The neglected boat trailer

Your boat trailer is very important and routine maintenance can prevent a serious accident or a wrecked outing. PHOTO CREDIT: C&H Trailer, Stuart, FL.

By: CAM Staff and Frank Ferry

Growing up in a family boat business, my father would often say, the most neglected piece of boating equipment is the boat trailer. And without it, the boat would never get to the water. And each season, I’d watch customers purchase new electronics, fishing gear, cleaners/wax, etc. for the boat, yet bypass the trailer equipment aisle. When offered a free trailer inspection, you’d often hear, “I hardly used it last season” or “It’s good for another year”. I often wonder as I see a boat and trailer abandoned on the roadside, if that owner said the same thing.

Most modern boat trailers are built from galvanized steel or aluminum to prevent rusting. Trailers consist of a frame, axles, bearings, hubs, tires, runners, rollers, winch, lights, and sometimes brakes. Each piece of the trailer is important and needs inspection.

The bearings and hubs are packed with grease to reduce friction. Heat can build up in the bearings at highway speeds, which causes grease breakdown. Water from submersions can also flush grease from the bearings. As grease breaks down, heat is increased resulting in the bearing locking to the spindle, ruining the hub, and possibly the axle. To prevent bearing lock-up, bearings need to stay full of grease.

Trailer tires need to be inspected for tread wear and separation before each use, as well as proper inflation, including the spare. Periodically check the torque on the lug nuts as well. Boat trailers equipped with trailer brakes need to be checked for brake shoe or brake pad wear and apply Never Seez to the lug nuts. Note that any trailer with a gross vehicle capacity (GVC) or weight of 3,000 pounds or more, must have brakes on all wheels.

Check the runners, rollers, work brackets and all assembly hardware on the trailer for breaks or cracks and, if necessary, replace with new equipment. Broken rollers or runners can cause problems launching and loading the boat and may damage the hull.

Check to see the winch is in proper working order. If the strap or the cable is worn or frayed, replace it.

The final step in trailer maintenance is checking all running and brake lights. Make sure all bulbs are burning. Replace blown bulbs immediately. Most trailer light assemblies are not water tight, so always unplug trailer lights before launching or loading. Bulbs get hot when the brakes are applied, and if they are suddenly cooled by water, a blown bulb may occur. Unplugging the pigtail can save the brake light bulbs.

Your boat trailer is very important and routine maintenance can prevent a serious accident or a wrecked outing. If you aren’t comfortable checking your trailer, then contact a local dealer who offers free trailer inspections.

Frank Ferry, the owner of C&H Trailer in Stuart, Florida, collaborated with CAM on this article. If you have questions on trailers or are in the market to purchase one, call Frank at (772) 223-4014.

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