Steel Trailers Vs Aluminum Trailers – Which is Better?

In the beginning, there were horse trailers, introduced during the late 1950s when trail-riding became popular. Buyers didn’t worry about the metal used to build the trailer because the only metal available was steel.

Steel had some problems though. The biggest problem was that it rusted. Even today, most steel starts to rust after only a year of use. Over time, a steel trailer can slowly disintegrate.

When the all-aluminum horse trailer came on the market in the 1970s, pioneered by Featherlite Trailers, it had a huge advantage over steel as a manufacturing material. Not only did aluminum resist rust and corrosion, it was also lighter and therefore easier to pull. Trailer owners reporting better gas mileage when hauling an aluminum trailer only added to its popularity.

All-aluminum trailers tend to be more expensive than steel trailers, however. And steel trailer manufacturers claim aluminum trailers just can’t withstand the stress of trailering as well as a steel trailer. This leaves buyers with a hard choice-do they pay more for an all-aluminum trailer with its supposed superiority, or buy a more familiar steel trailer and save money? Opinions vary wildly.

What are the facts, though? Is an all-aluminum trailer really a better choice? Have steel trailer manufacturers managed to overcome the material’s flaws? This article aims to answer that question.

Metallurgy for the masses

The big question to be answered is which metal is stronger. Steel trailer supporters like to point out that steel has a reputation of being one of the toughest common alloys, while aluminum is more commonly known for its use as foil or pop can material.

However, the aluminum used in all-aluminum trailers is an alloy, the same way that steel is an alloy of iron. This alloy has about the same yield strength as steel! It contains at least 95 percent aluminum, and the other five percent is composed of copper, titanium, chromium and zinc. Other metals are also added in trace amounts to further refine the alloy’s properties.

Steel companies, though, still can’t come up with a process that makes steel as rust-resistant as aluminum. The best they have is the galvanizing and galvannealing process, which coats steel with a protective layer of zinc in order to retard corrosion. Unfortunately, it only lasts until the layer is breached. Galvannealed steel trailers can receive added protection with a coat of paint, but since trailers are constantly exposed to harsh weather as well as high-velocity gravel the question is when, not if, the protective layers will be penetrated. Galvanizing and galvannealing is also expensive, so most steel trailers only galvanize the skin to keep the price low. The trailer’s frame is left to the tender mercies of the environment.

High maintenance

Both kinds of horse trailers require upkeep, but the biggest issue with aluminum trailers is simply lubricating the hinges and cam latches. You’ll also want to make sure to wash out the interior, since horse urine is corrosive. For cosmetic purposes, an aluminum trailer should be given an acid bath every couple of years to clean and renew its exterior.

Steel trailers, on the other hand, must be examined constantly in order to prevent rust. Any scratches in the paint need to be touched up or the steel will start to oxidize. If the steel has been galvanized or galvannealed though, you won’t have to inspect the trailer as frequently, but you’ll want to make sure that welded and riveted areas have been properly finished after every repair. The galvanic layer must be removed to weld, and rivets and screws compromise the galvanic coat.

This constant need to maintain the paint coat and the galvanic coat make steel trailer repairs more expensive, too. Steel trailer repairs are usually more expensive than similar repairs to an aluminum trailer because trailer dealers have to repaint it to prevent rust, while galvanized and galvannealed steel have to be stripped of their zinc layer before they can be welded. Then the zinc layer must be reapplied after repairs, and finally the repaired area gets a new coat of paint.

On the road again

So an aluminum trailer requires less maintenance, resists rust and corrosion and is has better overall durability. It sounds impressive, but how do steel and aluminum trailers compare on the road? Horse and livestock owners who have owned both steel and aluminum trailers consistently say that they get a smoother tow with an aluminum trailer. They also say they can get a smoother ride with a loaded aluminum trailer than they get hauling an empty steel trailer!

The lower weight of an aluminum trailer also translates into a higher payload capacity, meaning you can load more items into an aluminum carrier before reaching the maximum amount of weight your vehicle will tow. Finally, as previously mentioned, several trailer owners reported better gas mileage towing an aluminum trailer than they did with a steel one.

Warranties and resale

The fact that steel rusts presents a problem when reselling it. Steel trailers only a couple years old often have patches of rust, which is difficult to cover or clean. Older steel trailers can be badly rusted, unsightly and even a safety hazard, with rust compromising load-bearing components.

On the other hand, aluminum trailer owners can keep their trailers running like new for decades with just routine maintenance. In terms of visual appearance, owners can restore their trailer’s exterior with an acid bath that renders the trailer lustrous and pristine in minutes. These are just two reasons aluminum trailers command a higher resale price than steel trailers do.

As many trailer buyers have discovered, all-aluminum trailers have better warranties. All-aluminum trailer companies almost always offer longer warranties than steel trailer companies, which makes buying all-aluminum trailers a lower risk investment than buying steel.

Anti-aluminum myths

As you may have noticed, all-aluminum trailers have several advantages over steel trailers. However, some articles on the Internet have talked about the problems with owning an aluminum horse trailer. These articles have only one flaw-their facts are often manipulated. Below are some of the popular myths about all-aluminum trailers, along with the real facts.

All-Aluminum trailers are as heavy as steel trailers. Aluminum is only 1/3 as strong as steel, so three times more aluminum must be used to get the equal strength of a steel frame

This would be a better argument if aluminum horse trailers were built from pure aluminum. However, the aluminum alloy used to construct horse trailers is substantially stronger than pure aluminum. More aluminum is used, but the end result is still a trailer that weighs on average 10-15 percent less than a trailer made of steel. That translates to hundreds of pounds that can be added to cargo weight-or not pulled at all.

Trailer manufacturers aren’t the only ones who have figured this out. Automobile and airplane manufacturers have been replacing steel with aluminum, and the majority of the NASA Space Shuttles’ structures are constructed from aluminum alloys.

Steel is easier to repair than aluminum

Not anymore. Before aluminum became popular, more welders were familiar with welding steel and welding aluminum was another trick to learn. However, aluminum welding techniques are commonly known, and just about every welder knows how to work with aluminum. Consequently, the price has gone down as well, so the cost of getting an aluminum trailer welded is comparable to the cost of welding a steel trailer.

Aluminum stresses and tears more easily than a steel trailer

Okay, seriously-if aluminum is such an inferior building material, why is their resale value consistently higher than steel? Why do you rarely find a steel trailer warranty that’s longer than the warranty on an aluminum trailer? For that matter, why do people who own aluminum horse trailers keep them longer on average than people who own steel horse trailers?

Now, if you want to be technical, steel is stronger than aluminum in some respects. It has a higher modulus of elasticity, for instance, which means more force must be applied to steel before it starts to bend. However, aluminum flexes three times as much as steel, which means that aluminum is more likely to spring back to its original shape after being stressed. Steel though, will probably stay bent. Steel also fatigues at lower levels of stress than aluminum, and steel’s rigidity makes it more vulnerable to cracking because of its brittleness.

You might also be interested to know that aluminum’s lower modulus of elasticity works in its favor as a construction material for trailers. A lower elastic modulus means that an all-aluminum trailer lessens impact shock loads while on the road, giving your animals a smoother ride and creating a smoother tow for your vehicle.

So-called “all-aluminum” trailers have steel parts, so steel must be superior

Not even close. Yes, “all-aluminum” trailer companies will use steel in certain areas, such as the trailer’s axles. However, it is not because steel is better than aluminum. Rather, steel is better than aluminum in that instance. And that’s one of the main differences between most steel trailers and all-aluminum trailers. All-aluminum trailers are not above using other materials to create the best possible product. On the other hand, most steel trailer manufacturers seem to insist that steel is the best material for every aspect of the trailer, regardless of whether or not another material might actually do a better job. It’s like a plastic company insisting that a sheet of plastic wrap will make as good a bedroom window as a pane of glass.

Of course, it’s possible to take this concept too far. Some trailer companies have tried to get the best of both worlds by creating a steel frame and wrapping an aluminum skin around it. They advertise these trailers as being “aluminum” even though half-and-half might be a more accurate description. In theory, the steel frame makes the trailer stronger, and the aluminum skin lightens the trailer and resists rust. In practice, many of these half-and-half trailers can get worse mileage than a lighter all-aluminum trailer and the steel infrastructure is still prone to rusting, which can destroy the trailer’s integrity. Worse yet, steel and aluminum chemically react to one another, so manufacturers must keep the two metals separate using Mylar padding or some other coating that separates the metals. This works fine in limited instances, but when this is applied to an entire trailer it can create problems. An owner of a half-and-half has to guard against the padding breaking down at every point on the trailer where the steel may come in contact with the aluminum. And if the trailer ever needs to be repaired, the padding usually has to be stripped and replaced as well.

The right metal for the job

The bottom line is that aluminum is a superior manufacturing material for trailers. While a steel trailer can do the job, an aluminum trailer almost always does a better job. It can last longer, too. You may save money initially, but after watching your trailer eventually wear down to rust and getting a replacement while your friends are still using an all-aluminum trailer, you’ll know why so many people consider an all-aluminum trailer a superior value.

How to Clean and Maintain Aluminum Patio Furniture

Aluminum is popular metal used in outdoor furniture for many reasons. It is durable, versatile, and requires very little care on the part of the owner. It is commonly known that aluminum generally does not rust. There is a unique science behind this carefree material. When exposed to air, aluminum will develop a microscopic layer of oxide on its exterior. This oxide layer acts as a barrier which protects the metal from the elements and prevents corrosion. This quality is the most appealing characteristic when it comes to choosing a material for making outdoor furniture. It will weather any climate and any amount of precipitation. Aluminum furniture is a dependable option for outdoor living.

There are three different types of aluminum construction for outdoor furniture: Wrought Aluminum, Tubular Aluminum and Cast Aluminum. Wrought Aluminum furniture is usually used to create furniture Victorian in style that similar to styles also found in most wrought iron outdoor pieces. Tubular aluminum techniques in furniture are most common as it is the lightest and easiest to shape and form. Cast Aluminum outdoor furniture is made using a process, called casting, where molten aluminum is poured into a mold. This process produces the most pure and resilient aluminum. Cast Aluminum outdoor furniture is caste in pieces and then welded together, which seals out water and the elements. As cast aluminum is solid, the resulting product is much heavier than wrought and tubular aluminum furniture.

Aluminum furniture does not need to be covered or protected they way that wood furniture may need to be. However, some aluminum furniture comes with a powder-coating. This gives the aluminum color and helps to reduce the aluminum being scratched and dented. This coating often has great visual appeal as well as giving strength to the oxide layer, however, it does require a little extra care to maintain the original appearance. The coating, while protective and durable, can be scratched by a reckless owner or be eroded by harsh, salty environments. It is important to consider this possibility to maintain reasonable expectations of your cast aluminum furniture.

Quick Tips:

You need to know that aluminum will not rust and this is what makes it perfect for outdoor furniture. But, aluminum will get affected by pollution in the air and water and its surface will discolor or become rough. Though aluminum does not rust it does oxidize which can result in discoloration, but will not affect the structural reliability of the metal.

Here are helpful hints for the care of aluminum outdoor furniture:

” If you notice that there is slight discoloration on you aluminum furniture, then it should be washed with mild soap and warm water. It helps to add a gentle natural acid like lime or lemon juice, vinegar or cream of tartar. Important! Do not to add ammonia, TSP or Soda. Always do this cleaning after the change of seasons.

” If the aluminum has become pitted or is rough to the touch, it can be polished. Smooth the surface with steel wool and soap as a cleanser and lubricant. Remember to remove all traces and residue of the steel wool from the surface of your aluminum outdoor furniture or else it can rust and stain the surface of the

The Three Types of Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum cookware has been around for quite a while and has received much improvement since it became available. Together with cast iron and stainless steel, it is a greatly favored kind of cookware. In fact, in excess of fifty percent of all cookware in today’s marketplace is made of aluminum. Certain research has hinted that aluminum can be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, however, there is no definitive evidence that aluminum cookware plays any part in the onset of this ailment. For safety reasons, the use of aluminum pans when cooking very acidic or salty food should to be avoided since low quality aluminum cookware may exude small portions of aluminum as the pans become pitted.

There are some different types of cookware on the market such as pressed, cast, and anodized. Lets see the different types.

Pressed aluminum is the less expensive and is generally located in the cookware section of a supermarket or some other retail establishment. Its sale price is cheap and it is known for its screw-in handle and thin construction. In addition, it comprises the highest percentage of aluminum utensils being manufactured today. But these aluminum utensils typically do not last long as the handles become loose or fall off completely and it is really a matter of getting what you pay for. So, I can not recommend this sort of aluminum cookware because over time your costs will be greater and the taste of your food will be inferior.

Now, cast aluminum is not bad and worth the money that you put into it, being manufactured in a slower, although more costly, process, the final product being one which is typically thicker than the pressed aluminum cookware. Further, the bottom and the rims of the pots and pans may be fashioned to be of greater thickness than the sidewalls. The result of such construction is that the aluminum utensil will be less likely to warp or become “out of round.” Cast aluminum has a better heat retention quality than pressed aluminum since it is more porous. With the exception of copper, aluminum cookware is known to be the best in conductivity. You must exercise caution when purchasing the first two kinds of aluminum cookware and be certain that you read the label. Most brands are polished or coated, and so knowing exactly what you are buying can be extremely hard, and you certainly do not need to spend more than is necessary.

Lastly, anodized or hard anodized aluminum cookware is the top and this is the kind which I advise that you buy. Hard anodizing results from an electro-chemical procedure which enhances the natural oxide film found in aluminum. In addition, this procedure results in the aluminum having a hard, non-oxidizing finish that doesn’t stick and is resistant to scratching. There will then be no reaction between the aluminum and either salty or acidic foods. And the surface achieves a hardness greater than that of steel. It isn’t difficult to understand the durability which the aluminum then has. This type is the best of the three. Hard anodized aluminum cookware can be identified by the dark gray color it assumes due to the anodizing procedure. This kind of aluminum cookware is the most costly of all types, but it is well worth the money. Food will not stick, it is simple to clean and it is light weight. This kind of aluminum cookware is in the class of stainless steel, cast iron and copper cookware.