If you spent a good deal of time last fall preparing your boat trailer for the winter by pulling off the tires and wheels, lubricating the wheel bearings, servicing the brakes, checking the wiring, removing the light bulbs, and cleaning the sockets, then you don’t have to read any further. If, however, you pulled the boat and trailer into the driveway sometime in October, planning to do all that stuff and somehow never got around to it, read on. The first thing I work on are the tires. One year I didn’t do this and before I was halfway to the ramp for my first trip of the spring, a tire blew out because it was low on air. The best thing to do is jack up the trailer and remove one tire at a time. Check the air pressure and look for any cracks in the rubber. With the tire off, you can check both sides. Inspect the valve stem, and if everything seems OK, inflate the tire to the recommended pressure and set it aside. Don't forget the spare. While you have the air compressor out, check the spare tire. In the above mentioned situation, where I didn’t check the air in my trailer tires, I didn’t check the spare either. When the one tire blew out, I discovered the spare was equally flat, so I had to leave the boat and trailer on the side of the road while I went back home and inflated the spare. By the way, things like this are not bad luck; they are bad maintenance. The wheel bearings are the next item on the agenda. If you have Bearing Buddies, simply pump in grease until it begins to come out clean. Otherwise, you will have to remove the bearings to clean out the old grease and pack with new. Be certain to use grease made for boat trailer bearings. It should be waterproof and have a high temperature rating. Most of the cartridges will have this listed on the cover. If your boat trailer has brakes, check them once the wheel is off. There are two types of brakes on boat trailers: newer models will have disc brakes, while the older models will have drum brakes. Neither were ever meant to be submerged in salt water. If the trailer has sat all winter, there is a pretty good chance the brakes are rusted and may be so bad the wheel won’t turn. If this is the case, you will need a few cans of WD-40 and lots of bull work to get things moving again. Once you have the brakes loosened up, they should be dismantled and cleaned completely. I suggest taking them to a break shop, where the job will be done correctly. When I had a trailer with brakes, I also had a washdown system that allowed me to run Salt Away through the brakes after every use. If your trailer does not have this system, I strongly suggest investing in one. Once the wheels, bearings, and brakes are in good working order, it is off to the lights and wiring. If all the lights work, you are home free, but if your boat is used in salt water and you didn’t clean out the light sockets last fall, chances are pretty good you have at least one bulb rusted in solid. The only cure is a lot of WD-40 and patience as you try to get the bulb out without destroying the socket. In my case, this procedure ends up with a trip to the marine parts store for a new light, as I have plenty of WD-40, but very little patience. Make sure your trailer is ready for the first launch of the season. A few years ago, I used silicone sealant to coat all the possible access points where salt water could enter my lights. This worked for about two years, but salt water is a clever cuss and it finally made its way in and rusted out my light sockets. Shooting the lock off of my wallet, I bought a kit to move my lights to my guide posts so that they never touch the water. This included LED lights, enough wire to do two big trailers, mounting brackets, and instructions. Having a background in electronics (ETN 2, US Navy, IBM Customer Engineer and TV repairman with RCA), I knew I had to make all my connections water tight. To this end I soldered all the connections, used crimps over the soldered wires, filled all gaps with liquid electrical tape, wrapped this in black electrical tape, and finally wrapped everything in waterproof tape. Due to my absolute belief in Murphy’s Law, I know sooner or later at least one of these connections will fail, but with any luck I will be dead when that happens, and my son will have to deal with the situation. If your trailer has side lights, there is little you can do to prevent them from going under salt water. When one burns out, you simply have to replace it and hope for the best. The plug that connects the trailer to the tow vehicle is another bone of contention. It will become corroded and give you fits by causing all sorts of electrical problems. When I remember, I disconnect the plug before launching the boat, which is about every other time. I also keep a coating of electrical grease on the plug and that seems to help prevent problems. The connectors that are on my boat for the depthfinder and GPS also get a coating of the same grease. Maintain the power winch and save a lot of money. Last year the mechanism that raises and lowers the boat trailer froze solid. It took a lot of WD-40 to get it moving, and then I used about half a tube of trailer wheel bearing grease to lubricate the worm gear. This got me through the season, but when I tried to move the darn thing during the winter, it was frozen solid again. As much as I hate to give up on something so simple, it looks as if the lock will have to come off of my wallet again, and the trailer will have something new this year. The mechanism that connects the trailer to the ball on the hitch can also freeze solid. I use WD-40 on it whenever I think about it, and so far this trailer has not experienced a failure. I also use WD-40 on the ball and rub it off with an emery cloth. This keeps the surface free of rust and allows for a good connection between the tow vehicle and trailer. After the first launch of the season, go over all the rollers to make sure they still spin free and are not broken. I now have a float on trailer and that has eliminated the roller problem. Finally, there is the beloved power winch. I always spray down the entire thing with WD-40 and keep the connectors lathered up with electrical grease after every use. If it quits, you are going to be out major bucks. So there you have it. I usually devote an entire day to going over the trailer, and if I find any major problems, that won’t be enough. Good luck with your trailer this spring. by Eric Burnley