The Outboard Expert: Check Your Trailer

Prevention right now could keep you out of trouble down the road.

23rd July 2007.
By Charles Plueddeman

God bless BF Goodrich…the delaminated carcass of this boat trailer tire got its owner home in one piece.

God bless BF Goodrich…the delaminated carcass of this boat trailer tire got its owner home in one piece.

I think it’s always smart to learn from your mistakes. But it’s often easier to learn from your neighbor’s mistakes. Take my neighbor, Harold, for example. Last spring, Harold called over the hedge and asked if I’d come over and give him a consultation on the condition of his boat-trailer tires.

On the trailer holding Harold’s 17-foot Sunbird was a pair of tires exhibiting the classic tread-wear pattern of under-inflated tires — worn evenly on the outside edges. When I asked Harold if he’d checked his tire air pressure recently, he shrugged. My gauge showed each tired had about 12 pounds of air.

This gave me an opportunity to recite the same tire-pressure lecture I’ve given many times in print: Check your trailer tire pressure frequently. Use a gauge, not your eyeballs. Tires can lose a pound or two of air pressure per month. This means that during the eight-month off-season in Wisconsin, for example, boat trailer tires could be down 16 pounds. Which is why each spring I see so many boat trailers abandoned on the shoulder with a flat or shredded tire — the owner forgot to air-up before heading out for the fishing season opener. Low tires get hot. Hot tires fail. And if you don’t carry a spare, well, there goes opening day.

Lucky for Harold, his trailer tires had not failed yet. He vowed to keep them at 50 pounds. So the other night, when Harold pulled into his driveway with the boat in tow after a week up north, I asked if his tires were holding up. “I’ve got a story for you,” he says.

Wheel bearing, I figure. And I was right. About 60 miles into his trip north, Harold had a premonition and pulled over to check his trailer, only to discover one wheel hanging on by a thread. A flat-bed hauled the boat and trailer to a repair shop, where the entire axle was replaced, this being the most-expedient way to replace the damaged spindle, which was welded onto the original axle. A few hours and $350 later, Harold was heading north again.

The lesson here, of course, is to check your bearings once in a while, especially as the trailer gets older. This can be a messy job. I have a local repair shop pull the hubs and check my bearings and brakes every other season. And ever since a bearing failed on my snowmobile trailer last year, I carry a complete bearing-and-hub assembly and the tools to install it so I can make a road-side repair.

But wait”¦there’s more. Harold hollers over the hedge again last night, “Come and look at my tire!”

The image posted here tells the story. At some point on his trip home from the North Woods, the starboard tire chucked most of its tread, and was now rolling on the cords.

“How far did you drive with the tire like this,” I queried? Harold shrugged. He just noticed it tonight.

So here’s my theory on that tire. It’s an old tire to begin with — I think the trailer is about 20 years old — and it got over-heated last year when the air pressure was so low. It didn’t delaminate itself then, but the process must have started. And now, a year later, it let go. Harold is one lucky guy. A blown tire can be more than inconvenient. It can be deadly.

Tonight, Harold is sporting two brand new ST-grade trailer tires, each inflated to 50 psi. And I’ve added to my towing database: replace an abused tire before it fails.

Mercury Introduces New Verado Oil

Mercury Marine has introduced a new motor oil designed specifically for its supercharged Verado outboards. Mercury says the 25W-50 oil provides longer-lasting protection than standard marine oil.

“The torque and acceleration level of the Verado engine requires maximum protection,” said Frank Kelley, fuels and lubricant engineer for Mercury Marine. “This oil is a well-balanced combination of today’s highest quality synthetic and mineral base stocks. It contains an advanced additive system that meets the stringent marine operational requirements of all Mercury’s four- and six-cylinder Verado models.”

Mercury high recommends use of the Verado 25W-50 Synthetic Blend oil in commercial and recreational applications where running for long periods at low RPM is common. The benefits of the new oil include enhanced film strength and better oil consumption characteristics. In addition, it will help protect against viscosity breakdown under high RPM conditions, according to Mercury. Mercury 25W-40 Synthetic Blend is still an acceptable alternative oil for all Verado engines, but 10W-30 oil is not recommended for use in Verado engines. The new 25W-50 Synthetic Blend oil is available now from Mercury Marine dealers.

And a Few Corrections

David Greenwood from Suzuki wrote to tell me that the 70-hp Suzuki described in the recent column on installing a fuel filter has a mechanical lift pump to draw fuel from the boat’s tank, not an electric pump as I stated. Only V6 Suzuki motors have an electric pump.

And just five minutes ago, media maven Eric Pope from Mercury emailed to say that he’d passed on erroneous information that appeared in last week’s column about the new Merc outboards: The 175 Pro XS does not have a Torquemaster gear case or solid motor mounts, and the 250 OptiMax will not get better fuel efficiency than a Pro XS 250.

The tread on a tire that's been chronically under-inflated will wear on the outside edges.

The tread on a tire that's been chronically under-inflated will wear on the outside edges.

Editor’s Note: Charles Plueddeman is the editor at large for Boating, the nation’s largest boating magazine.


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Charles Plueddeman

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Charles Plueddeman is Boats.com's outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.

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