Trailers will often make noise when you are towing them, but it is important to know the difference between ‘normal’ noise levels and levels which could be a cause for concern. With a fairly basic design, highly varied loading, and limited suspension it is not uncommon for your trailer to skip over a bump when it is empty or make the occasional groan when fully loaded, but sometimes those noises are the trailer trying to tell you something is wrong! So join us today as we learn the long-lost language of trailers and become a master of deciphering every clunk, bang, and squeak your trailer might make along your travels!
What is Excessive Noise?
Though our perception of noise varies dramatically from person to person, luckily it is fairly easy to distinguish between a normal noise from your trailer and noise which should be cause for concern. ‘Healthy’ trailer noise should be inconsistent, infrequent, and ‘light’ – you shouldn’t be able to feel the noise vibrate through your vehicle and it shouldn’t affect the way your trailer tows.
For example, it is not uncommon for a trailer to squeak when you are travelling over a bumpy road surface, in fact, this is quite normal! Most trailers use leaf springs for their suspension which will sometimes cause a squeaking noise when they pass over each other – this is how they produce their spring effect to ensure a smooth ride for your trailer. For information about how your trailer’s suspension works take a look at our ‘Trailer Suspension & Axles’ blog article.
Excessive noise can be determined by a noise that is excessive in its volume or how frequently it occurs. Excessively loud noise should be an instant cause for concern as it will most likely be caused by larger trailer parts grinding or rubbing. Excessively frequent noise will often develop over time, starting with a smaller less infrequent noise which progressively worsens with use. Noises such as worn bearings will initially start with smaller infrequent noises which will gradually become more severe, and if left untreated result in constant grinding – eventually vibration will accompany this noise and the trailer will be unfit for use.
Normal Trailer Noises & What Causes Them
As we have previously mentioned many things can cause noise in your trailer. Most of the noises you'll hear during normal trailer operation shouldn't be a cause for concern and are purely associated with the general wear and tear of your trailer. Here are a few things that may cause noise from your trailer but shouldn't be anything to worry about.
- Suspension - The suspension of your trailer will usually be the main reason your trailer makes noise. With a fairly limited list of moving parts on a trailer, the suspension will usually be the most ‘active’ component. Suspension may make more noise when your trailer is heavily loaded as it is having to work harder. Noise from suspension should not be frequent (if it is, you may have a bigger problem that should be investigated), and will most likely occur as you travel over speed bumps or other rough terrain.
- Coupling/Hitch - Your trailer coupling is another highly active part of your trailer, this connection between your vehicle and the trailer will always be moving and may sometimes create noise. Noise from a trailer coupling should be very infrequent, only occurring during manoeuvres such as reversing when turning sharply. Your trailer coupling should be well-greased and therefore cause very few noises.
- Loose Items – Items within your trailer should be stored securely during transport, however, on occasion things can become loose and move around due to vibration. Loose items will tend to move around more when on rough terrain or when cornering. Items that move around during transport can become dangerous so to reduce the risk of items moving in your trailer you should regularly check and tighten securing straps.
Noises of Concern & What Causes Them
Listening to the noise your trailer make is a very useful and important way of monitoring its condition. Though most noises coming from your trailer will be harmless there are a few noises that could signify there is something more serious wrong with your trailer.
- Worn Coupling Damper – A coupling damper is used to dampen the braking and accelerating forces experienced by the coupling of your trailer. If a coupling damper becomes worn or broken your trailer may ‘nose dive’ or bounce more, this will be accompanied by banging or clunking when the trailer is being towed. Coupling dampers are important for a safe and controlled tow and the failure of this component may result in damage to your trailer or even loss of control.
- Bearings – Your trailer bearings are vital to a smooth tow, and one of the first signs of worn bearings will be auditory. Bearings may cause a chirping noise during the first stages of failure, and without mechanical attention, this will worsen to squealing which is accompanied by vibration. Bearings should be serviced annually to check their condition and also re-grease to keep them lubricated and protected. For more information about bearing maintenance take a look at our ‘Maintaining Your Trailer Bearings’ blog.
- Worn Brakes – If your trailer has brakes their condition must be monitored. Worn brake shoes can result in the rubbing of metal against metal and therefore loss of braking force plus extensive damage to your trailer brake system. Worn brake pads may make a squeaking or grinding noise when they are applied.
Trailers will often make noise when they are being towed. Luckily these noises will often be harmless, but it is important to know when you should take action. Getting to know your trailer through general maintenance will help you to recognise the type of sounds each trailer component may make and when your trailer might be trying to tell you something! We are always on hand to help, so if your trailer is making a noise you are concerned about, get in touch with us and one of our trailer experts will be able to assist you in diagnosing the issue.