Trailer Maintenance – Ross Tickle

We all know as boat owners how import maintenance is to the longevity of our boats from regular motor servicing, to checking dings and cracks in the hull and even doing the trailer bearings yet one piece that is important as all of the above seems to be neglected until it is too late, and that is often our trailers. Inevitably continually dunking our trailers into salt water before leaving them bake in the sun for hours whilst were out fishing takes its toll and it is important to get onto it before it’s too late.

Over the past few months I had noticed my trailer was getting to that stage and even though the thought of having the boat off the water for a few weeks was going to kill me I knew it had to be done.

The first step is to remove your boat from the trailer, this can seem like a daunting task at first but is in fact not too hard if you take your time, being possible even with large boats. To remove your boat you must get yourself some old tires and place a couple where the back of the boat will be remembering to be careful of any transducers, live bait bilges etc. and if In any doubt remove them. Once you have your tyres in position with the trailer hooked up to your vehicle start to unwind your boat slowly and carefully. Once the back of the boat is on the back tyres place a few more either side in the middle and another couple towards the front and underneath the centre depending on the size of your boat. With these in position have your winch in free and slowly drive forward allowing the trailer to slide from beneath the boat.

Now that the boat is off you can begin to assess your trailer more carefully finding any spots of rust or areas of concern to address. For me unfortunately there were a few bodge jobs in regards to the areas around the rollers that I needed to address as well as some spot rust before sanding off the existing gal and re spraying with gal spray.

The first job was to grind off the existing roller holders. Unfortunately rust had set in and a couple of holes were left as a result in a non-structural part off the cross member. If you have any dramas like this and are unsure what to do or if it can be repaired it is best to talk to a trailer repairer or engineering workshop to get their opinion. For me this meant to weld up the hole which can be achieved by turning your welder down quite low to avoid blowing more holes. Even once welded up the steel was not up to standard so I cut two pieces of 65 x 6 flat approx. 150 long to cover the area. Before I welded it on I sprayed the back of the steel and the crossmember with gal spray to stop it rusting internally. Then fully weld the plate on keeping in mind because it is where the roller will sit I needed to do both sides.

Once all repairs are done it is now time to dissemble your trailer taking out all bolts, removing all slides, rollers and detachable crossmembers, but before you do so it important to measure the heights of all your rollers and slides to make it easier to re assemble later on. If your bolts are in any shape rusty or damaged it is best to replace them, for me personally it was easier to replace all the bolts, nuts and washers as I wanted to do the job properly. Once everything is detached it is now time to start removing the old gal and any rust spots. I found this easiest using a coarse flappy disc on an angle grinder. Once you have removed most of the gal with the flappy disc it is important to give it a light sand with an electric sander prepping it for re spraying.

Now it is time to re spray your trailer, if you have the luxury than getting it cold dipped is the best way to go so the inside of the trailer is also sealed. If you don’t have the luxury the next best option is to use a good quality spray gal and do two to three coats on all parts of the trailer leaving one to two days between coats.

Now your trailer is ready to re assemble, when assembling the trailer there are a few things that you can do to help hold off the rust for as long as possible. The main one is to use Lanolin, lanolin is a fatty substance found on sheep’s wool that doesn’t wash off in water and helps prevent rusting on any exposed steel and is easily purchased online. I like to use Lanolin on all places that are not easily accessible to be cleaned or rinsed off. This means a good coating on all bolts as well as inside the R.H.S holders for slides, rollers as well as the wheel rods and nuts.

Now you have re assembled the trailer the last step is to put the boat back on the trailer. This can be quite difficult and is much easier with the help of another person. Slowly reverse your trailer making sure it is lined up straight, then put your winch strap on and as you slowly reverse also wind up the boat making sure it goes on carefully.

Now you are confident your trailer is up to standard it is now a matter of giving it a test run and re check the tightness of all your bolts before being confident your trailer maintenance is now finished for a few years and you are ready to get back on the water.