Trailering Magazine Archives - Featured Articles
Up the Ramp
In the worst-case scenario, the tow vehicle ends up in the water. Most of the time, however, it's usually a case of not enough traction. And when it happens (tow vehicle traction, not tow vehicle submersion), there are a number of timetested things that can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. We're eager to publish other renovation ideas from Members (Send them to: trailering@ BoatUS.com).
Inspect the ramp. Algae at the waterline or debris on the ramp always makes a launch or retrieval difficult. In some instance, you may have to clear a launch area on the ramp. In Florida, some ramp employees will actually power wash algae on the ramp during low tide.
Go slow. There are too many stories of a boater putting the tow vehicle in gear and hitting the gas only to hear the wheels spin. And, of course, this is the moment when one is tempted to press on the gas a little more to give the vehicle-boat-trailer a little more get up and go. Don't do it. If the tires are spinning at one speed, they are going to spin at a faster speed and, possibly, can start moving the tow vehicle sideways on the ramp. Remember the words to an old blues song: "take your time and you'll get there quicker."
Tow Vehicle Basics. Just as there are views of sailboaters by powerboaters (and vice-versa), so too are there strong opinions about the essentials of a tow vehicle. Many boaters insist on using 4WD to get up the ramp; 4WD allows each wheel to operate independently and is available as full-time or part-time. All wheel drive (AWD) lacks the low range gearing found in 4 and 2 WD but provides traction to all four wheels. Be certain your tow vehicle has the towing capacity to pull the boat and trailer and equipment out of the water. Some Members suggest starting in second gear rather than drive to go up the ramp with an automatic transmission.
Limited Slip Differential will automatically apply power to the wheel that has traction. In most cases, the right rear tire will provide the power and if it starts "slipping" then the left rear tire will become the driving tire. If your tow vehicle has this feature, chances are good the wheels aren't going to spin on an algae-laden boat ramp.
The bottom of the ramp isn't the place to have front wheel drive. This makes pulling a boat up a ramp all the more difficult because the weight is on the rear wheels while the driving wheels are on the front.Rear wheel drive is what works.
Sand A number of BoatU.S. Trailering Club Members suggest carrying bags of sand in the tow vehicle for a moment like this. In one case, the sand can be dumped under the wheels at the boat ramp and provide the necessary traction to move the boat and trailer up the ramp (and provide needed traction for the next tow vehicle that is retrieving a boat). Others suggest moving the bags from the front of the bed of the truck (or from the very back of the SUV) to the area above the rear wheels. This will provide extra weight which, in turn, will provide more traction. Some prefer kitty litter to sand saying there is more traction.
Floor Mats Some use old carpeting or steel grates when algae is making the trip up the ramp difficult (many boaters in northern climates carry these year-round because they are also useful during snow and ice storms).
Tongue Weight A tow vehicle with too little tongue weight not only affects performance underway, it affects what happens at the ramp. Because the weight of the trailer isn't properly situated on the hitch, the result is too little weight which, in turn, results in too little traction for the tow vehicle.
Balanced weight is essential. Aluminum trailers are designed with longer tongues than galvanized steel trailers. As a result, tow vehicles pulling aluminum trailers are less likely to have their rear wheels in the water. Tow vehicles with exhaust pipes in the water are likely to stall.
Tow Vehicle Tire Chocks. While many trailer boaters find tire chocks an exercise in excessive caution, the fact remains a vehicle is less likely to go too far into the water if the tires are blocked from going backward. Just remember to remove the chocks when putting the tow vehicle in gear to proceed up the ramp. Setting the parking brake while hooking or unhooking the trailer is always a good idea too.