Pontoon Trailer Maintenance
One of the most neglected but important boating items, next to boating safety items like life preservers, GPS, communications and a pontoon first aid kit is the pontoon boat trailer. It's not the main thing and it's usually only used a few times a year to tow your pontoon boat in the spring to launch it and then in the fall to take it out of the water. This is true for many pontoon boaters in the areas where winter is long and cold and you have to get pontoon boat out of the water.
So, most of the time your pontoon trailer is sitting, usually outdoors. That means that everything is subject to the weather, sun and elements. The pontoon trailer tires are subject to weathering and cracking. The seal between the rim edge and tire bead can become weak. Sometimes rust or corrosion forms on the inside on the rim edge between the tire bead and they can leak under stress. In addition, the wheel bearings can become dry and corroded. These can freeze up and cause the hub assembly to overheat and result in tire blow out. In addition other mechanical items that need to be checked annually are the winch and trailer jack. These can become corroded and locked up which prevents from the pontoon boat from either being winched up fully onto the pontoon trailer or being jacked up to load the trailer hitch coupling onto the trailer hitch ball. These are the items we will cover for pontoon trailer maintenance below.
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Pontoon Trailer Maintenance List
1. Pontoon Trailer Frame
Check the frame and support members for signs of stress or cracking. This includes the entire frame, the axles and axle support members, the front extension, the winch stand, tongue jack and tongue extension. Any signs of cracking need to be fixed. Appropriate method is welding. The cracked area needs to be wire wheeled clean to bare metal and ground smooth using a grinder so that a good weld bead can be applied. Unless you have a good knowledge of welding and the equipment, you should take your pontoon trailer to your local boat trailer shop or local welding shop to have it professionally repaired. If towing your trailer isn't possible due, some welders offer home service and will bring their equipment to you.
2. Tires and Rims
Tires should be checked for proper inflation. Typical car size trailer tires are pressurized at 30-35 psi. But if your pontoon trailer has smaller tires, those pressures are usually higher. Check the tire sidewall for the correct pressure specification. In addition your pontoon trailer tires should have at least one eighth to one quarter of an inch of tread. The old rule is to stick a penny in the tire tread with Lincoln's head down and if you can see the top of his head, your tires need to be replaced. That's basically the one eighth inch rule. Current recommendations are more conservative and lead towards having at least three sixteenths of an inch of tread. In addition - tire side walls should be checked for smoothness. Any bumps in the side wall indicate a that the sidewall belts have broken. This can lead to the tire blowing out under stress during towing and should be replaced. Usually when a sidewall belt breaks there is a significant size bulge about the size of half of a golf ball. That's a clear sign the tire needs to be replaced. Also, any cracks indicate the tire rubber has hardened and could fail during towing or leak during towing and also should be replaced.
For the rims, first check the valve stem. This is often overlooked, but it to can become hardened and fail under stress. Move the valve stem around applying pressure up wards, down wards and side to side to make sure it is still flexible and has a good seal. If it's dry rotted, it will break off suddenly with very little effort and if the seal is bad, it will begin to leak. These are signs that the valve stems need to be replaced.
Also, check the rim bead to make sure there isn't rust or corrosion around the rim edge where it meets the tire. This can be misleading. Your tire may appear fine and hold pressure but if there's rust or corrosion around the bead, this can lead to pressure loss during towing. It's best to have the tire and rims broken down and the rim bead cleaned and resealed with a good tire bead sealant. Your local tire shop can do this for you.
3. Lights and Electrical Connections
Several things related to your lights and electrical connections can become worn, corroded and not functional. Or just as worse they can become intermittent. Which means they may work when you check them, but they can go out when you're driving. It's critical that you check your electrical connections as follows.
Main connector jack that attaches to your vehicle harness - make sure this is clean and free from dirt and corrosion. If it's not, you should clean it with small brush or tool. After apply a good quality dielectric grease, preferably marine grade to help keep out moisture and maintain good electrical conductivity. In addition, check the condition of the overall wiring and attachments to the trailers. Make sure the wiring is properly attached and not hanging. Reattach all wires as needs.
Wire Insulation - Also, check the condition of the wire insulation. It should not have any signs of cracking, hardening or severe discoloration. Gently check the wire for flexibility. If the wiring shows any signs of cracking or hardening it should be replaced.
Wiring Connections - check all wiring connections to make sure there is no signs of corrosions or loose connections. Replace all connectors as required and apply a good dielectric grease around the connection to keep out moisture. It also helps to prevent corrosion around the electrical connection.
Light Housings - make sure your pontoon trailer light housing are not cracked and leaking. These need to be sealed properly so that when the pontoon trailer is submerged, the light housing don't leak and short out the bulbs. Note: always make sure you disconnect your trailer harness from your vehicle before submerging your pontoon trailer to launch your pontoon boat. If your light housing are cracked or the seal is worn, deformed or missing - replace your pontoon light housings and seals as required.
Bulb sockets - inspect bulb sockets to make sure there are no signs of corrosion and the attachment to the bulb is not loose. Any worn sockets or corroded sockets should be replaced. And as mentioned above apply a good marine grade dielectric grease around at the base of the bulb. This is to keep out moisture and prevent electrical corrosion.
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