Boat Trailer Maintenance to Avoid Headaches

Dec 10, 2021
Boat trailer maintenance is easy to overlook, but essential for the success and safety of every outing. The following true story illustrates how important it is to maintain your boat trailer to avoid mechanical breakdowns, accidents, or run-ins with law enforcement.

Maintain your boat trailer

Maintain your boat trailer to a high level to protect your investment and maximize safety.

One beautiful Saturday morning, a group of friends and I were riding in my buddy’s truck, towing his really nice boat and headed out for a day out on the big lake. We were having a great time when suddenly there was a shudder from the boat trailer. It was a tandem axle trailer and to our surprise, one of the wheels detached and broke free. At high speed it rolled into the oncoming lane and struck a car head-on at 55 mph.

This was a really scary event for the poor lady whose car got hit, and it trashed her car. It also put a damper on our day of recreation as the police showed up and issued my friend a ticket for faulty equipment, and he was also liable for damages.

How many times have you driven down the road and seen a truck with a boat trailer jacked up? Or a PWC trailer with the wheel missing tilted over on its side? Or saw the police pull over a truck with a boat trailer?

The reality is, all of these scenarios are avoidable. Boat trailer service is often overlooked, but the wise boat owner knows the importance of maintaining a boat trailer.

Like any piece of equipment, your trailer needs to be maintained in top condition for everyone’s safety, and for your peace of mind as you travel at speed down the road.

Boat trailer wheels and tires are subjected to repeated submersion in water and sun exposure. Be sure to grease wheel bearings every year, and check your tires frequently.

Boat trailer wheels and tires are subjected to repeated submersion in water and sun exposure. Be sure to grease wheel bearings every year, and check your tires frequently.

There are two types of boat trailer owners. 

The one who puts their boat in the water in the spring, parks the trailer in the yard, and then pulls it out in the fall. And then there’s the owner who stores the boat on the trailer, and pulls it in and out of the water all season long. 

For either scenario, the trailer is subjected to constant weather, sun, critters, and wear and tear. So what is required to maintain your boat trailer properly? 

  1. Wheel bearings need grease. 

First of all, the wheel bearings need to be greased every year. It’s easy to overlook because you can’t see them. But not performing this basic maintenance item is what led to my buddy’s problem, caused endangerment to the public, and resulted in a legal matter.

  • Check all lights, plug, and wiring harness.

Secondly, you need to maintain boat trailer lights that function properly with turn

signals, brake lights, etc. This requires maintaining the entire wiring harness, as well as the plug connector that plugs into the back of your vehicle. One trip down the road with your plug dragging on the pavement spells an electrical repair.

  • Check tire tread and sidewalls for cracks.

Inspect your trailer lights regularly for proper function to maximize safety, to limit your liability, and to avoid problems with law enforcement.

Inspect your trailer lights regularly for proper function to maximize safety, to limit your liability, and to avoid problems with law enforcement.

The third big item is tires. Because they sit in the sun, and are in the same position for months on end, tires crack and wear out. Furthermore, they are required to carry a very heavy load. Blowouts are bad news on your boat trailer, so a professional inspection can alert you it’s time for new rubber.

  • Lube the winch.

Next on the list is your winch. This is just a matter of inspection and some lube to keep it functioning as it should. Double check the clip that secures the cable to the bow of your boat is working as it should.

  • Lube the coupler.

Inspect smooth operation of the coupler that clamps down and connects the boat trailer to the vehicle hitch. A simple lube job can be the difference between smooth operation, and failure.

  • Check safety chains.

At this juncture, make sure your safety chains are in working order. There’s a reason why every trailer has them. For everyone’s safety, and your peace of mind, make sure you’ve got a good back up connection to your vehicle.

  • Inspect and lube jack.

What is the condition of your trailer jack? Everyone’s seen a trailer where the jack wasn’t up all the way when the truck started driving away. It gets bent. If your jack isn’t operating properly, get a new one and look like a pro. Lube your jack.

  • Lube, inspect, adjust rollers.

Other components of boat trailer maintenance are the bumpers and rollers. Keep rollers lubed and adjusted to meet the boat bottom perfectly to distribute your boat’s weight and so you can load and unload with ease. 

  • Inspect bumpers.

Keep your bumpers up to snuff to protect the fiberglass of your boat, and to direct your boat to the sweet spot when loading.

  • Check trailer brakes.

Keep your winch and jack lubed for safe and easy use. Inspect the clip that hooks to the bow to be sure it will never fail.

Keep your winch and jack lubed for safe and easy use. Inspect the clip that hooks to the bow to be sure it will never fail.

Trailers for larger boats are equipped with trailer brake systems. Make certain your brakes are in working order at the start of every season for safe and easy transport.

  • Inspect paint.

Lastly, what is the condition of your trailer’s paint? Keep rust at bay, and look great going down the road with a solid paint job on your trailer.

As you can see, there are quite a few aspects to how to maintain your boat trailer properly. If you follow the boat trailer maintenance items outlined here, you will likely have no problems at all. Enjoy happy and safe trailering all season long.

Follow our Trailer Maintenance Checklist, and enjoy happy and safe trailering all season long.

Follow our Trailer Maintenance Checklist, and enjoy happy and safe trailering all season long.

Trailer Maintenance Checklist:

  • Grease the wheel bearings
  • Check all lights, plug, and wiring harness
  • Check tire tread and sidewalls for cracks
  • Lube the winch
  • Lube the coupler
  • Check safety chains
  • Inspect and lube jack
  • Lube, inspect, adjust rollers
  • Inspect bumpers
  • Check trailer brakes
  • Inspect paint

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1 Comment

  1. Boat Cleaning

    Great article. As a mobile boat detailer myself, I agree with your opener about the trailer being mostly overlooked.

    Reply

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