Boat trailers

How to load a boat trailer and launch and retrieve a boat.

  Step 1:Trailer specifications

Badly adjusted trailers can cause long term damage to boats; undersized and badly set up. They can also be dangerous on the road.

A long trailer:

  • Gives extra distance between the boat's bow and the tow hitch.
  • Allows less weight on the draw bar for good towing.
  • Will put the trailer wheels further from the car and give you the extra benefit of easier reversing.

Don't skimp on the trailer when you are buying a rig. If you are unhappy with your trailer's balance, any marine dealer will be able to make the adjustments.

  Step 2:Loading the trailer

If you are tempted to use the boat like a box trailer and load it up with gear, be careful distributing the weight.

Putting weight in the ends, particularly the rear end, will give a flywheel like effect - it will exaggerate any swaying.

Put heavier items as near as you can directly over the axle, or a little ahead of it.

Do not overload the boat and trailer. If unsure of the total weight of the loaded trailer, take it to a public weighbridge and obtain a weighbridge certificate - a small charge is applicable.

Opens in a new window Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources: Public weighbridge list

  Step 3:Towing vehicle compatibility

Ensure the trailer is registered to carry the combined weight of your boat and gear (many are not).

  • The tare weight is subtracted from the aggregate weight on the trailer registration and then the difference is the amount the boat and gear can weigh.
  • The weight of the trailer and boat must not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle. Remembering if overloaded your vehicle will be unstable and your insurance may be invalid.

  Step 4:Trailer fittings and features

In addition to the size of a trailer, you will need to look at the following features to make life easy for you and the boat.


  • Generally, the more rollers the better. Make sure they carry their share of weight - the boat shouldn't overhang the rearmost roller by more than a few centimetres.
  • Get in the habit of checking rollers for free movement every time the boat is off the trailer.
  • Check that the rollers or boards under the outer edges of the boat are not too high.
  • All the weight should be placed on the keel rollers; the side supports are to locate rather than carry the boat.

Wheels hubs

Get your dealer to fit the wheel hubs with pressure compensators. These will deter water from entering the bearings when they go underwater.

Submersible trailer lights

Submersible trailer lights make launching quicker - and remove the chance of destroying the lights by forgetting to take them off.

Winch and wire

Check the condition of the winch and wire.

Rear gadget

You can buy a gadget to bolt on the rear of your trailer to locate the boats bow when you start to winch on. This is always useful, but especially if you are working single-handed.

Chain and straps

Ensure you have a chain to secure the bow to the trailer. When trailing for any distance, fit straps to hold the rear of the boat onto the trailer as well. These stop the boat squirming and bouncing on the rollers.

  Step 5:Launching at the ramp

  • Prepare your boat clear of the ramp.
  • Use a long rope, secure one end to the bow, the other at the rear corner to control your boat.
  • At launch point, pull out the break back pin if necessary and unhook your winch wire.
  • Pull the boat clear to make room for the next boat.

  Step 6:Boat retrieval

  • Pull out the winch cable and hook to the rear of the trailer.
  • The rope secured at both ends lets your offsider hold the boat aligned.
  • Drive clear of ramp before pulling bungs, putting on tie downs, etc.

Image of car with boat and trailer

Page last updated: Tue Jun 6 2023 2:49:53 PM