So, are you a Road Warrior? You want to hit the road and do all those fun things at far away places, do you? You can waterski with your honey, chase the elusive trophy fish, rescue people in peril, or just chill and enjoy another great day on the water. There are many good reasons, but if you really want to make it happen then you, the car, the boat, and the trailer all have to be in top shape. 

trailer maintenance
If you want to hit the open road, then you, the car, the boat, and the trailer all have to be in top shape. 

You don’t really want to spend the weekend (and more) in some little town half way to your destination. The author has trailered his boat to California and back twice, Florida a greater number of times, and also to New England, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and various other destinations. This article will give you a checklist for the trailer. This part of the plan is often overlooked, so here are some key points:   

1. The Wheels

Most boat trailers come from the manufacturer with wheels that are best suited for tiny Tonka toys. This is what we get from the low bidder. You may look at replacing the wheels with a larger diameter wheel. This will also reduce the load on your bearings! You may also wish to consider galvanized or aluminum wheels to reduce corrosion.    

2. The Tires

The same factors that apply to the wheels also apply here. The trailer manufacturer probably installed the cheapest tires available. Of course, if you replaced the wheels with a larger diameter component, you must replace the tires as well. Regardless, inspect your tires carefully. Do they show cracks and signs of age? Time for replacement, unless you want a catastrophic failure at 65 mph on the Interstate! Check the load rating on your tires. Will they handle the weight of your boat and trailer? Finally, please insure that your tires are inflated to the proper level. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your kit and check the level several times during your trip.  

3. The Wheel Bearings

Make sure the bearings have fresh lubrication. Either do it yourself or ask the friendly, neighborhood gas station to do it for you. Most boat trailers have been immersed in salt water, which is a major source of corrosion. It is also a good idea to check the bearing temperatures every time you stop for gas. Just a simple touch of your fingertip will tell you whether or not you may have a problem. Warning: if they are glowing bright red, the visual check is sufficient. Further verification of your problem is not necessary.  

4. The Lights

Check your lights to ensure that all functions are in good working order. Brakes, turn signals, and running lights are all required on boat trailers. Keep a few spare bulbs in the kit as well. Failure to keep the lights operational can cause an accident or help you meet lots of new friends, especially those with badges and shiny sunglasses. 

5. The Coupling

Check to make sure that your hitch is well lubricated and that you have a proper pin or lock to keep the hitch securely attached. The safety chains are also critical elements in this equation. You really don’t want to see your trailer passing you when you slow down on the Interstate.

6. The Bunk Boards

These are the longitudinal members that support your boat while on the trailer. Again, the trailer manufacturer probably just put a couple of short two by fours on the original equipment. This puts excessive point loads on your boat and leads to structural cracks and eventual failure. Please consider the installation of wider and longer wooden members. I replaced my original, untreated, six-foot-long two-by-fours with pressure-treated, eight-foot-long two-by-sixes, covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting.

7. Tie Downs

Ensure that you have a good tie down amidships to connect the boat to the trailer. I saw a lovely boat suffer serious damage when the owner tried to make a fast turn and the unsecured boat left the trailer.  

8. Bow Eye

The original bow eye on many boats is just a cheap, die cast, cadmium plated POS (that is a technical nautical term meaning “piece of stuff”) that is prone to failure. You may consider a stainless steel U-bolt as a replacement item. You want that boat to stay attached to the trailer, don’t you? This will also give you greater peace of mind while your boat is on a mooring! 

9. Winch and Line

Again, do you really think that the manufacturer supplied a quality winch with your trailer? No matter. Even a third rate winch can suffice, provided you inspect and lubricate it carefully. Also, you should inspect the line to ensure that it is not at the end of its service life. Wire cables can develop broken strands called “fish hooks” which will give you a nasty cut and are a sign that you should replace the cable. 

10. Jack and Tire Iron

Make sure that your jack will fit under the trailer in case you have to change a tire. Also, check to see whether your tire iron or lug wrench will fit the lug nuts on the trailer wheels. Often, those lug nuts are not the same size as the ones on your car. Note that while traveling in the south, it is pronounced, “Tar arn!”  That rhymes with, “Car Barn!”

Remember, poor preparation gives you poor performance. Good luck and good boating!  

About the Author:  Jim Fisher learned to love boating from his father and during summers at a YMCA camp over 70 years ago. His father, a Navy veteran of both World Wars, taught Jim wonderful skills like eye splices, small boat handling, and the proper use of nautical vocabulary. Jim has enjoyed travels with his boat all over the United States.