Call it the poker run that never was. Some boating friends had invited me along on a big Memorial Day weekend boat rendezvous on the Alabama Gulf Coast. My friend had paid the early registration fee and made sure the engine in his beautiful 25-foot Sea Ray Sundancer had been serviced, the boat washed and detailed, the galley and coolers stocked full of food and beverages, and the fuel tank topped off. We piled into his pickup truck and hit the road just before daylight to make the two-hour drive to the annual spring outing. But we never made the launch ramp.
A flat tire on his trailer brought the trip to a screeching halt. While surveying the ruined tire and rim, we realized that although my friend had made sure the vehicle, boat and our provisions were taken care of, we hadn’t given the trailer a proper inspection.
To be sure, starting with the proper tow vehicle goes a long way toward ensuring a successful outing. GMC makes sure its vehicles are equipped with trailer-ready features, so you have one less thing to worry about on the road. “All GMC engines and transmissions are designed with trailering in mind,” says Robert Krouse, trailering engineer for General Motors North America. However, this peace of mind should not substitute for a proper pre-road trailer inspection.
Start by checking the brakes. If you are comfortable around the automotive toolbox, jack the trailer up and pull the wheel drums (or rotors/discs) for a thorough inspection. At the same time, check, clean and repack the wheel bearings. (This should be done at least once a year.) Use a good bearing protector to keep them properly lubed. If you aren’t comfortable with these tasks, visit your dealer or mechanic.
Trailer lights get a lot of dunking at the launch ramp, and corrosion can creep into light sockets and wiring. The new LED trailer lights are far less troublesome, and if your trailer doesn’t have them, consider an upgrade. If your trailer isn’t equipped with sealed lights, pull the light bulbs and spray dielectric grease into every socket. Then plug the harness into the tow vehicle and check to make sure taillights, the license plate light, directionals and stoplights are all working perfectly.
Next, check the condition and working order of the bow winch and cable, rollers and bunks. These help make launch/retrieval effortless. Inspect the winch and cable or strap. Lube the winch as necessary and replace obviously worn straps and cables. Rollers usually have grease fittings; fill them with a marine-grade lubricant. On the bunks, check to make sure the carpet padding is firmly attached, that it is not overly worn down, and that there are no protruding staples, screws or nails sticking through that might damage the hull.
Finally, do a walk around the trailer, inspecting all welded and bolted joints for integrity. Cracked or broken welds need fixing immediately, and bolts need to be checked for tightness. Carefully inspect the trailer’s safety chains/cables and the trailer jack. Make sure they all work properly, and lube the jack with a light marine grease. Check your trailer tie-downs to make sure they’re in good working condition. Inspect the springs, axle(s) and the mounting bolts for each, tightening as needed. Check the overall tire condition and inflation pressure as noted earlier.
As with anything of value, proper handling is key. “We put a lot of time and thought into how our vehicles handle with a trailer,” Robert says. For example, “on the GMC Sierra HD, which trailers the heaviest loads, we have available features like engine exhaust brake, an electronic stability control system, trailer sway control and hill start assist.”
If you make trailer maintenance and care part of your routine at the beginning of each new boating season, or take the time to check things over before a particular trip, you can rest assured there will never be a boating outing cut short.
Be sure to check out the Sea Ray Trailering Guide, an informative extension of Sea Ray Living, to help you understand the ins and outs of trailering. This guide will cover everything you need to know to keep your rig in tip-top shape, and to feel on top of your driving, launching and retrieving techniques.