For many, the next few months will see the boat trailer being hooked up for the first time since the last fishing mission at the end of summer. If this is indeed the case for you, or even if you have fished a few times over winter, make a few checks and fix anything that needs attention, especially if it’s something you have been putting off for quite some time.
The easiest place to start is on the trailer. If you have not changed wheel bearings in a while or cannot recall the last time they were done, now is a good time to do these or book them in to get them done. It’s not a hard job, just a bit messy. There is nothing worse than having to replace bearings on the side of the road and it’s a sure way to ruin a trip if you don’t have the necessary tools with you to do it!
If you know the bearings are still good, pull out the grease gun and refill the bearing buddies with a bit of fresh grease or remove and fill the bearing caps with fresh grease and replace securely.
Next are the trailer lights. Plug them into the car and ensure that they are working as they should be. If any are not working, then replace the globes and try again. If it is not globes or you have LEDs then remove the plug from the car and dismantle. Chances are one of the wires servicing the required light has come free of its required location. In most cases it is just a matter of backing out the screw that secures it in place, putting the wire back and screwing the screw down on the wire again.
If you are really unlucky you will open the plug to find a big glob of corroded who-knows-what. If this is the case, head down to the auto shop and grab a new plug and start fresh. The wiring diagram will be on the pack or can be easily downloaded off the net. It‘s a very easy task and will not take you long at all. Having a new plug also gives you a bit of added confidence that you can hook up the boat and your lights will be working.
If the faulty light is still not working it is time to check out the wiring cable from the plug back. In most situations what you will be looking for is a break in the outer black coating where you can see through to the coloured wires on the inside. Once you find one of these breaks have a closer look to see if the plastic coating has been damaged on the coloured wire allowing you to see exposed wires or maybe even a little blob of green copper wire corrosion. If this is the case you will need to strip a bit of the wire casing off to expose the problem, chop out the offending bit and rejoin or if need be, add a bit of wire in to repair the damage.
The other most common section of failure is on the plugs coming off LED lights. About 30cm back from the light there is very often a small waterproof connector. Depending on who has done the job will depend on whether it is now a big blob of electrical tape or just some heat shrink tube over it. Either way, these plugs are not always as waterproof as we would wish them to be. If you have tried everything else, this is a good place to look next. The easiest is to just chop these plugs off, solder the desired wires together and finish with amalgamating heat shrink, which is the one with the layer of glue on the inside. You can use two pieces just to be sure; cut the first one long enough to cover the join and a bit of the wire coating, and the second one about half a centimetre longer at each end.
So now the lights are working it’s time to check the rest of the trailer. Take care to have a look at everything. Cast an eye over all of the welds. There is not a great chance that they are going to be cracked or coming apart, but if they are, better to know now rather than later on the road. Check the brake mechanism carefully and adjust, lubricate or replace any old or worn parts as required. While you are around the axles, have a good look at the springs. If they are more rust than spring or look as though they are flat, now is the time to get onto them. It’s not a fun job but is certainly not hard and far easier to do in the driveway than on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. Take special notice of the spring hangers and the bolts that hold these in place. If they look like they have seen better days, they are in need of replacing even if the springs themselves are ok. Once again if these do go, you will be in all sorts of trouble. Far easier to fix now than later.
Next thing to check is the winch and the winch post. Ensure all of the bolts on the winch post are done up tight and that the post is still as firmly attached to the trailer as it should be. As for the winch, if it has old rusty wire on it, replace it with new wire or even consider upgrading to the Dyneema rope. Next check that all of the ratchet springs are doing their job and also consider a light lube up.
Certainly not last or least, have a look over all of the rollers. Any that are cracked, misshaped or not sitting properly should be considered for replacing. The time to do this is when there is no boat on the trailer, so purchase the rollers, split pins and washers first, then head down to the local boat ramp and get it all sorted in the car park. Of course if you have a smaller boat you can do it at home, just push the boat off the trailer and then pull the trailer out from under it. Fix and or repair the rollers, then simply hook the cable up to the boat and winch the trailer under the boat. The trailer should not be hooked up to the car for this bit as the trailer needs to be able to roll itself under the boat.
Once the trailer has been given a good check over be sure to do the same to the boat. Get ready, be prepared and sort everything out before you hit the water and you can give yourself the best chance of a hassle free day of fishing.
Fixing a cracked roller like this at the beginning of the season will ensure that you do not launch or retrieve your boat over what will eventually be an exposed metal rod. Cracked rollers are a minor issue, however the damage they can do is not.