By Steve Tadd and Nicolette Belczak
Discover the world of boating fun and freedom trailering offers. The ability to trailer your boat opens up a world of boating adventures. Trailer boating is convenient- a trailered boat can be transported just about anywhere. It’s also cost effective-when you consider the cost of slip fees, bottom paint and blister repairs, trailering offers an affordable alternative. Following a few simple guidelines will ensure your towing experiences are safe and positive.
When you purchase a new boat, don’t skimp on the trailer…remember your boat will spend a great deal of its life on the trailer. Choosing the right trailer will get you and your boat anywhere you want to go safely and easily. When transported on a trailer, your boat should be supported across the hull, with the weight of the hull, engine and equipment evenly distributed. A trailer that doesn’t spread support evenly can actually damage the boat hull. The capacity of the trailer should be greater than the combined weight of the boat, motor and equipment.
Keep in mind that trailer ratings are maximum capabilities-running a little below the maximum will extend your vehicle’s life and offer peace of mind. Purchasing a trailer one size bigger than your present boat requires will accommodate the occasional extra-heavy load; any larger though and your boat may not be properly supported and the trailer will be awkward to tow.
It’s important to match up the tow vehicle and the trailer. The tow vehicle must be capable of handling the weight of the trailer, gear and boat-including fuel and water, plus passengers and equipment carried inside the tow vehicle. Painted trailers are recommended only for freshwater use. Galvanized steel offers better long-term service in saltwater.
Trailers should be inspected at the start of each boating season. An annual inspection and routine maintenance will help protect its value
To ensure your safety on the road, develop a routine checklist to perform before each trip. Check all nuts and bolts to ensure they are tight. The tow ball and coupler should be the same size. Inspect hitch and safety chains.
Be sure to check tires as improperly inflated tires can cause steering difficulty. Adjust tie-downs and lower unit supports to prevent your boat from bouncing on the trailer. Use rope, chain or turnbuckle, in addition to the winch to secure the bow; the beam of the boat may also require additional straps.
Trailer load position is crucial. Distribute the weight as evenly as possible, front to rear and side to side, keeping 55-60 percent in the front half. To prevent fishtailing, avoid placing too much weight on the rear of the trailer, which can reduce traction and even lift the rear wheels of the tow vehicle off the ground.
Inspect trailer’s wheel bearings to ensure they are airtight and packed with fresh grease. Check lights, brakes, shocks and springs on both the trailer and tow vehicle. Make sure you have adequate mirrors; equip tow vehicle with aftermarket mirrors if necessary.
Practice makes perfect-before heading out practice braking, turning, backing up, etc. on a level, open parking area. Avoid making sharp turns or sudden moves when trailering a vehicle; be patient and adjust your steering slowly. Once you’re on the road, leave plenty of room ahead, behind and beside you to compensate for the extra weight of your boat and trailer.
Pulling a trailer means you need to brake earlier, applying firm steady pressure to the brakes. You also need to turn wider; the trailer will cut corners more sharply than the tow vehicle. To avoid scrapes and dings, enlist an extra pair of eyes for backing down ramps or parking.
As a courtesy to others, get your boat ready for launching away from the ramp. Before launching, be sure that your boat’s drain plug is secure. Keep the tow vehicle’s rear wheels out of the water to ensure its exhaust pipes remain dry. On most ramps, a good rule of thumb is to back the trailer into the water until the front of the fender is at water level.
Flat ramps may require you to go further, while on steeper ramps you may not need to go as far. Set the parking brake; tire chocks behind wheels provide an extra measure of safety. Lower the engine, start and warm up. Disconnect winch hook from bow and proceed to launch with a light shove or by backing off the trailer. Move away from ramp to finish loading your boat.
Reverse launch steps to remove your boat from the water. Pay attention to changes in wind direction, velocity, current and tide. Note boating traffic and general visibility. Don’t submerge trailer too deeply; maneuver boat to trailer and raise the engine. Secure the boat with the winch hook before pulling the boat to the top of the ramp.
This information is intended to be used as helpful hints, not definitive instructions for operating and maintaining a boat trailer. For complete instruction, maintenance and safety guidelines, refer to the trailer’s Owner’s Manual.