Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away

Q: What do you think about putting a poly sleeve on a bunk trailer?
T. Williams, Cedar Rapids, IA
Dustin: Poly sleeves work very well for some size boats. I’ve seen them on small boats and the owners say they’re too slippery, and I’ve seen them on very large boats and the owners love them. To each his own. I’d recommend that you install them using stainless steel screws because anything else will just rust out. Spraying with silicone if they’re not slick enough will help. Now, I wouldn’t recommend them if you have bottom paint on your boat. If you drive the boat all the way up on the trailer, be careful because they can be slick. One last word of advice: If you do put silicone on them, don’t step on them, or you may end up in the drink or the hospital. I’ve seen it happen.
Ted: I have written about ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) in the past and sing the praises of the difference it makes in sliding a boat on and off the trailer. You can purchase strips of this poly stuff yourself at a hardware store and afflix to bunks, or purchase them precut and pre-drilled with counter-sunk holes at most boating supply stores. Just search “trailer bunk pads” online first to see your options and you’ll see claims that this product can decrease effort by 400 percent. Just be certain your boat is strapped down properly for transport – they are slick!


The Brake Line Just Came Apart?

Q: I took a look at my actuator and realized the brake line coming out it has completely come off. I’ve cleaned up the brake fluid and am wondering, is this something I should just reconnect or should I find a new metal part (don’t know what it’s called) and reattach it, or should I just buy an entire new brake line with the part I need already on it? The trailer is five years old and goes into saltwater once a week. Thanks for the good answers!
J. Merrifield, Miami, FL
Ted: Without knowing the brand, make, and model, I’m assuming a barrel fitting at the actuator has failed. It is possible that it has just come “unscrewed,” but I suspect a crimped fitting or some other attachment at the terminal end is the culprit. I’d seriously consider ordering a whole new brake line with new fittings already in place especially if the one you have now shows wear from vibrations of any sort. Be sure to top off with new brake fluid, and burp and bleed the brake lines after reinstalling.
Dustin: I’ve never seen a brake line just come apart, so chances are it’s broken. The back of the actuator should have a brass nipple that the brake line screws into. If it doesn’t, then at least make sure you check the threads to be sure they’re not damaged. If that brass nipple is what broke, then you may have some serious problems. Getting the old brass out of the steel or aluminum master cylinder is almost impossible without some specialty tools. But it’s worth a try. I’d consider replacing the brake line with a new one that already has the ends on it. (If it’s a rubber line, you can’t just put a new fitting on. If it’s a metal line, then the end of the line must be double flared so that it makes a strong and clean seal.) Buying a new line is by far the easiest. Now make sure your actuator has not rusted inside due to being opened up. Put fluid in it and see if it will pump before you go too far. You may have to hold your finger over the end to give it some back pressure so that it will pump. If it works then continue with the above steps.

Tease Out Neglected Screws with TLC

Q: I have cool hubs on my trailer. There are set screws that need to be removed to change the oil. I haven’t changed the oil in more than three years. I can’t get the screw to move and I’m worried about stripping the edges. These are Allen screws and I have an Allen wrench that seems to fit but nothing moves. Suggestions?
B.Luscomb, Bainbridge,WA
Dustin: Been there, done that. My advice is to try and lubricate the screw with a rust-penetrating fluid. Make sure you have the exact right size Allen wrench and pull the tire off so that you can get a straight angle on the screw. If you do, strip it out, then try the next wrench size up. You may have to tap it with a hammer to get it to cut into the soft metal, but it sometimes works. Make sure you have a cold beer next to your work station. You will either need it when you are pulling your hair out over this tiny screw or it will be on hand for a celebration drink. Make sure you replace that screw and the seal in the rear. Good luck.
Ted: Cool hubs use 50-weight oil to keep moving parts lubricated rather than typical bearing grease. Many people believe cool hubs, which provide an “oil bath” for the bearings, are easier to maintain due to the clear hub window to keep track of fluid levels and the oil-refill fitting you mention. However, the fitting is tiny and can be difficult to remove if neglected. First, apply some lubricating oil to the threaded plug and let it sit overnight. Then, find the tightest-fitting Allen wrench. Experiment with both English and metric sizes, or possibly even a Torx key for a snug fit before applying pressure. The small fitting you’re trying to remove is softer than the hardened steel tool you’ll remove it with, so if you have a good fit, tap it slightly with a hammer to ensure an even better fit. Then use an appropriate-sized pipe to extend the length of the wrench or key to increase leverage. If this fails, you may have to try a tool called an Easy Out extractor or a left-handed drill bit that will bite into the soft fitting and back it out when drill pressure is applied. I bet you get it out this way. Order new fittings now so you have them when you tackle the job, and don’t forget to use a high temperature thread sealant when re-installing.

Only One Side of Trailer Showing Wear

Q: I have a tandem-axle trailer that I back into my garage. It’s a tight fit but I’ve gotten pretty good at maneuvering the truck to do this. When I check my trailer before a trip though, I’m noticing some wear on both tires on the right side. My buddies at the ramp, ones who sell tires, are telling me it’s because of the tight turns I make with the trailer when I back it into the garage. I like these guys but I think I am getting a story from them.
C.Giffords, Ft. Worth, TX
Ted: It’s possible that repeated, extremely tight turns in the same direction can cause uneven and unusual wear. Next time you make a really tight turn (like a U-turn) with your trailer, you’ll notice the sides of you wheels plant themselves while the outside wheels turn at a faster rate to make the turn, kind of like an Army tank. The slowing (or dragging) of one side becomes more evident when you steer at an angle of more than 45 degrees to the trailer and is really obvious when you near a 90-degree jackknife angle, which you may actually be approaching with your radical backing maneuver. Take a look next time you perform this operation: I bet it’s your inside set of tires that skids and is taking the brunt of the wear. If you have a concrete carport pad, I suspect there’d be telltale signs of skidding. Rotating your trailer tires will help to prolong your set of tires.
Dustin: I’m not sure I agree with your buddy. If it’s wearing from turning, then you should see wear on both sides of the trailer. Both sides will slide when turning, unless one side is on grass and the other on pavement. I would lean toward the side of the trailer having more weight on it that the other. Check to see how you have things loaded. Trailers can be weird this way with weights not being the same. How does your suspension look? Are the tires all the same age and do you keep the pressure where it should be?

Gasoline Not A Good Cleaning Solvent

Q: I was reading a recent issue of Trailering about how to change bearings. I’m a DIY person, so it was good to see how others do it. You say it’s not a good idea to clean bearings with gasoline. I’ve been doing it for years and have never had any kind of problem. Seems to me if the seal is packed properly, gas isn’t going to get near it.
K. Childers, Dimondale, MI
Dustin: The problem is not that cleaning them with gasoline will hurt them; it’s just that you don’t want any remaining gas liquid in the bearing when you pack them again or it can dilute the grease. Just make sure they dry by letting them sit out awhile after spraying them with something like a brake cleaner that will dry fast. Rub them back and forth on a roll of paper towels to see that they are dry and if you have access to air, you can blow them out. Make sure you DO NOT blow them and make them spin. The air can make a bearing spin much faster than it is designed and I have heard of them breaking apart in people’s hands. You also don’t want to blow them so hard that the air could distort the outer case. But blowing them flat across the face of the bearing is OK; just don’t overdo it.
Ted: I grew up in the age where we were told not to smell, touch, or even use gasoline for anything but its intended use. But my Grandpa used it for everything from starting fires to cleaning his greasy hands. Heck, I think he’s even ingested it while siphoning fuel here and there. Gas is a great solvent but it has its dangers. The risk factors include its potentially explosive fumes; it can soften certain plastics, rubber, and other solids; and perhaps most important to your health, gasoline is a known cancer-causing agent. There are many degreasers on the market today, some that even come in convenient, environmentally friendly aerosol dispensers. I’d try the alternatives and use a parts-cleaning brush and a handful of rags instead of using gasoline.

Balancing The Load On The Rollers

Q: I have bunks on my trailer with rollers that are in the center. When the boat is fully loaded on the trailer, the hull isn’t touching the rollers at all. Should I be concerned about this? I don’t understand what’s going on here?
- S. Wilkos, Nashville, TN
Ted: I favor having the keel of your boat supported during transport and storage. I’d think that you might be able to lower your bunks or raise the rollers to rectify. Bunks, however, typically offer generous support, especially long ones, so the rollers just might be aiding the initial retrieval to push the bow up and over some cross members of the frame. I’d try the adjustment routine. If you’re still concerned, your boat manufacturer may have a better idea of how crucial this is.
Dustin: If it’s not a large boat, then it’s not really a big issue. Most boats do sit on the center rollers and that helps support the boat and make it stable. I personally like to see some weight on the rollers when it’s completely loaded. What I’d do is raise the rollers with the boat loaded, if you can. Mark them and remove the boat and then raise them another 3/16-inch. This will put just a bit of weight on the rollers but still have weight on the bunks. If you can’t raise the rollers, then you may be able to lower the bunks. Just be sure you have clearance on your fenders. Be aware that you will have to lower your bow stop also. Try the rollers first. And again, if the boat is 16 feet or smaller, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Replacing The Brakes Brings Questions

Q: I’m going to replace my disc brakes and my neighbor says cadmium rotors are the way to go. I’ve been using zinc-plated and never had a problem. Besides, they cost less. What would you do and why?
V. Galantino, Montauk, NY
Dustin: I’m a true believer in cadmium rotors especially when topped with stainless calipers. I’ve just seen too many zinc rotors pit and rust up. And I haven’t seen the same happen with the cadmium. It’s just that simple.
Ted: There’s quite a debate out there about treated brake parts. It’s thought that cadmium treated parts offer greater corrosion resistance. Others say there’s very little difference and not worth the extra money. But give this some thought. You can’t treat a rotor’s surface with any metal; the underlying solid is iron, and will show surface rust no matter what the rotor exterior is treated with. Even stainless steel rotors like you’d see on fancy bass boat trailers have a wear surface that’s not impermeable to rust. I’m all for products that tout they’re rust – or corrosion-free, but in my experience, a good old-fashioned washdown with fresh water after retrieval will do the trick. You haven’t had problems thus far, and I suspect you’re accustomed to a good rinsing after use, so I’d stick with what you’re doing and save your money for another upgrade on your boat or trailer.


This Winch Might Need An Upgrade

Q: I was at the boat ramp yesterday and was having a real bear of a time cranking the boat onto the trailer. A guy came over with a can of WD-40 and offered to spray the winch. I thanked him but said I didn’t think the gears needed it because they’d probably slip. He shook his head and walked away. Who was right? The winch has become tougher to crank and the ramp is the same I’ve always used.
-N. Milbranth, Tucson, AZ
Ted: The ratcheting parts of a winch can wear over time. It’s possible that it’s getting corroded and a shot of WD-40 can clean and lubricate in one shot. It most likely won’t promote slipping unless your pawls and gears have become rounded out. If your winch is difficult to crank without load on it at all, you can purchase a reasonably priced rebuild kit for your winch that comes with the necessary replacement parts. However, I suspect the problem is not with you winch, but worn bunks or bunk carpeting on the trailer. If you can wet the length of your bunks with a hose prior to retrieval, you might find it easier and I bet that solves your problem.
Dustin: You’re both right. The WD-40 may not have hurt or made it slip, but it may have made things move a little easier. The bigger picture is, just like all of us, things get old and aren’t quite as strong as they used to be. get worn out, too. When a winch gets older, it needs to be replaced, because you sure don’t want it to break or slip on you when you are next to it. I always like a much heavier winch than required for the weight of the boat and I keep it well lubricated throughout its life. Spraying grease on the joints and teeth will help a lot. And two-speed winches are great. Even my 19-footer comes up a lot easier when I put the winch in low gear. And when I do need some extra muscle, I call mom and the kids over.

Don’t Let Rust Rest

Q: Hello, I have a tandem axle aluminum trailer that has leaf springs. The springs are rusted to the point that I think they should be replaced. The axles have rust on the bottom side. I don’t want to have to replace them if I don’t have to (because of $$$), but while I’m doing some repair would rather do it all at once. What would be some tell tale sign that I should replace the axles? If I can keep them, how should I remove the rust? Sand blast, wire wheel and drill? And is there any special paint I should use? Thank you for your thoughts.
- R. Veeneman, Jupiter, FL
Dustin: I would look at the underside of the axles and compare measurements from an un-rusted part to the rusted part after removing any loose metal. This might tell you how eaten up it is. Sandblasting would be best and a wire wheel might work well too. You can never know when an axle might fail. If you can’t be sure how bad they are, then you should replace them. If it only looks like surface rust than I would recommend cleaning them up and use multiple layers of Rustoleum. Find the kind that you can brush on thick.
Also, if you can take the axle off, turn it up on one end and then the other. Listen for any kind of noise inside, like rusted parts moving back and forth. If it’s rusting from the inside out, you will never know how bad it could be.

Overweight Trailer and Underweight Boat?

Q: I have a Wellcraft 20V on a tandem trailer setup that works well, launch and retrieve. However the capacity of the trailer is 12, 000 lbs when the single leaf springs that are on it now. My question is what is the max cap of a trailer before it is over sprung for a boat? The boat tops out at 3000lvs fully loaded. Never see any info for max cap for a trailer. And should I change to torsion suspension when I do?
- A. Gosik, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Ted: In general a 3,000lb boat on a 12,000lb capacity trailer is under loaded. A minimum capacity “rule of thumb” is the weight of the boat, gear and motor should be no lighter than the mid-range of the trailer’s carrying capacity. The reason for this is that the trailer has been engineered (or “sprung”) to carry a weight greater than you are trailering. Since the trailer is sprung for a heavier boat, you run the potential that the boat itself could be receiving a rougher ride than intended because the trailer suspension in not flexing and working as well if the boat was heavier. In essence, your light boat is not heavy enough to make the suspension work as designed. However, if your boat is properly supported and tied down securely, and the roads on which you are travelling are in good shape, you may not be at great risk of damage. Leaf springs are tried and true, but torsion springs allow the suspension to operate somewhat more independently and can minimize the jolts from road hazards like potholes, from being transferred to your boat.


If you’ve got a question about a boat trailer, this is the place to be. Trailering Guy Ted Sensenbrenner, of the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, has been pulling, fixing, and studting boat trailers for years. Dustin Hoover, of Legendary Trailer Repairs (, is a service provider for TRAILER ASSIST in the Anapolis, Maryland area. Between them, they’re familiar with almost everything that can go wrong with a boat trailer and are ready to answer your question. E-mail the Trailer Guys at or go to



Content Courtesy of BoatU.S.


Category: Sailing , Overnight Cruising , Day Cruising