10 things to check on your trailer
  |  First Published: October 2014

Anglers who use their boat and trailer over the colder months generally check their trailer regularly. However, for those of you who migrate in doors for winter and venture onto the water once the temperature hits over 25°C, this is a must read for you.

A lot of people neglect to service their boat trailer every year, and these trailers end up on the back of a tilt tray tow truck. I’m going to give you 10 trailer checks you can do yourself to help keep your boat trailer on the road.

1. Lights

If you still have globed lights on your trailer make sure you check them to ensure all lights are working. Although your lights may have been marketed as ‘submersible’, I believe that if you can remove a lens to replace a globe then it is not fully submersible. If you have LED lights, make sure that on each light more than half of the diodes (round things in the light) light up on each light.

2. Tyres

Most trailer owners don’t think to check the condition of their tyres until it’s too late. Check the tread on your tyres for wear and the side walls for any cracks. If cracks appear in the tyre it’s an indication that the tyre is getting on in age and it’s time to change it.

3. Bearings

Bearings are the cause of most trailer issues! To check the bearings jack the tyre off the road, place one hand at the top of the tyre and one on the bottom of the tyre, and move the tyre back and forth to feel for any play (wobble). If you can feel play in the bearing then there’s a good chance that the bearings need to be changed. Better to do it now then be stuck on the side of the road en route to your holiday destination.

4. Rust

Although most boat trailers are galvanised they are still prone to rust. You will usually find that cross members are the worst offenders for rusting. If you notice some rust on your trailer, grab a wire brush and start rubbing it back. If you see raw metal that’s good. Grab a can of cold gal (galvanised spray paint) and give it two coats for protection.

If you can’t see raw metal, grab a solid object (like a screw driver) and start poking the rusted area. If you can poke straight through the rust then it’s time to have the trailer repaired.

5. Tow Coupling/Safety Chain

Trailer owners rarely think to check their coupling and safety chain before they hook up to their car. The coupling can easily detach from a tow ball if its worn out and not locked on properly. Make sure your coupling fits onto the tow ball nicely and there is no play (movement) between the two. Ensure that there is grease in the coupling head and in the spring housing if you have an override coupling (used on trailers with brakes). Check the safety chain for any wear or warping. It is common to see chains too long and dragging on the ground when towing. This will weaken the chain.

6. Winch Strap/Cable

The winch strap or cable can start to fray over time. Straps can tear, which although annoying, will only cause you to lose your boat back into the water. Cables, however, can cause serious injury if they break while winching under load. The cable can flick back into the direction of the person winching and cause lacerations or worse still, loss of eyesight. Make sure you extend the strap or cable to its full reach and inspect for wear and tear.

7. Brakes

For those of you who have a trailer with a Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) over 750kg you must have a braking system on your trailer. If you don’t have brakes on your trailer and the GTM is over 750kg, get them fitted ASAP (it’s the law in Australia).

Make sure your brakes are adjusted properly and there is plenty of brake pad left in your callipers. If you have rusted brake cable or brake line, have them changed before they break. It’s one thing to have brakes fitted to your trailer; it’s another for them to work.

8. Mud Guards

A lot of people use the mud guards on their trailer as a step to get into the boat. Make sure there are no cracks or sharp edges on the mud guard as these can cause injuries to feet and legs if the guards give way.

9. Springs

Suspension on a trailer is vital for Australian roads. If your trailer doesn’t have the right springs or they are damaged then it will cause the trailer more harm than good. If you notice gaps appearing between the leaves of the spring and they’re compressed in the centre, it’s time to get a new set. Springs are what hold the axle, bearings, hubs and tyres to a trailer. If they break it can cause a lot of damage.

10. Registration

It’s becoming more and more common now for people to forget to register their trailer. Now that rego stickers don’t need to be displayed on a trailer, people are forgetting to take their trailers for rego check and paying the registration. Make sure you keep your rego renewals in a visible spot until it’s due, that way you won’t be the one getting fined for not having your trailer registered.

Although this is a checklist you can do yourself, if you are ever in doubt about the condition of your trailer it’s best to get your trailer looked at by a specialist. Make this summer hassle-free and enjoy our beautiful waterways.

Christian Bold, also known as ‘The Trailer Guy’, is one of Australia’s leading trailer and caravan repair specialists. As the director of Bold Trailers he is a licensed motor mechanic, auto electrician and automotive body builder. Christian is also an AUVIS and e-safety examiner for the RMS. You can contact Christian at Bold Trailers on www.boldtrailers.com.au.

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