Backing up a boat trailer can be intimidating, especially at a crowded ramp. They say practice makes perfect, so take advantage of the cooler weather, which often means less demand on your local boat ramp, to get a feel for maneuvering your trailer.
Before you back onto the ramp…
- Make sure the lower unit is raised to avoid scraping.
- Install the drain plug.
- Release the securing straps.
- Disconnect the trailer’s lights.
- Rig a line so the boat doesn’t drift away after it is launched.
Next, consider these four tips to help you safely maneuver your trailer and successfully launch your boat:
- Slow and steady. There is a little bit of lag time between turning the steering wheel and the resultant change in trailer direction. Don’t panic or rush your decisions, as you might make a mistake because you failed to give your initial move a chance.
- Use the side mirrors. It may be instinct to just look over your shoulder. However, depending on the size of the boat and visibility issues from towing with a camper, for example, mirrors are a constant source of valuable information. Use them.
- Make small adjustments. Again, allow for the brief lag in reaction time and then do not oversteer. Otherwise, the back end will snake back and forth. Save the slaloming for the ski slopes…or water skiing.
- Go ahead and turn it just a little bit… wrong. The problem with backing is the 50/50 guesswork: “Should I turn left or right?” The idea here is to start backing slowly, but then go ahead and turn it such that the trailer starts where you do not want it to go. That way, you KNOW the other way is the direction to correct it — at least until you go too far, and then you straighten and repeat the process. *Tip: Push the bottom of the vehicle’s steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.
Spending a little time now to improve, if not perfect, your ‘trailer driving’ technique can greatly help you come spring when the warmer waters come calling again. In addition, backing up your trailer with skill can help you avoid unnecessary bumps and scrapes to your watercraft and hopefully prevent you from making an unexpected insurance claim.
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