Trailer maintenance keeps it rolling


While a friend was trailering his boat to a boatyard, the trailer collapsed from a broken axle, damaging the boat as well as the trailer. Looking closely at pictures, I could tell that the trailer had been poorly maintained.

Proper trailer maintenance is critical to safe boating, particularly in a seaside environment where a trailer sits unused for several months. A frozen or overheated wheel bearing, a flat tire without a spare or a jack, or a broken spring can ruin your day. Take precautions to ensure your trailer can handle the load:

  • Check the hitch and ball on the tow vehicle and trailer; make sure they’re the correct size, in place, and tight.
  • Lubricate the hitch and grease the ball.
  • Use safety chains strong enough to support the trailer’s tongue weight.
  • Use hooks with safety latches, instead of S-hooks, to hook chains to the hitch.
  • Ensure running lights are operational.
  • Check the tires, including the spare, for defects and proper inflation.
  • Grease, repack or replace wheel bearings as needed.
  • Service the trailer’s brakes (if installed).
  • Ensure boat tie-downs are secure.
  • Wash down the trailer after every immersion.
  • Use the proper size ball for the receiver, particularly if you tow other things besides your boat.
  • Tighten the trailer’s nuts before every outing.
  • Talk to your insurance agent to ensure you are adequately covered for physical damage to your trailer, damage to your boat on the trailer, and liability for damages to other property or people in case of a serious accident.

–Ed Bauer

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The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.