Whether you’re a long-time trailer boater or new to the experience of trailering a boat on the road, we have some tips that you should find helpful. So hitch up the trailer (watch our video on how to hitch a boat trailer, if that has you worried), check out our video, and use these tips every time you head for the boat ramp.
1. Nothing beats experience – so go get some. Head for a large, open parking lot, and make yourself a practice course with some cones or life jackets. Then spend some time driving around in a controlled environment.
2. Practice backing up while you’re in that parking lot, because this is the part of trailering that most people find toughest. Remember that backing in a perfectly straight line is nearly impossible, so don’t even try to. Instead, focus on making long, slow, slight turns that keep you moving in the right direction.
3. You can back with your hands in the 10-2 position at the top of the steering wheel, but some people find it helpful to place their hand at the bottom of the wheel because the direction they push their hand is the direction the trailer will move in.
4. Get extended side-view mirrors, if your tow vehicle doesn’t already have them. Side-views are very helpful when trailering, and bigger is better. You can buy add-on mirrors which slide over your vehicle’s existing mirrors and improve the view.
5. Take turns extra-wide. You don’t want to clip a curb with your trailer, and you need a much larger radius with a trailer in tow. Whenever you have multiple turn lanes, stay to the outside to give yourself the most room possible. Otherwise, swing as wide as traffic and the roadway allows.
6. Always allow extra stopping distance. You’ll need it – and slamming on the brakes with a boat in tow can lead to jack-knifing.
7. As large trucks pass you, momentarily take your foot off the accelerator pedal. That will help minimize buffeting by the wind the trucks create, which can cause your rig to sway. And whenever you feel the trailer swaying, take your foot off the gas.
8. If swaying is a constant problem, stop. You probably need to adjust the trailer’s tongue weight, which should usually be between 10 and 15 percent of the rig’s overall weight.
9. When you arrive at your destination or make a stop, feel the trailer’s wheel hubs. They should be cool or slightly warm to the touch. If they’re hot, you have a bearing failure in the near future – get the bearings serviced, as soon as you can. If they’re burning to the touch, you’d be wise to call a halt to your journey and have them looked at before going another mile.
10. Ready to launch? Our feature and video on launching and retrieving a boat on a trailer is coming up soon.