Is Your Boat Trailer Properly Adjusted?

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trailer adjustment

Look closely at the bunk of this trailer. It should be outboard of that strake, not inboard.

Think carefully before you answer the above question, because your boat trailer may not be exactly what you believe. Unless you bought your boat new, with a trailer matched by your dealer, there’s a good chance it wasn’t properly matched to the boat. And just because a dealer put the package together isn’t a 100-percent guarantee, either.

trailer adjustment

Look closely at the bunk of this trailer. It should be outboard of that strake, not inboard.

Although a boat may look just fine sitting on a trailer, quite often you’ll find bunks that are improperly aligned or positioned, bow stops that catch the bow too low, too high, or even not at all, and side bunks that allow inches of space between the boat’s hullsides and the bunks. Why are there so many mismatched trailers out there? There are a number of reasons. Many people swap between trailers and boats when one or the other fails and needs to be replaced. Sometimes people buy a boat they’ll keep on a lift or at a dock, then they sell it to someone who wants to trailer it; without understanding how many adjustments are in order, the buyer will often just get a trailer and pull the boat onto it as-is. And with startling regularity, dealerships in a hurry to get a boat out the door don’t take the time and effort necessary to properly match up the hull and the trailer.

The results of a mis-matched trailer can be catastrophic. Everything may go fine for years, then one day you have to slam on the brakes or make an unexpectedly sharp turn, and the boat may shift or slide into an untenable position. You may find out when loading or unloading the boat in uncommon conditions (like an extremely low tide at the boat ramp) when your fiberglass hull gets gouged by a bolt-end or dragged across a trailer support. Or you may not realize anything is amiss for years, until the hull deforms due to insufficient support.

Are your boat and trailer properly matched? A close visual inspection will usually tell you what you need to know. Make sure the bunks meet and support the hull, they’re widely enough spaced that the boat can’t shift or roll out of position, and they’re long enough to give the hull the support it needs (as a rule of thumb, at least two-thirds of the length of the boat should rest on the bunks and more is better; in the case of rollers, consult your owner’s manual to find out the maximum acceptable distance between rollers). Check the bow stop to make sure it mates with the bow properly, and do the same for side bunks. Finally, when in doubt, call your local trailer shop and ask them to give your rig an inspection—and read Boat Trailering Safety: Tips and Tricks to learn more.

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