RVInsurances.com | Epic Guide to Boat Hauling Safety

Epic Guide to Boat Hauling Safety

“People say hauling a boat is intimidating and adds a lot of stress.  I for one say it feels as effortless as driving WITHOUT a boat attached,” Ed boasted.

“Um…Ed.  You may actually be on to something,” said his friend in the passenger seat.

Following his friend’s eyes, Ed’s jaw dropped as he noticed the quickly shrinking image in his rearview mirror.  

The effortlessness he’d been feeling turned out to be from the detached trailer sitting in the middle of the road behind him!

Hauling a boat can test even the most experienced driver.  But does it need to be that way?

The above situation can easily be avoided by reading on…

Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW)

The first thing you’ll want to pay attention to is that your vehicle is equipped to handle the strain hauling a boat will put on it. The total towing capacity (recommended and maximum) of your vehicle can be found in the owner’s manual or by calling the manufacturer.

Next, the GCVW can be figured out by the equation below:

  • Weight of the loaded tow vehicle + total weight of the trailer & boat
    • Tip: get the dry weight of the boat and add several hundred pounds to that number for fuel and gear

Once you have this number, move on to the next step.

Boat Hauling Safety Inspection

While many of the steps outlined below can be done by you, the task of checking the hitch system should be left to a professional.

Before you even hit the road you’ll want to do the following:

  • Perform a rundown of the towing vehicle
    • Brakes
      • Check the brake fluid in the actuator 
      • Inspect the seal to ensure fluid won’t spill
    • Tires 
      • Check the air pressure (psi)
      • Inspect tread and sidewalls
    • Wheel bearings
      • Inspect for wear and tear and operational soundness
    • Mirrors
      • Ensure you have a full view of the trailer rear
  • Perform rundown of the boat’s trailer
    • Electrical system
      • Attach a trailer light cable to the tow vehicle
      • Inspect trailer brake lights and turn signals
    • Tires
      • Check the air pressure (psi) 
      • Inspect tread and sidewalls
      • Confirm the tire is designed for a boat trailer (will say “ST” = special trailer or “For trailer use only”)
    • Wheel bearings & lug nuts
      • Jack the trailer wheel up and spin it.  Listen for noises that may signify loose bearings
      • While kneeling, grab hold of the wheel with a hand on either side and shake it.  Ensure that it doesn’t move
      • Inspect the inside of the trailer fenders for grease 
      • Ensure lug nuts are properly tightened 
      • Note: When you’re actually on the road, pull over after 20 minutes and put your hands on the hubs. See if it’s hot to touch.  If so, the bearings need immediate attention before driving any further on
    • Brakes
      • Double check the brakes (electric or surge) are functioning
    • Boat trailer safety chain
      • Make sure the hitch ball is matched with the coupler size
      • Secure the coupler to the hitch with a locking hitch pin and key
      • Use cross safety chains or safety cables
      • Attach an emergency stop-cable
      • Check that any transom straps are secure
      • Add gunwale tie-downs for extra security
      • Use a safety chain and inspect the boat’s bow eye attachment to the trailer winch

Now that the inspections are complete and everything is in order, you need to be aware of important towing dynamics.

Boat Towing Weight Distribution

Before you turn the ignition and start on your trip, two important rules to be aware of are:

  1. Keep the weight of the load balanced both front to back and side to side
  1. Maintain a low center of gravity

To achieve the balance that’s necessary for smooth travel to the body of water you’re seeking, there are some tips to help you along.

  • Make sure there isn’t any trapped rain or other water stowing away on the boat
  • Use a special scale to measure the amount of weight going on the hitch
    • Get the tongue weight by taking GCVW minus the tow vehicles weight
    • You only want 10-15% of the boat’s weight on the hitch or else trailer “sway” is possible, a dangerous situation
  • Dual axles
    • Makes a flat tire less harrowing and allows an easier time distributing the load
  • Weight distributing system
    • Spreads around any extra weight that can’t be handled by the hitch and makes loading easier

You’re now equipped to safely transport your boat, but we still recommend reading on for more invaluable information.

Boat Hauling Trailer Tips

We want to leave you with some general tips that will make you a boat hauling expert and help your excursion reach its full potential.

Before you leave:

  • In most states, a wide load permit is required for any boat wider than 8’6”
  • Fold your bimini to avoid it catching the wind
  • Take your rig to an open parking lot to practice backing, turning, and making other maneuvers.  Do this until you’re comfortable handling it
  • Before you head out, put in the drain plug. The only exception to this is if you’re expecting to drive through a rainstorm, in which case you can remove it until you reach your destination
  • Raise your engine while trailering

While driving:

  • Make wide turns
  • Leave extra room between your vehicle and those in front of you
  • Use the side-view mirrors
  • When the wind shoves your rig sideways, minimize the effect by taking your foot off the accelerator (do not step on the brakes)

As is true in many instances, practice makes perfect and should be a mainstay of your future trips to the lake or ocean.

Boat Hauling Safety and RVInsurances.com

Whether you’re hauling a boat or personal watercraft, there’s a real peace of mind that accompanies purchasing insurance for possible eventualities.

The steps outlined above will prepare you for hitting the road with confidence but a policy that protects you and your investment will do even more.

RVInsurances.com founder, Marty Adair, has been a licensed Property and Casualty Broker since 1997. He started his insurance career working in his family’s insurance business where they specialize in Mexico tourist Auto Insurance. While assisting customers with their Mexico Insurance policies he realized there were large groups that travel to Mexico in their high valued RVs to vacation. It soon became apparent that there was a need for specialty RV insurance that would extend coverage across the US and Mexico border that could save his RV clients thousands of dollars per year.

Today RVInsurances.com provides the best possible service to the RVING community. We are a full service insurance agency specializing in full-time and part-time RV enthusiasts. We represent the top rated RV specialty insurance companies in the nation to provide the best possible policy for the right price. We are licensed in many states to help with your RV insurance needs. Get a quote today!

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