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Boat Trailer Toolkit

A few handy items in your tow vehicle can go a long way to keeping you on the road.

A few handy items in your tow vehicle can go a long way to keeping you on the road.

Group photo of colorful boating tools and supplies numbered 1-15.

We all know that with boats, and especially trailering boats, something is bound to break. Having a few tools and spares in your tow vehicle, when you have the trailer hitched on the back, can reduce the time and inconvenience of sitting on the roadside any longer than is necessary.

We took a straw poll of our colleagues who are trailer boaters here in the BoatUS headquarters to find out what they like to keep with them when hitting the road. Here is our list of some of the essentials that we take with us when heading out on a road trip with trailer in tow. A plastic tote makes the ideal storage container. Bear in mind that the items shown are just suggestions, the type of trailer that you have and where you go boating will have some bearing on the best things to take with you. It's also a great idea to have at least a basic set of tools in the tow vehicle, including such things as wrenches, screwdrivers, and a hammer.


Practice using your emergency gear before you need it, and read any instructions that come with equipment that you buy.

1. Spare tire (not shown). Before heading out, make sure that you have a properly inflated spare tire that fits your trailer.

2. Lug wrench for trailer wheels. It's no good having a spare if you can't undo the lug nuts.

3. Tire pressure gauge. Underinflated tires can overheat and burst. Checking and, if necessary, topping up trailer tires before you head out could save you a headache down the road. While you're at it, don't forget to check the tow vehicle tires, too.

4. Compressor and extension cord. A portable compressor takes up little room and can serve several functions, from topping up a sagging tire to pumping up inflatable tubes and toys. An extension cord allows you to reach the trailer tires without having to unhitch your vehicle.

5. Tire changing ramp. Jacking up a trailer at the side of the road is often difficult. Apart from the difficulty of actually placing and using the jack safely and efficiently, it exposes you to dangers from other road users, passing trucks, and other vehicles. A changing ramp only works with twin-axle trailers, but it is simplicity in itself. The “good” tire is driven onto the ramp, lifting the flat tire off the ground, allowing it to be more easily changed. Don't forget to loosen the wheel nuts before lifting the tire off the road. For single-axle trailers you'll need a jack. If the one in the tow vehicle won't work, pack a hydraulic jack or other appropriate one.

6. Wheel chocks. A set will ensure that the trailer won't go for a ride by itself. Chocks vary in size, so make sure to get one suitable for your rig.

7. Spare set of bearings. If you have the tools and skills necessary to change wheel bearings at the side of the road, you'll need this. If you don't have the ability, your mechanic will thank you if you can present him or her with a correctly sized replacement set.

8. Roll of paper towels or rags. Touch almost anything on a trailer, and you'll almost certainly get dirt on your hands. A bunch of rags or a roll of paper towels helps with cleanup.

9. Waterproof grease. Perfect for lubricating the trailer ball hitch and brake linkages, greasing trailer rollers, and lubing bearings.

10. Flashlight or headlamp (with extra batteries). Trouble always seems to occur in poor weather or at night. Whether it's a flat that needs fixing or you need to check that the boat is attached to the trailer correctly, a flashlight is key. A headlamp allows you to shine the light where you're looking and keeps both hands free.

11. Plastic trash bags.
Great for general cleanup, large plastic trash bags are also perfect for containing the mess if you have to put a muddy, wet trailer tire in the back of your tow vehicle.

12. Tie-downs.
Ratchet straps are great for securing the boat to the trailer and can come in handy for tying down, for example, an errant bimini. They're inexpensive to buy, quick, and easy to use.

13. Disposable or work gloves. Trailers – and especially tires – collect road dirt. After a long road trip, it's possible to get coated in grime merely from unhitching the trailer, let alone changing a tire. Donning a pair of disposable or work gloves will keep your hands clean.

14. Jump-starter pack. Modern jump-starter packs are small and powerful and often do more than just give some extra juice to your battery. Many incorporate hazard-warning flashlights and can even charge mobile devices, like cellphones. Make sure to size one for your engine's cranking requirements.

15. Warning triangle and road flares. Protect yourself and the trailer by being visible, especially if you break down on a busy highway or at night. Activate your vehicle's warning flashers, and place triangles or flares in a row, beginning about 100 feet behind your trailer.

16. Spare bulbs. Dunk hot trailer lights in the drink and a tail lamp or blinker bulb may pop. A couple of spares take up little room and ensure that you won't be left in the dark.

17. BoatUS App. The most indispensable gadget in your toolkit: With one tap, call for a tow on water or land right from the app. Plus get weather and tides, and search exclusive member discounts wherever your travels take you.

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Mark Corke

Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A marine surveyor and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Mark Corke is one of our DIY gurus, creating easy-to-follow how-to articles and videos. Mark has built five boats himself (both power and sail), has been an experienced editor at several top boating magazines (including former associate editor of BoatUS Magazine), worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel — in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.