The Joys of Trailers

Over the many years I have been involved in the Marine Industry I have been lucky to test out many new boats from a lot of different manufacturers from around Australia. That sounds like fun and in most cases it is, however it doesn’t always go to plan. So how do we minimize issues when going to the water? Whether it’s the boats first time or you are a seasoned veteran that hasn’t been out for a few months. What steps do you take to make sure you are safe and able to return home after a big day on the water?

Trailer

A trailer can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all comes down to how you treat the relationship. Let’s think about what the trailer does. It gets the boat to the water and home again safely, so the wheels and bearings are a big factor to you enjoying your day. How many times do you see someone stuck on the side of the road with the trailer and a wheel missing. It happens all to often. The simple reason is if it’s not broken don’t fix it. Unfortunately this system doesn’t work for wear and tear items like wheel bearings.

Wheel Bearings

Lack of grease or water penetration can destroy bearings very quickly, so it is imperative that you do regular maintenance on your wheel bearings. The simple check is to jack up the trailer and spin each of the wheels separately. If you hear a growling or grinding sound then 9 times out of 10 the bearing is ready to be replaced. The other check is to grab each side of the wheel when jacked up and try to wiggle backwards and forwards. There shouldn’t be any movement and if there is there is a good chance the wheel bearing will need to be replaced. How often should you check them? Well the answer varies pending how often the boat is being trailered, distances etc. In a lot of cases sitting idle can be worst than getting used.

One of the best checks is to listen when travelling. This requires turning the tunes and the chatter off for a short time just to listen to the trailer travelling behind you. If you hear some grinding or growling sounds then there is a very good chance you have a bearing that is about to collapse. Sometimes you can be lucky and get a bit of time out of the said bad bearing but if you don’t replace it asap you will be the one on the side of the road. Today we have many products available to maintain and get better life out of our bearings including grease caps, bearing buddies and self oiling bearing systems (see pictures supplied below) but they still need to be checked and serviced as needed. As a general rule depending on my use I would certainly check mine at least once every 3 months but if a bigger trip was planned then they would be checked again. Both bearing buddies and the self oiling system can both be visually inspected which does help but a manual check will be the difference between you being on the water and enjoying your day, or sitting on the side of the road wishing you were enjoying your day.

The trailer is a massive part of you having fun and it doesn’t just stop at the bearings. The trailer carries a heavy load and in our rush to get on the water sees the boat launched and then retrieved. Did you check your roller or skid platforms? No, the boat came on and off really well, no need to check. Well, again things can happen and if you like your boat in brand new condition then please start checking your loading system’s. As boats are driven or winched onto the trailer there are forces pushing in all sorts of directions, putting strain on split pins or rivets that hold down the materials the boat is running on. At times these can break and catch you unaware which can result in hull damage. The running equipment should be checked as regularly as possible and at worse every 3 months or so. If you are suspect on a pin or rivet then replace it before it causes damage. The one dollar pin will be much cheaper than the thousand odd dollars it will cost to repair the bottom of the boat.

Trailer Styles

In the above pictures we have 3 different styles of trailers and they all have there applications. The first is a skid trailer. Skid trailers are best suited to aluminium or plate aluminium boats. The skid material has improved over the years and we are now seeing replacements from the old rubber and carpet skids to now using teflon material. The teflon works extremely effectively and allows the aluminium to slide of very easily. This can be used for glass boats as well but it can be very abrasive which over time can do damage to the gelcoat. The second trailer is a multi roll trailer which is very well suited to fiberglass boats. The roller system allows the boat to roll on rather than dragging like a skid trailer. The third trailer is a multi hull trailer, notice the large tunnel guide down the center. Each of these configurations can change in their design but the concept stays the same. Our trailer systems certainly work better today with most having drive on and off capabilities but please check with your individual ramp rules to make sure this practice is allowed. Today we are also using different materials to construct trailers. We are seeing a big increase of aluminium trailers. Price wise they are a little more expensive but with good maintenance should see that trailer last a lot longer than there steal counterparts.

Trailer Brakes

Braking systems on trailers vary depending on their GVM (gross vehicle mass). As a combined package (boat/motor/trailer) if the weight is under 750kg than it is exempt from requiring any form of braking system. Once the package is over 750kg up to 2000kg the package must have a braking system. Most trailers under this weight would go for a simple mechanical brake system. Once the package (GVM) weighs over 2000kg it is required to have a hydraulic or break away system. Each of these systems have many moving parts and in most cases when launching or retrieving your boat they will be subject to water immersion. After use it is critical that you wash down all of these areas to keep your braking system in fine working order. Many of us spend a lot of time detailing the boat but don’t pay enough attention to hosing down each section of the trailer and getting down and making sure that you get plenty of fresh to wash away any salt deposit’s.

It is very important when you buy a boat to make sure that everything is safe but most of all legal. The weights mentioned above and the systems required to carry the load are set in stone. Many years ago a lot of boat users took the risk and towed illegally carrying more weight than either the trailer was designed for or over the brake system ruling. Today, that is not a risk I would take. With the regulations in place if you were to have any sort of accident, the repercussions could be horrendous. Insurance companies just as an example will weigh and inspect all areas of the trailer and if you have broken any of the rules you will void your insurance. When looking to purchase a boat, whether it be new or second hand please pay attention to the trailer. Make sure it is suited to what you need it to do and make sure you are allowing for carry on weight. Lets say for an example the package weighs 700kg empty, you then add fuel (lets say 50L) fishing gear, food etc etc. Already I am adding up more than 50kg so we have just overrated that trailers gross vehicle mass. In this example you are now towing illegally and are subject to fines or worse.

Conclusion

Boating is some of the best fun we can have in Australia. We are extremely lucky to have so many different areas and waterways to explore so to make the whole trip a pleasurable experience, but don’t forget how you get there. Show that trailer of your’s some constant love and in return it will get you to the ramp and back safely. Make sure you do your research and make sure the trailer has the capabilities to do and carry the gear you use on the boat legally with the right braking system that is required by law. Getting the right trailer will make your whole boating experience much easier and when things work as designed you tend to use them more. That’s what we want to see, you on the water having a great time.

At OceanCat Marine we have selected Transtyle Aluminium Trailers. They build a very solid aluminium trailer that is fully bolted and not welded. This completely eliminates the risk of aluminium weld stress corrosion (weld cracking). When we order a new trailer to suit the OceanCat catamaran hull we always spend the extra and factory fit the upgrades to have all braking components all stainless steel. With the correct maintenance this trailer will last a lifetime so the little extra spent when buying new, saves thousands in the future. For any further detail in regards to trailers don’t hesitate to email Tony on sales@oceancat.com.au or call him at the office on 07 3893 1304.