Tips for safe trailer boating
When trailer boating, the road plays an important part in the overall trip and deserves the same attention to safety as the water does.
Hitch: Check over the coupler to make sure all parts are there. Lubricate the coupler so the closure works smoothly. Check the adjustment to fit the ball you’re using with a slight amount of play. Safety chains should cross beneath the tongue, making a basket to hold the tongue if the coupler fails.
Tires: Make sure the tire pressure is up to sidewall specs. Also make sure you have a spare, the correct lug wrench, and a suitable jack.
Bearings: Jack up the axle enough to allow the tire to spin freely; then spin it. Any grinding noise or roughness is a sure sign of trouble. If in doubt, remove the tire, and check the hub or integral brake drum.
Lights: Remember to disconnect the trailer lights before backing the trailer into the water. The most common reason for trailer light failure is a bad ground, either to the trailer frame or in the plug itself. Often the symptom is all lights blinking with the turn signals and low intensity in general.
Suspension: Give the suspension a good visual check. Be especially alert for broken or rusted leaf springs and worn bolt holes.
Winch and winch stand: Check and lubricate the winch. Be especially careful to check the condition of the winch stand and the bow stop structure as well as its attachment to the trailer tongue.
Brakes: For hydraulic brakes, check that the brake actuator (master cylinder) fluid is full and clear, not cloudy or rusty. If the level is way down, you may have a leak in the lines or a wheel cylinder that needs repair. Check electric brake actuators by looking at the built-in readout of applied current to the magnets or an open circuit indication.
On the road: Make it a habit to do a quick but thorough walk-around inspection every time you stop. Feel every hub and tire for temperature. Tires often warn us of low pressure or impending tread separation by heating up. Hot hubs mean dragging brakes or bearing troubles. –Ron Schwiesow
This article originally ran in The Beacon, newsletter of America’s Boating Club of Colorado.
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