What To Know About Your Boat Trailer
TOW VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS – Find out how to determine if your tow vehicle is capable of towing your trailer, and if it’s properly equipped.
TRAILER CHECKLIST – A list of items you should inspect and prepare before hitting the road.
TOWING INFO – A list of items you should consider when selecting, preparing, and towing your boat trailer.
TRAILER STORAGE – Prepare your trailer for down time.
USING YOUR TRAILER – Maintenance tips and more.
TOW VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS
Refer to tow vehicle capabilities supplied by the manufacturer and compare with trailer requirements.
- Towing capacity: a tow vehicle must be rated for the full GVWR of the trailer being towed
- Hitch: a hitch assembly rated must be rated for the full GVWR of the trailer being towed
- Tow ball size: match tow ball to the coupler / actuator requirement (2” or 2-5/16”) depending upon trailer capacity. Check with your dealer.
- Tow ball height: 18” to 21” from the ball centerline to the ground. Adjust by using an offset drawbar.
- Trailer electrical connection: 4 or 5 pin flat pigtail connector if no brakes or surge brake equipped, and 7 pin round if Electric Over Hydraulic (EOH) brake equipped.
- Brake controller: required on models with electric or Electric Over Hydraulic (EOH) braking systems
To determine the load capacity requirement of your tow vehicle, refer to the Vehicle Identification Label attached to the trailer on the left frame rail just behind the tongue junction. It will display the maximum load-carrying capacity of the trailer. It is required to show the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) which is the load-carrying capacity plus the weight of the trailer itself. It is the trailer operator’s responsibility to ensure that the total weight of the boat, engine fuel, water, gear and trailer do not exceed the GVWR capacity.
If you don’t know the correct weight of your boat and engine, don’t guess; have it weighed. This usually can be done at a local lumber yard, feed and fertilizer store, quarry, truck weigh station, etc. Take the total weight of the rig and subtract the trailer dry weight that is noted on the VIN sticker.
Be especially careful not to overload the trailer by putting heavy baggage, camping gear, etc., in the boat while traveling. If you must carry such equipment in your boat while trailering, take this into consideration at the time of purchase and go to the next larger-size trailer.
Know before you tow!
WARNING: Before towing any trailer, be sure to read and familiarize yourself with all documentation and warnings supplied by the manufacturer. Every Load Rite trailer is shipped from the factory with an Owner’s Manual. Make sure you receive a hard copy from your dealer, or download here.
ALWAYS CHECK BEFORE YOU TOW:
- Coupler, hitch and hitch ball are of the correct size and that all ratings match
- Coupler is safely secured to tow ball and safety chains are attached to the vehicle hitch
- Check all trailer fasteners for proper tightness
- Boat or other cargo is securely tied down to trailer front and rear (winch cable or strap is not a tie down)
- Wheel lug nuts are properly tightened to 85 to 90 lb/ft of torque
- Wheel bearings are properly adjusted, maintained, and lubricated
- Brake fluid reservoir is topped off
- Trailer brakes are properly adjusted and working (if trailer is so equipped)
- Load is within maximum carrying capacity of the trailer and is properly balanced on the trailer
- Tongue weight does not exceed 5% to 7% of the total trailer load
- Tires are properly inflated to the maximum indicated tire sidewall pressure when cold
- All trailer lighting is working properly
Be prepared. Plan ahead. Bring tools and spares.
- Jack and lug wrench– make sure to carry a jack and lug wrench that will work on your boat trailer. The jack and lug wrench that came with the tow vehicle may work on your trailer, but don’t count on it. If using a hydraulic bottle jack, use a block of wood between the top of the jack and the trailer frame. Carry a plank to use below the jack in case of unstable ground.
- Inspect the trailer for all serviceable items per the Load Rite Owner’s Manual. Check all fasteners for proper tension, inflate tires per maximum sidewall pressure, lubricate pivot points, service the bearings, and bleed the brakes.Spare parts – Make up a special “trailer kit” and to carry on all trips. This kit should include a spare wheel and tire, jack, lug wrench, wheel chocks, extra line (for tie-downs and winch), extra light bulbs, bearing grease and a grease gun, wheel bearings and seals, and road flares.
- Trailer laws addressing requirements such as brakes, lights, safety chains, licensing, etc., vary by state. It is the responsibility of the trailer owner to make sure your trailer fully complies with motor vehicle the laws in your jurisdiction. Your local trailer dealer can assist you in this regard. If you are unsure, contact your state motor vehicle department for full information before selecting a trailer.
- The total weight of your boat, engine, fuel, water and gear must not exceed the trailer’s maximum load carrying capacity. Overloading a trailer can cause serious injury, property damage, or even death. Note: Maximum load carrying capacity is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) less the weight of the empty trailer. This information is imprinted on the foil VIN sticker on the left frame rail of every Load Rite trailer.
- Improper tongue weight on the tow vehicle hitch ball can cause loss of control of the tow vehicle and result in serious injury, property damage, or even death. Depending upon trailer model, proper tongue weight should be adjusted to 5% to 7% of GVWR when fully loaded.
- Improper adjustment of boat supports or improper positioning of the boat on the boat trailer may cause damage to your boat hull, personal injury, or even death. Contract with your dealer for proper trailer adjustment.
- Serious injury, property damage, or even death can result if the total weight of your loaded trailer exceeds the rated capacity of the hitch on your tow vehicle, or the rated towing capacity of the tow vehicle. Consult your tow vehicle manufacturer to determine the towing capacity of your vehicle and hitch.
- Failure to properly attach safety chains or cables between your trailer and tow vehicle can result in a run-away trailer should the trailer coupler become detached from the hitch, and could result in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- Failure to properly engage the tow ball in the coupler ball socket and securely lock the coupler latch mechanism can cause the trailer to become detached from the tow vehicle while traveling, which may result in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- Failure to replace coupler or latch assembly if either shows any evidence of wear or damage can result in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- To reduce the risk of property damage, personal injury, or even death, make certain that all trailer lights are in proper working order.
- Maintain proper torque on lug nuts or wheel bolts. Failure to do so may result in property damage, personal injury, or even death. Lug nuts should be tightened to 85 – 95 lb/ft of torque.
- Keep wheel bearings lubricated. Failure to properly lubricate bearings may cause failure and possible wheel loss resulting in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- Keep tires properly inflated. Failure to maintain correct pressure may result in tire failure and loss of control resulting in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- Trailer brakes must be maintained in good working condition. Loss of adequate braking could result in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- Failure to tie down the bow independently from the winch line could allow your boat to shift while traveling, causing loss of control of the tow vehicle and resulting in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
- To reduce the risk of serious injury or even death, do not step inside or on the trailer frame during launching or loading procedures.
- To reduce the risk of serious injury or even death should the winch strap, cable or hook fail, always stand to one side when winching the boat onto your trailer.
- Your trailer will look better and last longer if you rinse it off with fresh water several times a year. If your trailer is used in salt water, the trailer should be rinsed off after every trip. An annual washing with a mild detergent will help to keep your trailer bright and clean. Avoid wax on a galvanized surface. Do not store when wet. Air drying in a humid environment can promote oxidation of surfaces. Always tow your trailer after washing to aid in drying.
- Some insurance policies do not provide coverage when towing a trailer. Check your policy, or call your insurance agent, to be sure you are fully covered.
When your trailer will not be in use for several months, you can ensure that it will continue to provide good performance when you next use it by taking the following steps before storing:
- DO NOT PUT YOUR BOAT TRAILER AWAY WET. Always air dry your trailer by towing behind your tow vehicle for a few miles, even if it is wet from a fresh water rinse. This will minimize the amount of time water stands on vulnerable components like hardware and brakes.
- If at all possible, park your trailer rig in a protected area; a garage, carport, etc.
- If the trailer is parked outdoors, install a boat cover that is tight enough for adequate protection, but not air tight.
- Service or repack wheel bearings according to manufacturer’s instructions in the Load Rite Owner’s Manual.
- Jack up the trailer and place blocks under the trailer frame to take most of the weight off the suspension and tires. Place blocks ahead of and behind the axle(s), and at the tongue junction.
- Be sure the boat is resting properly and securely on hull supports, then loosen tie-downs and winch line.
- If the boat has a drain plug, remove it and elevate the trailer tongue slightly (just an inch or two) to allow water to drain out and keep the boat dry. Tie the plug to something obvious, like the steering wheel, as a reminder to replace the drain plug before the boat is launched
Before you use the trailer again:
- Check tire pressure. Inflate to maximum pressure as indicated on the sidewall. Inspect for dry rot. Replace as necessary.
- Check brake fluid level.
- Lubricate the bearings.
- Retighten winch line and tie-downs.
- Remove blocks and return trailer to ground.
- Secure to tow vehicle and inspect lighting for proper function.
USING YOUR TRAILER
To determine the proper tire size for your trailer model, refer to the VIN certification plate located on the front left side of your trailer. This plate will also state the proper tire rim. There is also a tire placard in the same proximity.
Recommended air pressure can also be found on the VIN certification plate, tire placard, and it will be molded on the tire. Always run at full pressure as indicated on tire sidewall.
Should your certification plate be damaged, your dealer can help you in determining the proper tire and rim size.
When jacking up your trailer to change tires, follow the same procedure that you used in checking hub bearings.
BEARINGS AND HUBS
Load Rite recommends you add grease regularly for best bearing life. Load Rite uses components that make adding grease a simple process. The trailer hub bearing cap should be metallic and will have either a rubber plug in the center or an exposed grease fitting. To add grease follow these directions:
Remove the rubber plug to expose the grease fitting. Apply grease gun nozzle to the fitting and add grease. Used, contaminated grease will flow toward you around the gun nozzle. Catch in a rag and discard.
Apply grease gun nozzle to the exposed fitting and add grease. Used, contaminated grease will expel out the back of the spindle either into or atop the axle tube. If visible, wipe away and discard.
Both of these systems allow grease to be added without damage to the inner seal.
If your trailer came with “bearing buddies” (clear plastic, exposed grease fitting, spring loaded internal plate) grease can be added to top off to capacity. It is possible to overfill and damage the inner grease seal. To replace grease the hub must be disassembled.
It is NOT recommended to replace the bearing covers on your Load Rite with “bearing buddies” unless they were original equipment. “Bearing buddies” are not currently used on any Load Rite product, and only appear on some pre-2005 small trailers under 1500 lb capacity.
Inspect wheel bearings periodically by the following procedure:
CAUTION – Leave the trailer connected to the tow vehicle with tow vehicle parking brake set and wheels chocked. Trailer must be on level ground.
- To jack up your trailer, first block the wheel on the opposite side, both front and back.
- Position the jack on the frame as near as possible to the wheel to be inspected. Make sure the jack is on stable ground. If using a hydraulic bottle jack use a block of wood between the jack and frame.
- Raise the trailer and proceed to spin the wheel and listen for any noise. Feel the wheel for any roughness in its rotation. If your trailer is equipped with disc brakes, there will be a certain amount of brake drag. This is normal. If your trailer is drum brake equipped there should be no brake drag.
- An otherwise quiet and smooth rotation indicates that the bearings are in good shape. If any noise or grinding sound is evident, the wheel should be removed to prepare the hub for removal and inspection.
- Check wheel bearing adjustment. Proper torque is factory set to maximize bearing life but occasional adjustment may be necessary as bearing clearances wear.
- Check to see if an adjustment is needed by gripping the wheel at opposite edges and attempt to rock side to side. If the wheel moves at all, bearing adjustment should be addressed.First, remove the bearing protector or dust cap. Remove the cotter pin or bend the retainer clip out of the way. Tighten the spindle nut a little more than “finger tight” (approximately 20-24 inch pounds). When the nut is positioned properly the wheel should turn easily and have no end play.Reassemble the reverse of disassembly and make sure the retainer is in place.Note: This bearing adjustment should be checked after the first 75 miles and about every year after that.
- Grease hubs carefully after launch and before storage to displace any moisture in the grease.
Always use a high temperature lithium based wheel bearing grease with NLGI #2 rating and a hand-operated grease gun. Lubricate each wheel with a few pumps.
NOTICE: It is highly recommended that the following service be performed annually. Remove each wheel and hub. Visually inspect and replace the following items as necessary: bearings, bearing races, seals and brake components. Always reassemble with a new seal and retainer, repack with fresh clean grease.
All work should be performed by a qualified mechanic.
Removing and reinstalling the bearing protector
To remove your bearing protector or dust cap, place a piece of wood against the side of it. Carefully strike the wood with a hammer. Then place the wood on the opposite side, and strike again. Continue this procedure until you have “walked” the protector out of the hub.
To reinstall your bearing protector or dust cap, line it up with your hub, place a block of wood over the front of the protector and carefully tap the wood with a hammer.
NOTE: All bearing protector caps are designed to fit tightly into the hub. Take care in aligning the protector cap with the hub.