As we sloooowly make our way into spring (even though it’s already May!), we offer this list of suggestions for inspecting a modern horse-drawn carriage before heading into the driving season. This information was provided by one of the CAA’s directors.

1. Wash the carriage completely and thoroughly, but do not use high-pressure water on the hubs.

2. Look for any distortion of the body, or parts being out of square. Do this with a critical eye (pretend you’re looking at the carriage to buy it).

3. Inspect all snap shackles, shaft loops, pole straps, etc. for wear.

4. Check for loose bolts or parts that may be bent or worn, especially singletree mounts, etc.

5. Tighten every bolt on the carriage.

6. Look over all welds, etc. for signs of cracks.

7. Lift each wheel off the ground in turn and make sure they all spin freely.

8. Under normal driving conditions, repack the bearings every three years; every two years under heavy use; and every year if the wheels are submerged in water. Repack these with regular grease, NOT wheel-bearing grease, which is a high-temperature grease and is not appropriate for the low temperatures of carriage wheels.

9. At the same time, check the wheels to see if any are bent or wobbly.

10. On four-wheeled vehicles, make sure that the fifth-wheel system is tight and lubricated (open-chain spray is a good lubricant, but WD-40 is not). Dismantle and clean up this area every six or seven years and, if practical, change the king bolt or its equivalent then as well. Do not reuse any lock nuts.

11. Look at the wheels’ alignment. They should have a little toe-in and a little positive caster when at rest, which will result in a straight-running wheel when underway.

12. Remove the shaft and singletree pivot bolts and inspect these areas. Replace them if they show any wear. On two-wheeled vehicles, check the shafts for signs of cracking or fatigue.

13. On the brake system, check the master cylinder for fluid and top off if necessary. If the fluid levels were low, apply the brakes as hard as you can and recheck the fluid levels. If, after doing this several times, the fluid level is still low, check the brake system for leaks. Make sure you use the correct brake fluid.

14. Inspect the brake discs for wear and clean them with a disc-brake cleaner. Inspect the brake pads, removing the callipers if necessary.

15. Sand off any rust or corrosion and then touch up these areas with paint. Flaking paint can be a sign of a bent or cracked part. Most commercial (not automotive) paint suppliers can match paint to a sample, such as a singletree.

16. Wax the carriage with a good wax.

17. Oil all moving parts, including the brake linkage, seat slides, singletrees, snaps, etc.

18. Remember to conduct this safety inspection each year, ideally in the winter or early spring, which will give you plenty of time to make any necessary repairs before you’ll be wanting to drive the carriage again.