By: Mark Fike
Any angler that hauls a boat behind his or her pickup truck will tell you that a problem will show its ugly head at the worst possible moment. Several of the most common mistakes or problems encountered while trailering are addressed below.
Worn out or burned out bearings on a boat trailer is probably one of the most dangerous, but avoidable, problems on the road today. Many times, when a trailer bearing goes out the tire either gets shredded or the wheel locks up. The result is an accident in progress.
Depending on the road and the traffic conditions this experience can range from bad to really bad. How can we avoid such a mess?
First make sure that trailer bearings are greased on a regular basis. Properly greased bearings will last much longer. Bearings exposed to salt or brackish water should be inspected and greased much more often.
Most new trailers have hubs on them that allow a grease gun to be attached and grease is shot into the bearing without removal of the wheel. If your trailer does not have this feature consider converting it.
Some hubs have oil in a sealed hub that can be checked visually. However, consider changing the oil on these every few years at minimum with a heavy gear oil 75-90 weight. If the oil looks milky, you likely have a leak and water got in. Change immediately.
Second, swap out the bearings every year if you use your trailer often and at least check the bearings every year if you do not.
Tire blowouts are almost always avoidable. Tires should be inspected several times during the season. When loading a boat or personal watercraft take a look at your tires. Uneven wear warrants a closer look.
Poor tread also calls for a better inspection. Check to be sure that tires are properly inflated especially for longer trips. Properly inflated tires will not only last longer but will ride better and will help the bearings and other parts of your trailer last as well.
Keep a spare tire and rim on the boat that is properly inflated in the event you do get a flat or have a blow out. Use a locking device to make sure your spare remains your spare!
I would also suggest checking to see how the equipment in your boat is loaded. When going on a long trip where we might haul extra gear, it is tempting to pile some of it in the boat. Usually that means heavy things like a cooler full of ice. Distribute weight evenly for even towing.
Every once in a while, you will see a boat sitting in the road or along the road without being attached to a truck or car. Ever wonder what happened? Good bet that the boat or trailer popped off the hitch and rolled to a stop unguided. What can be done to ensure that this does not happen to you?
First, lock the trailer down firmly. Lift up on the tongue to be sure the trailer is locked to the vehicle.
Second, run a bolt through the lock down to be sure that the latch does not pop open during your trip. Better yet, get a lock!
Third, use safety chains! Safety chains are a last resort that have saved my boat on several occasions. When using safety chains be sure to cross them. This provides a cradle for the trailer should the bolt slip out and the latch pop open on the tongue. The tongue might slip off the ball and fall to the cradle. A swaying boat or trailer will alert the driver something is wrong.
Fourth, stop and check your load after driving on a bumpy back road or road terrain to be sure everything is still tight. It is amazing how a bump in the road can loosen a bolt or nut.
The last thing that often becomes a problem is the lighting system on a trailer. I think it is safe to say that all of us have had a problem at one time or another with our trailer lights.
One of the best things we can do is periodically check for loose or corroded wiring on our trailer. Replace all corroded wires immediately. Loose wires should be tightened and connections replaced if necessary.
Check all grounds. Loose grounds can cause a lot of different problems. If your lights go on then blink check for a good current at the truck to determine if the problem is in the vehicle or the trailer. Then work your way back. Burned out bulbs can also cause problems. Carry extra connections and wire strippers to do roadside repairs.
Trailering need not be a stressful part of your outing. Following simple preventive maintenance procedures can help you avoid most problems. Being prepared is the other half of the battle.