boat trailer tow strap

boat trailer tow strap

Towing a BoatTrailer Safely

Towing a boat trailer is a complex, specialized job. It involves not only the trailer but also the vehicle to which it is attached and the waters into which it must be towed. Selecting the right vehicle and trailer as well as following proper towing instructions can help ensure a safe boating experience.

Selecting the Tow Vehicle

The tow vehicle should have the capacity to pull the trailer and its load as well as the ability to stop, turn and accelerate without putting stress on itself or the trailer. Load capacity is determined by power and aking, steering and suspension components.

When assessing a tow vehicle, consider components such as the engine make and model, clutch, transmission, power steering, shock absorbers and hubs. Trailers are rated with the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and the Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR), both of which measure the total weight of the trailer and its load.

Tow vehicles with a towing capacity of 3000 to 5000 pounds are suitable for boats weighing less than 18 feet, whereas larger boats weighing 20 to 24 feet need vehicles with a towing capacity from 4000 to 8000 pounds. Engines in boats should also be checked to make sure they are capable of traveling the speed required for towing purposes.

Selecting the Boat Trailer

If the boat is larger than 18 feet and less than 20 feet, the trailer used should be rated for the intended towing purpose. Consider the type and weight of the boat, the size of tires, akes and bearings, the towing capacity of the tow vehicle's engine and clutch system, and the driving conditions of the tow.

The trailer should also be constructed with enough structural strength to support its load as it will be subject to a lot of torsional forces while towing the boat. To make sure the trailer is properly designed and constructed, look for certain features such as efficient couplings, adjustable sprung axles, and strong tubular frames.

Hitching the Boat Trailer

When hitching the boat trailer, first connect the ball trailer to the hitch tongue securely with a pin. Make sure the pin is secured with a latching device. To properly hitch the trailer, ensure that the connection is set to the tow vehicle's hitch ball in the correct orientation, making sure that the hitch ball is within 17 inches of the ground. This is important as it helps prevent jerking and sway during towing.

Connect the trailer akes, if any, with a trailer wiring harness, making sure that the harness is free of damage and that the connection is secure. Inspect the trailer lights and all electrical connections, looking for loose or damaged, wires or components. Test the ake lights, turn signals and running lights using a special connection on the vehicle, if one is available.

Towing the Boat Trailer

To tow a trailer safely, the trailer should not drag on the ground. To make sure the trailer is not overloaded, check the trailer-tongue weight. Start with the trailer empty and load it evenly while ensuring the weight is distributed in the front, middle and side of the trailer.

The tongue weight should be balanced with the pickup's hitch, the trailer ball and the tow vehicle's frame. To reduce the risk of swaying, the tongue should be at least 8 percent of the Combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (CGVW) of the tow vehicle and trailer.

When towing, use a weight-distributing hitch that distributes trailer tongue weight across the entire axle of the tow vehicle to improve aking and steering performance. A weight-distributing hitch should always be used on trailers that weigh more than 3500 pounds (1590 kilograms).

Other Tips for Safe Towing

When towing a boat trailer, make sure the trailer akes are working properly. Have the trailer akes tested annually by a qualified technician and make sure the akes are adjusted properly.

Also, never exceed the manufacturer's suggested speed when towing. If a trailer sway occurs when towing, there are several ways to correct it, such as avoiding sudden aking and deceleration, slowing down, using a weight-distributing hitch, or driving in the tracks made by other vehicles when following them.

Above all, ensure that the trailer, vehicle and launch site are in good condition before towing. Be aware that boating with an overloaded trailer or a boat that is too large for the tow vehicle can increase the risk of accidents and compromise safety. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for proper towing and always obey local, state and federal towing laws and regulations.

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