Tips for Towing a Boat and Trailer
Part of the fun of owning a truck or SUV is having the ability to tow a boat and trailer. Of course, part of the process of successfully towing a boat from point A to point B is to properly match your trailer with your vehicle and to ensure that both your vehicle and the trailer have been well maintained. Keep the following tips for towing a boat in mind to successfully tow a boat trailer and increase your chances of a trouble-free trip:
Know Your Vehicle Before Attaching Your Trailer
The first step in the process of towing a boat trailer is to know your vehicle well. Towing places additional stresses beyond daily commuting so it is especially important to inspect and maintain your vehicle, especially tire pressures. Check your owner’s manual to determine towing weight capacity. You also need to know if you need to drive in 4-wheel drive and look at the type of trailer hitch you have and it’s weight rating. After you’ve confirmed that your vehicle, hitch and trailer are up to the task, move on to the next step.
Practice Your Towing Skills Before Your Trip
Before hitting the open roadway, be sure to practice your towing skills ahead of time. After all, towing isn’t something you just automatically know how to do. To prepare, do the following:
- Find an open space or parking lot to practice in where you won’t have to worry about hitting or damaging anything.
- Pay attention to your turning radius. Figure out how much space you need to maneuver your trailer, so you know how much space to give yourself when you attempt to tow your boat.
- Practice backing up. One of the hardest parts about towing a trailer, no matter what type is backing up. Take the opportunity to get this right before you have to back a trailer into the water. Hint: left is right.
- Practice loading and unloading your boat from your trailer during the offseason or a weekday when the ramp is less busy.
If you aren’t sure how to do any of the above, look up how-to videos to teach yourself the process, or ask an old pro to join you and show you the ropes.
Pro Tip: Have a trusted friend teach your spouse how to back up the trailer. It’s cheaper than a divorce.
Create Pre-Trip Checklist
Before you tow your trailer, always have a pre-trip checklist to check off before hitting the road. Make sure you do the following:
- Check your vehicle and trailer tires for proper inflation.
- Test your trailer lights to make sure they are working and hooked up correctly.
- Have your brakes checked on your vehicle regularly. This ensures that your vehicle can successfully stop the momentum of the trailer and the boat weight once it gets going. This isn’t something you have to do every trip, but it’s important to do routinely.
- Make sure your trailer is secure on the hitch. The last thing you want to do is lose your trailer while driving down the road.
- Check your trailer’s weight distribution to ensure that your trailer isn’t front or back heavy but that it is sitting evenly. 10% tongue weight is a good starting point.
- Store any loose boat gear. When transporting a boat, you want to make sure that all loose gear that could blow out is secured either inside your vehicle or inside the boat itself.
General Safety Tips for How to Tow a Boat Trailer
There are many ways to increase your chances of arriving safely to your destination with a boat and trailer in tow. The following are some of these general tips to keep in mind:
- Be slow when both accelerating and decelerating. You will not be stopping or starting on a dime when towing something as heavy as a trailer and boat. Make sure you ease into both actions when towing.
- Take wide turns. You also can’t turn on a dime when maneuvering a trailer. Keep your practice sessions in mind and make sure you take wide turns when transporting your boat.
- Be aware of increased wind resistance when towing. Your vehicle won’t drive the same way and might have a bit of drag thanks to the added wind resistance of the boat and trailer.
- When backing up, left is right. Again, call to mind your practice sessions where you practiced backing up your trailer. Remember, left is right when backing up a trailer. This can be hard to master, but you will get there! Practice makes perfect.
- Check the trailer a few times when towing for long distances. If you aren’t making a quick trip, pull over and check your trailer throughout your trip.
Getting Your Boat Off The Trailer
In general, keep the following in mind when getting your boat off your trailer:
- Prepare and load coolers and accessories into the boat before it’s your turn to back down the ramp.
- Use a spotter. This is a person who helps you see what you cannot see.
- Don’t put your tow vehicle in the water. Obviously, you don’t want to waterlog or damage your tow vehicle. Instead, just put the trailer and boat in the water. Speaking of which…
- Back the trailer into the water SLOWLY, only far enough until the boat becomes buoyant.
Getting Your Boat on The Trailer
Keep the following tips in mind for getting your back on your trailer after a day of fun on the water:
- Take it slow.
- Don’t submerge the tow vehicle or the winch.
Clean Your Boat and Trailer After Use
Finally, the last step of a successfully towed boat and trailer is to clean your boat and trailer after each use before putting it back in storage. This will ensure it is ready to go the next time you want to hit the water!