Trailer a Boat

Using a boat trailer is an affordable way to store your boat, and trailering is also a great opportunity to take your boat just about anywhere to travel through different waterways. It’s important to follow a basic trailering checklist before you tow your trailer in order to help keep you and your boat safe. Here is a checklist to follow before you tow your boat trailer:


  1. Run a pre-flight Checklist. Before hitting the road, make sure your bearings are greased, all lights are working properly, and your tires are fully inflated. Make sure that the coupler, hitch and hitch ball are the same size.
  2. Be sure that coupler and safety chains are safely secured to the hitch of tow vehicle and all fasteners are properly tightened.
  3. Ensure that the boat is securely tied down to the trailer (winch line is not a tie down).
  4. Double check the following:
    • Wheel lug nuts are properly tightened
    • Wheel bearings are properly adjusted and maintained
    • Load is within maximum load carrying capacity
    • Tires are properly inflated
    • All trailer lighting is working properly
    • Trailer brakes are properly adjusted and working (if trailer is so equipped)
  5. Be sure to check local and state requirements regarding brakes and any additional equipment that may be required
  6. Carry plenty of spare parts. We’re not just talking about a spare tire—smart trailer boaters carry spare bearings (don’t forget the extra spindle nut, washer, and cotter pin), light bulbs lug nuts, wire plugs (male and female) and spare wire, especially for long hauls.
  7. Tow your boat on empty. One way to eliminate a huge amount of weight from the haul is to run your boat until it’s nearly out of fuel, before loading up for the big road trip. Gasoline weighs about 6.2 pounds per gallon, which can turn a heavy load into an over-load.
  8. Take frequent brakes. Every hour or so you should feel the hubs, as soon as you pull over. If the bearings are sufficiently greased and in good shape, they’ll be slightly warm to the touch. If not, they’ll feel hot. If a hub is hot enough to make you jerk back your hand in pain, you’re dangerously close to a bearing failure.
  9. Take your time when you pull up to the ramp. You want at least 10 minutes to pass between arriving at the ramp and actually dunking the trailer, to allow your bearings and hubs to cool off. Back down into cool water while they’re still hot from the road trip, and the metal might crack.
  10. Pull the light plug before backing into the water; stomp on the brake pedal while those lights are underwater, and the bulbs are likely to pop.
  11. Plug those lights back in, before parking the trailer. This one’s for folks who have surge brakes; the reverse lights disable them, allowing you to back up. Forget to plug the lights back in after launching, and the brakes will lock up when you try to back up into a parking space.
  12. If you have to change a tire, jack on the axle. This reduces the jack’s distance of travel, since the axle is far lower than the frame. And remember, the axle is designed to bear the full weight of your rig; the frame is not.
  13. If you back off the end of the ramp, unload the boat before pulling back up. A classic blunder is attempting to pull the trailer and boat (and all of its weight) back up onto the ramp. Unload the boat, and since most trailers are light, they’ll easily hop right back up onto the ramp.
  14. Rinse your trailer thoroughly after a saltwater dunking. Nothing eats into metal like saltwater. Yet while everyone takes time to flush their motors with freshwater, take the pain to rinse off the trailer.

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