The Fab 15

Fifteen trailering tips you can't do without

4th August 2000.
By Chris Caswell

It’s spring and throughout the land boating magazines are giving you advice on how to get ready for trailering your boat this summer. The tips fall mostly in the “lubricate this” and “tighten that” category and their suggestions are certainly worthwhile.

But we’ve put together 15 tips that are guaranteed to make your trailerboating this summer easier, safer and cheaper. Even if you’re a long-time trailerboater, you’ll probably discover some gems here to improve your boating.

1. Get an electric winch! If you’ve ever felt like you were putting your chiropractor’s kids through college, an electric winch to pull your boat onto the trailer will save your sacroiliac. It runs off the truck battery and it’s strong enough to drag even the most recalcitrant boat back onto the trailer. Be sure to opt for a long control cord so you can move around freely, and have your dealer spot weld the winch bolts to make it theft-proof.

2. Having a pair of chocks made from 4×4 lumber under your rear wheels can give you an added measure of safety when launching or retrieving your boat, but you have to remember to retrieve them when you drive up the ramp. A short length of cord from your rear bumper to the chocks, however, will make them “automatic” and they’ll follow you up the ramp until you stop to prep the trailer for the road, where you can put them away.

3. If you need a pair of guides to line your boat up on the trailer, buy a couple of cheap radio antennas and mount them on each trailer fender. You’ll have to hunt to find the old style that extend to 4 feet or more but, with a red ribbon or a ping-pong ball on the top of each antenna, you’ll center your boat every time.

4. If your boat seems glued to the trailer pads, squirt some liquid detergent on the pads and on the hull itself. Your boat will slip off the trailer easily in a rush of bubbles, and it will be much easier to retrieve,too.

5. Tired of bug spatters all over the bow of your boat after trailering to your favorite waterway? Fill a spray bottle with baby oil and coat the forward part of the hull with a light mist. Bugs will come off easily with just a hosing, but check to make sure that the baby oil doesn’t affect your stick-on hull graphics.

6. Remember to unplug your trailer lights before you back the trailer into the water or the braking will heat up the waterproof lights and they’ll suck in moisture, which leads to rust and corrosion.

7. To eliminate corrosion in the electrical connector for your trailer lights when the trailer is not being used, buy the matching connector (either male or female), spray the trailer connector with a lubricant, and then plug the connectors together, thus preventing corrosion and dirt from attacking the connector.

8. Put non-slip tape on top of your fenders, so you can step up on them safely. Self-adhesive, non-slip tape can be bought in a variety of sizes and colors, cut with scissors to fit (remember to round off the corners) and stick in place to keep you from slipping.

9. Before setting off on a road trip, coat the ball on the trailer hitch lightly with grease to make it turn easily and without squeaks.

10. If your favorite launch ramps slope gently, add a trailer tongue extension so you can submerge the trailer without having to dunk the rear of your truck.

11. Even the best trailer lights grow dim with time but, in many cases, it’s the aluminum reflector behind the bulb that has simply corroded to the point where it wouldn’t reflect a nuclear explosion. Use aluminum foil or shiny silver duct tape to add a bright reflector to your tail lights and avoid a rear-end collision.

12. We’ve all forgotten to put the drain plug in, but a check list like pilots use can save that embarrassment. Make one list for launching reminders and another for retrieving the boat. To make them waterproof, laminate them back to back at a print shop, and you’ll never forget that darned plug again!

13. Always lock your trailer at night, using one of the many locking devices that secure the hitch or the wheels. If you don’t have a lock, back the trailer snugly up against a wall and let your car serve as the lock.

14. Improve your mileage while towing your boat by emptying it of liquids. Don’t fill the boat gas tank until you reach the water and try to return to the launch ramp empty because, at over seven pounds per gallon, a full 50-gallon tank can add half a ton (!) to your towing weight. Don’t forget water, either. At 8.3 pounds per gallon for fresh water, you can quickly gain another half ton when you add up your water tank, baitwell and even the water in the bilge!. A six-pack of beer, by the way, weighs about 5 pounds but you have to draw the line somewhere!

15. As a final reminder, put a long red ribbon (like those that say “Remove Before Flight” on aircraft) in the drain plug hole so you won’t launch your boat without the plug. Again.

Enjoy your summer boating season and, like they used to say on “Hill Street Blues,” “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”


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