Keeping your boat on a trailer can provide a number of benefits. A boat trailer gives you the freedom to explore new waterways, an affordable way to store your boat, and they provide an easier way to maintain and clean your boat. Trailer towing a boat is not difficult but it does require an adherence to certain rules to safely reach your destination. The last thing you want is to have your trailer come loose and have it riding down the highway in the lane next to you, become an obstacle for the drivers behind you or become a new accessory to the back of you tow vehicle. The same is true for the boat coming free from the trailer. The following provides some general safety tips for properly trailer towing a boat.
Things You Will Need
Towing vehicle, Trailer hitch
Read your tow vehicles owners manual to verify that it has the necessary maximum load limit for the size and weight or the boat and trailer you are towing. Most boat and trailer owner's manuals will provide the "dry weights" of the boat and the trailer. Make sure you add the weight of any gear or accessories that you will be carrying in the boat. The tow vehicle has to have the horsepower to do the job. If your tow vehicle does not have an oil cooling system for the transmission, add one.
Make sure the type of hitch is appropriate for the size and weight of the trailer and boat also. Load distributing hitches are recommended for heavier boat trailering because, as the name implies, they distribute the tongue load to all axles of the tow vehicle. A bumper hitch should never be used.
Make sure the size of the hitch ball, hitch and coupler are the same. Also, the height of the trailer hitch from the ground and the tow vehicles hitch receiver should be within a few inches of each other. When you hook up your boat trailer, make sure that the trailer coupler is properly engaged and locked on the hitch ball. The safety chains should be crossed underneath the hitch before attaching them. The chains should also be adjusted so that they do not drag the ground. I also recommend using bolted connections instead of the "S" hooks as they can stretch and come loose under sever strain.
Make sure the boat is secured to the trailer. Connect a safety chain from the trailer to the bow of the boat to make sure the boat will not slide off the rear of the trailer (a winch line is not a tie down). Along the same lines, use tie down straps at the back of the boat to make sure the boat does not lurch forward in case of a sudden stop.
The following are additional tips that should be followed when towing your boat:
1. Make sure the electrical connections to the lights and brakes are operating properly. Repair any problems prior to towing.
2. The tires are properly inflated.
3. Periodically inspect the trailer bearings and grease them as needed. Give your wheel bearings time to cool down prior to launching and dipping them into the cool water to help prevent the bearings from seizing.
4. Carry additional bulbs for your trailer lights.
5. If your trailer is equipped with brakes, make sure they are properly adjusted and working correctly.
6. Check the trailer periodically to make sure that all nuts and bolts are tight and look for any cracks in the welds.
7. Consider using a motor support to hold your engine's lower unit in position.
Trailering laws vary from state to state. Check your local and state regulations as they pertain to your towing weight and beam. Enjoy the freedom that trailering your boat can open up for you and your family.
Tips & Warnings
Prior to trailering on the open road and launching your boat, find a parking lot or other open area to practice backing your trailer. Place cones or similar items to look like the edges of a boat ramp and practice backing, maneuvering and turning your trailer.