Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don’t Forget to Tune the Trailer

By Harold Bauer

Are you ready for the sailing season? You’ve checked the boat out and determined the mast, boom and sails are ready. Rigging is good to go. The hardware is right. Lines are in great shape. Now all you need is to take the boat to the club and put it all together.

Before you take the boat out of the driveway, or the club, you may want to take a look at what’s underneath the trailer. Here are a few things to check before you put your rig on the road.

Because many of us use a ramp to launch and retrieve the boat two to three times a week throughout the season, constant dunking of the tires, wheels and wheel bearings can be hard on these components, not to mention the lights, wiring and the general condition of the trailer’s frame. Because of this abuse, take some time to inspect your trailer to be certain that it’s up to the task of carrying your boat safely.

A good place to start is to check the condition of the wheels and tires. Rusted wheels aren’t just ugly, they can be a sign of a wheel that is becoming a problem.

Wheel lugs that have rusted to the wheel may be difficult if not impossible to remove in the event of a flat tire.

Remove, clean and paint the wheels. Replace rusted or missing lug nuts or bolts with new ones. Apply a coat of anti-seizing compound to the lugs and tighten them securely. Don’t forget to check them regularly to make certain they are tight.

Check the tires for proper inflation and inspect the sidewalls and tread area for cracks and bubbles. These can be signs of a tire that is ready to fail.

Grinding or squealing wheels indicate that there is a bearing problem. Generally, it is a good idea to repack the wheel bearings with new grease annually. A good time to do this is before you put the boat into storage for the winter. But since you probably didn’t last fall; don’t forget to do it this spring.

The lights are the part of the trailer that seem to mystify people and typically get ignored more than anything else.

If your lights don’t work properly, other drivers won’t be able to see your trailer at night or know if you’re stopping or turning. This can lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

Most lighting problems result from a bad ground, corroded or broken connections or the lights themselves that have been damaged. Inspect the plug for damage or wear. Be certain that the white ground wire is securely fastened to the trailer frame and replace damaged or missing lights.

When replacing the lights, consider replacing them with the LED type. Many trailer manufacturers are installing this type of light as original equipment because they are more highly visible, require less power to operate and the bulbs virtually never need to be replaced. They are becoming more affordable too. I have seen them for as little as $40 per set.

Inspect the wiring to make certain all connections are good and that the wires are secured to the trailer frame. I generally solder and tape all connections because they hold together better and have less tendency to become corroded.

Inspect the trailer for its general condition. Look at the nuts, bolts and welds to make sure they are all secure.

A fresh coat of paint might be in order to protect the steel from rust. Take a moment to look over the winch and bow line, bunks and cradles, and the tie down strap or bar and mast carrier. Repair or replace worn or broken items as necessary. You can find all of the parts you need along with new lights, replacement wheels and tires at most auto parts and farm supply stores.

Whether you’re taking the boat to the club for the season or getting ready to head out on the regatta circuit, you’ll have the confidence that everything will get there safely without any trouble.

Reprinted from the Highlander class newsletter with permission from the author and the class.

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