Damages to your trailer can occur for many reasons. If your dry van trailer has suffered significant damage, you need to get it back on the road as fast and as cost effectively as possible.
Many owner-operators repair their own dry van trailers rather than taking them into the shop. This is a low-cost and a quicker solution, but you can run into trouble if you cut corners or don’t know what you’re doing.
If you truly have the knowledge and the equipment to make a repair, go for it — but know your limits. Making a makeshift repair can create more problems that end up costing more and taking longer to repair. If you’re unsure how to make a repair, consult an expert who can help you fix your trailer properly.
Repair shops aren’t cheap. If you try to make a repair yourself when you don’t know how, you’ll just cost yourself more money down the road. Let’s take a look at some critical repair dos and don’ts you need to know.
The roof of a trailer is one of the most important structural components of a dry van, because it’s the part that holds your trailer up. Occasionally you’ll see a trailer that has broken in half and the middle of the trailer is just sitting on the ground. That’s almost always the result of an improper roof repair.
The one thing that should never happen is a section repair in the center of a trailer that goes from side rail to side rail. If you have a hole in the roof and insert a new section of roof, it will place too much strain on your roof and your trailer will break apart
Instead, replace the entire section of roof, from either the front to the damage or from the rear to the damage.
You can add a patch to a roof, as long as it doesn’t go from side rail to side rail.
Patching with Rivets
Many people try to save time by patching a roof with pop rivets. Pop rivets go on quickly and easily, and you only need one person for the job. Squeeze rivets require two people and they take more time and effort.
But pop rivets will eventually work loose, and they’ll create leaks in your trailer.
If the patch is attached to a side post or any structurally significant part of the dry van, it isn’t a good idea to use pop rivets. The only time it makes sense to use pop rivets is when patching a small hole on a sidewall that isn’t connected to the bottom rail or a side post.
Never use a pop rivet in a rail or on the roof.
When it comes to repairing your dry van trailer, it’s critical to use the right part for the job. There’s a major misconception that you can use any part and make it work. Too many owner-operators have learned the hard way that it’s not true.
If you knock the hinges off a door, you need to replace them with the right hinges or the door won’t open and shut properly.
If you replace side skins on a trailer, you need to use the right skins, or you’ll run into structural problems before long.
You need the right kind of posts in your dry van trailer, or you’ll run into any number of problems. For example, they won’t attach properly to the sidewall, nor to the top or bottom rail. This can cause structural weaknesses that will lead to more repairs before long.
Whatever you’re repairing, no matter how insignificant, always use the correct part.
A bottom rail is made out of aluminum and the cross members on a trailer are made out of steel. Any time you replace a cross member, it’s important to put Mylar tape between the cross member and the aluminum rail. If you skip this step — and many owner-operators do — the cross member will eat up that rail in no time.
Stronger metal will corrode softer metal in a short amount of time. Use Mylar tape anywhere two different metals come in contact with each other. Some people take this too lightly and cut corners, only to regret it later.
Finding Trustworthy Repair Shops
Sometimes you can’t make a repair yourself, and you suddenly need a repair five states over from your home base. You don’t know any repair shops nearby, but the repair can’t wait until you get home.
It’s one thing to find a repair shop and another one to find a shop you know you can trust to do the job right. You don’t want to go to some fly-by-night facility just because it’s close by.
Here are some tips for finding a reliable shop you can trust your trailer to:
- Go online and check out the Google reviews on local repair shops.
- Ask some questions: How long have they been in business? What are their rates?
- Get an estimate for time and cost.
- Notice the condition of their equipment and the facility itself. If it’s a mess, isn’t clean, or is in disrepair, it’s usually best to find another repair shop.
- Trust your gut. If for any reason you just don’t like the repair facility, keep looking around.
A Long Life with the Right Repairs
Basic semi-trailer repairs are usually pretty straightforward. But when it comes to major repairs — especially with structural components — it’s absolutely critical to know what you’re doing and to use the right parts. Take proper care of your dry van trailer and it will last you a good long time. But cutting corners will not only shorten the life of your trailer, and it will eat into your company’s bottom line.