Replacing Your Trailer's Rollers With Bunks

Story And Photos By Tom Neale

The rollers on your trailer will eventually rust and/or break. Sometimes older ones seize up in their mounts, scarring the hull when you load the trailer. Bunk boards don't have moving parts, are usually cheaper than a full set of rollers, provide more even weight support, require almost no maintenance, and with new-style coverings make launching and retrieval relatively easy. Now you can get bunk boards covered by slick plastic-type surfaces with Teflon or similar material. If it becomes less slick, periodically apply Teflon or a similar lubricant from a spray can. If the cover becomes damaged, it's easy to get a new cover and staple or screw it into the wooden bunk.

Here are some tips from Keith Whelan of Whelan's Marina in Farnham, Virginia, who has serviced and rigged many trailers and boats: Your trailer manufacturer may sell bunk boards for your specific rig and there are many suppliers from which you can buy. It's important to get boards that fit your trailer and boat; consult the trailer manufacturer or a qualified dealer. Many prefer cypress wood boards. If your roller-angle brackets and their U-bolts aren't impaired by rust, you may be able to reuse them, leaving them in place. When you bolt the bunk boards to them, the boards may already be positioned properly for your rig. If the brackets are compromised by rust, you may need to cut them off with a grinder or similar tool. If you install new angle brackets, make note of the position of the old rollers for reference when positioning the new brackets and bunk boards.

Before you begin, offload the boat into the water where you can dock it for a few hours. Install the bunk boards following manufacturer recommendations. Usually this is a simple matter of attaching the brackets to the trailer frame (unless you're reusing the old ones) and the boards to the brackets. With bolts tight, but before final tightening down, back the trailer into water and slowly pull the boat up to fine-tune positioning of the boards. The boat should ride on them so that they place the boat into a center stable position by guiding its bottom strakes. This will greatly facilitate getting the boat on the trailer in the future. This may require several relaunches, but it's worth the time. When you're happy with the position of the bunks, tighten securely. The plastic bunk board cover is usually stapled on. If these staples rust in the following years, simply staple again with stainless or use 316 SS screws, countersunk and in places that won't impact the hull. 

— Published: Fall 2013


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