Trailering Tips

Trailer Trials

Even when it seems like the trailer is in good condition, it is best to give it a thorough inspection each and every time that it is used.

Many trailer-boaters often store their boats for periods of time without a thought. Then during boating season, there’s a trip down the road both before and after each use. Even those of us who rigorously maintain our boats tend, for the most part, to ignore our trailers. To avoid problems, or an accident, these simple checks and maintenance procedures should be done on a regular basis.

Keeping your trailer tires properly inflated really is very important. They support quite a bit of weight and will wear quickly if you pull your boat with them low.

1. Check the pressure on your trailer tires – Since trailers sit for longer periods than cars or trucks, they go through more temperature changes in-between uses - which affects your tire pressure. Often, we don’t notice when trailer tires get low because we just don’t pay as much attention to them. It is important to check the trailer’s tire pressure before starting out.

At least once every other season, or every season if you tow extensively, wheel bearings should also be given a thorough visual inspection inside and out.

2. Grease the wheel bearings – Most manufacturers believe you should add fresh grease every few thousand miles. This can be hard to keep track of since a trailer doesn’t have an odometer. Therefore, it’s better to play this one safe. Make a habit of greasing at least once each spring and fall as well as after you make a significant road-trip.

Lubricating the hitch will make it easier for the ball to fall into place when you’re hitching up and also gets rid of a lot of the annoying squeaks and groans you hear while trailering.

3. Lubricate the hitch – This is one spot almost no one pays attention to. To avoid the hassle of a stuck hitch latch, lubricate it with a rust and corrosion protector, inhibitor and waterproof lubrications such as Boeshield T-9 or CorrosionX. After applying, open and close the latch a few times. Not only will this make it easier to operate the latch, it will protect the metal as well. Note that the coupler should also get a bit of lubrication.

Depending on the type of jack stand, it may need to be greased or it may need another type lubrication. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedure.

4. Lubricate the jack stand – This is another item that usually gets ignored until it’s either nearly impossible to use or the jack stand breaks. With regular lubrication, the jack stand will operate much easier and last a lot longer.

Often trailer operators don’t even know it when a trailer light fails. Most police officers will just give a simple warning or a heads-up. However, they can give a citation if the trailer lights aren’t functioning.

5. Perform a full light check – Even with today’s LEDs, trailer lights fail at a high rate. It is important to check the lights every time you hit the road.

If the trailer has brakes, it is important to check them on a regular basis. A lot can go wrong and you won’t know for sure until you look.

6. Inspect the brakes – Look for drooping lines that can be caught on an item in the roadway that can snag and rip them free. Check the fluid to be sure it is filled to the proper level. See if the brakes themselves show signs of corrosion.

Many people tow their trailer boats for years, believing that having a spare tire onboard means they can fix a flat. Having the spare tire won’t help if you can’t get the wheel off due to corrosion of the lug nuts.

7. Check the wheel lug nuts – Lug nuts can seize over time due to corrosion, especially on boats used in saltwater. Within a few years, lug nuts become corroded and seize in place. This situation often requires an impact wrench or possibly a torch to remove them. The solution is simple. At least once a year, loosen the lug nuts, treat them for corrosion, then tighten them back down. This procedure will eliminate the possibility of seized lug nuts.

It is essential that your trailer gets a thorough rinse-down after each and every time it sees saltwater.

8. Wash your trailer down with freshwater – Even if the boat is launched and runs only on fresh bodies of water, make sure to thoroughly wash the whole trailer. Pay extra attention to the brakes, lug nuts, lights, and license plate - all of which can be trouble spots. By following all of these maintenance procedures, a trailer may remain trouble-free for years. However, in our experience, no matter how well you keep a boat trailer maintained, you can still expect to hit a few bumps along the road. But with a contentiously-maintained trailer, those bumps will be smaller, fewer, and much easier to handle.