With a little practice and preparation, you can master the art of towing your boat and spend less time behind the wheel and more time on the water.
So here are a few handy tips!
- Make a checklist
Making a simple checklist will make sure you eliminate any unfortunate situations that could arise due to a slight oversight. Make sure the lug nuts are tight on your trailer wheels and your tires are inflated. Check that the runway chains are crisscrossed and attached to your tow vehicle. Finally, secure the outdrive or motor in the upright trailering position.
- Be wary of your load
It’s easy to forget whilst you’re driving along that you have an extra 26 feet of trailer behind you. Whipping into an available petrol station or supermarket car park without considering your wide load is risky business. Take turns as wide as possible.
- Compensate for weight
Be patient with your journey time whilst towing and bear in mind that you’ll have a trailer, boat, full tank of fuel and a carload of passengers, so you won’t see the typical performance of your tow vehicle that you’re used to! Extension wing mirrors may also be needed if the boat is wider than the tow car.
- Check your brakes
If you’ve got a much heavier than usual load, consider how much longer it will take to come to a stop - and make sure your brakes are up to the challenge. Gradually pump the brakes to bring the heavy load under control. Make sure the trailer is serviced regularly - at least annually - and more frequently if it’s regularly immersed in water or covers a high mileage.
- Check your hubs
If you make a stop along the way to your destination, walk back to the trailer hubs and feel them. They should be cool to touch. If they’re hot, your bearings aren’t functioning properly - have them serviced immediately, or you could experience bearing failure while rolling down the road.
- Speed limits when towing a boat
30 and 40mph speed limits apply to vehicles towing a trailer, but on single-carriageway roads the 60mph national speed limit is reduced to 50mph. On motorways and dual carriageways the 70mph speed limit is reduced to 60mph. Vehicles towing a trailer cannot use the fast (outside) lane of a three-lane motorway.
- Check tyres
Trailer tyres should have at least 1.6mm of tread depth across three-quarters of the tyre width, must be free of deep cuts and bulges and must be maintained at the right pressure. Note that many trailer tyres don’t cover enough mileage to wear out before their 5-8 year lifespan has been exceeded.
- Check your insurance
As well as having insurance for the car, you must also have third party cover for your trailer or boat.
- Nose weight
To ensure safe handling, especially avoiding snaking, vehicle and trailer manufacturers specify the weight a trailer should impose on a tow bar. This is generally between 50-100 kg, unless the trailer is very light - for example in the case of a small dinghy.
- Winch strap and safety chain
Don’t remove the winch strap and safety chain until you’ve backed the boat down the water. If you remove the strap and chain too early, the boat can slide off and smash onto the boat ramp.