Performing a Boat Trailer Safety Inspection
Kevin Felts 06.28.18
Living close to one of the largest lakes in Texas, Sam Rayburn Reservoir (aka Lake Sam Rayburn), every year I see dozens of boat trailers on the side of the road. Typically, the trailer will have a flat tire, the truck pulling the trailer may be nowhere in sight. This usually means the boat owner did not have the needed equipment to change the flat tire.
Then there are the people who pull the boat trailer at night, and not a single trailer light works.
On top of that, there are the people who do not have a single safety chain between the vehicle and trailer.
Let’s take a few minutes and talk about boat trailers and the importance of a safety check.
Safety Chains and Lock
Safety chains go from the trailer to the vehicle and are supposed to cross each other. The chains make sure the trailer stays connected to the vehicle.
Around 1985 I was following a truck pulling a good sized boat. This was around a 20 foot long boat with a cabin. As we went through a wide, sweeping curve turn on the road, the trailer unhooked from the truck, continued on its path, narrowly missed someone standing on the side of the road, and hit a truck. The boat hit the truck with such force, the truck was spun 90 degrees.
If the boat had been 15 feet to one side, it would have hit the person standing on the side of the road.
Something else to help prevent the tongue from coming off the ball is to either put a lock on the tongue, or a safety pin. This helps prevent the latch from coming loose, which allows the boat to come off the ball.
Grease those wheel bearings, and grease them often. Those small wheel bearings are no meant to be pulled for hundreds of miles. The grease gets hot, and the seals may break. Broke seals allows water to get into the bearings.
Make sure the spare tire is in good shape. Have the right size tire tool to remove the lug nuts.
This may sound like common sense stuff, but the reader would probably be surprised at how many boat trailers I see going to, or leaving, Lake Sam Rayburn broke down with flat tires.
Some people pull their boat trailers until the tires fall apart. If the tires are dry-rotten, replace them, please.
This should be common sense, but it is amazing how many boat trailers I see that do not have working lights. These are either brake lights, running lights, blinkers, not working.
Just the other day there was a boat trailer being pulled through Jasper, Texas, and not a single trailer light worked. The boat was large enough that it blocked the truck lights. Thankfully, the trailer had strips of reflective material so the headlights on my vehicle reflected off the trailer.
Several years ago, I replaced the lights on my boat trailer. The connections were so corroded, no electricity was able to pass through them. After new lights were installed, they worked perfectly.
Take a few minutes and make sure the trailer lights work.
Tie Down Straps
Some states want the boat to be secured to the trailer not only by a wench strap, but also a safety chain. Then there the tie down straps at the back of the boat.
Several years ago I replaced the boat trailer wench and strap. It was probably the original strap and had been on the trailer for over a decade.
If the wench strap breaks, there is nothing holding the boat to the trailer.
A lot of this is common sense stuff, but for some reason it is overlooked. As mentioned earlier, I live a few miles from one of the largest lakes in Texas, and it is amazing how many boat trailer I see that is missing something on this list. Whether it is trailer lights not working, no safety chains, no lock on the latch, flat tires. It is almost a weekly thing to see.
When the fishing tournaments come to town, the problem becomes even more evident.