Jul 16 2021 All Articles

Boat Trailer Maintenance

Boat Trailer Maintenance

There’s little point in ensuring your boat is in mint condition if your means of getting it to the water is compromised.

Basically, boat trailers deserve plenty of love. After all, when you consider the whole boating package it’s boat trailers that are the most vulnerable to corrosion. Over a period of time, rust and corrosion will eat your trailer from within unless washed thoroughly every time you launch the boat in salt water.

Many people store their boats away over winter, so while not in use, it’s a perfect time for inspecting boat trailers. Of course, this inspection involves more than checking for corrosion.

Articles on the NZ fishing world, Discover Boating , and websites offer some sound tips and covers all componentry. Here’s the rundown:

  • Start by spending some time washing down the trailer frame getting into all the little nooks and crannies as a little extra time spent here could save a lot of money in the long run. Thorough washing may not stop corrosion, but it will slow it down
  • Consider using fit-for-purpose products for cleaning. These include Salt Away or Mac’s Salt-Enz which are salt killing solutions that come with dispensers (attach to your garden hose allowing you to spray deep into the box sections). Spray from both the front and rear of the trailer to penetrate the areas where salt can settle
  • Keep your trailer brakes clean and have your brake pads or shoes inspected every few seasons. If you launch your boat in saltwater, it’s important to rinse the trailer brakes as soon as possible after you retrieve the boat. Also, keep an eye on the brake fluid reservoir in the master cylinder
  • Check out the rollers for cracks and wear. Occasionally it might pay to spray some lube, into the joint of the pivot bar that holds the rollers
  • Ensure trailer lights are in good working order. Unscrew and take off both sets of lens covers looking for blown bulbs and corrosion on exposed wiring. Corrosion can be mostly removed by spraying with a product like Inox. (By the way, according to Club Marine, one of the worst things you can do is paint directly over rust or corrosion, so avoid doing this at all costs).  After a few hours give the wiring a scrub with an old stiff toothbrush. Rub a little Vaseline around the lens covers to seal them against water. Ensure joints and connections around light wiring are sealed and if you're unsure, take your trailer to a reliable mechanic.  Keep the trailer light connection on your tow vehicle covered when not towing to prevent corrosion. It’s a good habit to check your trailer lights every time you hook it up for use
  • The winch can also do with some basic maintenance. Apply some grease on the cogs and oil on the moving shafts a couple of times over the season (including winter). Pull out all the winch rope and check to see if it needs replacing. Grease both internal sides of the rope drum while the rope is unwound as a lot of salt water comes in on the rope, which then lies against the drum causing it to rust
  • The jockey wheel requires similar attention – ensure the main shaft and the mechanism it pivots on is always greased. Oil the handle knob and check the tyre for cracks where the shaft goes through (apply some grease to the shaft as well). If the tyre is an inflatable type keep it inflated
  • It’s important too that tow couplings are in proper working order. Grease and oil all moving parts and look inside the coupling for any wear that may prevent it locking down on the two balls. Check the bolts and welds holding the coupling to the trailer frame and check out the safety chain with its D-shackle
  • Check your tyre pressure (and don’t forget to bring along a spare) at least once a month.  Some people mistakenly inflate their trailer tyres to the same level as their car tyres, but load weight and distribution differ. The recommended tyre pressure is engraved onto the ID plate on the drawbar of most trailers (otherwise talk to an expert at a tyre shop). Periodically check your tyres for wear too
  • Use wheel bearing protectors, but as for checking your wheel bearings – we recommend this is a job best left to a mechanic. Put this on your “to-do” list
  • Wheel nuts should be checked regularly to ensure that each nut is fitted to the correct torque setting. It is essential that wheel nuts should be re-torqued manually with a high-quality torque wrench after an initial run-in period of at least 50km.

For more in-depth instructions (especially for safety’s sake) regarding the points above Fishing.net.nz is an excellent port of call.  Editor Grant Dixon’s advice is set out as a quick guide to six-monthly trailer health check-ups.

In this column, Grant (speaking from experience) points out that trailer issues may be as simple as all the air having rushed to the top of the tyre, but it could be something much worse: a failed wheel bearing, broken stub axle, locked brakes, or even a disintegrating trailer frame or towbar.

Trailer maintenance is not something to disregard. Failure to maintain your trailer can have dire consequences.

On average, seven people are killed and 45 seriously injured each year in New Zealand as a result of crashes involving a light vehicle towing a trailer, according to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).

“Along with poor maintenance, among the leading causes of trailer-related accidents are ineffective or poorly fitted tow bars, overloading, and poor weight distribution,” Grant informs. Drivers can do much to minimise the dangers with proper preparation and by following a few simple safety steps, he says.  Remember, prevention trumps treatment. Taking note of the points mentioned above, and clicking on the suggested links, will equip boat owners with extensive trailer maintenance know-how.

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