Fishermen depend on their boat trailer to get them to and from the boat ramp and is just as important to their fishing success as their fishing tackle.
The driver next to me at the red light rolled down his window and shouted, "your left trailer light is out"!
I have even had some fellow drivers tell me that all of my trailer lights were out as they drove by, at a stoplight, or a stop sign.
And even on one occasion my boat trailer was shouting at me, as I was trailering my boat from Texas to my home state of Florida! The commanding words came in the way of violent vibrations transmitted from a bad wheel bearing, through the boat trailer's frame, right up to the steering wheel that I was gripping.
However I really was frustrated on one occasion when I began to back my boat and trailer down the boat ramp when my trailer brakes came on!
On yet another occasions, my trailer actually came off from the trailer hitch, causing the boat and trailer to jump up and down in my rear view mirror, attempting to break itself free from the safety chains!
As you can see, I have experienced several instances with boat trailers, which have threatened to spoil my day of fishing. And like most fishermen, I have learned how to avoid many of these trailer failures by applying good sound maintenance to my boat trailer.
Trailer lights that don't work can be a major problem, particularly when trailering your boat after dark. Many of the trailer manufactures are using pre-made wiring harnesses for their boat trailers. Once the trailer has been constructed, the pre-made wiring harness is easily attached to the frame of the trailer and connected to the trailer lights.
These pre-fabricated trailer wiring harnesses are often put together with special plastic wire connectors, that simply open up to except two or three wires that are to be connected, then snapped closed. As the connector is closed a sharp metal connector pierces the wires, making contact with two or more wires.
These plastic connectors are not waterproof however and after the trailer is dunked into saltwater a few times, the wires and connectors begin to corrode.
Now when I purchase a new boat trailer, I also purchase new wire butt connectors that are assembled with heat shrink tubing already on the connectors. The plastic wire connectors are replaced with the new watertight heat-shrink butt connectors. Taking it a step further, I will also fill the ends of the butt connectors with "Liquid Tape" before connecting the wires. Next a cigarette lighter is used to heat the rubber connector, causing the rubber to shrink snuggly over the butt connector.
This type of trailer-wire connection is extremely waterproof. More importantly, you will have the ease of mind that the likelihood of a fellow motorist rolling down his window and shouting to you that your trailer lights are not working, are very slim.
You will also at the same time, avoid having your trailer brakes coming on when you begin to back your boat down the boat ramp.
In some cases, the solenoid that operates the trailer brakes fails and will need to be replaced. Most trailers come with a small piece of metal that fits between the trailer hitch and the main trailer frame. When the brakes come on because of bad wiring or a faulty solenoid, this mall piece of metal stops the brakes from locking up and allows the boater to back up his boat trailer.
Trailer brakes may also become locked up because of excessive corrosion between the brake shoes and the brake drums. This normally happens when the trailer sits for a long period of time and isn't used. Make sure that your trailer is equipped with a brake wash down system, which allows a freshwater hose to be hooked up to your boat trailer. Once the water is turned on, the brake drums and system is washed and flushed with freshwater.
Boaters can also purchase spare trailer light bulbs that are manufactured in plastic housings, that simply snaps into your existing trailer light assembly. Simply take off the brake light cover and see which light bulbs or light bull assembly works for your trailer lights and store them in your tow vehicle. I also recommend for brake light assemblies that simply snap in, to have on hand butt connectors that are manufactured with heat shrink material and liquid tape for a waterproof connection.
Spare fuses should also be stored in your tow vehicle as well. Often times when a trailer light bulb or wire shorts out, this surge of voltage will also blow a fuse. Become acquainted where your tow vehicle's fuse box location and where your stoplight, turn signal and tail light fuses are located before you have to find them in the dark and along a heavily traveled highway.
It looked as though a few years ago when oil bath bearings were introduced for boat trailers, that bearing failure was a thing of the past. However many boat manufactures have gone back to grease packed bearing hubs.
The idea of lubricating the trailer bearings with heavy duty bearing oil was an excellent one, however the hub seals were not able to keep the precious oil in the hubs and were leaking. These bad seals ultimately caused bearing failure. Now most trailer manufactures have gone back to grease packed bearing hubs.
Spare trailer tires should also include a spare hub, which can conveniently mount to the frame of your boat trailer. When a trailer tire goes flat, or bearing fails, the whole unit can be easily replaced in a few minutes. Many serious king mackerel teams are purchasing boat trailers with two spare tires, rims and bearings attached to their trailer frames.
Taking this a step further, storage boxes can be mounted to the frame of the boat trailer, just behind the trailer coupling where trailer tools and equipment can be stored. Here boaters can store trailer jacks, bearing grease, grease guns, spare fuses, lug wrenches, liquid tape, flares and tools.
Another trailer problem surfaces when trailer bunks are not properly maintained. And when the protective carpet begins to wear off from the trailer bunks, the gel coat and fiberglass on the bottom of the boat are often damaged.
Excessive wear on the bunks can come from loading and unloading your boat improperly. And in many cases the boater is not backing the trailer far enough down in the water where the boat can be backed off the trailer easily.
This can be avoided by having someone in your boat to back the boat off from the trailer, as you back your boat deep into the water. You should avoid launching a large boat single handily.
A good way to preserve your trailer bunks, is to occasionally apply dish detergent on the bunks. The dish soap actually lubricates the carpet on the bunks, allowing your boat to load and unload from the trailer without damage to the carpet and the bottom of your fishing boat.
Fishermen should also avoid backing your boat trailer too far into the water and then unhooking the wench without a safety rope that is attached to the bow cleat of the boat and trailer. This often results in the boat slipping off from the trailer into the lake, river, or ocean, without a navigator!
The height of your trailer hitch is also very critical both to safe trailering and launching your boat. If the trailer hitch is too low, the bottom of your trailer will scrap the crown of the boat ramp, causing damage to your trailer. Trailer hitches can be purchased that will raise the height of your trailer at the tongue, avoiding this annoying problem.
Another dangerous problem when trailering, comes when your boat is not loaded evenly on the trailer. Too much weight on the rear of the trailer will cause the boat and trailer to "Fishtail". This can become a dangerous situation when driving down a steep hill at a high rate of speed. Here the improperly loaded boat will begin to jerk the rear of your tow vehicle back and forth violently. When this happens, do not jam on the brakes, which will increase the fish tailing. Instead slow your vehicle down slowly with the brakes, while steering your tow vehicle in a straight direction. Over compensating with the steering wheel will also increase the fish tailing.
A good tip here includes once you have purchased a new boat and you are driving it to the ramp, or your home, drive slowly at first. Slowly increase the speed and then slow down to see if there is any fish tailing in your trailer. Believe me you do not want to experience a violent case of fish tailing for the first time when you are driving down a mountain road at seventy miles per hour!
Normally fish tailing begins to occur at speeds of over 55-miles per hour.
Finally make sure your tow vehicle is equipped with heavy-duty brakes, particularly when towing a large boat. If your boat trailer is not equipped with brakes on every axle, have them installed!