How to Safely Hitch a Boat Trailer

Trailer boaters who are new to hauling a boat down the road will need to know how to properly hitch their trailer to their tow vehicle. Here’s everything you need to know.

22nd September 2012.
By Lenny Rudow

If you love your trailer boat as much as I do, I know you’ll want to make sure it’s hitched to the tow vehicle properly. For those new to hauling trailers, however, how to hitch it up and tow safely can be a bit confusing – so let’s make sure we get it right.

1. Align the tow vehicle, and back it up until the ball is directly beneath the trailer hitch.
2. Lower the hitch onto the ball, and raise the jack stand as high as possible. In some cases this just means cranking until you can’t crank any more, but some jacks swing away to sit parallel with the roadway.
3. Engage the latch on the ball (on some trailers this means pushing an arm back, and on others, screwing it down). Once the latch in engaged, insert the safety pin. NEVER trailer without this pin in place – otherwise, all it takes is one big bump and you could become un-hitched!
4. Put on your safety chains. Always cross them, which will prevent the trailer tongue from digging into the roadway if the hitch somehow becomes disengaged.
5. If your trailer has brakes, hook up the brake safety chain. This will cause the brakes to kick in if the trailer comes loose.
6. Plug in the trailer lights. Remember that problems with trailer lights are quite common – check to make sure they’re all working properly before you hit the road.
7. Finally, walk 360 degrees around your rig and do a pre-trailering check. Make sure you double-check the trailer hitch, the boat’s bow and transom attachments, and trailer tire pressure.

hitching a boat trailer

Watch our How to Safely Hitch a Boat Trailer video, and see how it's done first-hand.

Okay, you’re ready to roll. Be sure to come back to Boats.com, and check out our how-to articles and videos on launching and retrieving trailer boats, and on tips for driving with a trailer in tow.

-Lenny Rudow


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About the author:

Lenny Rudow

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Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
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