9 Essential Boat Trailer Maintenance Tips
Oftentimes, it is easy to take meticulous care of your boat and neglect the maintenance of the boat trailer. The sad reality is the boat spends more time on the trailer than on the water. There is nothing worse than a much-needed trip to the lake getting cut short because the boat trailer broke down. Luckily, you can avoid most roadside problems before your boat and trailer ever leave the driveway through following these essential boat trailer maintenance tips. Today, we are providing you with an easy, quick checklist to help you avoid unneeded frustrations, costs, and roadside meltdowns so you can get out on the water! Boat trailer maintenance lists can be pretty extensive, and we are here to help! Here are 9 essential boat trailer maintenance tips.
1. Check Your Tire Pressure
One of the crucial items on your checklist is your tires and wheels. Unfortunately, they are the neglected unsung heroes towing! Worn down tires and wheels can leave you stranded along the roadside and be a safety hazard. Tire problems caused by low air pressure are among the biggest causes of roadside trailer troubles. Therefore, it is good to always check the tire pressure before heading out! If tire pressure is too high or too low, it causes extra wear on your tires. Not only does improper tire pressure cause uneven wear, but it also causes heat to build up within the tire. Heat builds in tires with low pressure, which can cause the tire to delaminate and ultimately fail, putting you in a dangerous situation. Always check the capacity sticker on the trailer or the maximum rating on the tire to confirm your tires are at the proper pressure. If you notice your tires are low every month, do not panic. Tires naturally lose 1-2 pounds of air pressure monthly, so it is important to check your air pressure regularly.
2. Spare, Anyone?
Not every boat trailer will come with a spare tire. If your boat trailer does not come with a spare tire, it is a good idea to invest in one. The spare tire is an insurance policy, just in case your other tires fail! Get into the habit of checking the air pressure in the spare tire when checking the pressure in your other tires.
3. A Little Worn Out
Check your trailer tires for wear and tear. You should note if one tire is wearing unevenly or faster than the others. Wear on one tire can inform you of other issues with your trailer, such as a bent axle or an axle that is out of alignment. The National Transportation Safety Board advises replacing tires over six years old. Unsure how old the tires are? The last four numbers of your trailer tire’s DOT code on the tire sidewall will tell you the manufacturer’s month and year. For example, if the numbers read “3321,” then the 33rd week of 2021 is the tire’s manufacturer date. Sometimes tires will wear out before the six-year mark. Check for tread depth by using a penny. First, place the penny in the tire tread. Do you see the head of the figure on the penny? If yes, then the tires need to go! Always remember to purchase tires that are specific for trailers. Trailer tires have stronger cords and stiffer sidewalls to withstand the added weight. There are numerous types of trailer tires, but the most common are bias-ply and radial. Bias-ply sidewall tires are stiffer (this can help reduce your trailer’s sway), more economical, and are better suited for short trips. Radial tires are a little more costly but have more load capacity, less road noise, and reduce heat buildup.
4. Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings are another essential part of your boat trailer. Wheel bearings enable the wheel to spin with minimum friction. Grease is a crucial element for wheel bearings to function properly, as, without it, the bearings will create excessive heat and can ruin the bearings, wheels, and axles. Bearings can easily rust when contaminated by water. Most boat trailers have wheel-bearing protectors to prevent this from happening. Even with bearing protectors, reseal your wheel bearings and repack them with fresh grease yearly. Several other indicators that it might be time to replace your wheel bearings are:
- Grease forms around the wheel hub’s exterior.
- You hear grinding or squeaking noises.
- The wheel doesn’t freely spin (or there’s some resistance).
5. How’s the Hitch Ball?
If you tow more than just your boat trailer, such as utility trailers or campers, you will want to ensure the right-sized hitch ball is in place before you hook up your boat trailer. For example, recreational and light commercial hitch balls come in various sizes, and many of the sizes are unsafe to use with a boat trailer.
6. Trailer Lights
There are strict laws regarding trailer lights! Regardless of the state, you travel in the trailer lights are essential. You should double-check that all your trailer lights are in good working order every time you hook up the trailer. Make sure to check your boat trailer for all of these common maintenance needs before taking off:
- Burnt-out trailer light bulbs
- Cracked, disconnected, or damaged wires or connectors
- A fuse that isn’t functioning well – The fuse enables electricity to run from your vehicle to the boat trailer. If the fuse fails, your trailer lights fail too.
- Adequate electrical grease to protect any connectors
In addition, you should always keep your trailer light connection on your tow vehicle covered when you are not towing, as this will help prevent corrosion from ruining the metal pins. Sometimes, your trailer lights may be failing due to a bad ground connection. Secure the white wire to the trailer frame using a small screw or bolt. The ground needs a clean (bare metal), strong contact with the frame in order to work correctly.
7. Trailer Brakes
Most boat trailers have brakes – many states require that trailers have brakes. Your trailer brakes are a crucial element of your safety and the safety of others when traveling to and from your boating destination! You should always keep your brakes clean. If you regularly launch your boat in saltwater, you will want to rinse the trailer brakes off with water as quickly as possible after you have retrieved your boat. Saltwater is highly corrosive to your brake components. Particular launches will have fresh water available for this very purpose. It is also a good idea to rinse the wheels to keep the lug nuts from rusting to the wheel studs. Brake pads or shoes are an essential component of your trailer’s braking system and must be well maintained. You should have the pads or shoes inspected every 2-3 seasons. You should also check the brake fluid 2-3 times a season. Fluid levels will lower as the pads wear. Another benefit of regularly checking your brake fluid is you will know if the level suddenly drops very low, which could indicate a leak in the brake system. Always repair brake leaks immediately! Finally, the trailer coupler (the part that fits over your trailer hitch ball) is part of the surge brake actuator on your boat trailer. It may require occasional lubrication to keep working smoothly.
8. Did You Pack Your Trailer Tool Kit?
Building and then packing a trailer tool kit can save you frustration if you find yourself on the side of the road in need of some minor repair. A few items you might want to include in your tool kit are:
- A tire puncture kit – this is a perfect tool for patching over punctures in the tread up to 3/8th of an inch.
- Fix-a-Flat – a canned tire inflator, fix-a-flat can get you back on the road and to a gas station or repair shop safely.
- Trailer jack – You don’t want to find yourself in need of using your spare only to realize you forgot the jack!
- Plywood board – A plywood board creates a stable base for the jack when changing a tire on a soft surface.
- Four-way lug wrench – Make your life easier, and get a four-way lug wrench that fits the lugs on the trailer. If you need to change a tire, the job will go smoother!
- Reflectors & road flares – If you find yourself stranded in the late evening, these will give you added visibility and help others see you.
- Small container – You don’t want to be scrambling to find the dropped bolt, nut, or another small part on the side of the road.
9. Take a Once Over
It’s always a good idea to give your boat trailer a thorough once-over before hitting the road. While it might seem cumbersome, it can save you money, time, and heartache down the road (literally). At first, this list may seem time-consuming, but before you know it checking these components will feel like second nature and give you more peace of mind on your journey. Check these elements before you leave the driveway and the water.
- Is the coupler in good shape? Does it fit correctly over the hitch ball?
- Are your safety chains in good working condition? Are they securely fastened?
- What condition are the bunks? Is the carpeting torn or frayed?
- How do the leaf springs look? Cracked, corroded, or heavily rusted leaf springs can cause significant issues. Inspect these closely throughout the season.
- Always inspect for stress cracks, rusted fasteners, or loose nuts/bolts.
We hope this essential boat trailer maintenance checklist helps give you confidence and peace of mind as you make your way to the water. We are passionate about boating and helping you get safely to and from the water. Send us a service request if you have any boat trailer maintenance needs that you don’t feel confident completing. Our experienced and educated team is happy to assist you! Is it time to update or upgrade your boat trailer? We have a wide inventory of high-quality and affordable trailers to meet your individual needs! Check out our selection today.
Here’s to helping you get out on the water!