Giddy. It’s the feeling of an anticipatory angler as snow melts and ice loosens its mighty grip from the shoreline. Pulling the watercraft from the garage, storage building or slicing the shrink wrap is like opening a gift, even if the boat’s been in your possession for many seasons.
Anxious anglers immediately jump into their boat to assess the current condition, often differing from what a memory provides. And while sorting out some of the refugee plastic worms or forgotten soda cans from a hasty hibernation, the thought of those great summer fishing trips returns like belly fire. All the laughs, fish fries and lost lunkers emerge like old friends.
Everyone has their system for giving the boat an outdoors physical. Some begin by charging the batteries, others vacuum and a few wash and wax, a fresh shave and shower for our recently awakened companion. Yet one portion of the boating package, the trailer, often remains overlooked.
Assuming the trailer ranks below the boat in function is a misjudgment; one that can create a dangerous situation. Although you might spend more hours relaxing on the pedestal seat, the trailer ensures safety for the boat, the tow vehicle, the owners, and other drivers on the road.
Larry Barker, warranty manager for EZ Loader Trailers, the Midway, Arkansas manufacturer of quality boat trailers since 1953, offers some recommendations for trailer owners who are ready to get their boating package ready for the upcoming season.
“After removing your watercraft from storage, there are several points to check on the trailer. First, make sure the tire pressures are at the maximum on all tires. Inspect tires and valve stems for dry rot and cracking.
“Then check torque on all lug nuts. This should be rechecked prior to the first use of the trailer and periodically after long trips to ensure good seating of the rim to the hub face. Failure to recheck lug nuts could result in loss of a tire during travel.
“Next, inspect the breakaway cable on the actuator prior to any towing if your trailer has a braking system. Verify that the brake cable has not been pulled. If the cable has been pulled, the brakes will be engaged and must be reset prior to any towing. Finally, visually inspect the trailer for damage to any of the components.”
Trailer owners should also check the bearings to ensure they have plenty of lubrication. However, you should only add bearing grease after driving the trailer, since greasing the bearings while the hub is cold permits an excess of grease, which can damage the brakes shoes and hub seal.
“Most trailer maintenance is inexpensive at the dealership or can be done by the customer. It is important to refer to the owner’s manual to ensure maintenance is being performed properly. However, the most difficult maintenance on a boat trailer is the greasing of the trailer hubs, where a grease gun is required to perform the work. Some care is required to ensure that fluid/grease levels are properly set. If unsure how much fluid/grease is required, refer to the owner’s manual, call a local dealer or the factory for information,” advises Barker.
While lake property or boat slip renters may only slide their watercraft off the trailer in the spring and wait until fall before reuniting boat and trailer, some owners frequently tow their boats from lake to lake.
One such individual is professional angler Bruce Samson* from Minnetrista, Minnesota. Commonly known as “Doc” because of his former career as a medical doctor, Samson competes in In-Fisherman’s Professional Walleye Trail, with 4 P.W.T. wins to his credit. He additionally conducts on-the-water instructional clinics and seminars, towing his boat over 8,000 miles each year to reach the combined events.
“There are two really three important maintenance procedures I do to ensure the trailer performs well. First, I check the tire pressure every few weeks to make sure they are at their maximum. Low air pressure can cause excessive wear to the tires and cuts down on your tow vehicle’s fuel efficiency”, warns Samson.
“I also coat the trailer to vehicle wire connections with di-electric grease to fight corrosion and provide good contact for the lighting system”, says Samson. “If a tail-light doesn’t work, other vehicles won’t notice when you hit the brakes or signal a turn, which compromises each driver’s safety.”
Samson’s third suggestion is to add bearing grease as needed.
Despite the demands placed upon Samson’s EZ Loader trailer, it has yet to fail him. “They tow nicely behind the vehicle, load the boat with minimal effort and are trouble free if properly maintained.”
Keeping your trailer in good working order protects you from incidents that could potentially arise during travel, yet just as Larry Barker and Bruce Samson recommend, consistent maintenance is the key. A few minutes today will save you money, time and stress in the future.
*Check out Bruce “Doc” Samson’s website (hightechfishing.com) to view his seminar schedule and for a variety of helpful fishing tips.