and shower can typically be supplied by one of two methods. At a campsite water is supplied by connecting to a hose bib with a white hose. In that mode your water pressure is supplied directly from the camp city water system. The fresh water tank doesn't need to be filled for hose connected city water use to work.
The other supply method is to use the water from your fresh water tank mentioned previously. That water needs to be pumped up to pressure by using the 12 vdc water pump. When you are on the camper fresh water tank supply you will likely hear the pressure pump operate when a faucet is opened. That is normal. It is also normal for the pump to come on occasionally to build up system pressure. If the pump is noticed to run more often than is usual overnight when nothing is in use, you may have a water leak somewhere.
I prefer not to fill my fresh water tank if not needed. If I don't fill it I avoid carrying the weight and also avoid draining it. We use a temporary method for occasional toilet use when city water hookup is not available. I fill a number of peanut butter jars with water. Those plastic jars are stowed in the sink or in a basket. After the toilet is used, the flush empty valve is operated and then a single jar of water is used to flush and refill a bit. We use wipes for cleaning our hands. I know, not a method for everyone...
The fresh water tank and fresh water piping system needs to be periodically sanitized using a special procedure. Consult your manual.
Please feel free to add to this thread. vic