Unless you live in a lakeside home, towing your boat to the water is the first step in a fun-filled day in the sun. Trailering a boat requires close attention to the safety requirements of your vehicle and trailer. Taking shortcuts by avoiding what seems like a minor safety precaution could end in costly damage. Get to the water safe and sound by following these basic safety tips.
For starters, check the towing capacity of your vehicle by consulting the owner’s manual or by contacting the manufacturer. Never assume your vehicle can pull the weight of your boat and trailer without checking the manufacturer’s rated towing capacity. Also note that the capacity of your vehicle depends on a combination of factors, not just the size of the engine. Total up the combined weight of your boat and trailer to find the total towing load, and don’t forget to factor in the weight of the motor, fuel, and equipment that you keep in your boat.
In order to hook up your boat properly, the coupler and ball hitch must be the same size. Don’t try to mix and match sizes. If the ball hitch is too small, the coupler could bounce loose on the road. After you secure the hitch, cross the safety chains underneath the trailer tongue and attach them to the hitch receiver. If the coupler fails, the chains will prevent the trailer from dragging on the ground or separating from the tow vehicle. Make sure your boat is securely tied down. Secure the bow to the trailer with a ratchet strap or chain. Never depend on the winch line alone to secure the bow.
A thorough safety check before taking off can prevent a lot of hassle in the long run. An easy way to prevent one of the most common causes of roadside emergencies is proper tire care. Low tire pressure can cause overheating or result in a blowout. After checking the pressure, examine the sidewalls and tread for cracks and wear. Check the spare on your trailer as well. If you neglect the spare, it won’t do you any good when you’re in a pinch and need it. Use a spare tire cover to protect it from the elements and keep it in good condition.
Ask another person to help you check the lights on your tow vehicle and trailer, including brake lights, turn signals, and running lights. Double-check the coupler and safety chains before towing. The trailer tongue should be parallel to the ground on a flat surface. If it slopes up or down, adjust the hitch or redistribute the load. The weight of the boat should be distributed evenly from front to rear and side to side. An uneven load could cause the trailer to bounce or sway as you drive down the road.
For added protection, use a trailerable boat cover and boat motor cover to keep out the elements and prevent your equipment from flying out on the road. With these safety tips in mind, you can trailer your boat with confidence and focus on having a fun, relaxing time on the water instead of worrying about breaking down on the side of the road.