There are dozens of manufacturers offering a vast array of choices,
finding the right trailer can seem like a task from hell. But matching a trailer to your
boat is not difficult.
To a large extent many boat manufacturers have already helped by
offering combination boat and trailer packages. But, if your boat does not come with a
matching trailer, your first task is to find out which models are specifically designed
for its weight and length.
The general rule is that the rated capacity of the trailer should exceed the
combined gross weight of boat and trailer by about 20 percent. This surplus capacity is
intended to handle the extra weight of any cargo you will be carrying on board.
Note: Boats are not cargo boxes,
by putting too much cargo in the boat, you run the risk of damaging the hull. As a guide
line, Never exceed the weight capacity sticker on the boat. But in most cases only half
that is recommended and make sure the cargo is tide down so it won't slide forward in an
General fit vs Custom Trailers
Once you've calculated which trailer size your boat requires, you'll have to decide what
brand and model of trailer. This usually boils down to a question of money. Do you want to
go with the bargain-basement economy design? Or should you buy the most expensive trailer
on the market?
Usually, custom trailers use better construction techniques and materials. Economy-priced
trailers tend to have fewer cross-members, which means they have fewer support rollers,
with wider spaces between them. Many inexpensive trailers also use a lighter gauge steel
in their frames and are usually bolted together rather than welded. (a good weld is
stronger and more durable than nuts n bolts) Also, if trailering to salt water, the welded
trailers will maintain their electrical ground which means less running light troubles.
(See troubleshooting lights section)
But this is not to say that you should rule out a general fit trailer. It all
depends on the type of trailering you do. If the distance from where you keep your boat to
the water's edge is relatively short, an economy model should be fine. But if you have to
haul the trailer a long distance and plan to do lots of trailering over the season, you'll
be better off with a trailer that is built to higher standards. If you're going to spend a
big sum of money on the boat, it only makes sense to spend a few dollars more on a good
trailer. This investment will usually be better for the boat and increase the value of the
package, in the long run.
Bunks vs. Rollers
Another major consideration when looking for a trailer is whether it has a bunk-n-keel
roller or "all" roller support system. Basically a bunk is a carpeted
two-by-four or two-by-six piece of wood board. On the plus side, Bunks support a longer
section of the hull than the "all" roller trailers. But the problem with
bunks is that you have to back the trailer deeper into the water for the boat to slide or
float off the bunks. This is one of the reasons you will see "all" roller
trailers under larger boats. The exception being high performance boats like Formula,
Cigarette and the like. As mentioned before the bunks have the ability to carry the
heavier weight of these boats, with their dual and triple engine configurations.
With a roll-on trailer, the hull rests on a bunch of rubber rollers. A roll-on trailer
doesn't have to be submerged for the boat to be launched or retrieved. A roller
system is sometimes harder on a boat because it only supports the hull at the point of
each roller. These rollers are usually arranged to give adequate support to most boats
but, if not adjusted correctly, hull deformation can occur . Naturally the lighter the
boat, the less significant this problem will be. Also, the sturdier the boat's
construction, the less of a problem roller wear will be. Some aluminum boat builders don't
recommend roller trailers under their hulls. Their concern is that the rollers act like
small rubber mallets that constantly bang the boat at every bump and pot-hole the trailer
encounters. Think of it as, letting your son go at the hood of your car with a rubber
mallet. If your buying an aluminum boat, be sure to ask first.
Trailer tires are often smaller in diameter than automotive tires. Trailer manufacturers
often utilize drop axles and small diameter wheels that help position the trailer closer
to the ground so that the trailer rides as low as possible. The low center of gravity
optimizes stability during fast turns and in strong crosswinds.
But the downside is that smaller tires drop deeper into potholes, turn at a higher rpm,
and carry more weight for their size as compared to automotive tires. Those three factors
translate into a shorter tire life. As a rule, trailer manufacturers will size the tire to
the load capacity of the trailer. The important thing to know is that they often offer an
upgrade tire for most trailers, so always go with the upgraded tire. The cost is usually
only a couple of dollars per tire.
Also, there is a difference between the
design of trailer tires and those used on cars. So, be aware that you should never replace
trailer tires with car tires and vice/versa.
Tire load capacities are marked on the side wall of the
tire. Multiply the load carrying capacity marked on the tire by 2. This gives you the
recommended carrying capacity of that axle and tire combination. The boat and trailer
weight combined, should be well under the axle and tire carrying capacity.
Many of the more expensive models come with tandem or triple axles. There are
benefits and drawbacks to multi-axle arrangements. On one hand, they cost more to purchase
and maintain. And because they resist sharp turns, maneuvering in close quarters is more
difficult. On the other hand, four or six wheels track very straight, which helps
when your trailering at high speeds and when backing down a launch ramp.
One mistake that can be made is to use too big a tire for the application. Since the
springs on the trailer have limited movement and often don't have a shock absorber, as
part of the design, it is the job of the side wall of the tire to absorb some of the
road's bumps. These shocks are transmitted to the hull of the boat. Excessively oversized
trailer capacity and/or tire size is not a good thing. There needs to be a balance between
trailer capacity and smoothness of ride. Maybe we'll see air suspension boat trailers
someday but, until then, size the trailer properly. When it comes to trailer tires, the
maximum carrying capacity of the tire is based on the full inflation amount marked on the
side wall of the tire.
Winches and Safety
. Winches are usually overlooked by new boat buyers who don't know what to ask. Plus
salesman have a tendency to ignore the winching process during their sales- pitch. If it
looks flimsy, ask the salesman for an upgrade. Also, try to get a multi-speed winch. These
allow for fast rope retrieval under light loads and for ease of cranking under heavy
loads. Make sure the winch stand on the trailer can be adjusted fore and aft to compensate
for the length of the boat. On some welded trailers, you can not move the axle, you will
have to move the winch stand to compensate for changes to the weight of the boat. I just
know you've been looking at getting that bigger outboard next year.
There is certainly a case for electric winches. They can haul a large boat out of the
water quickly at a busy ramp. But the best feature of an electric winch is that one person
can stand beside the boat and guide it onto the trailer while operating the winch.
Trailering can be done solo. The only hassle with electric winches is that you do have the
added expense of adding a special wiring loom to your tow vehicle to operate the winch and
if you have more than one or change vehicles, you have to have a harness on that vehicle
As a final note, when it comes to trailers, you get what you
pay for, and keep in mind that, down the road, you may want to sell this boat or trade up
. A good trailer helps close the deal every time.
How 'bout some additional tips