The Mighty Dozen

Published in the September 2012 Issue September 2012 Ask The Expert

You wouldn't buy a boat without putting some thought and research into it. It's an expensive investment and you and your passengers will be at its mercy once you're out on the water, far away from the shore. So it makes sense to ask around, read reviews and look at different companies before you decide. But it's equally important to do the same when it comes to your trailer. Boaters depend on their trailer every weekend and it could mean the difference between arriving at the lake safely or breaking down on the freeway.

When it comes to picking a trailer, there are several things to consider. Trailer hitches are typically labeled with a class rating to define their weight capacity, receiver opening size and maximum tongue weight.

Class 1 can handle a gross trailer weight (GTW) of up to 2,000 pounds and a maximum tongue weight of 200 pounds. Class 2 trailers are for loads of up to 3,500 pounds GTW and 300 pounds tongue weight. Class 3 hitches can handle up to 5,000 pounds GTW and 500 pounds tongue weight. And Class 4 Class hitches are for up to 10,000 pounds GTW and 1,000 to 1,200 pounds of tongue weight.

Tongue weight is the downward force that the tongue of the trailer applies to the hitch of the tow vehicle. If the tongue of the trailer does not wield enough downward force on the hitch, essentially meaning that the trailer's tongue weight is too light, you will have set yourself up to encounter trailer sway when moving at high speeds. If the tongue weight is too heavy, the steering of the tow vehicle will be affected. The weight of your boat, trailer, and gear should never exceed the hitch's listed weight capacity.

There are others things to consider when thinking about a trailer.


Paint vs. Galvanized

Painted trailers work perfect for freshwater bodies, but they are easily corroded in salt water. Painted trailers can be painted to match the color scheme of your boat. Galvanized trailers cost more and tend to be a tad bland-looking but don't require as much maintenance.


Float On vs. Scissor:

Submersible float on trailers can be easier for people new to trailering. They allow the boat to float off and on when the trailer is submerged but they need more upkeep and a steeper ramp for launching. Scissor trailers can be simpler to maintain but they are typically more expensive.


Trailer Brakes

Trailers with a GVW of 1,500 pounds or more are required to have brakes on all wheels in most states. Using trailer brakes for even lighter load is not a bad idea.


Tow Vehicle

Towing a boat trailer can be hard on a vehicle's cooling system, engine, tires, springs and transmission. Double check your vehicle's towing capacity to ensure that your automobile is going to be okay with your load. Consider a 15 percent safety margin to be on the safe side.

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