Maintaining your boat trailer is just as crucial as taking care of the boat itself. Your boat engine can sound as amazing as possible when on, but if you can’t get it to the water safely, then what good is it? Really?
The reality is that your boat will spend more time sitting on the trailer than actually in the water, so it is important that you properly maintain the boat trailer and its tires to ensure no damage is done to the boat itself and to ensure you can make it to and from the boat ramp without any breakdowns along the way.
Your trailer’s tires are what keeps your trailer in motion and when they go flat or are damaged, you cannot move your trailer anywhere. Thus, keeping you stuck at home and far from the open waters.
Unfortunately, kicking the tires with your foot just won’t tell you much about the tires themselves despite what you may have thought. Trailer tires are an essential component of your trailer and as such, you need to make sure they are maintained and in good condition before you ever attempt to move the trailer.
Below, we will discuss some of the 12 most essential tips for maintaining your boat trailer tires.
1. Get the Right Tires
Did you know that it is possible to purchase and equip the wrong tires on your trailer? It is true. Even if a tire fits your boat trailer, this does not mean that it should be placed on the trailer. When it comes to boat trailer tires, there are special tires that need to be used and they are called Special Trailer, or ST, tires. These are the ONLY ones that you should be using as they are designed to be used for such purposes.
Special Trailer tires prevent accidents and damage because they are made to handle the excessive weight and strain placed on them. For example, ST tires come with thick and robust sidewalls that other tires do not have. These sidewalls are designed to prevent your boat from tipping while turning.
ST tires come in two options, which include bias-play and radial. Bias-ply tires are the preferred option if you plan to utilize your boat trailer around town. This is because the sidewalls are stiffer than radials. You will find that bias-ply tires are less expensive than radials. Radial tires are preferred if you plan to take longer trips with your boat trailer. This is because they are made to reduce heat buildup, have less road noise, and have a greater load capacity. When choosing tires, make sure you use all bias-ply or all radials and never mix the two together.
Once you know what tires you want, you will need to make sure they are the correct measurements for your trailer and ensure the tires can handle the load. Tires that are not designed to handle the load of your boat and trailer can burst with too much weight.
As you search for a boat trailer, make sure to consider the tires right along with it. Your tires should NEVER be an afterthought as they are a main gateway to your and your boat’s safety.
If you do not understand boat trailer tires, take some time to learn more about them before you decide which ones are best for you. Choosing the right tires makes all the difference and will make transporting your boat much easier.
2. Properly Inflate Your Tires
Having properly inflated tires are critical to the proper maintenance and operation of your boat trailer. You want to make sure that you check the tire inflation before the boat is on the trailer and after you place the boat on the trailer. Oftentimes, boat owners will check the tire inflation without the boat on the trailer and once they load the boat, the pressures change placing them in a dangerous zone.
Your tires need to be able to handle any maneuvers your trailer must make including going over bumps. Always fill your tires to the correct PSI and continue to monitor the PSI frequently (definitely before every trip) to ensure they are inflated properly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the weather temperature outside will affect the PSI of your tires as well. When the conditions are cold, your PSI will drop and when it is hot, the PSI will rise. You need to account for these things as well.
Your spare tire also needs attention, and you should check its PSI level often. The last thing you want to happen is to switch a blown tire with the spare only to find out the spare is not inflated properly and now you are stranded.
Common Indicators of Tire Inflation Problems
When inspecting your boat trailer tires, if you notice unusual tire wear either at the edges or the center of your tires, this is indicative of a tire inflation problem. Wear that occurs at the center of the tire means that the tire pressure is too high and wear that occurs around the edges means that the tire pressure is too low.
Knowing the correct PSI for your trailer tires is a key piece of information and can be found on the side wall of the tires themselves. You should have a good tire-pressure reader on hand at all times to properly check the PSI at any time.
3. Check for Wear
If you own a vehicle, you probably already know that you should be checking the tire tread depth. The same goes for your boat trailer tires too. Ideally, the tire tread depth should sit at 4/32 of an inch deep.
You can measure your tire tread depth in two main ways. The first is to use tire tread depth measurement tools that will show you exactly where your tires measure. This tool can come in handy for any tires that you do have. The second way is to use a penny. When a penny is placed in the grooves of the tread, you should not be able to see all of Lincoln’s head.
Any tire tread depth under 2/32 of an inch is considered to be bald. Balding tires are risky and place your safety in jeopardy. A bald tire is unable to obtain proper traction on the road and can lead to sliding or problems braking.
While tire tread depth is important, just because your tread is good does not mean the tires are good. You want to look for other signs of wear as well. You should keep your eye out for any of the following:
- Bulges in the tire’s sidewall
- Uneven surfaces
- Visible steel belts
If you notice any or all of these signs, replace your tires immediately.
Additionally, you want to look for where on the tires the wear is occurring. For example, if you find that the tires are wearing on the same side, this is usually due to an alignment issue. This is an easy fix and a quick wheel alignment will solve the problem for you. Having a trailer that is out of alignment can cause strain on the tires as you drive. By fixing the issue, you will find your trailer drives straight and the tires do not wear as quickly.
If you notice wear on the inside of your tires, this is indicative of an overload issue. If this is happening, you want to check to make sure the tires are rated properly for the boat and trailer weight. You want to have room for flex in the weight and load rating too as different factors will affect the weight of the trailer and boat (i.e. gas).
4. External Environment Can Cause Damage
You can do everything in your power to keep your tires in good condition but over time, the environment around your tires can do damage to them.
Heat and any extreme changes in temperature, pressure, or humidity can cause your tires to crack in the sun. This cracking then causes the tires to disintegrate and wear down quickly.
If you tend to leave your trailer sitting in one place, this can cause further issues as well. For example, leaving your trailer parked too long in the same direction can mean that the left-side tires are receiving more sun exposure than the right side and are prematurely wearing them down quicker.
It is best to store your boat trailer in a garage or, at minimum, place a cover over the top of it to help protect the tires from the sun and UV rays.
Moisture is also a concern, so you want to park your boat trailer somewhere that is dry such as on concrete or even mulch as opposed to dirt or grass. If you plan to leave your trailer parked for a long period of time, remove the tires and store them safely until you are ready to use them again.
5. Don’t Let Them Sit for Too Long
Trailers that sit in one place for too long, especially with a load such as a boat on them, are heavy and place a lot of strain on the tires. Your tires will likely develop flat spots on the surface if they are not rotated often.
The flat spots on the tires may not seem like an issue at first but once you get on the road, you will hear and feel the issue that exists. Flat spots are not safe and you should never operate a trailer that has tires that are not in good condition.
As we mentioned above with not using the trailer for a long period of time, make sure to remove the tires to preserve their integrity.
6. Rotate and Balance the Tires Regularly
Part of proper boat trailer tire maintenance is to rotate your tires regularly to ensure that wear is even on all tires.
The same goes for tire balancing. A boat trailer that has unbalanced tires is a hazard and the tires will wear down extremely quickly.
Remember, rotating and balancing your tires is done to prevent wear issues. If your tires already have damage present from uneven wear, you will need to replace them as rotating them will not fix the issue.
7. Tires Don’t Last Forever
While tires do not come with an expiration date, they are definitely not designed to last forever nor will they. Some tires will get more use out of them than others depending on the conditions they are stored, how they are used, and similar factors.
It is important to know when your tires were manufactured so that you have an idea of when you can expect to have to replace them. The manufacture date can be found on the sidewall of the tire. In general, tire manufacturers state that the average life of trailer tires is 5 years, but replacement should be considered after about 3 years. With that said, these are not hard numbers. You will need to be the judge of your trailer tires and identify any issues that may be present with them. It is very possible that you may need to replace your trailer tires every other year due to the factors surrounding how they are maintained and kept.
8. Check the Valve Stems
You can properly inflate your tires all day long but if your tires have worn out or bad valve stems, it will do no good. The valve stem is one of the main culprits of a slow leak and sometimes, the leak is so slow that you do not recognize it right away.
To test and see if your valve stems are leaking, visit each stem on the tire and use your finger to lightly push the stem to the side. If you hear a hissing noise, this is air escaping from the tire and means that you need a new valve stem.
9. Watch Your Speed
Did you know that your speed influences how quickly your tires wear down? Trailer tires are not designed to go fast, and they are definitely not rated to reach the speeds that vehicles do.
Trailer tire speed ratings typically start around 56 miles per hour and go up to about 87 miles per hour with the average sitting around 65 miles per hour. Depending on your needs, check to see what the tire is rated for. If you plan to make short trips with your boat trailer, lower speed ratings are fine, but if you plan to take trips on highways and interstates, you will want a trailer tire that is rated for faster speeds.
If you do go faster than the tire’s rated speed limit, you risk damage to the tires and unnecessary wear, which could lead to an accident or blowout.
10. Used Tires Are Not Always the Best
While used tires may be cheaper, it is not always the best option for your boat trailer. The biggest issue with purchasing used boat trailer tires is that you do not know how they were maintained prior to you coming into possession of them. This means that they can malfunction.
Brand new is always the best, but if you do choose used, make sure you inspect every inch of them and then doublecheck to ensure you are not ending up with a bad batch of tires on your hands.
11. Keep a Spare on You
It should come as no surprise that you should keep a spare tire available on your trailer at all times in case you need it. As we mentioned above, you want to make sure the PSI for this tire is accurate as well and inspect it regularly to ensure it remains in good condition.
Boat trailer tires are not always readily available on hand as they are specialty tires, so it helps to have a spare with you to avoid having to get your boat and trailer towed.
Tip: To help you save money, when you replace all 4 tires on your boat trailer, consider keeping the tire in the best condition as a spare. Of course, only do this if the tire is in good condition.
12. Talk to a Professional
Not sure that you can make a determination as to whether your boat trailer tires are in good condition or not? Talk to a professional. You can have your tires inspected regularly by a tire professional to ensure that they are in good condition. By doing this, you can get the peace of mind you need and any recommendations for service or replacement, as needed.
Never Miss a Day of Your Boating Adventure Again Because of Your Tires
With the proper maintenance, your boat trailer tires can remain in good condition and safely on the road whenever you want to take your boat out on the water.
Worn, old, and damaged tires are dangerous and can lead to injuries and accidents. It is important that you only use tires rated for your boat and trailer load along with proper tires for the trailer itself.
If you need assistance choosing tires for your boat trailer, speak with a professional who can assist you in buying the right ones.