Keeping your Trailer in Line

Keeping your Trailer in Line Nov 2, 2021

Your precious boat deserves a safe trip.

Just imagine it is the first long weekend of summer, and the annual rally to the cottage has begun.

With boat in tow, you enter the back straight to the Northern escape route.  You look on in astonishment as you see one of your neighbouring cottagers plowing through the summer corn crop on the side of the highway – because a wheel has clearly departed his trailer. You put your mind at ease, however, as you move into the passing lane. You have done some preventative pre-season maintenance on your trailer; you have followed some basic guidelines that everyone should follow.

First and foremost, do not exceed the load capacity of your trailer. Make sure the total weight of your trailer, boat, engine, and gear does not exceed the trailer’s gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This includes gas, gear, and motor. Overloading your trailer’s carrying capacity can cause excessive strain on your towing equipment. Proper load distribution is also very important. Light tongue weight, for example, can cause swaying or “fish tailing,” which is not good.

Always make sure that your boat is secured properly and safely; be sure the winch is locked, and the safety chains are secure, and that proper tie-down straps are used at the stern in both forward and down-ward directions. These checks will help prevent a grief-stricken trip to your local dealer for excessive lower unit and fibreglass repairs needed because of a premature launch – before you reach the lake.

Be sure you have the right size ball to match your trailer’s coupler. Always attach the coupler and bow stop and safety chains before you go anywhere -this will prevent your boat from getting to the cottage before you do.

Proper winch maintenance is very important and very simple: keep it clean and lubricate it regularly; grease the gears frequently. Make sure the winch line is running free and not rubbing against any sharp edges that can cause fraying or excessive wear.

The tongue jack, like the winch, needs lubrication and maintenance. Regularly grease the drive gear, rack and pinion; oil the caster and wheel bearings. Be sure to fully retract or lock the jack in the up position before towing; it becomes a very effective plough when left in the down position!

Since your boat trailer gets a lot more exposure to the elements than your tow vehicle, it requires more attention to the wheels and their components. Check your lug nuts and bolts for tightness before every trip and replace lost ones right away. Proper air pressure is usually indicated on your trailer tires; however, it is a good idea to ask your dealer about the pressure that is recommended for your specific application. Check your trailer tire pressure when the tires are cold.

Carry a spare tire, a hub assembly, and a small hydraulic jack for tire changes. These items can be purchased from your local dealer, and they reduce your downtime during unscheduled pit stops.

If your trailer is equipped with brakes, they will last longer if you do not get them wet. If they do become submerged, run the trailer awhile before applying the brakes. This will dry out the brakes faster than parking the trailer for a day.

Before any trip, do a “circle check” to make sure your trailer lights are working. It is a good idea to trace the wiring system in your tow vehicle to your trailer lights twice a year. Inspect for bare or cracked wires, and corroded terminals. Check to make sure the white ground wire is properly connected to the trailer frame and still making good contact. Repair or replace all worn or damaged components. One of the best habits you can get into is washing your trailer frequently -wash the trailer whenever you wash the boat.

The time that your trailer is in storage is a good time to touch up any rust spots, nicks, or chips. Matching spray paint can be obtained from your local dealer. Galvanized trailers can occasionally show small rust spots; touch these up with cold galvanized spray paint available at most paint stores.

Following these guidelines will give you the competitive edge and get you to the finish every time in the cottage rally series!

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