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If your boat is kept on a trailer, don't procrastinate; here's what you need to do before the cold weather sets in.
The BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files show that a boat on a trailer is more likely to be damaged in an early freeze than a boat in the water. Here’s how to avoid that.
Top Off Fuel Tanks. Tanks should be full (but leave some room for the gas to expand), which minimizes explosive fumes and helps prevent phase separation if the gasoline contains ethanol. Add stabilizer to keep the gasoline from losing its kick. Also consider one of the many ethanol treatments available.
Batteries. If you can do it, charge them fully, remove from the boat, and store in a warm place. Coat the posts and terminals with WD-40 to keep corrosion from interrupting a connection.
Outboards and I/Os. Look at your owner’s manual for specific winterizing instructions. With four-stroke outboards and sterndrive inboards, you’ll need to change the crankcase oil and possibly filters. Before changing the oil, use a screw-on attachment or a muff to get
cooling water to the lower unit so that you can run the engine and lower the oil’s viscosity.
Note: When you loosen the drain plug, watch for water or a creamy-colored liquid, which indicates a seal needs replacing. Sometimes, metal shavings can be seen, which also require professional attention. Various devices for changing oil as well as muffs are available at West Marine, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.
To winterize the raw-water-cooling system, use the garden hose to bring the engine back up to operating temperatures. Shut the engine off and connect the hose to a bucket of nontoxic antifreeze (a handy kit for winterizing lower units is available at West Marine). Start the engine, which will pull the antifreeze through the cooling system until you see it come out the exhaust. Running the engine before you add antifreeze opens the thermostat so that antifreeze will get into all the cooling passages. As an alternative, you can also remove the thermostat. Just before the bucket of antifreeze is empty, squirt a fogging spray into the carburetor (if the engine has one), which should stall the engine. If not, turn off the ignition. To deter theft, smaller outboards are safer in your garage.
Inboards. Change the oil and filters. The method of winterizing the cooling system is similar to I/Os but is done by disconnecting the intake hose and placing it in a bucket of nontoxic antifreeze. The transmission fluid should be drained and new gear oil added.
Remove the Removables. If electronics can be removed, do so and consider using a dielectric grease or spray on your connections to counter corrosion. If you keep registration information onboard, take it inside for the winter. Remove throw cushions, too, to prevent mildew buildup. Prop up any seat cushions so air can circulate on both top and bottom. Remove life jackets, anchor lines, and dock lines for the same reason. Open any rod lockers and live well compartments, and hang a mildew-control bag.
Inspect the Inspectables. This is the right time to take a look at expiration dates of any flares as well as the charging status of fire extinguishers. It is always better to discover out-of-date equipment when at home on land than when you need them or when the DNR or Coast Guard has just come alongside while on the water, asking to do an inspection. While you are in this mode, bring the first aid kit inside and replace bandages that may have become wet or medical supplies that have expired.
Tires aren't exciting, until something goes wrong. Then, tires become the topic of the day. Here are some tire basics so that your tires will always be, well, tiresome.
A tire’s sidewall is where you learn everything: dimensions, capacities, age, and most important, purpose. A tire made for a boat trailer is going to have “ST” on the sidewall, or the words “Trailer Use Only.” Unlike tires on your car, trailer tires have strengthened sidewalls to handle the weight of a boat, especially when rounding corners.
Trailer tires are either bias ply or radial. Bias-ply sidewalls are stiffer, less expensive than radials, and are preferred if the trailer isn’t used for long trips. If you take long trips, then radials are a better choice because there’s reduced heat buildup as compared to bias ply, greater load capacity, and less road noise. Use all bias ply or all radials; never mix them.
Check inflation prior to going on the road when the tires are cold. The tire pressure measured in pounds per square inch (psi) will increase as the tire heats up when used. BoatUS Trailer Assist service providers say tires are the main reason they’re called to help members experiencing trouble on the road. Under inflation is the cause of most tire trouble because temperatures increase when the tire pressure is too low. So, check inflation prior to going on the road. It’s marked on your tire. Remember, boat trailer tires typically need to be inflated to higher psi than tow vehicle tires. And be sure to also check the psi of the spare tire.
Every tire has a load range, and trailer tires are no different. Marked on the sidewall, the load range runs from the lightest weight the tire can carry (Load Range B) to the heaviest (Load Range E). Load range is a measure of an individual tire’s maximum capacity to carry a boat and trailer. Most boat trailer tires have a load range of B, C, or D. If a tire has load range C, it can carry 1,820 pounds. If it’s on a single-axle trailer, this means both tires can carry a total of 3,640 pounds, which includes the weight of the trailer, the boat, the engine, fuel, and anything else inside the boat. Single-axle trailers can carry 100 percent of the load rating. Double-axle trailers require the load be reduced by 12 percent. As load range increases, psi increases. Read More
For trailer boaters in the north, these are happy times. The shrinkwrap or the familiar blue tarp is finally coming off after months of snow and rain and below freezing temperatures. There is anticipation and excitement about getting back on the water.
For the trailer boaters in the south who have enjoyed a winter of activity, today may just be another day in paradise. But both perspectives from both locations require some questions to be asked. In the north it's the result of getting ready for a season. In the south it's because safety requires a routine inspection of operating systems. Perform these checkpoints and the chances of a breakdown will decrease.
(1)Tires: Inflate to the proper PSI and inspect for spider web cracks on the sidewall. If present, then it's time to replace them. Look at the tread and measure it's depth. If less than 2/32nd's of an inch, the tread is considered worn. Also inspect the spare. And if you don't have a spare, get one. If your trailer tires sat outside with your trailer, consider removing them and putting the trailer on blocks next year. Remember that most trailer tires need replacing not because of use, but because the trailer tends to sit for long periods.
(2) Frame: You are going to have to get on your back and crawl under the trailer to look for corrosion and rust. Keep in mind that once an area begins to corrode, it is only going to get worse until sanding removes it. And when it comes to removing rust, there is no time like the present.
(3) Lights: Plug the trailer into the tow vehicle's electrical system and turn the vehicle on. Put the lights on and inspect if any bulbs or lenses need replacing. This is a moment where you are going to need a second person to tell you if the trailer brake lights come on when the brakes on the tow vehicle are applied and if backup lights come on when the tow vehicle in placed in reverse. This is also a good time to make sure you have the appropriate bulbs in your tool kit for replacement should it become necessary on the road.
(4) Bunks/Rollers: Inspect the bunks for wear on the carpeting or on the rubber padding that is beneath the carpet. Some trailer boaters spray a silicon coating on the bunks to make the surface easier to slide the boat on and off. Roller should be turned individually to determine if any have locked. Inspect the rollers for wear and remember when it comes to rollers that are worn, there is no time like the present to replace them. Poly rollers last a lot longer than their rubber counterparts.
(5) Safety Chains: Inspect for wear and check the S hooks for possible bending. It is a good idea to replace the S hooks with screw-pin shackles that have a wire running through the pin's eye. It provides a connection that is considerably more reliable and solid than S hooks.
(6) Bearings: Inspect the grease in the hubs. There is no time like the present to replace the grease, especially if the trailer has spent a winter outside in dampness. Inspect the grease seal and if you (or the shop) decides it needs to be replaced, make sure a double lip seal is installed. Inspect the bottom of the boat or the inside of the trailer tires for grease. If it's present, the bearings are in need of attention now.
(7) Brakes: As is the case with bearings, if you aren't sure about what to do, take the trailer to the shop and let an expert do the work. The result will be peace of mind (and good bearings and brakes). Check the fluid level in the master cylinder but be sure to clear away debris around the cap before opening it so as not to contaminate the fluid. If it is low, you may have to bleed the system to get air out of the lines. Pull the wheel and inspect the disc/drum to see if new pads/shoes are required.
(8) Tool Kit: Go through your tool kit and make sure the proper wrenches and screwdrivers are packed. Make sure you have a trailer jack that fits your trailer as well as blocks that can be used to support your tow vehicle's rear wheels.
(9) Winch: Inspect the cable looking for broken wires or worn areas. Clean and lubricate the winch. Make sure you have a strong tie down for the bow as well as the stern of the boat and that both are properly secured to the trailer.
(10) Hitch: Apply grease to the ball and inspect the hitch locking mechanism.
William R. Gongaware teaches engineering technology at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond,Virginia. Here, this BoatU.S. Trailering Club Member offers some practical advice on how to gauge tongue weight. Bill and his two assistants (grand children) explain how it's done using a little bit of engineering and a lot of common sense.
If someone came up to you right now and asked "what's the tongue weight on your trailer," would you be able to tell them? And would it be correct? Do you even know what it means? Being able to answer these questions is important. Being able to get those answers is as close as your trailer and bathroom scale.
Tongue weight is just what it says: The weight of the trailer tongue on the hitch. It should be 5-10% of the weight of the trailer and boat fully loaded (including gas and, if applicable, outboard engine). If it is too light, the trailer will sway from side to side or surge forward and backward while being pulled. If the tongue weight is too heavy, the tow vehicle will be difficult to handle and, after a while, you will see excessive wear on the rear tires. Read More
If you trailer your boat, then you need to know a few steps about pulling it. Peter Tartarilla is a GMC Truck Sales and Service expert in West Palm Beach, Florida and has been selling tow vehicles for 19 years. When he isn't at work at GMC, he's an Offshore Powerboat Race Team Member who, sometimes, tows the boats to the next race site. Obviously, he knows about tow vehicles and here, he tells you the questions you need to ask when going on the showroom floor.
Putting the truck before the boat is like putting the cart before the horse. Too many people today are guilty of this error and it will cost some of you big $$$$. If you buy too much truck, that could kill you. There is a right way to buy a tow vehicle and I hope to give you a few good pointers.
First, of course, you should at least have an idea of what your boat, trailer, and all accessories are going to weigh. If the terms GVWR and GCWR are unfamiliar to you then pay close attention.
GVWR or gross vehicle weight rating is the allowed weight your vehicle and the load it can carry.
GCWR or gross combined weight rating is the amount of weight your vehicle can carry (gas, passengers, luggage, boat, trailer and fuel for the boat) combined. I'm not going to talk brand-specific, but here at GMC our motto is "just enough is never enough." Think about your boating future as you are deciding on the Tow-vehicle. If your plans are to start small and trade up in the near future, then go for overkill on the vehicle and you will be ready for the next boat without having to trade trucks as well. Of course those of us in the business make money each time you trade.
Choosing the brand and the dealer is a very important step in the process. You should look for a dealer who has a REAL truck department and does commercial as well as retail sales. If it were I, I'd also try to find a Truck advisor who is also a boater or RV'er. First hand experience is a great plus. More than a third of the heavy-duty pickup customers buy their trucks because they trailer their boats. Your boat dealer may be able to help you with a recommendation. I personally belong to the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and do business on a regular basis with boat dealers, yacht builders, and marine suppliers. Once you have decided on the make, model, and the dealer we move on to the equipment. Engines, transmissions, axle ratio. Gas or diesel? Why, which and what. Read More
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