Summer is gone and our toys are waiting for a well deserved round of maintenance. Especially here on Amelia Island, Florida we experienced a magnificent summer. The weather was beyond great with temperatures right at average for the season with few weekends disrupted by rain or wind.
The fishing was spectacular to say the least, and depending on who you talk to, it could be¬†considered as the best fishing summer in many years. Offshore, inshore and in between saw record catches and quantities that would make even the most seasoned fisherman jealous. Now that the temperatures have begun to cool and the full hints of fall are felt both day and night, many boaters have slowed from using their crafts with the frequency they did during the summer, changing their thoughts from fishing to hunting. While this is something that is experienced every year during the fall, it leaves the questions of what needs to be done to your boat and trailer to ensure they are both in good condition come springtime.
Most boaters have little-to-no issues when it comes to maintaining their boats, however when it comes to trailers most have no clue as to what to look for or how to address problems or potential problems. The boat trailer is one of the most important components of your whole rig; it is what your entire investment is riding on. Here are a few areas to keep a close eye on when performing winter maintenance on your trailer.
*Trailer tires on any boat trailer are a special grade of tire that is designed specifically for trailers. They are rated for different weight loads and have tread patterns that are corrected for being pulled by a vehicle. Trailer tires are still very susceptible to punctures much like any other tire, however they are much thicker. Start your maintenance with looking over the tire for signs of nails, punctures or bulges. If any are noted address them immediately at a tire center. View the tire both inside and out for cracking or dry rot. This will happen to any tire over a period of time and can only be rectified by replacement.
*Hubs and wheel assemblies. Hubs and bearings are the inner workings of the wheel assembly that allow the tire to spin freely. They are composed of a series of bearings and seals that keep debris, water and other foreign bodies from entering this sensitive area. While it is impossible to determine the true state of a wheel assembly, there are signs to watch for. First look for grease that may be leaking in and around the inside of the hub. This is a sure way of knowing your seals have gone bad. Jack up the trailer and spin the wheel by hand listening for grinding or rough operation. With a tire wrench remove the lug nuts from the tire and apply marine grease to the threads. If you find any issues with the hubs on either side, get them addressed immediately by a tire shop.
*Tong coupler. Visually inspect the trailers tong coupler for rust or signs of failure. Check the tension when locking the trailer on the tow vehicles ball and the effort it takes to remove it. Proper tension should be with very little play when it is secured and when removing, it should not take three of your friends to get it off. Keep the locking mechanism lubricated with a white lithium grease at all times.
*Springs and axles. These two components normally have a life span of 3-7 years depending on the use. Visually inspecting these parts is OK, but at least once a year you need to crawl under the trailer with a small ballpeen hammer and test rust and potential for failure. When you start to find excessive rust, make plans to have these parts replaced. Although springs and axles are typically not galvanized, you can still help protect them from the elements by applying a marine grade grease every few months or so. This will not make them impervious to corrosion but it will help in slowing down the rust process.
*Trailer lights and 12V wiring. This is a real issue for anyone who owns a boat and is an area that normally requires lots of attention. First I would strongly recommend the newer LED lights as they are a completely sealed unit. Next make sure all the connections on your trailer wiring are kept protected by marine grade grease. Lastly, identify the grounding bolt for your trailer wiring and make sure this area stays free from corrosion and rust.
*U-bolts and hangers. The hardware that holds your trailer bunks and brackets need to be loosened at least every season and treated with marine grade grease. If you notice that excessive rusting has occurred, make arrangements to get these replaced. Remember there is a lot of weight riding on your trailer and these bolts and hangers are feeling the bulk of it.
Taking care of your boat trailer is not a hard task. Taking a few hours once or twice a year shouldn’t be asking to much to keep this vital part of your overall rig in good working condition.