|Over 95% of recreational boats in the U. S. are trailerable. If you're a trailer-boater like me, you know that our recurring nightmare is looking into the rear view mirror and seeing our trailer, with boat astride, departing company with our tow vehicle. I've had friends lose their rigs, one on an interstate highway as he watched his 28 footer rolling through the median. So if you don't think TRAILER SAFETY has a place in a notebook devoted to BOATING SAFETY, you probably have never towed a boat!|
TRAILER BOAT GAS STATION TIPS
The ability to easily explore new cruising grounds and filling up on the fly are synonymous with trailer boating. But filling up at a gas station requires a special set of precautions, says Caroline Ajootian, director of the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau.
"We have received a number of reports this summer of gas accidentally exiting fuel filler pipes and vents on trailered boats," says Ajootian. "This 'blow back' can occur for many reasons."
To help you safely refuel at gas stations, the Boat Owners Association of The United States has these trailer boat gas station tips:
Know fuel tank capacity: To prevent overfilling, trailer boaters should know their vessel's precise fuel capacity. This basic information is critical to a safe fill-up.
Never use your boat's gas gauge while filling up: If you are not sure of your tank's capacity, never turn on the vessel's ignition switch to view your boat's gas gauge. Sparking can sometimes occur.
Don't walk away: While filling up you may be tempted to save time and get ice, bait and snacks at the gas station's mini-mart. Don't. Leaving a refueling vessel unattended removes the biggest layer of safety - you.
After half-full, slow down: Slowing the flow of gas after reaching your tank's half-full mark will reduce the chances of blowback.
Where is my gas tank vent? Is the vent forward or near the transom? Understand how your filler tube, tank and vent are installed. If your boat is not level on its trailer you may find fuel inadvertently exiting the vent, or unable to fill tanks completely.
Fill evenly: If you have two or more tanks, distribute fuel equally. Loading up one tank more than another could put your boat-and-trailer-combo dangerously out of balance.
Never top off: Fuel that is pumped from cool, below ground holding tanks into your boat's tank - warmed by hot asphalt below and bright sun above - will expand. Not only is this a safety hazard, but you could pollute.
Always check the hubs: Every gas station fill-up gives you an easy opportunity perform a trailer hub check by placing your hand on the hub and inspecting for excessive warmth. Most hub failures could have been prevented with periodic inspections. And while you are there, check the tires, too.
"When Something Goes Wrong," a report in the February/March 2004 issue of BoatU.S. Trailering magazine cites the top three reasons for roadside breakdowns.
#1 reason: Flat Tires: You can take care of your tires but you can't always take good care of the road surfaces your tires travel upon. Almost half (43%) of all calls for assistance can be chocked up to the simple but age old problem of flat tires. Ironically, it's one of the easiest to fix when you have prepared for it. Have both a trailer and tow vehicle spare with you and practice changing them. For example, a tandem axle trailer can easily be driven up on a curb so the flat tire is off the pavement.
#2 reason: Bearing Failures: The second most common reason (20% of all calls for roadside assistance) is trailer bearing failures. The BoatU.S. Trailering club recommends that bearings be inspected and repacked at a minimum each time the tow vehicle has its oil changed. A trailer that is rarely used may need to have bearings inspected and repacked as often as one that is used often. When traveling long distances, bearings should be inspected at every gas station fill up and checked for leaking grease, hub heat buildup, smoking or wheel noise - indicators that something is not right.
#3 reason: Tow Vehicle Problems: The third most common problem phoned in to the BoatU.S. 24-hour Dispatch Center doesn't involve the trailer, but the tow vehicle. Fifteen percent of all cases were the result of running out of fuel, being locked out of the vehicle, or the need for a jump start.
Other remaining reasons included axle problems (8%); wheel and rim problems (4%); and stuck on the boat ramp (2%).
"The findings show that some breakdowns are preventable and some are not," said BoatU.S. Trailering's Associate Publisher, Beth McCann. "The best way to protect yourself is to ensure your on-the-road 'motor club' provides for both a trailer and tow vehicle."
Here are some tips I compiled from personal experience, and from boaters who have had experience with short and long distance tows.
|Class||Gross Weight of Trailer and Load|
|1||Not to Exceed 2000 pounds|
|2||2001 - 3500 pounds|
|3||3501 - 5000 pounds|
|4||Over 5000 pounds|