Boat Trailering Safety Tips
Fire, sinking and storm damage are some of the ways you’d expect a boat to get destroyed. But what about unsafe trailering? Having your boat destroyed before it even makes it to the water, or transporting it back.
It sounds incredible, but more boat owners than you’d think take the risk of badly damaging or completely losing their boats in trailering accidents, just because they ignored basic trailer safety rules. With that in mind, here are some boat trailering safety tips to help you prevent catastrophes while you're transporting your prized possession.
Boat Trailering Safety Tips: Weights and Capacities
Knowing your boat trailer’s towing capacity is a great place to start. Make sure the towing vehicle’s and the trailer hitch’s towing capacities are greater than the combined weight of the boat plus the trailer. Also, make sure the trailer’s maximum weight capacity is greater than the combined weight of the boat, plus any gear or equipment that’s been added to or is stored on the boat.
Boat Trailering Safety Tips: Loading and Positioning
Position the boat so that it’s supported evenly by the bunks and/or rollers. This minimizes the chance of the hull getting damaged by flexing, distorting or sagging. Evenly distribute the weight on the boat from things such as water in tanks and heavy onboard equipment to prevent the trailer from becoming unbalanced.
Ensure all key areas such as transoms with outboards, bulkheads, or sterndrives are supported by bunks or rollers. Distribute weight evenly on the trailer so there’s no more than 10% of the boat plus trailer weighing on the trailer hitch. Too much weight on the trailer hitch will overload the rear of the towing vehicle and make it hard to control.
Make sure all equipment on the boat is secured to prevent it from shifting and unbalancing both the boat and trailer when the trailer is in motion. Tie the boat down to the trailer, and double-check that all tie-down points and fasteners are tight and secure.
NOTE: The trailer winch cable is not a tie-down and should never be used as one.
Shroud the boat in a boat cover rated for highway use to prevent items from blowing out of the boat when in motion, as well as for the overall protection it provides. Make sure the safety chains are crossed and securely attached to the trailer and the towing vehicle.
Trailer Safety Quick Checklist
- Check the trailer tires’ pressures and sidewalls for bulges or cracks. Also check the trailer tires’ manufacturer date on the tire sidewalls. Trailer tires must be replaced every 5 years.
- Inspect and re-pack the trailer wheel bearings with grease at least once per year.
- Check that the trailer wheels’ lug nuts are fully tightened.
- Check the trailer lights to make sure they're working properly.
Boat Trailering Safety Tip: Travel To and From the Boat Ramp
Drive slower when towing, as the additional weight of the boat and trailer will take longer to stop if something unexpected happens. Leave double the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you for the same reason. Use a lower gear when travelling downhill, as relying on the towing vehicle’s brakes alone might not be enough to contain speed when travelling downhill.
Be cautious when turning across traffic, as pulling a boat and trailer increases the time needed to accelerate and move, and a trailer dramatically increases the effective length of your vehicle. Finally, use a wider turning circle to prevent the trailer from clipping the inside curb and potentially getting damaged by roadside objects.