Boat trailer safety
Learn about towing equipment and how to adjust your driving while towing a boat.
Your boat is a getaway from the everyday. And your boat trailer gives you the freedom to make that getaway wherever your towing vehicle can take you. Before setting out for your favorite waterway, take a moment to learn a bit more about boat trailer safety.
How to choose a boat trailer
Towing safety begins by choosing the proper trailer for your boat's weight and size. Most trailers have a capacity plate that lists the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This figure will tell you if the trailer is rated to handle the total weight of your boat, motor, fuel and other onboard equipment. Make sure your trailer has a capacity greater than your total load – your load shouldn't exceed 85% of the trailer's total capacity.
Also, an ill-fitting trailer can lead to unbalanced loads, as well as hull damage. Choose a trailer that allows your boat's hull to fit snugly on the rollers and other contact points. If you have any questions about fit, discuss them with a qualified dealer.
Finally, you may want to consult the National Marine Manufacturers Association® (NMMA) list of certified trailer manufacturers. Trailer designs from listed companies are required to comply with industry standards and federal safety regulations.
Choosing your towing vehicle
As with your trailer, your vehicle and its hitch should be rated to handle the tow load. Check your vehicle owner's manual for towing information. If you have other questions, your vehicle or trailer's manufacturer can help you decide whether your vehicle and its hitch are up to the job.
Hitching up your boat trailer
The following steps will help make sure your boat trailer is securely fastened to your vehicle and ready for the road.
- Distribute gear evenly in the boat for a balanced load.
- Secure boat tie downs to ensure that the boat won't shift during transport.
- Lower the trailer coupler onto the vehicle's hitch ball and lock the safety pin.
- Connect safety chains in a crisscross "X"pattern to the frame of the towing vehicle.
- Connect trailer lighting cable to the vehicle.
- Check that all trailer lights are working.
- If applicable, test trailer brakes and brake lights.
- Check for proper vehicle and trailer tire pressure.
- Check that all fasteners are properly tightened.
Drive safely while towing your boat
Driving with a loaded boat trailer is a special skill, one worth practicing. You should practice in an empty parking lot and in light traffic before taking to the open road. While you're there, make sure you practice backing up as it is often the most difficult part. Some other things that can help you drive safely while towing are:
- Get extended side-view mirrors.
- Take turns extra wide.
- Give yourself more distance to brake.
- Place your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel when backing up.
- Take your foot off the gas when being passed by large trucks to minimize buffering.
- Readjust the trailer's tongue weight if you notice excessive swaying.
- Check your trailer's wheel hubs at every stop. If they are hot, your bearings may need to be serviced.