Tires: Where Rubber MeetsPublished: Fall 2013
Pay attention to your tires — that thin layer of rubber can make the difference between a day on the water and a day by the side of the road.
Tire SOS Kit
I carry a tire "ramp," air pump, tool kit, and wrenches. For longer trips I include a tire plug kit, kneeling pad, 1/2-inch breaker bar with deep lug socket, Li-Ion battery impact wrench, 1/2-inch torque wrench, flags and flares, 20-ton bottle jack, and first aid kit. All this is a result of thinking about what I wished I had in the truck after changing a tire. I also include 16-ounce red plastic beer cups and hose clamps that will work as a temp fix for a lost dust cover on a hub.
Calling For Help
When calling BoatUS Roadside Assistance to fix a bearing or a tire, it's helpful to know your bearing, tire, and wheel size so they can bring the proper parts with them and get you back on your way quickly.
That flat tire you'll inevitably get one day will derail you if you have a single axle. My triple axle has had flats and I didn't even know it until a passing motorist waved me over. The more axles you have, the safer you are, and the easier it is to back up. Plus, single axles are notoriously squirrelly. Triple axles are forgiving and easy to correct. For larger trailerable boats, I'd say dual axle is a fair compromise. But I wouldn't trade my triple axle.
Sunscreen For Tires
Protect your sunny-side trailer tire (and spare) from the sun to avoid ultraviolet damage and dry rot, which significantly shorten the life of the tires. I use an old garbage can top, but you can use anything — commercial tire covers, plywood. Improvise!
Don't ever purchase a tire for your trailer that isn't specifically rated for a trailer. It will typically indicate either "Trailer Use Only" or be stamped with "ST," which stands for "Special Trailer."
Extend tire life by removing tires and storing them inside if your trailer will be unattended for long periods of time. This will also prevent theft of the boat and trailer.
Use a non-contact thermometer for checking tire and hub temperatures.
Carry A Spare
The most common call for BoatUS roadside assistance is for trailer tire problems, so always carry a properly sized tire mounted on the rim, inflated and ready to go. You'll also need a jack of adequate capacity and a proper-sized lug wrench.
When buying a trailer, get the biggest tires you can within the specs for the trailer and boat. They'll take the road heat better.
If You Knew Jack
Be sure to have a jack that reaches the height of your trailer axle, or have thick nonskid boards to make up the difference, or carry a shovel to dig a hole for the tire. On trips far from home, bring a board to put under your jack on mud or soft ground.
Test your vehicle's jack ahead of time to make sure it fits your trailer. All jacks are not created equal. Those intended for trucks or cars won't necessarily work on a trailer.
New Use For The Trailer Tongue
In a pinch, a trailer tongue jack can be used to change a trailer tire. First, disengage the coupler and lower the jack all the way to the ground, then pile logs, or whatever else is handy, underneath the rear end of the trailer side frames. The tongue jack should be able to lift the front enough that the tire clears the ground. Be sure all supports and trailer are stable before work. Be careful.
If you have a multi-axle trailer, carry one of the ramps that let you roll the good tire on and then lift the bad tire off the ground. I found myself in a situation where a normal jack was useless, but the ramp was quick and effective. Be sure the trailer is stable. Also, carry a high-power tire pump with a long cord that reaches from the truck to the tires. I've been able to air up a leaking tire in minutes and get back on the road until it could be fixed. Get a pump with high air output per minute; most trailer tires take quite a long time to inflate. Expect to spend at least $60 for a good pump.
How To Handle A Blowout
1. Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Do NOT slam on your brakes.
2. Accelerate lightly for an instant to preserve vehicle momentum (or at least maintain constant accelerator pedal pressure).
3. At the same time, steer gently away from the side of the flat to offset the pulling caused by the blown tire and to keep the vehicle in its lane.
4. Once you've stabilized your vehicle, turn on your hazard flashers.
5. Brake slowly and lightly to slow down. Again, do not slam on the brakes.
6. Make your way carefully to the side of the road.
7. Reduce speed to 15 mph or less before leaving the pavement and pulling onto an unpaved shoulder.
8. Park your rig as far off to the side of the shoulder as possible to allow yourself room to change the blown tire without your backside hanging out in the travel lane.
9. Set out the emergency road triangle found in your vehicle safety kit (you have one, right?) to warn other drivers that your vehicle is stopped.
10. Proceed to change the flat.