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Is your trailer ready for the trip up north?

March 23, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

With May, tarpon time and South-west Florida sub-tropical heat fast approaching, Cape anglers are preparing boats and gear to do battle with the Silver King. While our anglers get ready for a hopefully great tarpon season, another large segment of our population will be preparing to return north pulling boats and RV trailers.

Is your trailer ready for the long trip home? As important, is your tow vehicle up to the task?

Trucks pulling heavy boats generate heat and lots of it. When choosing a vehicle to tow "Old Faithful" back to New York, buy a dealer-installed tow package, which should obviously include enough power and beefy transmissions as well as suspensions.

To fight the heat issue, oil and transmission coolers are a big plus and should be mandatory. If you tow in an area of hills or mountains, the heat load generated is much higher. Steep ramps and big boats need 4-wheel-drive vehicles.

Now that you have the truck, what's the trailer condition? The rubber meets the road first so a tire inspection makes sense. Old with sun-dried, cracked sidewalls? That's an accident waiting to happen. Not a flat but a catastrophic blowout at highway speeds. Replace them.

The rubber meets the road, but everything - boat, motor and trailer - rolls on little steel bearings. When you see a boat trailer broken down alongside the highway, it's a safe bet that it's due to a tire problem or a wheel bearing issue.

When it comes to greasing bearings I'm the king and in over 50 years of towing have yet to experience a bearing failure, which is probably a bad thing to brag about as now I've probably put a whammy on myself.

Keep the bearings well-greased and replaced. Manufactures and trailer gurus recommend yearly bearing changes, especially if used in saltwater and trailering long distances. Personally, I don't follow the rule but again I'm fanatical about grease. Make sure that you use grease designed for high temperatures wheel bearing applications not just a general duty product.

When buying a new boat trailer, bring it home then say goodbye to the lights as within minutes of your first trip, one or more will probably fail as there must be an ongoing conspiracy by boat trailer light manufactures against boaters. This is my opinion formed by years of experience. Upgrade to the new sealed LEDs? Each unit contains several LEDs. If one or more go out, they can't be replaced like the old bulb type as the unit is sealed. As a bonus, the LED sets cost quite a bit more.

On the way home towing my new trailer fresh from the dealer, my buddy following behind me called to tell me I had a trailer light out. I give up. You're on your own. But by whatever means, keep them lit for safety.

The second thing to go or first thing to rust away is your trailer brakes. Most States require brakes on trailers rated for a GTW of more than 3,000 pounds. But by all means flush the brake systems, drums or discs as soon as possible after use especially in saltwater.

Most trailer brakes use a hydraulic actuator system or surge brake to activate them. Before the trips make sure all brake systems are in top working order. The bigger the boat the more important to check and maintain these systems.

The two rules of towing to avoid having to make an emergency stop is to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and by slowing down.

In rain or icy conditions, double or triple these distance when possible to increase the chances of stopping in time. The bigger the boat the more room required to stop.

Go over the trailer with a socket set and tighten ALL nuts and inspect axels for rust rot. Replace rusted weak axels.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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