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Trailer Maintenance

Wheels:  -  The other week I had dropped my boat off to have some work done on the trailer, and as I was towing it noticed a "bumpity bumpity thump" noise and  feeling it through  the car.  As  I was  having  the tyres on the  car rotated, I took the wheels off the trailer and asked the garage to balance them:  bad news.

The treads  were not far coming off, and as they were not steel belted they couldn't be  balanced; one tyre  had a slice  out of it,  and the spare was a  different sized tyre.   So, two new  tyres, balanced, and the best of  the 'worst' kept for a spare:  but wow, what a difference to towing !

So, first  point; have you checked your trailer tyres for a) pressure, b) good tread, c) balance.

Tyre pressure is very important, and they should be checked regularly. If you  do not know  what it should  be, check with  your  local  tyre dealer,  remembering the weight  of boat  &  trailer  will  be  around 750/1000 kilos.  Why not paint the pressure on the mudguard ?

As the  wheels are off, now is a good time to strip the bearings down, thoroughly clean them  and re-grease with  a  high  speed,  waterproof  grease.  This should  be done regularly through the year, particularly if you often  immerse the wheels  while  the   bearings  are  hot  (ie; immediately after arrival.

This is also a good time to check the springs, and a recommendation is to liberally  coat them with a mixture of old sump oil and Kero; don't forget to put  thick wads of  newspaper under the  work so as  not  to spoil e)  the grass, f)  the garage floor !  Loose rust should be wire  brushed or hammered  off.  I actually  jacked the trailer frame, so as to take the tension off the springs to allow better penetration of the mixture.

Remember to  have the trailer  frame well blocked  in case  the  jacks should slip.

Lights:  -  do they work  ?  funny question,  but have you noticed how  many trailer lights don't ?

They should  be regularly checked,  and on a  boat trailer this should not be too  hard, as they  usually come right off the trailer, and you can lay them beside the car so you can see them from the drivers seat.

I was  recently checking the  lights on both boat trailers I have, and suddenly noticed that there were no brake lights; then I found the car  ones didn't work  either.  After a  check I found  the fuse had blown. but not before having stripped all the fittings and connectors.

I asked  about this at  my service  place,  and  the  service  manager immediately said that older connectors tended to ARC across the earth, and that this should be thorough cleaned, or a new connector fitted.

This also explained the dimming of the tail-lights on the trailer if a turning indicator was put on.

  • Tow-hitch:- have  you checked that  the bolts are  tight ?  what about the tow-ball on the car ?  is it well greased ?
  • Safety-chain:- I  have had a  longer one fitted, and put  a shackle  at  a  point that  it   fits  comfortably  onto   the tow-bar; the end  is just long enough to the other side  of the tow-bar,  where I padlock it to  the  car;  nothing  worse than coming back from a sail to find the trailer pinched !
  • Winch cable:-  I  suggest  that  this  should  be  regularly  checked, watching  particularly  for  broken  wires  and  rust  that  could  be potential trouble.   I wonder if  it would be  an an idea to treat the cable with a light machine oil or WD40.  Don't forget a drop of oil or grease on the winch bearings.
  • Chassis:   -   check  for  rust  and  treat  where  necessary  with  a rust-inhibitor, and paint with Kill-rust primer and finisher.
  • Dolly Wheel:- again, a drop of oil on the wheel bearings, and strip it down so  you can oil the internal screw; oil on the trailer screw will help too.  If a pump-up, check the tyre pressure.
  • Boat Detail:-  the A.Y.F.  regulations  require the name,  class, boat number and trailer  and/or towing vehicle  reg.  number to  be on  the trailer.  I have put this detail on paper (printed in large type on my computer)  and put it in a large size registration label holder, which is now besides the rego lable on the trailer.

David Boult  treats the end  section of his  trailer with  a  coat  of "McKay Marine  & Boat Trailer  Grease" obtainable from  Whitworths; he says it is  messy to put  on and for  5/6 weeks after application, but then goes quite  firm, and will  only come off  if really rubbed.   He trims up where necessary from time to time.

I have  noted  that  it  is  not  always advantageous  to use the full tilt on my trailer when  recovering  the  boat,  so have  bolted a length  of light chain to the front end  of my chassis,  and put a 1/4" hook on  the drawbar, so enabling a limited tilt.

  • Bolts &  Pins:  -  Check  for  tightness  and  split  pins  for  wear, particularly the tilt bolt & pivot pin.
  • Rollers:  -  Check for ease of running and any breadown of the rubber, lubricate with watreproof grease.
  • Rear end  of trailer:  -  a boat  can  be  badly  damaged  when  being recovered if  a wash or  chop lifts it  at the wrong time.  The end of your trailer should  be clear of  any unnecessary projections,  and  I have noticed that a number of owners have put timber guides across the rear frame  to minimise the  damage that a contact with metal will do. I have put  a strip of decking timber 'Balou', which is oily, on mine.

The victorian guide  suggests that these could be slightly 'Veed', not more than 10 degrees, to guide the boy onto the rear roller.

There are  very good points  on trailer design  and maintenance in the Victorian publication"The Hartley T.S.16 Cruising Guide, pg 75/78, and it may be an idea to see if we can publish it in a later Tillerscope.

Safe towing - Barrie Heath