Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 08-05-2007

Little will ruin a vacation faster than problems with your boat’s trailer. This was brought to my mind with a sudden clarity last summer. We were heading to one of our favorite lakes, Lake Shasta in California. Everything we needed for the week was loaded in my SUV and the boat sat snuggly on it’s trailer and obediently followed where I led. We were cruising down I-5 when a loud popping sound exploded behind us. The conversation in the SUV went kinda like this…

“Ugh, that didn’t sound too good.”
“No it didn’t.”
“We’d best pull over.”
Geeze, imagine our surprise to find we had a tire blow out. I mean BLOW OUT! I’ve never seen anything like it. We limped down the shoulder to the rest area just down the road. Thankfully we have a double axel (4 wheels) and had a spare tire.

We also have this nifty little trailer jack. It’s a ‘C’ shaped device with an indentation to catch the axel so you can drive forward and roll up onto the jack. This little jack was so easy to use and doesn’t take up much storage space. Before long we had the tire changed and were on the road again.

This got me to thinking about how important our boat trailer really is. Oddly enough it’s not the first trailer we’ve had problems with. So, when was the last time you really looked at your trailer? Maybe it’s time to truly look at what’s hauling your baby down the road.

Tires: They need to be checked for not only wear (excessive or uneven) but also cracks or lumps. Do you have a spare? If not, why not? We were lucky…we had a spare. Have you checked the air pressure? Seems pretty simple and it is but, when did you do that last?

Lights: We do check them before each trip. Several times we’ve found burned out bulbs or wires that have come apart.

Load Guides: You know those odd poles on the sides of some trailers? Ours are metal with PVC pipe over them so they roll freely and are covered with a soft protective foam with kewl graphics. I’ve seen others that look like 2 x 4’s covered with carpeting. If you have these be sure to check them. We’ve had to replace our PVC covers and I would think maybe carpet would need to be kept up too.

Brakes: If your trailer has breaks be sure to check them. Top off the fluid level and check for contamination. Have them serviced or if you can DIY, humm…maybe I should talk with my hubby, that could be an interesting page… Check your break away system too, make sure they meet the spec’s in the owners manual.

Wheel Bearings: Keep your eyes on the wheel bearings. Be sure to top off with the correct lubricant and don’t over fill as you could wreck the rear seal. If needed repack or replace the wheel bearings.

Winch and Bow Stop:  Check the stop, winch and tongue jack. Both the tongue and jack should be secure and in good shape. Be sure to check the brake too. It should be easy to engage and should hold its own.  Lubricate as per the owners manual.
Winch strap: Ok, how many times have you checked the strap? I know we all look at the spot where it connects to the bow hook but when have you unrolled it to look at the entire length? You need to check this entire strap periodically. If there is any wear, if it’s frayed, be sure to replace it. While you’re checking this section also check the safety chains and tie downs. Wear and tear and/or corrosion on this can set you up for problems.

Corrosion: Look for signs of rust on everything…along the frame, fenders and axles. Even if you’ve never been in salt water you can still have problems. Small problems are easier and cheaper to fix, catch it early fix it fast.

Bunks and Rollers: The trailer we currently have has bunks. These are covered with carpeting and we definitely have worn out spots. This summer while the boat’s in the water we’re going to re-carpet the bunks. Shouldn’t take long or require tons of tools. If you have rollers be sure to check them so you know they are rolling freely, if they don’t then get after them with a lubricant.

Suspension: This can really ruin a vacation if you don’t keep an eye on your suspension. Look for cracks in leaf springs or rust anywhere. Check the hangers, bushings and bolts. If in doubt, throw it out. Replace any hardware showing rust.

Hitch and Coupler: Make sure the coupler/brake attaches tightly onto the hitch ball. Adjust or replace if it doesn’t, this is definitely one area you don’t want to have fail you!

Remember to always use marine grade when replacing or repairing.

There are so many things that can impact your vacation, don’t let the trailer be one of them. You’ve been planning your boat vacation for a long time.  Don’t find out that your vacation comes to an end a mile or two from home because you didn’t check these items on your boat trailer. Check for things you can fix and then fix them. If you find something you can’t fix yourself…take it in! Boating should be fun and there’s nothing fun about waiting on the freeway for a tow truck because your boat trailer is broke down.

7 Comments posted on "Boat Trailer Maintenance"

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