How to Pre­vent Trailer Theft


As the sum­mer travel sea­son hits full swing, don’t leave your rig unat­tended with­out tak­ing these smart trailer-theft­pre­ven­tion steps.

Ev­ery year, trail­ers are stolen right off tow ve­hi­cles. And theft risk doesn’t de­pend on your trailer type or model. Ev­ery­thing from two-horse tag-alongs to four-horse goose­necks with liv­ing quar­ters are rou­tinely stolen. Thieves will sim­ply un­hitch your trailer and at­tach it to their own tow ve­hi­cle. Here, we’ll give you the steps to take to de­ter trailer theft and tell you what to do should the worst hap­pen de­spite your theft-preven­tion ef­forts.

Step 1: Paint Your Trailer

When thieves size up your trailer to de­cide whether it’s worth steal­ing, one of their first con­sid­er­a­tions is its ap­pear­ance. Trail­ers that are easy to iden­tify are less ap­peal­ing, be­cause they’re easy to spot on the road.

If your trailer is white and generic-look­ing, it says “steal me.” Think of how many white trail­ers are sold and used each year. Can you tell one from an­other at a glance?

Make your trailer vis­ually stand out from the crowd. Thieves might pass over your trailer if it’s eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able.

Fix­ing the look-alike prob­lem is easy, thanks to com­pa­nies that pro­vide cus­tom paint jobs tai­lored to horse trail­ers. By paint­ing your farm or ranch name, your horse’s name, an equine scene, or just about any­thing else on your trailer, you can make it unique and, there­fore, un­de­sir­able to steal.

Paint­ing your trailer a unique color is an­other way to make it stand out. To find a cus­tom ve­hi­cle-paint­ing com­pany in your area, con­tact a lo­cal trailer dealer, and ask for a re­fer­ral. Or con­tact an auto-paint­ing com­pany nearby, and ask whether it paints horse trail­ers.

Ob­tain a writ­ten es­ti­mate be­fore com­mit­ting to a paint job. The price you pay will de­pend on the size of your trailer, and the de­tail of the paint job you’re look­ing for. Ex­pect to pay at least $1,000, prob­a­bly more.

Bear in mind that you’ll get what you pay for: If the price is low, the qual­ity of paint and work­man­ship may be sub-par and less than durable. To in­ves­ti­gate a com­pany’s qual­ity of work, ask for ref­er­ences.

If you choose to go with a cus­tom paint job, be pre­pared to leave your trailer at the shop for at least a few days while the work is be­ing done.

If cus­tom work isn’t in your bud­get, you can dis­cour­age thieves by adding de­cals and stick­ers to the out­side of your rig — and you’ll have fun do­ing it.

Breed- or dis­ci­pline-spe­cific de­cals will also ease iden­ti­fi­ca­tion if your trailer is stolen. You can also buy larger, elab­o­rate de­cals that show such im­ages as wilder­ness scenes or horses gal­lop­ing through a pas­ture.

Re­flec­tive stripes, signs, and mu­rals are an­other op­tion. Signs that say “Cau­tion: Horses,” as well as re­flec­tive pin­stripes, will

Don’t leave your rig unat­tended with­out tak­ing these proven trailer-theft-preven­tion steps. BY AU­DREY PAVIA

make your trailer more vis­i­ble at night, as well as de­ter thieves.

Make sure what­ever you choose can’t be eas­ily re­moved.

Step 2: In­vest in Se­cu­rity De­vices

An­other way to make your trailer unattrac­tive to thieves is to use se­cu­rity de­vices. These in­clude locks, alarms, and track­ing de­vices. Here’s a look at each type. • Hitch locks. Hitch locks work by mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for a thief to at­tach a tow ve­hi­cle to your trailer. The lock fits into your hitch and is se­cured with the turn of a key. Al­though some peo­ple use a pad­lock in­stead of an ac­tual hitch lock, a well-equipped thief can eas­ily cut through a pad­lock.

“A hitch mount can be stolen even with all the trailer doors locked by sim­ply rolling down the trailer stand, then dis- con­nect­ing and push­ing the trailer back on the dolly wheel,” says Bon­nie Davis, The Trail Rider’s con­sult­ing ed­i­tor and a sea­soned horse hauler.

Hitch locks come in a num­ber of styles to fit dif­fer­ent kinds of hitches. High-qual­ity hitch locks are vir­tu­ally in­de­struc­tible.

The down­side to hitch locks is that you have to un­hitch your trailer from your tow ve­hi­cle to put the lock in place. You also have to make sure you don’t lose the key. Find a safe, se­cure place for the key, such as a zip­pered pocket. • Tongue locks. Tongue locks al­low you to in­clude the trailer chains when se­cur­ing the hitch. In some sit­u­a­tions, thieves have lit­er­ally dragged the trailer away by the chains if they couldn’t use the hitch. • Cou­pler locks. Cou­pler locks pre­vent the thief from be­ing able to hook up to the cou­pler. You can usu­ally use them while your trailer is still hitched to your ve­hi­cle, de­pend­ing on the de­sign. • Trailer-wheel locks. You at­tach trail­er­wheel locks on the out­side of the tires. When these locks are in place, thieves find it nearly im­pos­si­ble to move the trailer. Well-de­signed mod­els are easy to in­stall and re­move. • Alarms. Trailer alarms are sim­i­lar to car alarms. Sen­sors at­tached to the trailer doors will sound if the door is opened. Some alarms are equipped with sen­sors that are de­signed to go off if some­one tries to move the trailer or tam­per with the locks. These alarms emit a pierc­ing noise if your trailer is moved with­out the alarm be­ing de­ac­ti­vated.

When shop­ping for an alarm, choose one that in­cludes an LED sys­tem that you can place on the out­side of your trailer. This will send a mes­sage to thieves that your trailer is pro­tected and may thwart any at­tempts to steal it.

Al­most all alarm sys­tems sound a siren and flash the trailer lights when set off, but some go as far as lock­ing the trailer brakes so the trailer can’t be moved. Some also come with pag­ing sys­tems that will no­tify you if the alarm has gone off. (Un­for­tu­nately, these sys­tems don’t usu­ally work if you’re more than a mile away.) • Track­ing de­vices. Al­though track­ing de­vices don’t nec­es­sar­ily de­ter theft, they’ll make it eas­ier to find your trailer if it’s stolen. Track­ing de­vices use a global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem to tell you where your trailer is lo­cated. In most cases, you’ll need to sub­scribe to a track­ing ser­vice, which will al­low you to lo­cate your trailer on­line.

Step 3: In­sure Your Trailer

You’ve taken steps to de­ter thieves and avoid hav­ing your trailer stolen. Your next step is to have your trailer in­sured so if the worst hap­pens, you’re cov­ered.

Al­though your trailer is au­to­mat­i­cally in­sured on your tow-ve­hi­cle’s pol­icy in the event of an ac­ci­dent, theft is an­other mat­ter. Most au­to­mo­bile poli­cies cover auto theft, but not trailer theft. If you want theft cov­er­age for your trailer, re­quest an ad­di­tion to your auto pol­icy. If your auto in­surer doesn’t of­fer trailer-theft cov­er­age, in­sure your trailer through a com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in such poli­cies.

If you’re on a bud­get, con­sider the de­ductible. If you think it’s un­likely your trailer will be stolen, you might want to go with a higher de­ductible to save money on pre­mi­ums. Also, con­sider in­sur­ing your

trailer for the re­place­ment value rather than the ac­tual value, if pos­si­ble. Qual­ity used trail­ers can be hard to find at rea­son­able prices, so you might want to be able to pur­chase a new trailer if your trailer is stolen.

One of the worst things about hav­ing your trailer stolen is los­ing what’s in­side. If your trailer is taken while you’re rid­ing your horse, he’ll be safe, for­tu­nately. But you may lose the valu­able tack and other equip­ment that’s in­side your trailer.

The good news is that if you have home­owner’s or renter’s in­surance, your pol­icy should cover your trailer’s con­tents. Ver­ify your cov­er­age with your in­surance agent. Keep care­ful records, in­clud­ing pho­tos, of all the items you keep in­side your trailer when you travel.

Step 4: Doc­u­ment Your Trailer

If your trailer is stolen, keep the right doc­u­men­ta­tion and records in your files to help law en­force­ment of­fi­cials track it down.

Take pho­tos of your trailer from all sides, so you can show po­lice what your trailer looks like and make lost-trailer fly­ers. Record and keep handy a com­plete de­scrip­tion of your trailer’s model num­ber, along with de­tails on the type of win­dows, ramp, and in­te­rior.

Your trailer’s ve­hi­cle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber (VIN) is an im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion; you’ll find it on your trailer-reg­is­tra­tion card. Keep this card on your per­son, along with a photo of your trailer. That way, if your trailer is stolen, you’ll not only pre­vent thieves from hav­ing the reg­is­tra­tion card, but also you’ll have the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion ready to im­me­di­ately pro­vide to po­lice.

Also keep with you pho­tos and de­scrip­tions of all the items that you’ve stowed in­side your trailer so you can re­port these items as stolen.

Step 5: Take Safety Pre­cau­tions

Do some re­search be­fore you head out to make sure the area is safe. Some ar­eas are more prone to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties than oth­ers. Find out who owns or man­ages the area on which you plan to park, and in­quire about the area’s safety record.

When­ever pos­si­ble, park in ar­eas that are open and well-lit. Look for ar­eas where other horse trail­ers are parked or that have ac­tiv­ity. If pos­si­ble, park where there are se­cu­rity cam­eras.

If your des­ti­na­tion is a public land, park your trailer close to a vis­i­tor’s cen­ter or ranger sta­tion so land-man­age­ment per­son­nel are likely to no­tice whether some­one tries to take it.

If you park in a re­mote lo­ca­tion, try to back your trailer against a large tree or group of trees, a hill, or any other large ob­ject that will make it dif­fi­cult for thieves to gain ac­cess to the trailer doors.

Also, try to park in clear sight of a road or high­way. Al­though cars do go by rather quickly, the fact that peo­ple can see your trailer from the road can dis­cour­age thieves. TTR


Left: If your trailer is white and generic-look­ing, it says, “Steal me.” Right: To re­duce the chance of theft, paint your trailer to make it unique.

CLIX­PHOTO.COM Show­grounds seem safe, but will any­one be pay­ing at­ten­tion to your trailer when the com­pe­ti­tion be­gins?

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