Indy's Trailer Towing Road Warrior
Insterstate Highway Survival Guide

Read and follow these tips or die, Yankee, die!

by Don Jordan


Just when things were looking bad, the ruling class decided to give us a break and gas prices dropped at the peak of summer vacation. Instead of fishing close to home this summer, your gas budget should allow you to become a road warrior.

Hereís a typical scenario: Cruising across Wisconsin on Interstate 90/94, thinking about those big smallmouth you are going to catch at Lake of the Woods, Ontario, the port side boat trailer tire blows. You donít notice it for about 30 miles, and by then the tire is shredded, the wheel is burred and bent, and the wheel bearings overheat and fry. Yep, the gas is cheap, but the road repair isnít. Cost of towing, new wheel, tire, wheel bearings and labor on Sunday afternoon in Black River Falls, Wisconsin? Nearly $500.

If youíre going to be a road warrior and haul your boat hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, I have discovered the hard way that it pays to be prepared. Here are some tips that may save you time, money and heart surgery:

*Boat Trailers: Pull the wheels and clean and inspect both inside and outside bearings. If they are pitted or feel loose, replace them. Pack them with marine grease and install a set of cups with grease fittings. On the road, keep an eye on the grease cup. Most of these devices have some kind of indicator to tell you if more grease is needed. Keep the bearings well-greased during your trip. Bring a grease gun and spare cartridges with you.

Boat trailer tires are another major pitfall. Be sure they are in good condition with plenty of tread. Replace them if cracks are showing on the sidewalls. Be sure you have a spare trailer tire and that it is in good shape and inflated to the proper pressure. Bring one of those emergency air pumps that plugs into the cigarette lighter receptacle.

Check the lug wrench and jack in your vehicle. Be sure everything is there, and check the lug wrench to see if it fits the lug nuts on your trailer wheels. If not, you will need to pick up a wrench that does fit. You canít change a tire if the lug wrench doesnít fit.

*Jacks: Note that the word is plural. Hereís why. If your trailer suffers a flat tire, check the ground clearance to the trailer axle. You will probably find it is too skinny to get your jack under it. So, you are going to need either two jacks or one jack and a jack stand. A few blocks of 2x8 board to put under the first jack is also required. Jack the trailer frame first, then slide the second jack or jack stand under the axle. Now you can change the flat.

*Hitches & Lights: Be sure your hitch latches down and has little up and down play. Adjust the hitch if it is too loose. Use a hitch pin lock for the ball, and, if you have a hitch receiver, be sure you use a locking receiver pin. Check your lights and be sure to have a couple of spare bulbs with you on the road. If your lights donít seem to be working when you first connect the trailer, drive around the block and test again. If you havenít used the trailer for a while, it takes a little driving to get a solid ground to the trailer lights through the trailer ball.

*Tie Downs: Have you ever dumped a boat onto the highway? I am sorry to say I have, but I will never do it again. Avoid those spring-loaded transom tie-downs and use the heavy duty nylon strap type. A gunwale strap is far and away the best way to keep your boat on the trailer, so if you can use one of these, install it before you hit the road or your boat might hit it too.

*Transom Support: If you do not have a support bar that fits between your outboardís lower unit and the boat trailer, get one before you start. You can buy one or make one out of 2x4 boards. The idea is to relieve the heavy load your outboard creates on the boat transom by transferring most of the road shocks to the trailer instead of the transom. Such a device also keeps your motor secured and up from the highway and any disasters that might knock off your lower unit or prop.

*Hoosier Tape: Thatís what they call duct tape in other parts of the country, and I think it is meant as an insult. I donít care, because when something goes wrong there is hardly anything that duct tape canít fix, at least temporarily. One note on duct tape. Some duct tape is much higher quality than other duct tape. The brand name "Duck Tape" is high quality, and there are plenty of other good brands. I use that U.S. Air Force "1,000 mile an hour" duct tape.

*Coat Hangers or Bailing Wire: If you canít fix it with duct tape, a coat hanger or some bailing wire, it probably isnít worth fixing. Everything from car door unlocking device to muffler hanger is covered with these items. Be sure to have some on board.

*Tool Kit: If you have a big vehicle with lots of room, bring your entire tool box. If not, you need a set of sockets, pliers, a multi-screwdriver, vice grips and a crescent wrench.

There are probably lots of other important items that you need on the road, but for trailering a boat, these are things I have learned from experience, mostly the hard way. Stay out of the hammer lane and good luck!

Posted 7/20/01...indy

©Copyright 2001. Jordan Communications.

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