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Winterizing Your Trailer: Storage

There’s no reason not to keep your boat on a trailer during the summer, when you’re heading to nearby bodies of water every weekend for fishing or water sports. During the winter months, however, it’s best to get both boat and trailer out of the elements, especially if your region experiences harsh winter weather.

It is not unheard of to park your boat outside, leaving it on a trailer and simply covering it for the winter, or you could do the same with your trailer if your boat is in dry dock storage elsewhere. You could also put your trailer in off-site storage, but it’s probably not worth the expense.

Whether you elect to store your trailer inside or out, it’s imperative to winterize it in preparation for months of sitting and potentially withstanding the cold season. This starts with a thorough inspection and ensuring all elements are dry. Then there are a few things you’ll need to do to ensure safe storage throughout the winter. Here are a few strategies to prep your boat trailer for seasonal storage.

Make Space

The best way to ensure the longevity of your trailer is to protect it from harsh winter weather, and this is most effectively accomplished by keeping it an enclosed space such as a garage or shed. If you’re able to clear space for storage, you have the best chance of avoiding ongoing issues like rust and corrosion, or other problems caused by moisture.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have moisture and freezing temperatures in your garage or shed, but at least your trailer won’t be totally exposed to the elements. Provided you perform proper maintenance and repairs prior to storage, your trailer should emerge intact and ready to use next summer.

If you’re storing your trailer outside, you also need to choose an appropriate storage space. Select a spot in the driveway or yard that isn’t under eaves or trees that can dump water, snow, or ice on your trailer (especially if the boat is on it).

Park Properly

It’s always best to choose ground that is as level as possible when storing your trailer for several months at a time, and this is doubly true if you have a boat on the trailer. Level ground will help to prevent runaway incidents, as well as potential damage from placing too much weight on one side.

If you’re parking your trailer in the driveway, it’s a good idea to point the tongue toward the garage (instead of the street) and add a lock on the trailer hitch to prevent possible theft. An even better option is to put your trailer on blocks.

Put It on Blocks

There are several good reasons to put your trailer on blocks when it will be out of commission for an extended period of time. For one thing, taking the wheels off makes a trailer in the driveway much harder to steal.

Whether it’s indoors or out, though, blocking up your trailer allows you to safely remove the tires. If your trailer sits, unmoving, for months, the tires can get flat spots and suffer damage from the weather, even if the trailer is covered with a tarp.

By putting your trailer on blocks you can remove tires to store them in the garage or shed (if the whole trailer won’t fit). You’ll also have an easier time inspecting and repairing your trailer prior to storage once it’s up on blocks.

 

Winterizing Your Trailer: Drying

Ideally, you want to store your boat trailer in a warm, dry, and fully enclosed indoor space, but unfortunately, this may not be possible. Even if you have room in your garage or a storage shed on your property, many of these structures are neither heated nor fully sealed and insulated.

In other words, the moisture and freezing cold temperatures that dominate the winter months could still affect your trailer, despite the fact that it’s safely indoors. What’s worse, you might not have the space available to provide shelter for your trailer, which leaves you paying for storage elsewhere or simply parking it in the driveway for the winter, on blocks and covered with a tarp for protection from the elements.

In any case, you’ll find that a little water left over on the trailer can cause a lot of damage before summer arrives. You need to get your rig as dry as possible in order to properly winterize. Since you should inspect and repair your trailer at the end of the summer season anyway, here are a few tips to help you find and remove any damaging moisture.

Find the Water

Rolling your trailer down watery ramps to load and unload your boat all season long can have some consequences. Although boat trailers are designed to resist the harmful effects of water, over time it can still do some damage.

A thorough inspection will turn up common issues like rust (steel), corrosion (aluminum), and rot (if your bunks are padded with carpeting or other textiles), for example. These parts will need to be repaired or replaced in order to stop further damage. A body shop should be able to help you deal with damage to metal parts in order to extend the usable life of your trailer – rust spots should be sanded, primed, and painted.

Don’t forget to check less obvious areas where water can get in, as well. Although your lights should be sealed tight, seals can break down and leak over time, and the last thing you want is moisture causing problems with your electrical components.

If you discover moisture in the lights, they’ll have to be removed, dried, and resealed. You should also check your connectors. Any electrical components affected by moisture may not only fail, but they could short out, potentially causing further damage or even harming people.

Proper Drying and Protection

Once you’ve discovered hidden moisture lurking in your trailer, you must eradicate it completely. A shammy will take care of the majority of exterior parts, while moisture repelling sprays will help to get electrical components totally dry.

Once light fixtures are dry they should be resealed so as to create an airtight compartment. Connectors can be treated with electrical grease to keep moisture at bay. You can also use double-duty lubricants on metal parts like roller assemblies and winch gears that are hard to get at. Look for sprays that not only repel water and dirt, but also protect against grime and moisture.

Now that your trailer is fully dry and all maintenance issues have been addressed, you’re ready to move it into winter storage.

 

Winterizing Your Trailer: Inspection

If you’re getting ready to store your boat trailer for the winter, it’s important that you don’t leave any problems unattended, as they could go from bad to worse during the months your trailer is left sitting. In order to perform needed maintenance and repairs, you must first inspect your trailer from top to bottom in search of potential problem areas.

At a glance your trailer might not appear to have any major issues, but even a small problem could be exacerbated by cold winter temperatures, even if you utilize enclosed storage space like your garage or a shed. Just sitting for months could make small problems bigger.

You wouldn’t put your boat into winter storage without a thorough inspection and you should apply the same principle to your trailer if you want it to last for years to come. Here’s what you need to look for when inspecting your trailer before storing it for the winter.

High-Use Parts

There are several points to any vehicle inspection, and it’s best to start with the parts that are most likely to suffer the wear and tear of usage. On your trailer, this might include the bunks, guides, jack, tongue, winch, and so on.

Look for damage or wear that calls for repair or replacement. It’s much better to deal with these problems as part of the winterization process, instead of getting hung up when you’re all set to head out for a day of boating next summer.

You’ll also want to check any metal parts for wear related to the materials used, such as rust on steel parts or corrosion on aluminum. These issues can worsen with time, especially when your trailer is exposed to damp, cold winter conditions.

Tires and Assembly

The tires themselves may be worn or suffer from issues like slow leaks. You can easily spot such issues with a quick inspection that includes checking the air pressure. This way tires can be patched or you can think about replacing them before the next boating season.

You should, of course, check the entire assembly, spinning the tires to check for unusual sounds like grating. This is an ideal time to grease the wheels, as well. Even if there are no suspicious noises, proper maintenance dictates that you do this regularly to keep the bearings and assembly in good working order.

Lights and Connectors

Not everyone is comfortable dealing with electrical components, so you might want to hand this task off to an experienced professional. If you’re okay doing it on your own, though, there are a couple of steps you can take to winterize.

First, you should pull apart light fixtures to make sure no water has gotten inside. If there is moisture, you should dry the fixtures and replace seals. As for connectors, they should also be dried and treated with electrical grease, and then capped.

Nuts and Bolts

Your trailer can take some pretty heavy jostling, and this can loosen the nuts and bolts that hold your rig together. Check nuts and bolts from top to bottom to make sure they’re secure before putting your trailer on blocks for the winter.

 

3 Critical Winter Maintenance Tasks for Your Trailer

The days of summer are long gone, and with them the opportunities to haul your boat to the nearest waterway for a few laps on the water skis or lazy hours spent fishing. Before winter is firmly entrenched, you need to put your boat in dry dock storage or prep it for storage in your garage throughout the winter months.

However, you also have to figure out what to do with your trailer until next summer. Leaving it outside under a tarp all winter is a mistake. If you want to ensure the greatest longevity, it’s crucial to properly winterize your trailer.

Even rolling it into the garage isn’t enough. Before you let your trailer sit, you need to make sure it has been properly inspected and prepared. Here are a few critical tasks to attend to when it comes to winter maintenance for your trailer.

1. Inspection

The first step is to conduct a thorough inspection. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to perform a comprehensive inspection, you can always ask your mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to give your rig a once-over.

That said, if you’re relatively familiar with your trailer, inspecting it shouldn’t be too difficult, especially with the aid of online tutorials. You’ll want to check parts like the trailer bunks, the winch, the wiring harness, and so on for damage. These parts see a lot of use during the boating season and they can get dinged up pretty easily.

Naturally, you’ll want to check the tires, as well, by jacking up the rig and spinning the wheels to make sure they’re rotating freely and they aren’t making any abnormal noises, like grating that could indicate issues with the bearings, just for example. Even so, it’s probably best to grease the assembly at least annually, and this is an ideal time to do so, since you’ve got your rig jacked up anyway. You should also check tires for wear and make sure air pressure is appropriate.

2. Drying

Trailers are definitely going to get wet from hauling your boat, and especially from going down boat ramps into the water. The bulk of your trailer will probably dry on its own, but there are some parts that could easily get waterlogged and suffer damage as a result.

Many owners never think to check the lights fixtures for water, for example. Cold temperatures cause water to freeze and expand. If you leave sitting water in fixtures, it could cause cracks and electrical issues, along with attendant costs for repair or replacement.

You can easily prevent these common problems by opening up fixtures, pulling bulbs, spraying moisture repellent, and making sure everything seals tightly.

 3. Storage

Before covering your trailer with a tarp to protect it from dust, pests, and so on in your garage, you should put it on blocks and remove the wheels to prevent the formation of flat spots. Don’t forget to cap your connectors after applying a bit of electrical grease (or petroleum jelly) to protect them from moisture.

Good Friday Trailer Hubs Sale

Spring is finally here! It’s a great time to inspect your trailer hubs. If it’s time to replace them, use coupon code GOODFRIDAY10 to get 10% off all trailer hubs Friday, March 25th through Sunday, March 27th.

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