Marine News from the Great Lakes

How To Properly Winterize Your Boat Trailer

Published: Monday, September 2, 2019
By: Megan Meisler, Co-Owner of Loadmaster Trailer Co. Ltd.

When boating season starts to wind down, most Great Lakes boaters begin the process of winterizing their boat. Whether they have to prepare the boat for winter storage or for the long trek down south if they are fortunate enough to be “snow birds”, the boat needs to be properly maintained. The mental checklist begins with all the proper mechanics to ensure the boat is safely taken care of for its winter months, whatever that entails. Unfortunately, many people fail to provide the same love to their boat trailer. Boat trailers need time and attention as well to ensure they remain in strong working condition.

Below is a list of some key items to maintain regardless of whether the trailer will be sitting all winter in storage or you’ll be towing your boat to warmer weather:

Lug Nuts: Always make sure the lug nuts are torqued to the proper foot pounds as requested per the tire manufacturer’s specifications.

Tire Pressure: Be sure you set the tire pressure to the maximum inflation rating per the tire’s specifications. You always want to set radial tires to the maximum psi. Most requested PSI ratings are a cold inflation rating so be sure to set them after the trailer has rested and cooled.

Tire Wear: Check the condition of your tires multiple times a year. Check for any indication of dry rot or poor tread/balding tires. If you store the trailer outdoors, it is a good idea to cover all the tires and wheels to help prolong their life by reducing the effects of dry rot caused by sun exposure.

Greasing the Bearings: Adequately grease your bearings after your last boating trip in the fall to ensure you remove all the condensation and moisture build up before storing the boat and trailer for the year. Remember to remove the old grease out of the dust cap before putting the rubber plug back on (if applicable).

Trailer Frame: Is your trailer frame structurally sound? Are the cross members, vertical uprights, and axles all strong? If your trailer is manufactured out of tube steel, be aware that moisture can get trapped in the frame, which allows it to rust from the inside out. If you are showing signs of external rust where the cross members attach to the frame rails, or down in the middle where the axles and cross members bow down, that is a strong indication there are issues with the internal strength of the trailer. You will want to have it structurally tested to ensure a cross member or frame rail does not snap/break on you.

Bunks/Rollers: Are your bunks or rollers strongly attached to the trailer? Be sure you tighten any loose nuts or bolts to prevent damage to the boat or issues with loading the boat on the trailer. Also, check to make sure the wood underneath the carpet of the bunks is not rotting away.

Check all Electrical Connections: Are your lights and brakes working properly? Be sure to check that all connections are free of signs of corrosion or rust and that all lights are functioning perfectly. Similarly, be sure to test the trailer brakes.

Traveling with the boat this winter?

  • Please be sure to properly tie your boat down to the trailer, securely. Many people are diligent at tying the boat down in the rear but fail to do so up front. If you have a bow eye in the front, the easiest way to safely tie your boat down is to take a strong ratchet strap and attach it to the bow eye of the boat. Then, go straight down to the tongue of the trailer underneath and attach the other end of the ratchet. This helps to keep the boat securely attached to the trailer in case of an emergency when towing.
  • Always be sure to bring a lug wrench and/or torque wrench with you when towing.
  • Remember to bring extra grease. I usually recommend people carry an extra set of bearings as well.
  • Pull all necessary permits you may need. There is a company called Highway Permits that can answer any questions you have for towing in the United States: 888-731-0312. In Canada, you will want to contact Transport Canada with questions.
  • Always carry a good quality spare tire and wheel with you, as well as a proper jack.

Imagining the end of our short lived boating season on the Great Lakes is sad, really sad. It truly does seem to pass by more quickly each year. That’s why it is even more important that when you pull your boat out of the lake for the season, you are equipped with the information you need to protect your boat and your trailer so that your next season can be launched with peace of mind.

Do you have a question on trailering or boat trailers? Please feel free to email me at [email protected].

tags: Hauling, Service & Repair, Trailers, Travel, Winterization


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