While it is possible to keep your boat in-water at a rented boat dock long-term, chances are you’re going to need to trailer it at some point, either to move it up and down the boat ramp to move from one location to another for boating, or to take it elsewhere for trailering. If you have an old, worn-down trailer, you’re going to run into snags, frustrating circumstances, and may even find yourself in an unsafe situation or two, which is why your boat trailer plays a vital role in your boat ownership experience. By taking care of your boat trailer, you extend its life and save yourself some money by preventing things like corrosion, rust build-up, low-tire pressure, and burnt-out bulbs that would otherwise cost you or delay your day out on the water. If you are unsure of how to take care of your boat trailer, here are some helpful maintenance tips.

Which Boat Trailer Parts Need Maintenance for Smooth Operation?

There are 5 areas on a boat trailer that need ongoing maintenance, as they can wear down over time, gather rust and debris, or mechanically fail if not kept in tip-top shape. These 5 areas include your brakes; tires, wheels, and axle; electrical connections; bunks and rollers; and your safety chains and straps.

  1. Boat Trailer Brakes: there are two distinct types of boat trailer brakes: disc-type brake pads and drum-type brake shoes. They both wear down with regular use and must be checked at least once a year when doing your seasonal maintenance check. If you have a very light trailer, check to see if you have brakes on it, as some don’t come with brakes. A trailer that can transport anything larger than a kayak, canoe, or small Jon boat will typically have brakes.
    Maintenance tips include:

    1. Check your brake lines for rust, as rust build-up needs to be removed.
    2. Check your brake fluid (found in the master cylinder) and either replace or top-up.
    3. Lubricate the trailer coupler assembly. This is the part that goes over the hitch ball and tongue jack.
    4. Always rinse your brakes after use, as debris and particles from the water can harm them or corrode them faster if left on. This is especially true for use in saltwater.
  2. Tires, Wheels, and Axel: boat trailer tires are filled with air; therefore they will lose pressure over time. You must check the tire pressure at least once a month to ensure your boat is safe when you hook up for transport. If the air pressure is too low, then they can blow out, causing an accident on the roadway.

    The wheels also need cleaning of any built-up road grime/debris on an annual basis (or more often if needed). If there’s enough build-up that it looks like the wheel might fall off, then consider having them professionally serviced by taking them in for balancing and rotation every couple of years to save yourself time and hassle later down the line. It’s also a good idea to check your wheel bearings to ensure that there is no rust on them. These are a major cause of trailers breaking down in transit.
    Maintenance tips include:

    1. Always check your tire pressure before hitting the road.
    2. Check your tire tread for cracks in the rubber.
    3. Check your tire tread for uneven wear and tear. If present, your axle is out of alignment.
    4. 6+ old tires? Replace them.
    5. If you hear squeaking while moving, your bearings require replacing.
    6. Keep a spare tire, jack, and tools in case you break down.
    7. If bearings feel hot to touch or make noise while the trailer is jacked up, they need to be looked at and possibly replaced.
    8. If your dust cover comes off without warning, this is from excessive pressure build-up and rising heat temperatures.
    9. Is there grease on the boat bottom near the wheels – check your bearings.
  3. Electrical Connections: it is always important to triple-check your lights and electrical connections before taking the trailer out. The electrical system operates your brakes, and it ensures that you remain safe when coming home after dark.
    Maintenance tips include:

    1. Always keep spare bulbs on hand in your vehicle or boat.
    2. Prevent corrosion of the trailer light connection by keeping it covered when not in use.
  4. Bunks and Rollers: the bunks are what you use to secure the boat (and its trailer) with tie-down straps; whereas rollers can be used for either securing or launching, depending on where they are placed. Bunks need annual maintenance so that they remain securely attached. If there is faded paint around any of these areas, this may mean that there is corrosion developing underneath, so get it checked out.
  5. Boat Trailer Safety Chains and Straps: these are what you use to transport the boat safely, with no chance of it falling off during transport. They should be checked for any signs of wear or damage at least once a year.

By following the tips above, you can keep your boat trailer in good working order, and your wallet a little happier. With a little planning and maintenance, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the driveway, or waiting at a boat lift with a flat tire or burnt-out tail lights. Instead, you can enjoy your day out on the water!