Ramp It UP!

You'll spend hours of your trailerable life sliding up and down a ramp, so make sure you've got the inside track with these tips.

Photo of launching a boat off a trailer

Slip Sliding Away

When launching in an extremely low tide or at a shallow ramp, if you can't back up far enough to float the boat, you can still get it off the trailer by "skidding" it. While a friend holds a bow line, pull the truck and trailer up the ramp 10 or 15 feet, then allow the tow vehicle to roll back down the ramp until the tires hit the water. Abruptly apply the brakes, and momentum will keep the boat moving. Obviously, you'll want to do this with care, and only try to skid the boat back a foot or two at a time until it's moved enough to back off under power.

Set, And Forget

On a warm sunny day (and at a quiet ramp), don a pair of swim shorts and submerge your trailer at different depths until you find out which is ideal for launching your boat. Then, wade out with a Sharpie, and mark the water level on the trailer. When you get home, make the mark clearer with some bright paint. In the future, there won't be any more guesswork; just back down until the paint marks hit the water, and you'll know you have it right.

Less Friction

If you're using a trailer with carpet covered bunks, liquid soap or paraffin wax on the bunks makes it easier to slide your boat on and off.

Boat-Ramp Etiquette

Always pull out of the way, prior to launching, to install drain plugs, put on lines, and load gear. That way, you won't clog up the ramp getting ready, while better-prepared boaters have to wait.

Timing Is Everything

Never pull into a ramp at the end of the day, tie up to the dock, and sit there blocking access for everyone else while your driver gets the tow vehicle. Instead, nose up to a pier, drop the driver, then back off and circle 100 yards or so away while you wait. This practice speeds up the process for everyone.

Eyes In The Back Of Your Head

A rear back-up camera takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you'll match up the ball and tongue in no time.

Galvanized, Aluminum, Or Stainless Trailer?

Galvanized is the most cost effective, aluminum is lighter but more expensive, and stainless steel looks like a million bucks and costs proportionately. Weight savings and looks can't trump the inherent value and usability of simple galvanized. They're everywhere, so buying used is easier.

Line Her Up!

To help line up your receiver hitch and coupling, place a piece of brightly colored tape on your rear window above the hitch. Put another piece on the trailer winch above the coupling. When the pieces of tape line up, you're aligned.

Strap Flap

When using a transom strap, put a few twists in it. This won't weaken the strap, but it will prevent it from flapping back and forth in the wind, which can wear on the boat's fiberglass. 

— Published: Fall 2013

Stop Spinning Your Wheels

  • If you've got a 4WD vehicle, now's the time to put it in 4WD Low.
  • On a slippery/wet ramp, accelerate slowly so as not to break the traction of the drive wheels in the first place.
  • On a dry ramp, if your wheels spin at slow speed, you can increase rpm (burn-out) once, very briefly to heat the tires and get them sticky, for added traction.
  • Put additional weight over the drive wheels that are spinning. Loading the back seat of an SUV or the bed of a pickup can help.
  • Unless you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle, increase tongue weight (hence more bumper weight/weight over wheels) by winching the boat all the way up if possible.
  • If a front-wheel-drive vehicle spins, try decreasing the tongue weight; too much tongue weight makes the front of the tow vehicle lighter so that it loses traction.
  • Scrape the ramp in front of the rear-drive wheels. Add sand if it's handy, perhaps from a nearby beach.
  • If none of the above works, deflate the traction tires to create more surface area for the tires to grip the ramp. Re-inflate to proper pressure before traveling.
  • Have a fellow boater with tow vehicle attach a strap (rated for vehicle recovery) to pull both.
  • Remove the boat from the trailer and drive up the ramp without the boat on the trailer. Reposition the trailer and tow vehicle on the ramp, or choose a different "lane" if that's an option. Sometimes ramps at the end of the concrete pad are washed out from people power loading, and there's quite a drop-off where the concrete ends. The trailer wheels can get hung-up here, so repositioning without the boat on the trailer may help.




  • On-the-road assistance for your trailer and vehicle
  • Only $38 Annually! ($24 Membership + $14 TRAILER ASSIST)