Precautions to Take When Towing a Trailered Boat

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Precautions to Take When Towing a Trailered Boat

If you need to transport a boat, then renting or purchasing a boat trailer is likely your best option. When the trailer and tow vehicle are set up correctly, towing a boat trailer is a fairly stress-free process. There are many experienced individuals who have been towing their boats for years without incident. To avoid any problems, these are the precautions you should take when towing a trailered boat.

Get The Right Gear

When you start to look for a trailer, make sure that you find a trailer that will match your tow vehicle. Avoid overloading the trailer or towing a boat that’s going to be too much for your vehicle. Depending on the size of the boat or the trailer, you may need a truck to tow, although that’s not always the case.

Be sure to read your vehicle’s towing ability before moving forward. Pay attention to your tow rating, your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), your gross combined weight rating, the gross axle rating, and your vehicle’s curb weight. Keep in mind that your tow rating does not account for passengers and cargo, so make sure you adjust for those weights as well.

You may decide to make an investment in towing mirrors to improve your visibility. These mirrors allow you to see more of your boat and trailer than traditional mirrors on some vehicles. The law states that you need to be able to see the car behind you in full view, so if that’s not the case, you will need to upgrade your mirrors.

Set Up The Trailer

Once you have the trailer, make sure that your truck’s hitch is bolted securely to the frame. If you haven’t used it for a while, inspect it thoroughly, making sure that it’s free from rust and not compromised.

Before you hook up the trailer, inspect it thoroughly. The running gear should be ready and work properly. Inspect the tires to ensure that they have a good tread, aren’t showing signs of wear, and are inflated to the appropriate pressure. Low-pressure tires will lead to failure, so check the pressure initially as well as every 100 miles. Check that the grease is fresh and the shape of the wheel bearings are good. Inspect all areas of the frame to ensure it will support your boat.

As you hook up the trailer, the weight should be balanced side to side and fore and aft. The trailer’s tongue weight should be about 9-15% of the total trailer weight.

Once you have your trailer hooked up, don’t forget to use the safety chains. One of the best tips here is to make sure you cross the chains to form an “X”. Finally, don’t forget to hook up your trailer lights so that cars behind you will be able to see you braking and turning.

Take A Test Drive

Before you load the boat, drive a short stretch with just the trailer. Check that the lights on the trailer work correctly. Also, ensure that the brakes work correctly (if the trailer has brakes). Check for the feel of the trailer with steering. Does the trailer sway? Does it feel too light or unbalanced? If so, re-evaluate things like your hitch height or the condition of the trailer tires.

Load The Boat

Once you’ve gotten through these steps, you’re ready to load your boat, tie it down, and start driving. Give your boat and trailer one more safety check first. Double check all of your safety chains, light plugs, and latches.

The cargo in your towing vehicle and on your boat should also be balanced. If the back of the car or truck and the tongue of your trailer are sagging, you’ll have problems handling the vehicle and sway while driving. Put any heavy gear inside the boat right over the axle. Make sure everything inside the boat is stowed away or tied down, including life vests and coolers.

While You’re Driving

The biggest rule to remember when towing a trailer is that you need to take it slow. Don’t assume that you can drive the same speed or in the same manner as you would without a trailer. For instance, when you take turns, you want to take them as wide as possible. Also, keep an eye on the tires of your trailer to make sure they aren’t nearing the edge of the road where they can slide or hit a curb.

You’ll want to give yourself plenty of room for braking so leave about 4-5 car lengths between you and the car ahead of you. If you feel your trailer begin to sway from unbalanced load or wind, remember, don’t slam on the brakes. Simply lift your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Apply the brakes very slowly if necessary.

Once you arrive at your destination, give your boat and trailer one more inspection to make sure everything held up during transport. Feel your hubs for warmth. If they are hot, you could have a bearing problem and will want to get those serviced by your dealer or service provider as soon as possible.

When you take the right safety precautions, you can feel comfortable moving your boat from one great boating spot to the next. Happy boating!


  • Dennis

    Very good,
    helpful advice on this site, especially for newbies. Thank you.

  • Hiram

    I am transporting my boat on my trailer do I have to have mud flaps and fenders in the trailer in Ontario?

  • John

    What a great site, glad I found you. You’ve already provided some great advice!

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