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Tips for Trailering/Towing a Boat

Information on trailering, launching and retrieving a boat



When you are pulling a trailer, one thing is undisputed. Trailer towing is a special situation which places demands on your driving skills, and on your tow vehicle. Here are a few basic tips that you should know in order to transport your boat and trailer safely, comfortably and without abusing the towing vehicle.

1. Weight Distribution

    - For optimum handling, the trailer must be properly loaded and balanced.

    - Keep the center of gravity (CG) low for best handling.

    - Approximately 60 percent of the boat's weight should be positioned on the front half of the trailer and 40 percent in the rear (within limits of tongue weight capacity).

    - The boat should also be balanced from side to side. If the vessel has side mounted fuel or water tanks and only one side is filled, then this will lend the rig to maneuver poorly. Proper balancing will also prolong the life of your trailers tires.

    - The boat should be firmly secured with at least two ratchet type straps, attached from the trailer to the stern eyes and one ratchet type strap from the trailer (to the rear), to the bow eye to keep the boat from shifting forward. The bow eye should also be attached to the trailer's winch which is mounted forward of the bow.

2. Before Starting

    - Before hooking up to the trailer, make sure your tow vehicle is full of oil and fuel. Remember, it is a lot easier to fuel your tow vehicle at a gas station without a boat and trailer attached. You should also make sure the vehicle has plenty of water in the radiator and fluid in the transmission. Towing a large load can often times heat up a motor and strain a transmission. If you haven't already done so, look into installing a transmission cooler on your tow vehicle.

    - Check the tow vehicle's tires for proper inflation. If you have a dual wheeled vehicle make sure there aren't any "hidden" flats.

    - Connect the safety chains, and if equipped, attach the safety brake chain.

    - Before starting out on a trip, practice turning, stopping and backing up your trailer in an area away from traffic. Make sure your mirrors give you ample vision around both sides of the boat and trailer and if not, look into getting modified mirrors for your tow vehicle.

    - Check the trailer's turn signal, running and brake lights.

    - Check the trailer's tires and make sure the lug nuts are tightened. A partially flat trailer tire will heat up and eventually disintegrate. And, losing a wheel can prove to be disastrous, especially if the loose wheel strikes another vehicle.

    - Double check that the boat is secured properly to the trailer.

    - Check the reservoir on the trailer's surge brakes.

    - Check the trailer's connection to the hitch to make sure it is fastened properly and latched. A pin, such as a cotter pin or a bolt should be placed through the latch itself to prevent it from coming loose or being undone by vandals while the vehicle is parked.

    - Check to make sure the trailer ball on your tow vehicle matches the coupler on your trailer. The three major sizes of trailer balls are: 1-7/8", 2", and 2-5/16". Make sure the ball is fastened properly to the tow vehicle and that the mounting will handle the capacity equal to or grater than the weight of the trailer and boat. If you have a receiver type hitch, make sure the insert (the bar the ball attaches to) is secured with a retaining pin and that it has a locking clevis pin on it.

3. Backing

    - Back slowly with someone outside the rear of the trailer to guide you.

    -Place one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move it in the direction you want the trailer to go.

    - Make small steering inputs. Slight movements of the steering wheel result in a greater movement at the rear of the trailer.

    - Use your mirrors. Always watch both sides of the trailer.

4. Braking

    - Allow considerably more distance for stopping with a boat and trailer attached.

    - If you have a manual brake controller, lead with the trailer brakes first, if possible. To correct trailer side-sway, touch the manual trailer brakes with out activating the tow vehicles brakes.

    - Be sure to steer as straight as possible when stopping a rig. Turning while making a radical stop can cause the tow vehicles rear end to be pushed forward of the front. This is called "jackknifing".

5. Downgrades And Upgrades

    - Downshifting assists braking on downgrades and provides added power at the drive wheels for climbing hills.

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