Trailering GuysBy Ted Sensenbrenner and Dustin Hoover
Published: Spring 2014
Q: I just purchased a new boat and trailer (double-axle, disc brakes, Titan model 60 actuator). I launched the boat a month ago (saltwater), washed down the trailer and brakes with fresh water, and placed it in my yard on grass. When I went to get the trailer, the front brakes were frozen. The brakes finally released after I dragged the trailer onto the pavement. I only use the trailer three or four times a year (the boat is at a slip). How do I prevent this?
Dustin: What brand of brakes do you have? Just because they're new doesn't mean they have good hardware under them. Sounds like you're doing everything right. Try washing the trailer and then taking it for a good ride before putting it away. That way, things are clean and dry before it stops moving. Another suggestion: Get the tires up off the ground so that when you're in the vicinity of the trailer out in the yard, you can spin the wheels once in a while. It's also better for your tires if they're not in contact with the ground. Also make sure you don't have any pressure on the actuator; if you do, that will make the brakes stick when it's time to use it again.
Which Wheel Works?
Q: I'm about to purchase a new tow vehicle, and it comes with 16-inch wheels, with an option for 18-inch wheels. Would either tire make a difference? I'm towing a Cobalt 246 at about 6,800 pounds loaded. I understand that a larger wheel makes a lower-profile tire sidewall, but I don't know if that would be better or worse. Will they affect sway and impact absorbtion?
Ted: Check with your dealer and compare the capacity rating for the vehicle with each package. That rating will take into consideration whatever tire and wheel package you choose. There may be a slight difference between the two. If all things are equal, go with the smaller rim with taller profile tire. Remember, you'll have a couple of hundred pounds of tongue weight on the rear of your vehicle pressing down, so I'd rather have a taller sidewall on the tow vehicle. The taller sidewall will also allow for some reduction in psi if you have a slow leak or if you need to reduce pressure for some reason without ruining a rim. I really don't think sway is an issue for either option. I suspect both wheels have the same tire circumference and width and that it is only the sidewall height that is variable. On the trailer, however, you'll be equipped with special trailer-rated tires, which are made with thicker sidewalls to prevent swaying.
All Jacked Up
Q: I have to replace the jackstand for my trailer. What are your thoughts on fixed vs. collapsible and what are the pros and cons? What would you recommend?
Ted: For small boats (21 feet and under) I prefer the stand that has a sturdy wheel and swings up out of the way. For boats greater than 21 feet, go with a fixed stand that cranks up. A small trailer with a wheel stand has the advantage that you can move it around on pavement or to help you get it closer to your hitch ball. Larger boats take a great deal of effort to push around by hand, so having a wheel is almost useless, anyway. I've seen the swing-away variety actually collapse because it wasn't fully secured in the down position. The stand with a wheel can also roll unexpectedly; that's why we recommend chocking the wheels anytime a trailer is not attached to the tow vehicle and especially if you are working underneath it. The only problem I see with the fixed stand is that sometimes when it's fully retracted, it still tends to hang a little low and can bottom out on uneven pavement. Look for a fixed retractable stand that has a “foot” that can be removed, which increases ground clearance and eliminates this problem when towing.
Replacing Rusty Rollers?
Q: What's the best way to replace the rollers on a LoadRite trailer, and what tools do I need?
Ted: Roller assembly hardware can get pretty rusty, even after just a few seasons. Start by spraying the nuts, bolts, and the roller axles with penetrating lubricant to loosen rust-to-metal bonds and let it sit overnight. The next day, grab a wrench and a socket set to see if you can free all the rusted metal parts. An angle grinder with a cut-off wheel may be needed to cut the hardware off. You'll go through cut-off disks quickly so get a few spares before you start. This is a good time to upgrade to the yellow polyurethane rollers, and get rid of the black rubber rollers if you have them. If you plan on replacing brackets at the same time, take a few digital photos of the trailer before you start removing parts so you know where and how the assemblies go back together. Also mark any of the adjustable brackets with a black magic marker so you get the replacements back in the same position. This will save you a lot of time and aggravation.
Most states require brakes to be fitted on trailers with a gross weight over 3,000 pounds
A tire's sidewall is where you learn everything: dimensions, capacities, age, and most important, purpose
Bunk boards don't have moving parts, are cheaper, provide more even weight support, and require no maintenance
Got A Question?
Ask The Trailering Guys
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 are ready to answer your questions. Email Trailering@BoatUS.com; or go to www.BoatUS.com/Ask