Recreational boats in the United States have to be towed by trailer to and from the water. The boat trailer is only one part of the boating package. It includes the boat, trailer, hitch, and towing vehicle. Trailer maintenance is imperative. The trailer must have a load capacity adequate to carry the boat, motor, fuel and all equipment that may be carried in the boat as it is trailered. By law, trailers are classified by the maximum amount they may weigh when fully loaded. It is highly suggested that you never exceed 85% of a trailer’s total capacity. Your trailer will also have a Gross Axle Weight Rating which is used to describe the minimum tire rating needed for that load. It must be at least equal to the Gross Axle Weight Rating.
The trailer is attached to the towing vehicle by a trailer hitch. A socket on the front of the trailer drops over a ball on the back of the hitch and then locks down. These two parts must match in size. The ball size is determined by the class of trailer. The hitch should be permanently attached to the towing vehicle and should handle the load you are attempting to pull. Bumper hitches which are attached to the bumper only are illegal in some states and not recommended.
One more thing to consider is the “tongue” weight. The weight of the trailer tongue that attaches to the towing vehicle should not be more than five to fifteen percent of the total weight of the rig. Adjusting the tongue weight by moving the balance point of the trailer makes the tow more stable. If the tongue weight is too low, the trailer will fishtail at high speed. You should shift weight forward to increase the tongue weight. If the tongue weight is too high, it will drag down the rear of the tow vehicle and make steering difficult.
If you are preparing to tow, make sure you drain the accumulated water from the boat’s bilge and that you connect trailer lights to towing vehicle and check turn signals, brake lights, and backup lights. In order to tow the vehicle securely in a criss-cross fashion and make sure they are secure. Check tire pressure, lug nuts and test brakes. Do not forget the keys to your boat. The weight you are towing will make the towing vehicle less responsive.