Boat Trailers, What You Need To Know
Buying a boat is a considerable investment that often takes time, consideration, and scrutiny. We want to ensure that the purchase will meet our needs and bring us joy for years to come! However, we often don’t take the same care when analyzing potential boat trailers. This is a disservice to your future investment, as your boat spends more time on the trailer than it does in the water! Here we will discuss what you need to know about boat trailers.
Your boat trailer carries a significant financial investment, so you might want to consider taking a little time to think about what trailer will do the best job. You want to have peace of mind knowing your trailer is doing a quality job keeping your investment safe. However, like any other product, boat trailer quality varies greatly. So let’s take a minute to learn the basics of boat trailers!
The size of your boat and the distance you travel will determine the size of the trailer you need. Dual-axle trailers have their benefits and strengths. If you take longer trips, a dual-axle trailer is more stable on the highway. In addition, they provide extra safety support if you were to get a flat while traveling. They are also more effective at spreading the weight. Finally, they can come with brakes on both axles to help decrease the time it takes you to stop – further enhancing safety. However, keep in mind dual-axle trailers have twice the number of tires, which is double the number of tires to replace. Let’s face it; no one enjoys spending money on replacing trailer tires. Therefore, you don’t want to choose this heavy-duty option unless you need to. A dual-axle trailer might be for you if the following applies:
- Your sporting a 20 feet or longer boat
- Your boat is unusually heavy
- You frequently make long-distance trips
If those statements don’t apply to you, you’re better off with a single-axle trailer. While it might not look as breathtaking, it is a more cost-effective option and will save you more long-term maintenance.
There are numerous trailer types out there, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s talk about a few of the various options, and you can decide what will work best for you.
Aluminum vs. Steel
There are two types of materials used to make boat trailers: steel and aluminum. There are upsides and downsides to both. Steel is stronger than aluminum, but it will rust. While aluminum corrodes, it won’t rust. Raw steel is cheaper than aluminum, but that doesn’t always mean a steel trailer is cheaper than an aluminum one.
So which material is best? Generally speaking, if you primarily boat in freshwater, a steel trailer might be better for you. It eventually will rust if you leave scratches in the paint unattended, but a decent steel trailer should last the lifetime of your boat if properly maintained.
An aluminum trailer will serve you best if your primary boating locations are on the ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway. While they’re not as esthetically pleasing as a steel trailer, the saltwater won’t cause them to rust quickly.
Rollers vs. Bunks
When choosing your type of trailer, you will also need to consider the trailer’s support system: rollers or bunks. While rollers simplify loading and unloading, they don’t cradle the boat’s hull like bunks will. In addition, rollers do not distribute the boat’s weight the same way bunks do. Finally, when your boat is resting on a roller trailer (think winter storage), it can develop a “hook” in the running surface at the transom. If you’ve invested money into a boat that goes fast and mods to make it faster, you don’t want your boat trailer to sabotage your boat’s underside.
In case you couldn’t tell, we prefer a bunk trailer!
There are two suspension systems primarily used in boating trailers: a torsion-bar system and a leaf spring system. Both are reliable options. The torsion-bar system is appropriately named for the torsion bar that runs inside the axle, allowing for a lower ride height. The negative side is that the system is more expensive than leaf springs and can easily hide early signs of rust.
Leaf springs have been around for decades, and there is a reason why! They are excellent performers. While many manufacturers put three-leaf springs on trailers, you can find higher-quality models with five-leaf springs. The higher count leaf springs offer more support to handle the weight of your boat—the more leaf springs, the stronger the suspension and less likely it is to fail over time.
The Trailer’s Hardware
Choosing a trailer can be all about the small details. Take a look beneath the trailer and take note of the hardware. Is the trailer rocking stainless Bearing Buddy caps or cheap stamped steel caps that will leak water into your bearings? Does it have high-performing industrial, sealed-oil bath bearings? How thick is the metal? Take note of the thickness of the metal used in the trailer’s main construction. Many manufacturers use thin material simply because it is cheaper, reducing the quality and the life of your trailer. Focus on the width and height of the supports; taller and thicker I-beams will be stronger and last longer.
Is it welded neatly and sealed well, or does it look clumsy and sloppy? Manufacturers also like to use galvanized fasteners. Yes, these fasteners aren’t going to rust, but they can cause corrosion between different metals. Always opt for stainless steel fasteners.
It is vital to tie down your boat. You can tow your boat without attaching the stern to the trailer, but it does reduce safety. Tying down the stern of your boat is similar to buckling your seatbelt. If you were to slam on your brakes or hit a big pothole, you would notice the movement of your boat a lot more if it isn’t tied down.
Opt for a trailer with a strong bow attachment point, a sound crank mechanism, strap, roller, and bow eye. You want to ensure you can strap down your stern to increase your safety when you travel.
When we talk about maintenance, we will mainly discuss the most critical pieces of your boat trailer: wheel bearings. Wheel bearings are the fountain of your trailer. If you have lousy wheel bearings, you aren’t going to the water. While tires are also important, you usually have a spare so repairing a flat on the roadside is doable. Wheel bearings, not so much.
Several Times a Year
You want to make sure your wheel bearings are in good shape by greasing them before each boating season and replacing them when they need replacing. Grease is 90% oil and 10% oxidation inhibitors, performance additives, thickening agents, components to help prevent wear, and rust-inhibiting compounds. The grease releases oil. Your boat trailer’s wheel bearings will get a little bit of oil in the grease, which lubricates the balls or rollers in the bearing.
You will want to lubricate the coupler and the tongue jack several times per season and inspect your bow strap and roller mechanisms every time you use the trailer.
Every Time You Leave the Driveway
Check your brakes and lights before leaving the driveway.
Inspect the bunk carpeting when your boat is in the water. If torn, replace it.
The rest of your trailer is fairly easy to maintain. Just keep an eye on things so you won’t have to spend a precious weekend repairing your trailer. Instead, you can focus on getting your boat to where it should be – in the water!
We hope we answered your question, “what to know about boat trailers.” However, if you need further advice or need a high-quality trailer and excellent customer service, we have you covered. At Rocket Marine, we cover everything from parts to rentals to repairs to trailers to fit your every personal preference and need. Easily shop online, request a custom trailer, or learn about our company!
Let’s get you out for a relaxing day on the water!