He laughed and said that in a decade of patrolling the highway that was the first time he had seen anyone doing that!

By Mike Milne

Nothing tunes up your maintenance awareness and skills like a long road trip with a boat and trailer in tow. It’s a good reminder of why it is important to take care of the basics. Trailer-boaters ignore them at their peril.

Last winter, during a 2,250-km haul to Florida, I was greasing my trailer’s hubs at a rest stop along the Interstate when a uniformed man in a white truck asked if I needed help. He was part of Florida’s Road Ranger patrol, which gives stranded motorists free roadside assistance.

I said no, but thanked him and showed him the grease gun I was using to top up the grease in my trailer’s hubs. He laughed and said that in a decade of patrolling the highway that was the first time he had seen anyone doing that! Disabled and stranded trailers are much more common.

On a road trip, I check and grease my trailer’s Bearing Buddy-equipped hubs and do a quick visual inspection of trailer, tie-downs, wheels, hitch and safety chains every morning. The routine is repeated at all stops for fuel or rest. But the basics start before you leave home.

Even if a long trip is not in their plans, trailer-boaters should take a similar approach at the start of any boating season and follow up with maintenance at regular intervals.

My top-of-mind basics start with “b”: bearings, brakes and bulbs.

Before heading south last year I replaced the four-year-old bearings on my trailer. The old ones – installed just before an earlier road trip – still looked fine, so I took them along just in case. Bearing Buddies, or similar spring-loaded units that provide hubs with a steady supply of grease, are a must on boat trailers, where immersion of hot hubs in cold water adds to wear and tear on bearings.

If your trailer is equipped with brakes, be sure to test them and inspect for wear or corrosion. Replace parts as needed, or head to your marine dealer for brake work.

In the bulb department, make sure the wiring is well-connected and all signals work. Replace any bulbs that are worn out.

Beyond the “b” list, inspect the tires for excess wear and proper air pressure; make sure the spare wheel is in good condition and ready to install in an emergency.

You shouldn’t have to worry about disconnecting the trailer until reaching your destination, but check the connections, ensuring the ball-lock is closed securely and safety chains are the right size and attach securely.

Trailer-boat road trips also offer security challenges. Park in brightly lit areas, keep the boat or PWC covered and remove any equipment possible, including electronics. Some boaters remove propellers.

I use a locking pin on the hitch, then add brightly colored chain-locks, securing the wheels to the trailer frame. None of the locks would stand up to a determined thief, but provide deterrence.

Like a summer of trouble-free trips to the launch ramp, a smooth, problem-free road trip – especially when followed by mid-winter boating in the sun – is its own reward.