So you have now bought your own fishing boat, what about the trailer?
I hope to give you some ideas on keeping legal and maintaining the trailer to reduce the possibility of breakdowns.
I am no expert in trailers but this information has been gained over the years and what I have read and put into prctice.
Not all of us are fortunate enough to live within minutes of the sea, even if we did, not all of us want to fish the same area all the time and so trailing the boat around behind a tow car/truck is our only option.
Before you drive away do you hold a current driving licence to tow a trailer?
You must hold a full driving licence to tow anything.
Most drivers who passed their test before 1 January 1997 have licence categories allowing them to drive vehicle and trailer combinations weighing up to 8.25 tonnes.
With effect from 1 January 1997 the second EC Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC) came into effect, affecting new drivers passing their test after that date and HGV drivers who obtained their licence after 31 December 1991.
The net result is that new drivers will only be allowed to drive and tow the following combinations:
Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (category B) with a 750kg trailer (4.25 tonnes total MAM).
Category B vehicles with larger trailers i.e. > 750kg, provided that the combined MAM does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the gross MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. To be able to tow combinations outside this ruling requires the passing of an additional test.
New HGV drivers and those who have passed their HGV tests since 1 January 1992 will be restricted to towing trailers up to 750kg until they pass an additional test.
Detail of the Regulation
The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 1990 SI 1990 No 842 classifies vehicles according to either:
"Maximum authorised mass" (permitted maximum weight). Vehicles over 3,500kg MAM are classified as LARGE GOODS VEHICLES (LGV's)**
**Requires Additional qualifications for people to drive LGV's & PCV's
Some problems are more likely to occur when travelling long distances. The first of these to spring to mind is loading. If you are going somewhere like Ireland for a week you will want to take a lot of gear along with you, far more than on a one day trip.
Things like buckets full of spare leads, tackle to cover every eventuality, a spare battery, cool boxes or even a mobile fridge/freezer! Then there is the non tackle stuff like clothes and food, it all adds up to a lot of weight. Some will go in the car but there is allways crew to take as well! So much gear ends up in the boat, and that is where the problems start.
There is a legal maximum laden towing weight of 750Kg for a trailer without brakes. Not all cars, however, are able to trail this. It depends on the make, model and weight of the car, so
you need to check the owners handbook. If it can legaly be avoided, I personally would go for a trailer without brakes.
There is a maximum load on trailers with overun brakes of 3500kgs gross trailer weight.
1982 regulations demand that all trailers, including unbraked ones, must be clearly marked with their maximum gross weight in kg. This may be checked at any time by the police at a weighbridge. Since 1st January 1997, all unbraked trailer plates must show the year of manufacture
To comply with the D.o.T. Code of Practice for the recall of defective trailers less than 3500kg G.V.W. it is desirable that a trailer should carry a manufacturer's plate clearly showing:
Manufacturers name and address chassis or serial number and model number
Number of axles
Maximum weight per axle maximum
Nose weight of coupling
Maximum gross weight (G.V.W.)
Date of manufacture
Salt water and moving parts do not mix! The last thing anyone wants, particularly in winter when it is dark and cold, is having to jack up each trailer wheel to do a maintenance job on the brakes every time they have taken a dip.
The potential for problems if you don't can be far worse. If the brakes do seize, sods law states that it will be in the on position. The first you know about it is when you try to drag the trailer to the car for your next trip and it won't move. A worse scenario in some ways is when the brakes seize with the shoes just touching the hub, usually out in the middle of nowhere or on the motorwy where you can't do anything about it.
It is no good taking an empty boat on a trailer to a public weighbridge to see if it fails inside the un-braked limit. Everthing in the boat when it is on the road counts as part of the trailed weight. Excessive weight within the boat can have other implications as well. Not only must everything be positioned carefully within the boat but it must be secured to prevent shifting around. The consequences of not getting this right can be frightening.
The trailer can suddenly start snaking on the back of the car, which once starts always seems to get worse. This often happens on long, fast straight roads such as motorways and can be set off by all sorts of things including lorries or large vans overtaking you at very close range. Try to anticipate this by watching for large overtaking vehicles using your wing mirror, then just as they approach, start driffting over to the left edge of your lane to increase the gap until it has pssed.
To minimise snaking you should be looking at around 50 to 75Kgs of nose weight on the tow ball of the towing vechile. This can be achived in a variety of ways. Much of it can be put there by axle and/or winching post adjustment, but don't forget to allow for the weight of temporary items such as tackle, food and clothing that you might want to put up front. Also bear in mind counter balancing weights such as fuel and tackle to the rear of the axle. If you are carrying a lot of extra weight, try to stow it directly over the axle to maintain the balance of the boat along its length but also consider weight distribution across the beam of the boat. Check the nose weight by using a spring balance on the coupling handle or put a set of bathroom scales under the trailer's jockey wheel. Always read the vehicles handbook for the correct maximum towball weight.
The overriding consideration however is can the axle and trailer cope with the extra weight? It is not uncommon to see so much stuff being carried that the suspension units bottom out over every bump which can cause the axle to buckle!
Long journeys can also expose other trailer weaknesses, in particular hubs, tyres and wheels. Hubs need grease if they are to operate properly. What they do not need is neglect and sea water getting into them which emulsifies the grease.
Cheaper hubs and bearings are always more suscepticle to problems thn the better end of the market, although any hub has the potential to give problems at any time. My trailer is an Indespension Rollercoaster fitted with bearing saver hubs. What these do is carry a reserve of grease which constantly squeeze into the bearings by way of a strong spring but they need to be kept topped up to do this An alternative to this is to grease the hubs before heading home to squeeze out any salt water ingress.
It is not unusual to see smoke pouring from one of the hubs when the bearings overheat and this can lead to total failure of the bearings which can seize and shear off the axles and you will hear a load bang followed by a jarring noise and see the trailer wheel overtking you! All because of poor maintenance and preperation.
Check this site out for information about bearings, brakes and adjustments it is in a PDF file format. Manual
You will need to carry some spare and tools to carry out emergency repairs. A suitable jack such as a trolley jack that is man enough to lift the boat and one side of the trailer, most car jacks are not able to take the weight or of an unsuitable design. A wheel brace that fits the wheels nuts, don't thnk your car wheel brace will do unless you have checked it. A spare set of bearings, split pins and the tools to carry out the job including grease and a grease gun. Obviously a spare wheel is a must as it might just be a punchure and how do you get this repaired if the tyre has shreaded and it's late in the evening. You may think it is better to carry a complete hub assembly as a spare which would make the replacement fitting of bearing failure a lot easier.
Safety is of paramount importance, before setting off check that the tow hitch is secure onto the tow ball by trying to lift it off, you will require a safety chain that is fixed or passed around part of the tow vehicle, not the tow ball, should the hitch fail the trailer will remain with the vehicle or apply the brakes of the trailer if they are fitted. Tyres must be all crossply or radial not mixed. The tread depth and condition must conform to the same law as cars. Wheel rims corrode due to rusting from being dipped into salt water regularly. Lights are a common area that fail to work correctly, check that all the lights work and when the indicators are used other lights do not go out or flash at the same time.
In these days of litigation get insured, you may be covered by your car insurance but check, they normally only cover third party cover so your pride and joy may well not be covered if it gets damaged, most insurances do not cover if the trailer is not connected to the tow car so if it breaks away mayhem can occur. Also check your boat insurance covers you when towing. Do not give the police any reason for pulling you over as it can cost you a lot of money and points!
MAXIMUM TOWING SPEEDS
The highway code provides the maximum towing speeds for cars and goods vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes as follows:
Built up Areas - 30mph
Single carageways - 50mph
Dual carageways - 60mph
Motorways - 60mph
Note: If travelling on a road with 3 or more lanes, you are not allowed into the right hand lane, this is sometimes called the outside or fast lane.
The speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions.
Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions can be dangerous. You should always reduce your speed when:
The road layout or condition presents hazards, such as bends
Sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, and motorcyclists
Weather conditions make it safer to do so driving at night as it is harder to see other road users.
It is recommended that hubs and brakes are not immersed in water, particularly salt water, but if they are, then the following advice can be offered:
DO NOT immerse when the hub is hot i.e. Straight after a long journey, but wait until the assembly has cooled, otherwise a vacuum will be created, making the ingress of water even worse.
Keep immersion times to the very minimum and DO NOT leave the trailer standing in the water after the boat has been launched.
After immersion in salt water, the hub assembly and indeed the whole trailer should be thoroughly hosed down with fresh water.
Do not park the trailer for prolonged periods with the handbrake fully on, particularly when the hub is wet. If necessary, chock the wheels.
It is recommended that the trailer is serviced more regularly than otherwise would be the case and certainly at least every 3 months irrespective of mileage. This must include a brake strip down and re greasing of bearings.
Hubs with unitised bearings cannot be greased and whilst they are more resistant to the ingress of water, particularly if allowed to cool before immersion, they are NOT waterproof. Repeated immersion in water will eventually lead to their failure.
Bowden cables generally are not provided with a lubrication medium i.e. A grease nipple, as the introduction of grease will inhibit the movement of the inner cable within the specially designed and coated outer casing. There is also a very real danger of excess grease contaminating the brake linings thus rendering them ineffective. Practical experience shows that a periodic soaking in thin oil e.g. WD 40, particularly over the winter months goes a long way towards avoiding seizure problems.
Following the above advice and recommendations will do much to reduce the devastating effects of water, particularly salt water, but cannot guarantee that problems will not occur.