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File photo Winter fishing and hunting are especially touch on boats and boat trailers, and it's likely a good time for an inspection and some preventative maintenance.

When Mike Gerald resurrected his Airline Highway business up and running after the devastating 2016 flood, he deep-down believed things his business would change.

They haven’t.

Earlier this week, and mixing in recounting the eight months it took him and his crew to rebuild and re-equip MG’s Trailer Depot, he said he continues to see the problems boat owners have with the thing that moves them from home to water — their trailers.

“They need to understand boat dealers, not all, will put the very minimum underneath a boat they’re selling,” Gerald said. “What’s not factored in is adding options, trolling motors, batteries, gas, ice chests, ice, fish, Cokes, water. That’s when most people get in a jam.”

Gerald’s obvious reference is the boat’s “new” weight makes the boat overrated for its trailer.

“Most single-axle trailers with 14-15 inch tires are 3,500-pound trailers, and it’s 4,000-5,200 pounds for tandem (axle) trailers,” he said. “So, the No. 1 consideration should be knowing the boat’s ‘dry’ weight compared to when the boat’s loaded up.”

The tow

Along I-12 the other day, a guy was struggling with his vehicle to pull what looked to be a very heavy 25-foot boat on a tandem trailer. Because the vehicle didn’t appear to have enough beef for his tow, the trailer was swaying in the right lane.

“It’s easy to understand,” Gerald said. “The vehicle owner’s manual will list towing weight in pounds, and you have to add a boat weighing 4,000 pounds to a trailer that’s probably weighing 2,000 pounds to figure out if the vehicle can tow that weight.

“And, Louisiana highways are the worst in the nation, and this is the time when you have to know you can’t put seven pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack. You can break an axle. The ratings have to be checked, boat weight, trailer weight and receiver rating.”

There’s more: Gerald said you have to have enough strength in the hitch to be able to tow extra weight.

“In my 20 years here, I’ve seen more wrecker trucks come in here with a trailer and a boat for me to fix two very simple problems,” he said. “Either the boat was hooked up to the wrong (sized) ball on the hitch, or the vehicle had an off-brand hitch.

“You always need a solid ball mount, not one with a hollowed-out center, and get a good hitch like Draw-Tite or Reese’s, because off-brand hitches won’t hold up. The welds break.”

The all-around

“Guys will spend a lot of time getting boats ready, shining it up, checking batteries, but they fail to look at the trailer,” Gerald said.

His checklist includes:

  • Proper air pressure. Use trailer, not car, tires. “Tires rated for five-lug trailer wheels are rated to carry 50 pounds (psi), and I’ve had them come in the shop with 20 pounds pressure and that’s eating either the inside or the outside of the tire. Remember trailers are not like cars, They don’t have shock absorbers.”
  • Check for slack in the hubs, and make sure there’s grease in the hubs. Check for leaks so you don’t burn out a bearing. “We’re installing hubs now good for five years without service. That was a major improvement,” he said.
  • Lights have to be checked, including turn signals.
  • Make sure the right ball hooking from hitch to trailer. Gerald repeated this to emphasize its importance.
  • Check for loose bolts and nuts. The majority of new trailers have torsion axles with only 4-6 bolts and nuts. Check them.
  • Check lug nuts. “Lots of guys see rust on lug nuts, especially in saltwater, and leave them.” Gerald said. “Then they have a flat and the lug nuts are seized and have to be cut off. They can use a never-seize” spray on them from the start, continue to use it and never worry about rust.”
  • Use galvanized spray where possible. “We use aluminum, stainless steel and galvanized (steel) for our trailers,” Gerald said. “Saltwater is an issue here and our first business is to avoid rust it to make sure saltwater isn’t a problem.”

‘Kill’ switches

One of the new provisions in the Coast Guard’s budget this year requires manufacturers, distributors and dealers involved in making, stocking and rigging boats to install cutoff switches in new boats “…less than 26 feet overall in length and capable of developing 115 pounds or more of static thrust.”

The new law covers most any engine or motor, and the switch must meet American Boat and Yacht Council Standards.

Another part of the Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization of Act of 2018 helped all who enter their boats or other vessels into the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. The new reg lengthens the time the certificate will be valid from one to five years.