Big Rig Basics

Safe Landings

Keep your trailer landings in good shape by periodically greasing and inspecting the landing legs


Care of your landing gear involves periodic greasing with the right lube and a careful inspection of the mechanism’s operation and of all the mounting brackets, bolts and weldments. Rob Nissen of SAFHolland stresses not only use of the proper grease, but the need to pressure-wash the trailer chassis and landing legs frequently in winter. SAFHolland recommends an anhydrous, calcium-extreme pressure grease. It’s best to use the low-temperature grade rated down to -65 F. You can grease quarterly, semi-annually or annually, depending on whether your operation is a drop-and-hook situation or whether trailers normally stay married to tractors with little use of the landing gear.

First, raise and support the trailer securely. The best way to do this is to have it securely hitched to a tractor, with all brakes for the rig applied. In a shop situation, it is common to use a forklift.

It’s best to grease them near the top. Crank the legs all the way up. Then with the crank handle positioned for high gear (the faster-moving position), lower the legs three turns.
Hit the three grease points on each leg. There is one for the gearbox located right on it, one at the top of the leg for the bevel gears that rotate the lift collars when you turn the crank and one below that for the lift screw.
Once all three points are greased with at least 2 oz. (about 6-8 pumps) of grease, raise then lower the legs all the way. Do this in both the low gear (slower) and high gear (faster) positions and check to see that they operate smoothly in both directions in both gears. This will distribute the grease all the way up and down the screw and throughout the gearbox.
Now, inspect both legs and their mountings. Look at items such as:
• All mounting bolts. Nissen says rust because of paint being disturbed is a sure sign bolts are loose. Put wrenches on bolts and nuts and make sure all are tight.
• All cross braces.
• The tuckaway for the crank handle. Hale Trailer, Brake and Wheel Lead Technician Anthony Aloi says if this is not in good condition, the handle will constantly fly around creating noise that will greatly annoy the driver and can also do damage.
• All weldments. Cracked welds must be cleaned up and re-welded.
• The sand shoes or cushions at the bottoms of the legs.
• The cross shaft and the bolts that attach it where it slides over gearbox shafts at either end, visible through a hole in the trailer frame.

Aloi says that if a gearbox goes bad, a symptom of which would be irregular cranking, the normal procedure is to just replace the defective leg. All the bolts and nuts are normally replaced, but the braces, cross-shaft and so forth are easily reused and installed with new bolts and nuts. The only welding required is for attaching the ears that hold the lower braces to the legs.

Aloi and Nissen both say some big fleets or dealers have shops that can replace worn gears and shafts in the gearbox, which could save money if only a few parts are required. The gearbox has a faceplate on the outside that can easily be removed by taking out some small screws, allowing access to all the mechanical parts inside.

Truckers News thanks Rob Nissen, manager of technical service at SAFHolland, and the following individuals from Hale Trailer, Brake and Wheel: Jeff Heston, director of parts and service; Larry LeBeau, service manager at the Vorhees, N.J., facility; French Richendollar, manager of sales and technical services, Vorhees facility; and lead technician Anthony Aloi, Vorhees facility.