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Idaho Fish and Game

Prepare Your Boat Trailer For The Boating Season

I understand it is 71 degrees in Boise as I write this. Hopefully the folks in Southern Idaho already have their boats ready for the boating season. Judging by the view outside, Panhandle boaters have some time yet to get prepared for the upcoming boating season. At the same time, it is not too early to be preparing for the great fishing, water skiing and other outdoor activities that lie ahead. Dave Crettoll, Boating Education Coordinator for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has some tips he passed on to me about boat trailers. He says they are among the most often neglected items when it comes to boating. I have added some of my own observations in an effort to provide a complete guide on preparing your boat for the boating season. Begin at the tongue of the trailer, checking the safety chain. The chain should be made of high quality heavy steel. Believe it or not, Dave has seen people with the decorative chains that are used to dress up chandeliers, on their boats! Anyone counting on these cheesy links to keep their boat attached to the truck could be very sorry. Make certain the chain, the point of attachment to the trailer, and the hooks are secure and that the chain is of the proper length. The chains should be long enough to cross under the tongue, but not so long they drag on the ground. The chains are crossed under the tongue so that if the ball attachment or coupling fail for any reason, the chains will cradle the tongue and keep the boat attached until you can get off the road to fix the problem. It is critical the chains are strong, secure, and properly applied to assure safety. Next, carefully look over the winch and the strap (preferred), cable or rope you use to winch your boat onto the trailer. These can wear and fray causing awful problems should they give way when you are trying to load your boat. Also, if you do not have a safety chain that connects from the trailer to a hook on the bow of your boat, install one. If you don't have one, you are betting on the strength of the strap, cable or rope from your winch to hold the backward pressure and weight of your boat as you tow it up hill or up boat ramps. The last thing you want is your boat sliding off the trailer onto dry ground because the method of attachment to the winch gave way. Check the bunkers and rollers. Make certain rollers are lubricated and turn freely so your boat will load and launch properly. Many bunkers are covered with carpeting. Check these for loose carpet tacks or nails that could quickly wear a hole in the hull of your aluminum boat as it vibrates down the road. Make sure wooden supports for bunkers are solid and replace them as needed. Check the hardware that attaches them for missing washers, missing nuts, or broken bolts. A broken metal bolt can puncture the hull and make it necessary to make an expensive and inconvenient repair Wheels, tires and bearings are next. Trailer tires are small in diameter, so they turn more revolutions per mile than your vehicle tires do, and they generate more heat. As a result, they wear out faster. Check for excessive wear and replace as needed. Also check the inflation regularly. Bearings are critical to safe trailering of your boat. Lubricate with marine and industrial corrosion control trailer bearing grease. Disassemble and check at least once per year, more often if you trailer long distances. Bearing buddies use continual pressure to force grease in the bearings and are a very smart option to reduce bearing failure. Check all wiring and lights. Bulbs tend to blow as they are submerged every time you launch your boat. Check them before the season and often throughout. Make certain you have a transom strap to keep the boat from bouncing on rough roads, and from sliding off the rollers or bunkers. While not required in Idaho, it is my understanding that transom straps are required by law in the state of Washington. Most manufacturers recommend against trailering outboard engines in the operating position, as this places excessive pressure on the transom. Follow the manufacturers guidelines, but most boat builders recommend the outboard be lifted and locked in an up position at least to some degree so the weight of the motor is ahead of or above the transom, rather than behind the transom. Your boat trailer carries a lot of weight and making sure it is ready for the season is essential. Nobody wants to be sitting on the side of the road watching other boats trailer by when the fish are biting! For information on Boater Education classes call the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Boating Education Coordinator Dave Crettol, at 769-1511, ext 349.