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Boat trailer maintenance keeps your fishing trips safe, sound

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Oct 1, 2021


With boats and trailers used in saltwater there are always maintenance chores that need attention. If you’re not out taking advantage of this beautiful SW Florida weather and multi-species in and offshore, fall fishing bonanza, then let’s take some time to check out your boats trailer before it lets you down and ruins your next trip, or your boat, or worse.

With the load off the trailer, take your socket set and go over all the nuts and bolts holding it together. You might be surprised to find many need tightening.

If the wood is showing through, be kind to your hull’s bottom and replace those bunk carpets.

Inspect old springs and axles for rust. Many axles have a drain hole in the bottom center to drain the (salt) water after being submerged. This hole can get clogged and hold water causing rust and rot eventually compromising the integrity of the axle itself and again, possibly causing a catastrophic accident.

Inspect brakes, lines, and electric connections. Salt loves to eat them too.

How old are your trailer bearings? When was the last time you greased or replaced them? Have any air in that old spare tire? Good tread on your trailer tires, but the sidewalls are filled with dry rot cracks? Time for new sneakers!

Trailer breakdowns are typically caused by two issues; tire or wheel bearing failure. Changing a tire at night along a busy roadway is dangerous. When a flat occurs pull as far off the road as safely possible to change it. Having someone monitor or alert oncoming traffic while you’re working can keep you alive. Carry a few road flares.

When trailering on longer trips carry a bearing kit and the knowledge and tools to change them (along with good portable lighting, clean rag bag, and disposable gloves) or carry a replacement hub rather than trying to replace bearings along a hot, dark, dangerous road while being eaten alive by Florida’s state bird; the mosquito.

Get those trailer lights working! If it needs it, rewire the whole trailer (It’s easy!) and mount the lights on PVC poles or existing trailer guide poles, above the water line. Consider upgrading to a sealed lens LCD light set. Trailer license plates not properly lit could result in a ticket.

When buying on-the-water towing packages, always add optional roadside trailer coverage to your policy.

Trailer woes.

A road North of Tampa was temporarily shut down a few days ago because a large bay boat was sitting on the highway, not on its trailer. During a sudden stop, the boat’s tow vehicle had rear ended the car in front of it.

Most bad trailering accidents occur because of following the vehicle in front of you too closely. Slow down! Sudden or emergency stops can cause the trailer to jackknife with the boat trailer coupler pivoting on the tow vehicle’s trailer ball, throwing the trailer left or right, often with the boat being thrown off the trailer and skidding down the road.

Worn tires and the first 30 minutes of highway rain are a dangerous combination, especially when pulling a load, due to the oils on the roads surface.

Even with worn tires your truck may be able to stop in time in an emergency on a freshly wetted road. Add a heavy boat now pushing you from behind, you’ll probably find yourself standing on the brakes, tires locked, eyes wide and truck skidding, the cause of a bumper bender or possibly, a fatal accident.

Make sure to secure the boat tightly to the trailer, stay well back from the car in front of you while under way and, keep good brakes and tires on the tow vehicle and trailer. During rain events, add extra distance between vehicles in front of you. In an emergency stop, quickly pumping the brakes, rather than locking up the tires, makes a big difference in stopping distance.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.