Keeping your boat on a trailer is an attractive proposition: you can store your boat at home, where it’s safe and easy to work on, you can travel to distant cruising grounds on a whim, and you can even save money by keeping your boat on a trailer. But trailering a boat also opens up a world of different hassles and dangers, none of which you have to deal with when your boat lives in a slip. Trailering safely is job number one, and we’re here to help you do it. Check out these five tips, which will ensure Mom’s Mink gets to the launch ramp—and then gets back home—safely.
1. Make sure your trailer is in tip-top shape.
This includes regularly maintaining it by rinsing it down with freshwater after any trips into salt or brackish water, greasing the bearings, keeping the tires properly inflated, and checking the braking system. At least once a year give the trailer a full-blown seasonal inspection, and if you do all the work yourself, every few years take the trailer to a professional and ask them to give it the once-over.
2. Fill the fuel and water tanks...
...just prior to launching at a near-by gas station, instead of filling up before you drive a long way. This can significantly lighten your load. Consider a boat with a 100 gallon fuel tank and a 20 gallon water tank, for example. Fuel weighs around six pounds per gallon, and water is closer to eight. That totals out to 760 pounds that you can shave off of your trailering weight, which will make both braking and accelerating easier, as well as reducing the stress on the trailer.
3. Recheck everything
After hitching your boat, always spend a few minutes on a different task (like loading gear, or packing the cooler). Then, go back and recheck every chain and connection. Some of the most common trailering issues, like the hitch popping off the ball or the lights not working, stem from simple carelessness. And it’s easy to forget to put the pin in the hitch or to attach the safety chains, especially if you’re leaving in the pre-dawn hours for a fishing trip or a sunrise cruise. Allowing some time to pass after you initially hitch up and then going back for a visual inspection of all the connection points is a good way to ensure you won’t overlook anything. And watch our How to Safely Hitch a Boat Trailer video, to make sure you’re getting it right in the first place.
4. Check the lights, prior to every trip.
Every trailer boater is familiar with the never-ending battle to keep the lights illuminated. The new LED systems are better than those old bulbs, but still fail with startling regularity. So each and every time you get ready to pull out of the driveway, check the blinker, brake, and tail lights to make sure all are working properly.
5. Learn how to jack your trailer properly.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds; if you jack it up in the wrong place with the boat’s weight on top, you can bend the frame. And there’s no blanket answer as to where the jack belongs–there are many types and sizes of trailers, and every one is different. So before you even begin trailering your rig you need to check the manufacturer’s documentation, and understand exactly where and how to best jack up the trailer.
What’s that? You say you don’t need to jack up the trailer because you don’t carry a spare trailer tire? Shame on you—we’re not even going to honor that with an answer. We will note, however, that many spare tire mounts sold in coastal areas are made with low-grade materials, which will quickly corrode. More than once, a trailer had to be abandoned on the side of the road because the spare tire couldn’t be removed from the mount with the tools at hand. So also make sure you check the mount regularly, to ensure that the nuts will spin off the bolts, so you can get that spare off when you need it.
For more trailering tips and tricks, watch these videos:
How to Launch, Retrieve, and Load a Boat on a Trailer
10 Trailering Tips: Haul Your Boat with Confidence
And read these articles:
Trailer Brakes: Key Safety Feature
Boat Trailering Tips from an Expert