10 essential tips for maintaining your trailer this summer

By: Scott Amon


The importance of trailer maintenance and safe towing cannot be understated. Here are 10 essential tips for safe towing from fishing and boating expert Scott Amon.

10 essential tips for maintaining your trailer this summer
Scott Amon is a mad keen angler — and he always painstakingly checks his boat trailer before heading off, so you should too.

I vividly remember towing our boat when my son, Coen, was just a small boy. A pudgy-cheeked little boy would swing his head around and stare over his child seat. "It’s owkay Dud, da bowt’s stiw fowowing us", he’d assure us every five or 10 minutes. And while we didn’t really require an update quite so often, it sure is comforting to know that the boat is tracking along safely behind.

The young fella’s reassurances were probably prompted by him watching me constantly monitoring the boat through the rear vision mirror. I have a habit of that. No matter how regularly I tow a boat, I’m constantly on the lookout for any sign of trouble, or in fact anything out of the norm. If more drivers were likeminded, we’d probably experience a lot less heartache on our roads. Too many drivers simply hook-up a boat, caravan, or similar and drive off into the sunset oblivious to either the condition or the behaviour of the trailer.

 

10 tips for towing your boat this summer

The right trailer

Of utmost importance is purchasing or building a trailer that is more than adequately suited to the style and weight of the hull that you intend trailering. An over-engineered boat trailer will offer better and longer service than a marginal one.

 

Give yourself extra insurance

As added insurance beyond what a stock standard trailer offers, I strongly encouraged the adoption of bearing protectors, galvanised springs, good wash-down practices, the use of corrosion resistant coatings such as lanoline based products and intelligent trailer hook-up procedures. These basic components and procedures combine to deliver safe, long-term trailering.

 

Do regular boat trailer bearing checks

Regular bearing checks are a must for trouble-free boat trailering. On a monthly basis wheels should be checked for excess slack or movement in the bearings and adjusted accordingly. Keep in mind that newly fitted bearings usually need some adjustment once they wear in. Whenever I’m on a longer trip I always feel the bearings during refuelling stops for any heat build-up. Excess heat usually equates to a lack of grease or failing bearing, and can be a precursor to their total collapse. A well-greased bearing in good working order should feel cool to the touch or only slightly warm — even after highway travel.

 

And check the mainframe fore corrosion

The main frame of the trailer should be regularly checked for corrosion and cracks, particularly around joints and welds. Nuts and bolts that secure running gear, rollers and mud/wheel guards also need regular inspection for corrosion or signs of looseness. Many a cracked mudguard weld has not been noticed until the entire guard assembly vibrates its way off and departs the rig in a bevy of burning rubber and sparks. Just the sort of thing that could start a catastrophic chain of events on a busy freeway!

 

Look after wheels studs

Wheel studs should be kept lightly greased or regularly sprayed with an anti-corrosion coating. When the inevitable time comes and you need to change a tyre or take the wheel off, you will be re-paid tenfold for your attention. Without such treatment studs will often corrode onto the wheel nut and studs are prone to snapping when the adhered nut refuses to budge. Do yourself a further favour and give the springs a coating when you’re doing the wheel studs.

 

Lubricate rollers

Keel rollers (if your trailer is fitted with them) and any wide roller that rotates on a centre-pin system often jam due to salt-induced corrosion. From a convenience point of view, it is worth keeping these lubricated.

Rather than having to go to the trouble of pulling the rollers off the trailer and greasing the main shaft, a simpler alternative is to drill a small hole in the roller and then (utilising the straw or tube type attachment that comes with many products) spray lubricant into the hole.

Just beware next time you launch the boat, if you’ve done the job properly, the boat will come off the trailer at close to planing speed!

 

Know your stopping distance

If there is one thing about trailers and towing that I feel strongly about raising in this column is stopping. Pulling a vehicle and trailer to a halt is something that many people give no thought to — until the time comes to do it.

Trailering anything will increase the distance in which the vehicle can come to a stop. Depending on a whole range of factors (including vehicle weight, boat and trailer weight, the quality of the vehicle’s brakes and the quality and type of the trailer’s brakes — if it has any), the stopping distance will be increased by anything from just a few metres to even triple the normal stopping distance. Obviously, this is accentuated significantly more in wet weather.

 

And leave plenty of room

I am constantly shocked at the way in which many (obviously inexperienced) drivers tow their various trailers. Many seem to be oblivious to the fact that they have a trailer behind them. They’ll get a bloody rude shock when the road is a bit wet and someone who they are tailgating hits the anchors suddenly.

Always leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front when you are towing. Take corners slower and smoother — don’t cut them short or you’ll wipe your beloved boat out on a gutter, sign post or the like. In short, pull everything about your driving back a few notches — it may well save you a lot of heartache, money and maybe even someone’s life.

 

Maintain your brakes

Maintaining brakes on larger trailerboat rigs is, of course, another extremely important maintenance task. I’m yet to see a braking system that retains its braking qualities for any significant length of time when it is regularly dunked in saltwater.

It doesn’t take long for corrosion to set into virtually all set-ups and the <I>only<I> way to keep your trailer brakes in optimum performance is regular maintenance. It is best to service boat-trailer brakes an absolute minimum of twice every year — more regularly is better. Obviously, if you can confidently service your own brakes you will save yourself a great deal of money.

Probably the most common error trailerboat owner’s fall into regarding braking systems is that they presume that just because they only used the boat once or twice in the early part of the year, the brakes won’t need servicing. Wrong! In many instances the truth is quite the opposite.

Working parts on both boats and trailers are often more prone to ceasing when not used regularly enough. More often than not, a boat trailer gets dunked in the briny and is not washed off thoroughly enough after the outing. The rig is then left to sit for months on end — corrosion setting in "big time".

 

And finally

The secret to trouble-free trailering is without doubt a combination of regular maintenance, good wash-down practices and an intelligent and sensible approach to driving. If more boat owners employed this regime their boating would be cheaper, safer and more enjoyable.

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #253, February 2010. Why not subscribe today?

 


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