Boat Trailering Made Simple - 08/25/2017

By taking it step at a time, boat launching is a piece of cake

While there is no "official" data available at the current time from the government or insurance companies on the exact number of accidents specifically, that occur while a vehicle is pulling a boat, it is widely speculated that the number is on the rise for several reasons:

  • Low-cost, poor quality imported trailers.
  • Inadequate maintenance of boat trailers by the owner.
  • Inadequate knowledge by boat trailer owners on the proper way to hook up the boat trailer to the vehicle, trailer a boat, launch a boat (backing up a boat trailer) and retrieving a boat.

We can’t help you with item #1, other than to suggest you buy from a reputable manufacturer. Like most things in life, the cheapest way is usually not the best way to go. But we can help you with items #2 and #3--

Boat Trailering Made Simple

    5 Tips for Easy, Safe Boat Trailering

      1. Do as much as possible at home before you leave. Store your equipment in the boat; check the wheels, brakes, lights and turn signals. Service and lube your trailer before you leave on a trip. Put the drain plug in the boat. Check your fuel level. Check your oil level. Put the boat key into the boat.

      2. After backing up and connecting the trailer to the tow vehicle, tighten down the trailer to the coupler ball either by turning trailer hitch or locking it down, depending on which type of trailer hitch you have. It's a good practice at this time to put a master lock through the trailer hitch. This is often forgotten and many a boater has come back to the ramp and found their trailer gone. Therefore, do this immediately after you attach your trailer.

      3. Attach the safety chains from the trailer to the vehicle making sure to cross them over one another. Make sure the trailer winch is locked down tight on the boat bow eye. Make sure the tie-down straps on the stern are secured to your trailer.

      Boat Trailering Made Simple

      4. When launching, keep the rear wheels of the tow vehicle out of the water (this will prevent the possibility of the vehicle stalling). The trailer should be midway down into the water. Set the vehicle in park and engage the emergency brake. Tie a line to the boat’s bow and unlock the winch so the boat can float free. Secure the bow line to the trailer hitch. Get back into your vehicle and drive forward a bit, then reverse a bit and hit the brakes hard. This will release the boat off the trailer. With the bow line attached to the trailer hitch, you just get the bow line from the hitch, swing the boat around and attach a side dock line to the cleat on the dock.

      5. When retrieving the boat, maneuver to the submerged trailer, raising the motor as you go. If driving onto the trailer, engage the motor in a forward motion against the trailer winch, lean over the bow of the boat, and attach the trailer winch to the bow cleat on the boat. Secure it tightly. Turn the motor off, raise or trim it all the way up to the upright position and pull the boat trailer out of the water. Once out of the water, remove the drain plug from the boat.

    Remember when choosing to tow a boat, you have several key considerations:

    • Match the tow weight of the entire package (trailer, vessel, gear on vessel) to the towing capacity of the tow vehicle

    • Match the trailer ball to the trailer. It doesn’t seem significant, but a 2” trailer tongue hooked up to a 1 7/8” trailer ball will come off!

    • Properly balance the trailer and vessel package. Have a professional help you with this as it requires setting the bunks

    • When arriving at the ramp, give the bearings time to cool off before you launch

    • Keep a watchful eye on the trailer as you drive. If it is “fishtailing”, wobbling or acting funny, get to the emergency lane and stop.

    Boat Trailering Made Simple

    With proper maintenance, correct set-up and not getting in a hurry, you should enjoy the lifestyle of trailer boating for years.

    BoatTEST invites you to send in your boating “Safety Tip of the Day.” Just email it to: If you have a picture to illustrate it, please send it along, too.


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