Know Before You Tow: Get Our Checklist for Boat Trailering and Trailer Maintenance

Know Before You Tow: Get Our Checklist for Boat Trailering and Trailer Maintenance

April 11, 2023

It’s almost time to get on the water. Almost time to tie on a bait or jump in for a swim. Or maybe just ease into things with a cruise. Any of that sounds more fun than getting through the work day or to-do lists, but you have to get there first and that probably means making sure you’re ready for safe boat trailering this season and that you’ve completed a few trailer maintenance tasks.

With that in mind, here’s our checklist of where to inspect your rig.

1. Hitch and Coupler

Before any boat trailering can begin, you’re going to want to make sure you can safely and securely hook your boat trailer up to your tow vehicle. This requires you to do the following:

  • Check for rust and excessive wear on the ball (and lubricate it, especially if you didn’t remove or cover it over the winter)

  • Grab a wrench to fasten the hitch ball good and tight if it’s secured with a nut
  • Make sure your trailer safety chains are in good shape and ready to hook on
  • Inspect hitch clips and pins, locks, and cotter pins
  • Look over your coupler and lubricate it

2. Trailer Lights and Trailer Wiring Connections

Your trailer should have lights to signal when you’re turning left or right, have a hazard situation, and when you’re braking, so they should always be working. For some trailers, these connections also provide proper braking. Since they’re a common issue with trailers, make sure to test your lights and trailer wiring connections at the start of the season and every time you hook up your trailer. Here's how to maintain them:

  • Look at both sides of your trailer wiring connectors and check for corrosion, dirt, and damage

  • Clean wiring connectors and submerge in a small cup or vinegar if there’s corrosion

  • Use dielectric grease for electrical connections to protect them

  • Make sure the ground wire is secured (usually a ring connector fastened to the trailer frame)

  • Put flashers and blinkers on to test light functionality

3. Bow Tethering Points

Depending on how old your trailer is, you may have a few spots near the front of your trailer and bow that are in disrepair. The problem is that you need those aspects of the boat and trailer to safely tether your boat and carefully carry it to the water. Specifically, make sure to check the:

  • Bow Roller, as it takes wear and tear from the bow and the elements

  • Bow Eyes, as they deal with pushes and pulls and things banging into them

  • Trailer Winch, as it may have mechanical wear or may have a fraying strap

And if you need to replace a winch strap, it’s actually not too hard. Take a look as we walk through the process right here.

4. Trailer Wheels and Tires

If you’re going to end up on the side of the road with your trailer, chances are that it’s because of an issue with your wheels or tires. To avoid a delay in getting to the water, check the following:

  • Check the age of your tires if it’s been a few years

  • Check tire pressure

  • Check treads and signs of unsafe wear on tires (uneven wear could be a sign of an axle issue that needs to be repaired before it causes the tire to fail)

  • Check for dings or dents on the rims that will compromise your tire

  • Check the ball bearings for dirt, water, and rust that will wear them down

Additionally, wheel bearing protectors can help with keeping your ball bearings in good shape. Either way, it's important to keep them lubricated, especially if you didn’t perform maintenance on the wheel bearings in the fall.

5. Tire-Changing Equipment

Sometimes the road conditions or circumstances are out of your control and you do have to change a tire while on your way to the water. If that happens, you’ll want to change it as safely, quickly, and easily as possible so make sure you have these:

  • Spare tire filled to spec

  • Jack

  • Tire iron

It can also help to keep an old towel and some gloves in your car, especially when kneeling down and working a tire iron over the road.

6. Trailer Brakes

If your trailer has brakes, it’s important to get a visual on them, especially when heading out the first time this season. This includes checking for any of the following:

  • Worn down brake pads / shoes

  • Dirty brakes (saltwater boaters should be regularly rinsing them with freshwater)

  • Low brake fluid

  • Jammed surge brake actuator (part of the coupler)

With trailer brakes, this is one of those areas where it really helps to get them looked over by a professional. Typically, they can inspect the pads / shoes, fluids, and the line itself, and it may be worthwhile to have them grease the wheel bearings during the same appointment.

7. Bunk Padding

Bunk padding prevents damage during boat trailering as it provides a soft surface between the underside of your boat and the trailer. It can get torn or worn down over time, so get as much of a look as you can before going down the road with your boat.

Then, when your boat is deployed in the water, give the bunk padding a full inspection to see if any of it needs to be replaced.

8. Tie-downs, Straps, and Engine Supports

Your outboard motor was likely a big investment, and if it wasn't, replacing one still isn't cheap, so you need to protect it.

As you get ready to head out to the water this season, no boat trailering prep is complete until you make sure you have your boat and outboard secured with the following items:

Even if you’re doing trailer maintenance and prep for a boat that isn't motorized, tie-downs and straps are critical. We’ve seen too many times where boaters have underestimated the road and the way the boat can travel side to side or come back off the winch. Then the boat skids on the pavement (or worse).

Boat Trailering Tips that Go Beyond the Trailer

As a few other quick items to take care of before you tow it down the road to the ramp, it’s a good idea to check our fall maintenance list just in case you missed some of those winterizing steps that put you in a good spot for the next season. This includes checking your gear lube, prop, skeg, and batteries, as well as any messes that can occur while it’s trailered and in storage.

And if you do find some of those messes, like mildew, dirt, stains, things critters left behind, check out what Star brite has to offer to help make it like new again.

Safe and Easy Boat Trailering and Trailer Maintenance

It’s always exciting when boating season returns so we hope you’re ready to go, from your trailer to your boat and any other gear you need.

And if you need anything to get through your boat trailering and trailer maintenance checklist, make sure to browse the selection linked below.