Boat trailer safety
Boat trailer safety includes choosing the proper trailer and towing vehicle, following proper hitching procedures and learning safe driving techniques.
Before setting out for your favorite waterway, take a moment to learn 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. Check to see that your trailer has a capacity greater than your total load — your load shouldn't exceed 80% of the trailer's total capacity.
Check the fit of the boat and trailer
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.
Check your vehicle’s tow capacity
As with your trailer, your vehicle and its hitch should be rated to handle the tow load, and that the hardware on the trailer and hitch match. Check your vehicle owner's manual for towing information for gross axle weight rating (GAWR) and gross vehicle weight rating. If you have other questions, your vehicle or trailer's manufacturer may be able to help you determine whether your vehicle and its hitch are up to the job.
Hitch up your boat trailer
Consider the following steps to help get your boat trailer 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 skill worth practicing. Before taking to the open road, consider practicing in an empty parking lot and in light traffic. While you're there, practice backing up (especially before hitting the boat ramp). See below for additional tips that might help you drive more safely while towing:
- Consider installing extended side-view mirrors.
- Watch for vehicles that may quickly come up behind you.
- Allow for extra wide turns.
- Give yourself more distance to brake.
- Place your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel when backing up.
- When being passed by large trucks, take your foot off the gas to help minimize buffeting.
- 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.