Before You Hit The Road
Boat Trailers are often forgotten because they’re always behind you. This checklist is the first step to keeping you ahead of any impending trouble.
- Safety Chains – They need to be crossed so that the trailer tongue is caught by the chains before hitting the pavement. The breakaway cable should be connected from the trailer to the tow vehicle. Instead of the standard “S” hooks, use stainless snap shackles. They’re more secure.
- Coupler – Is it locked down on the hitch ball?
- Actuator – First, look for any spills of brake fluid level. Inspect the seal on the master cylinder cap. Is the breakaway cable attached to the tow vehicle?
- Tires – Know your trailer tire’s inflation (psi) and check before going out on a trip. PSI should be checked when the tire is cold. Most boat-trailer tire psi are higher than a tow vehicle’s psi. Check for spider cracks in the sidewall and for adequate tread on the tires. And speaking of tires, do you have a properly inflated spare attached to the trailer? This is also the time to check the lug nuts. Use a torque wrench and tighten each lug nit to 85-95 pounds of torque (note: this varies from trailer to trailer).
- Bearings – Check the inside of trailer fenders for any indication of grease. If it’s evident, a bearing seal is bad and needs to be replaced before going on the road. If applicable, check the oil level in the hubs. Do you know the last time the bearings were replaced or repacked? Are dust caps secure?
- Outboard/Outdrive – They should be in the up position for highway travel. If you have a transom saver, make sure it’s attached.
- Drain Plug – Put it in the boat before you start the trip. This way you’ll know it’s in place. The only time you shouldn’t have the plug inserted is if you’ll be driving through heavy rains (See related story on page 66).
- Inspect Bunks and Rollers – Obviously, this is easier at the boat ramp without the boat on the trailer. Still, ensure that rollers turn with ease and aren’t cracked, and look for excessive wear on the bunk carpeting.
- Lights – Have someone stand behind the trailer while you turn on the lights, and turn signals. On trailers equipped with disc brakes, verify the reverse solenoid works correctly by gently backing the trailer and applying the brakes.
- Tie-Downs – Check each to make certain the strap has been secured and is locked in place. Do the same for tie-downs that attach to the transom. Finally check the condition of the winch strap attached to the bow eye. If you have a secondary strap/chain that attaches from the bow to the trailer, make sure it’s secure.
Along the Way
When you stop for fuel or refreshments put your hand on the trailer hubs. If they feel excessively hot, that’s the number-one warning sign that the bearings are losing grease and over heating – or a brake pad is engaged.
Content Courtesy of BoatU.S.