June 01, 2022
By Capt. Ross Robertson
If you drag a trailer long enough, you’ll get yourself into an unexpected tough spot. If we are being realistic, boat trailers are asked to do a lot and most of us don’t perform very much, if any maintenance in return. While being proactive and doing some maintenance and routine inspections to recognize problems before they happen, breakage is still inevitable.
Here are ten items you should carry while trailering so that a bad situation doesn’t become catastrophic.
Tow Strap—If you’ve ever slipped down an icy boat ramp (I have) you’ll quickly agree it’s a helpless feeling. Having a large tow strap with clevises is a great way to avoid an uncomfortable call to your insurance company. When dealing with bad ramps early and late in the season, it’s a good idea to have a second vehicle ready to pull you out before you launch. Tow straps also work great for getting you out of a ditch during winter’s worst conditions, just ask In-Fisherman’s own Thomas Allen.
Half-Inch Impact—Whether it’s a tire that hasn’t been taken off in a while or someone that was a little overzealous with tightening your lug nuts, a 1/2-inch impact drill is worth its weight in gold when you need to get a wheel off. Check your trailer tires to see what size the lugs are and that you can fit a socket on them. In many cases you‘ll need to get a thin-walled socket so if can fit into the rim. While impacts work great to get a wheel off, it’s not a great idea to put them back on with it for threat of cross threading or over torquing.
Jump Box—Back in the day, jumper cables were the item of choice. The problem with cables is you need both a good battery and the ability to access it. When shopping for a jump box, lithium will ensure you get a larger capacity in a compact package. Much like a garage, however, get it bigger than you think you’ll need, as dead batteries can require everything you have. If you go with a pair of jumper cables instead, make sure that they are long and of heavy gauge wire to accommodate for both access and amperage drop.
Tire Pressure Gauge—it’s no secret you lose gas mileage when you tow, but most of us lose even more by trailering on under-inflated trailer tires. A quality tire pressure gauge will help assure you gain better gas mileage and avoid a blowout.
Floor Jack—The older we get the more things tend to hurt. Trying to crawl under a boat trailer on the side of the road on uneven ground with a cheap bottle or scissor jack is no fun. Instead, a compact floor jack will make life easier. A floor jack’s larger platform will work better in the shop or along the side of the road. They are also much faster and lifting the vehicle and lift the frame higher. If you do decide to stick with your scissor or bottle jack, make sure to have several pieces of wood to help built up the area so the jack doesn’t bottom out before reaching the desired lifting point.
Voltmeter—A voltmeter can quickly tell you if you have power to something and how much, or none at all. I have fixed more than a few things on my boat and trailer by using a voltmeter and some guidance over the phone. Learn how to use one, it’ll be very helpful.
Basic Tool Kit—Basic tools will be different for all of us, but you want to be able to tighten or loosen whatever you have on your rig. A small bag with items such as a multi screwdriver, allen wrench set, 1/2-inch ratchet and sockets, heavy hammer, wrenches and pliers will quickly help fix many of the issues that may arise.
Breaker Bar—Back in the day, we all were told to carry a four-way lug wrench. While a four way is still a good tool, a breaker bar is a much better alternative. A long-handled breaker bar provides added leverage to break free stubborn lug nuts. While I personally rely on my cordless 1/2-inch impact, a breaker bar is a great backup and the best way to tighten the nuts once you do get the tire swapped out.
Spare Tire—I’m sure most of you are thinking: “No kidding!” But as I guy who spends a few hundred days at busy boat launches, I can tell you that many anglers don’t have one. Another point is to regularly check the spare’s tire pressure spare so it doesn’t blow out when you do need it. Lastly, purchase a spare tire cover to slow the aging process that occurs from weather and sunlight exposure.
Extra Parts—Simple things like an assortment of fuses, zip ties, duct tape and nuts and bolts can get you out of a jam quickly. Perhaps one the most important extra parts you can keep handy is an extra set of bearings. Even if you aren’t capable of doing it yourself, when you find someone who is, they still need the proper size parts to complete the job.
The list of tools and parts that you probably should carry when trailering is much longer than 10 items, but if you have these specific 10 things you’ll get yourself out of most sticky situations.
Capt. Ross Robertson