Preventative Trailer Maintenance

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on Preventative Trailer Maintenance

Winter in Florida is not what our northern neighbor’s experience, but when the temperatures drop it does keep a few crackers off the water. This is a great time to get catch up with those trailer issues you’ve been avoiding.

If you are loafing around this winter, staying warm, at least try to look busy. If not your significant other might spot you doing nothing. This trigger’s an instinct known only to them; and they immediately realize this cannot be right; there is definitely something is wrong with the picture. Then from nowhere they appear with a sheet of paper. Cringing, we try to avoid eye contact and finally realize we’re busted. She’s right in front with the dreaded “List.” That’s right, it’s the honey-do or marriage maintenance list that seems impossible to accomplish in a lifetime and certainly not before spring.honey-do-list1

However, as members of the “APHC” or “Anglers for Peace at Home Club” we know we can do it, we’ve done it before. After all, winters a good time to get a few things done around the house and tune up your boat, fishing tackle, and other equipment. Springs just around the corner and we need to be ready.

The woes of the unprepared are evident along any highway as spring arrives. They’re sitting on the side of the road with flat tires, burnt wheel bearings, broken springs and axles. Then again, those fortunate enough to make it to the ramp are sitting in a boat that won’t start or run. These problems can really but a damper on things; however, with minimal effort and planning they can be avoided.

Pro-active Preventative Maintenance is the key to preventing avoidable problems. Simply it means “fixing what needs fixing, before it needs fixing.” Preventative maintenance goes along way toward avoiding future repair cost, while curtailing reciprocal damage to other parts. It certainly makes your life easier.

Two categories of outdoor people exist today, the ones that have it done and the ones that do-it themselves. Regardless of which group you’re in, waiting until the last minute to get something repaired is asking for trouble. Appreciably, things happen at the last minute, but others we’ve known about well in advance.

The most neglected, but essential piece of equipment used in getting a boat to the water is the trailer. If for no other reason than the application they require constant attention.

For trouble free trips, here are some easily preformed inspections you can do at home. Another excellent time to inspect is at the ramp after you launch or before load.

Preventative Maintenance for Trailers includes bearings, brakes, tires, lights, wiring, winches, straps, hardware and frames. Remember, boat trailers take a beating, so keeping it clean and repaired prolongs the inevitable.

A Tip for “Do It Yourself Types” Digital Cameras offer tremendous advantages. When you get into new territory like cleaning and repacking a wheel bearing, cleaning a reel, shotgun or anything for the first time, take plenty of in-focus photos along the way. Now when it comes to putting it back together and you are not sure where something goes, just print the photos and there you are.

Wash it after each use, particularly when used in saltwater. Rinse everything thoroughly; the suspension, frame, wheels, crossbar tubes, spare, hitch, inside of the wheels and flush the brake assemblies thoroughly.

Bearings keep things rolling. During inspections look for an accumulation of grease on the inside of the wheel; this means the rear seal may be damaged and should be replaced. Bearings should be checked and lubricated every month or sooner depending on usage. When lubricating wheel bearings use a hand grease gun (not a power one) applying grease until you see it begin to ooze out; over filling may damage the rear seal. If the grease is milky it means water is present and the bearings should be repacked.  It’s a good idea to clean and repack wheel bearings every six months to one year depending on the amount of use.brakes-bearings1

Brakes stop your rig. If your trailer is equipped with brakes; check them for leaks, worn rotors, disk or shoes and proper operation. Brake on boat trailers wear quickly, so keep and eye on them. Brake fluid will evaporate over time so keep the reservoir full. If the fluid gets too low you’ll need to bleed the system. You’ll notice this during stops and starts, because the trailer will clunk back and forth.

Tire Pressures & Treads are different on trailers, so maintain the correct pressure. Tire pressures are usually found on the sidewall in small letters. Check tread and wear patterns occasionally; rotating and balancing the tires. When replacing a tire especially on aluminum rims, make certain all corrosion is removed from the bead contact area and always replace valve stems. If you don’t carry a spare you should and remember to change a flat also requires a a suitable trailer jack and lug wrench.

Lug Nuts become especially important when you have a flat. Inevitably they will rust and trying to remove them is next to impossible. However there is a remedy for this called “Never Seize” This anti-seize compound is formulated with copper graphite, aluminum and other ingredients to protect metal parts from rust, corrosion and seizure. It’s found at most auto parts stores and when applied to your lugs and wheel nuts can be a life saver, when changing flat tires.

Lights & Wiring are always trouble on trailers. Make sure the wires are not cut from rubbing on the frame. Have someone assist in checking the proper operation of brake lights, turn signals, and running light. Although subject to interpretation mounting your lights on the guide poles is an easy solution to water problems. For greater day and night visibilities install the newest “LED” style lights.led-tail-light

Highway Emergency Kit: Put together an emergency kit that includes:
•  Spare tire and wheel, a can of inflate-a-tire, flashlight w/extra batteries
•  Lug wrench w/ extension handle, hydraulic jack, wheel chocks
•  Extra wheel hub assembly w/ bearings, seals and lug nuts
•  Marine wheel-bearing grease, spare tie down straps, spare winch strap,
•  Replacement light bulbs, replacement fuses, and safety markers and flares.

Do this before the major fishing season gets underway and you’ll be well ahead of the game. Then if you experience an issue with our trailer, you’ll be prepared to handle it. Overall, it just makes our life simpler.

This article is owned by Capt. Woody Gore and is copyright protected. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by Capt. Gore. wgore@ix.netcom.com