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Washing Your Trailer – for a longer life

Washing Your Trailer – for a longer life

By Jone Temo of Oceanic Trailers

Look around the car park at your local boat ramp, and you’ll see boat and PWC trailers in varying states of decay. Some are obviously older trailers but are in quite good nick all over, while a couple of the ‘newer’ trailers appear to be falling apart, here’s why.

In most cases, a sad looking trailer is not the result of old age, but one of poor cleaning and maintenance after use. Dropping any large metal object in water (particularly the salty kind) means this object is going to require a good clean often, to ensure the harmful residues left behind by water are kept to a minimum.

While galvanising a trailer’s main frame and major parts provides a strong barrier between the metal and the elements, it does deteriorate over time and loses its ability to protect the trailer. Leaving the residue of water on the trailer’s surfaces speeds up this deterioration, particularly when used in saltwater environments.

To minimise the deterioration of the trailer’s galvanising, give the whole trailer a hose down, followed by a wash with a good cleaning agent. If you had the trailer in saltwater, use a cleaning agent with salt-removing properties. An old small house broom is a great tool to access the trailer’s nooks and corners. Pay particular attention to thoroughly soaking and washing the trailer brake system’s mechanical parts, if fitted, along with the axle, hubs, rims and moving suspension parts. After the trailer dries, a spray with a good quality corrosion inhibitor (such as Inox) on the trailer’s moving parts and joints is highly recommended. Many trailers have drainage holes along the length of the frame rails to ensure water escapes and doesn’t sit inside the metal. It’s important to ensure these drainage holes remain clear, as they can easily become blocked with leaves, weeds and other material picked up around the boat ramp. Regularly checking and clearing these holes is a great way to make sure water isn’t sitting in your trailer’s frame rails and causing deterioration of the metal.

To give the inside of your trailer’s frame rails a good wash, block the ends of the rails with old rags, and fill each rail with a good quality salt-removing cleaning agent mixture with water. Let this sit for a few minutes before removing the rags and running clean water through. Once dry, a final squirt of a good rust inhibitor, such as Inox, into the trailer’s frame rails from any access points will help keep the inside of the frame rails clean and moisture free.

The moving parts of a trailer are most often fitted with grease nipples or lubrication points for adding fresh grease. Use a good quality marine-grade grease every few trips to push fresh grease through, then wipe away any excess old grease that is pushed out.

One of the most important lubrication points on a trailer is the wheel bearings. A regular check and top-up of the grease ensures the bearings keep cool and do their job, reducing the risk of a bearing failure, which can lead to catastrophic results. Many trailers have bearing protection systems, which give added protection from water and the elements, plus a simplified way of adding grease to the bearing.

Give any sliding items such as suspension parts and jockey wheels a spray of a lubricating corrosion inhibitor, or a light smear of grease occasionally. Your coupling should also receive attention, with a good soak with your cleaning solution followed by a spray with a lubricating corrosion inhibitor on the moving parts. The grease nipple will require a squeeze of clean grease from time to time.

The lights and electrical items on a boat or PWC trailer these days are fairly rugged, usually featuring sealed LED lights and sealed wiring running uninterrupted to the plug at the front of the trailer. It’s still a good idea to wash the lights off well and spray the back of them with a good moisture and corrosion inhibitor. Giving the plug at the other end a quick wipe and spray is also recommended to keep the electrical connectors in good condition.

Cleaning your boat or PWC trailer after use, at the same time as your vessel, is a good habit to practice. You will be rewarded for the small extra effort with a trailer that will safely carry your watercraft for many more years than a trailer left to the elements. It will most likely save your hip pocket as you won’t be replacing rusted or corroded components just to keep your trailer working.


Published in print January-March 2022