The Essential Guide to Maintaining Your Boat Trailer: Tips for Longevity and Performance

After a long sunny day out on the water, it can be tempting to just hose your boat trailer off and call it a day, right? After all, you did launch and retrieve the boat and that takes quite a bit of work. Even though you may want to throw the towel in, hop on the couch, and relax, there is still work to be done.

Your boat trailer needs some TLC after a day out on the water. Neglecting the trailer and not taking care of it will lead to problems with the trailer later on down the road. While a single missed maintenance after a boating day probably won’t hurt, if you make it a habit, you are sure to start to see problems with the trailer and probably pretty quickly too.

One of the biggest issues that can happen when you do not care for your trailer after a day on the water is rust. Salt water left on the trailer can lead to rust and once rust starts to eat away at the metal, you will find yourself in a world of worry. For instance, if the axle starts to rust, you will have to replace it completely to ensure your trailer remains as safe as possible. These repairs and replacements can be avoided with a little extra time after your outings. In addition, salt water that is exposed to the sun can cause damage to the boat trailer as well.

The more time that you put towards your investment in a boat and boat trailer, the longer that you will find it lasts. Fortunately, maintenance steps after an outing are not too difficult and while they will take just a little bit of time, it will be worth it in the end.

Below, we will help you better understand what it is you should be doing AFTER your boat trailer has been to the ramp, in the water, and returned home.

Hose Off the Trailer

The very first thing you want to do is hose off your trailer. Your trailer is likely to be loaded with dirt, mud, salt, and maybe even some remaining water. To help you avoid any scratches or abrasions to the trailer’s surface, you want to make sure that you hose off any and all debris. Allowing dirt, mud, and salt to remain on the surface of the trailer will allow it to bake on in the sun, which in turn can cause damage.

You want to get the surface of the trailer as smooth as possible before you attempt to wash it as well. Trying to wash a trailer with a rough surface is much more aggravating and you definitely do not want to have to exert more energy than you need to after a long day on the water.

While hosing off the trailer is such as simple step, it is one that most people forget to do and neglect to do. It is probably the single most important step to take when you get home with your boat trailer. But, remember, hosing off the trailer is not enough alone and you still need to make sure you take the additional steps in this guide to properly clean it and maintain it.

Note: There is usually an area available at the boat ramp to hose off your boat and trailer. You can take advantage of this and do a quick hose down of the trailer to avoid any dirt or salt drying to the surface of the trailer. While this is not a required step, it can be quite helpful. Even if you hose off the trailer at the boat ramp, you will still need to hose it off again at home to ensure all dirt, salt, and mud is removed from it.

Clean the Trailer

Cleaning the trailer with water and removing any salt, dirt, and grime is an important step but not the only step. Once your trailer has been hosed off, you will need to physically clean the trailer. It is important that you choose the right cleaner to meet your needs and deliver a stellar clean to your boat trailer.

There are two main types of cleaners you want to focus on, but there are many options available on the market to choose from. Of course, it will all come down to your personal preference and what it is you feel works best and fits your budget.

1. The first type of cleaner is a brightening or polishing cleaner. This type of        cleaner is excellent for giving your trailer that extra boost once it is done being        washed. A quick wash with just soap can leave a metal trailer looking quite dull      and lackluster. A brightening or polishing cleaner will eliminate this issue and    provide you with a nice shine to the trailer itself. When using this type of cleaner,  you are not just cleaning the trailer, but you are helping to restore its natural    shine and sheen.

2. The second type of cleaner is a cleaning and protecting cleaner. This type of   cleaner is ideal when you want to get your trailer clean as it helps to strip the trailer of any dirt, grime, and salt that may have been left behind. Once you have    cleaned the trailer off, you will find that the protectant portion of the cleaner  works hard to keep your trailer looking good and protected. You can extend the        life of your trailer by using a protectant cleaner on it.

Don’t Be Hasty to Wash Away the Cleaner

One thing you don’t want to do is apply the cleaner and then immediately rinse it off. Once the cleaner has been applied, you should allow it to sit and soak for a few minutes to help it best clean the trailer and loosen any dirt that may still be on there.

After a few minutes, take a brush to the trailer and scrub it well. You do not want to rush through this stage as your goal is to keep the trailer clean to prevent any damage to it. Once you have finished scrubbing, you should thoroughly rinse the trailer off.

This is a good time for you to inspect the trailer as well to see if there is any damage to it and to identify if you need to wash any other areas. If you find that there are some hard-to-reach spaces and you cannot clean them well with your brush, grab a toothbrush and get in there. Often, salt and water like to hide behind connectors, lights, and in the nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, this can lead to rust.

Time to Get Your Polish On

If you have never polished a trailer before, get ready to do it. You should always polish your trailer after cleaning it to maintain its appearance and to help protect the metal. A polished trailer is sure to last longer than one that is not polished. In addition, the polish can help ward off some things like damage from dirt or a pebble hitting it whereas an unpolished trailer will take the damage.

As you polish your trailer, make sure that you move in a clockwise direction to keep things smooth and even. Uneven circles will show and make the trailer look messy. You do not need to use a lot of metal polish so remember; a little goes a long way.

Once you have polished the trailer, you should wipe the trailer down one last time with a clean dry cloth to get that shiny desirable finish and to remove any scuffs or streaking that may have occurred.

On a side note, aluminum will naturally fade and show wear over time, so if you do want to have a trailer that is shiny, it will take effort and work to maintain the look.


As we briefly mentioned before, you want to inspect your trailer while you are cleaning it. You do not want to forego this part as you can identify any issues going on with the trailer at this time. A trailer in good condition is a safe trailer.

You should check the lights on the trailer, especially since it has been in the water. The lights can suck water or moisture into the housing unit and water can get in here. You should remove the housing and dry it out to prevent any fogging issues or moisture problems. You can spray the inside of the housing with a moisture-repellant spray to keep them as dry as possible.

Check out your tires and wheel bearings to make sure all is in working order and in good condition. If you notice any problems, make sure to address them BEFORE you take the trailer out again.

You also want to ensure your brakes have been hosed down and cleaned thoroughly after taking a dunk in salt water, especially if you have drum brakes as the sand and salt can damage them.

Grease and Lubricate Your Trailer

Do not take this step for granted. You should spend time greasing and lubricating your trailer. By greasing your moving parts, you will prevent rubbing, unnecessary friction, and heat, and you will eliminate the possibility of squeaking.

You want to pay close attention to your wheel bearings and make sure they are packed with grease. Stick with a grease that is designed for boat trailers and is meant to go in and out of the water.

Lubricate any and all components of the trailer to prevent any issues with it.

Keep Your Boat Trailer Clean After Each Outing

Boat trailers are subjected to corrosion, especially when they are used in and out of saltwater or brackish water on a regular basis. The best defense against corrosion is cleaning the trailer after each time it is used in the water.

While it seems like a pain and hassle, it does not take too long and it is easy to do, so this should help make it a bit more manageable. Protecting your boat trailer is IMPORTANT because if the trailer is damaged, it is unsafe.

Cleaning your boat trailer should be your number one priority when you come home to clean your boat as well. You do not want to skip this step as your investment will quickly become unusable. Putting the time, energy, and effort into maintaining your trailer will ensure that you get many years of use out of it.

The above steps will help you clean off your trailer after a day out in the water.

Have something to add or correct? Please let us know by clicking here.
* See disclaimer in the footer of the site for use of this content.

Latest Posts

Don't Miss

Our Newsletter

Get the latest boating tips, fishing resources and featured products in your email from!