Trailering GuysBy Ted Sensenbrenner and Dustin Hoover
Published: Spring 2013
Spinning Tires Or Broken Wires? Advice From The Experts
To Block Or Not To Block
Q I have a 22-foot center console with 150-hp outboard. The trailer has the torsion arm set up and is single-axle. For many years I have been blocking my boat and trailer up off the ground to take weight off the axle during our 90-day storage season here in Maryland. Is this beneficial to the trailer, bearing, and axle, or am I wasting my time each year? I have enclosed a pic...thanks!
Dustin: Getting the weight off the suspension is never a bad idea. For a torsion axle, the spindle arm is pressed into the axle sleeve with more than 20 tons of force in some cases, so the weight of your boat is not going to affect them much while it's sitting, but it doesn't hurt. The tires should be covered to keep the sun off of them all year but especially in the winter when the cold air is compounding dry rot. If you have them off the ground you should go ahead and pull the wheels and store them indoors. Spin the wheels every chance you get and make sure you have those bearings checked each spring. One word of caution: Don’t ever trust a tongue jack to hold a trailer and boat up off the ground. I have seen too many tongue jacks collapse. Make sure your jackstand is just behind the wheels on a torsion axle, or the frame behind the fenders, and also jackstand or block the tongue.
Ted: I don’t think you are wasting your time at all. The tires would benefit the most, because tires don’t really like to stay loaded (and they can slowly leak air) getting somewhat softer each month. Blocking it up also allows you to go and spin each wheel to keep grease on all moving parts. I usually try to spin my wheels once each month. This is even more important if you have oil-bath hubs, as the oil tends to pool at the lowest point of all the workings. Lastly, it is much harder for someone to drive off and steal your boat when the trailer is blocked up! So, all-in-all, great job and thanks for sending us the picture.
Stop Spinning Your Wheels
Q My tires spin when I try to pull the boat out of the water. The ramp has no grooves in it and I was wondering if you have any advice to make this easier?
Dustin: Try to be conscious when distributing the weight inside the boat before you pull out of the water. Any weight in the front of the boat can help. Also, when you put your vehicle in gear, make sure you are using the lowest gear offered. If the vehicle is automatic, use first gear, and if it’s manual you may actually try second gear to get more traction to your rear axle. When all else fails, get the family and all your friends in the back of the pickup or in the front of the boat.
Going To Ground
Q I just replaced all the lights and wiring on my trailer, but I still have a problem with the lights blinking off and on while driving. They have surge brakes and are grounded. Sometimes they work fine, and I'm not sure what is causing it.
Ted: This sure sounds like a grounding issue. Look for a pinch somewhere in the wire run and look carefully for a bare wire or section of a bare wire that may have rubbed against the frame or sharp corner. Also be certain you have a properly secured ground wire, and check for a loose ground to one of the light fixtures.
Dustin: Every trailer has a white ground wire that must be directly bolted to the trailer from the tongue plug. Make sure this wire is good. If you have a tilt trailer, make sure there is a jumper wire between the trailer tongue and the trailer frame. Many tilt trailers will lose their ground at this point, thus the need for the jumper wire. After you have checked the ground, test it without the trailer down on the ball. If it works then you know that you are not relying on the ball for a ground. Check all other connections as well, and if you want to grease your connection to help prevent corrosion, use a dielectric grease only. If you can't get the trailer to work without the ball being hooked up, then you can put a pair of jumper cables between the car and the trailer to make the ground. If this works, then go back to the car wiring and make sure it is feeding the trailer a good ground.
Q In Fall 2012 (http://www.boatus.com/trailering/2012/september/trailering-guys.asp) Ted wrote that torsion axles "can result in uneven wear" if tongue is not level, etc. I have had horrible tire wear since the trailer was new, and I have a suspicion the guy that delivered the boat from Georgia to Pennsylvania hit a deer on the way. (I found hair and blood on the side that wears tires the worst - right front. Maybe that is contributing.) My tongue weight is slightly on the heavy side, and my trailer is not perfectly level, but is so close it looks that way when you step back. How level does it need to be?
Dustin: Most likely you have a bent axle, weak springs or an overloaded trailer. All of these things will cause the tires to bow upwards, making the tire ride on the inside. Look at the springs with the boat loaded and see if they still have a decent upwards bow in them. If they don't, they need to be replaced. Check to see what the total weight of the boat motor and gear is. This will tell you if you are overloaded. Keep in mind that, like us, as things get older they are not as strong. Just because you are below the maximum rated weight doesn't always mean that the trailer can still handle all that weight. I like to have a trailer that can hold at least 1,000 lbs over what the boat weighs. Last but not least is the axle. Again, they don't stay strong forever.
Ted: I suspect you have an axle alignment issue. A start would be to take a measurement from the center of the trailer ball (the tongue will be covering it up, so place the tape measure on top of the tongue directly over the center of the ball) to the center of each axle hub. The distance should be the same on each side. If not, that axle may have moved back, which could result from hitting something — usually a curb, but it's possible a deer could do it. Trailer suspensions don't last forever, unfortunately; torsion axles and springs will eventually begin to sag, but that takes an awfully long time. It sounds as though your trailer is level, but the best way to figure out the load distribution is to go to a truck scale and get axle weights to confirm it.
Ted Sensenbrenner, of the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, has been pulling, fixing, and studying boat trailers for years.
Dustin Hoover, of Legendary Trailer Repairs (www.legendarytrailers.com), is a service provider for BoatUS Trailer Assist in the Annapolis, Maryland, area. Between them, they're familiar with almost everything that can go wrong with a boat trailer, and they're ready to answer your questions.