Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 31-03-2008

If you have a boat on a trailer then you have a nearly unlimited area to explore and enjoy.  If you’re new to boating then you maybe worried about how to tow a boat.  It’s not hard to learn and below you’ll find my handy hints.

If you’re brand new to trailering a boat then my first suggestion is to tow your boat to an empty parking lot.  Why?  Because you’re going to need to practice backing up.  Remember when you were a kid with that little red wagon?  It didn’t back up or turn the way you wanted did it?  Well, neither will the boat.  So practice until you get the idea.  The boat ramp is no place to practice…unless you like being part of the circus!

The first thing I’d suggest is that you check your GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).  Both your tow vehicle and trailer have a designated GVWR and this is the total allowable eight that it’s designed to carry safely.  Another way to look at this is the GAWR (gross axle weight weight rating) this represents the maximum allowable weight on each axle, both front and rear.  This is easy to over do on, think of a truck, fully loaded camper and a boat complete with all the toys.  The GCWR (gross combined weight rating) represents the fully loaded tow vehicle and the weight of what’s being towed.  This includes fuel, food, people, pets, toys, etc.  You may want to load up and drive to a public scale and weigh each part to see if you’re within the rates to be safe.

Now, take some empty milk jugs with a bit of water in them so they don’t blow around and set up a practice course.  You’ll want to work on turning so set up for an intersection and you’ll need to work on backing up.  The thing to remember when turning is that you have to have a wider turning area.  It’s easy to forget and turn too sharply and you end up going over curbs and clipping cars.  So, this is one of the most important things to learn…WIDE TURNS!

Then line up the jugs on the lines for parking spots and practice backing up.  The thing to do here is put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and look in the mirrors.  As you back up the trailer will travel to one side or the other.  If you want the trailer to go to the right, move your hand to the right…left, then to the left.  When you have it almost to the middle then ‘catch up’ with it by moving your hand back to the center.  You will be glad you’ve practice this when you first launch the boat.

While in the parking lot, pay attention to how your tow vehicle works.  Mine is very sluggish when taking off.  Also, if you can, turn off your over drive and word to the wise…never use cruise control when towing.  Practice starting from a pretend stop sign so you can understand how your tow vehicle accelerates.  It’s really important to know for when you want to merge into traffic or make a lane change.

Never forget that your overall length has increased.  Even if you’re towing a small boat, your combined length is probably twice what you’re used to.  This means you have to allow for more room and time.  Even if your tow vehicle powers up quickly, you still need to allow more time to pass another car as you are so much longer than normal.  Please, remember too, make those lane changes slowly.  Never whip in and out while towing.

Your new boat and trailer may have added thousand of pounds to what you’re used to handling.  This means you’re going to need additional room and time to stop in.  Our Mastercraft trailer has its own breaks but I still need extra room and time for stopping.  Give yourself lots of room between you and the car in front of you.   If you don’t give yourself enough room you may find yourself pushed out into the intersection when trying to stop at a light…or worse.

You’ll also want to check out your rear view mirrors.  Most of us today have larger mirrors but if you don’t then think about adding additional ones for towing that extend farther out so you can see really well.  It’s hard to tell if you’re really past that car before making a lane change back.  Then too, there are always ‘blind’ spots.  You might like to add some of those little round stick on mirrors to help eliminate those spots.

Trailer swaying is another issue and can be caused by many things, changing lanes, wind gusts, semi-truck causing draft…  Don’t try to steer to correct it or slam on your breaks, you’ll just make it worse.  The best thing is to gradually slow down until you have control again.  If you’re not sure what caused the problem then pull over to inspect the trailer.  Is the hitch fastened, tires okay including lug nuts.  What about stuff in the boat?  Fuel tanks for an outboard sliding around?

So there you go, my best hints on how to tow a boat.  If you’ve more hints please leave a comment.   If you’d like to read about maintenance then ‘click here’.

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