Off My Dock: The Good Samaritans

Three tips to keep your boat trailer in top shape.

Off My Dock: The Good Samaritans
Off My Dock: The Good SamaritansTim Bower

My good friend Chuck Larson and his buddy Bob “Toes” Lund are the Lucy and Ethel of the Lake View Inn. They frequently cook up beer-fueled schemes designed to put extra cash in their fun kitty. With the arrival of boating season, they came up with an idea that was borderline predatory.

Toes, who recently retired from a gig driving the ­Frito-Lay truck and restocking Cheetos, Fritos and Doritos — hence the nickname — had noted that the number of disabled boat trailers abandoned on the road side escalated on the Fridays before the fishing opener and Memorial Day weekend. At 5-mile intervals along the main arterials to the Northwoods, a boat and trailer would likely be on the shoulder, unhitched and abandoned, with a jack or a milk crate supporting an axle without a wheel, their owner on a rural odyssey in search of a bearing kit. Or imagine this sad scene: Dad squatting and squinting at a delam­inated tire, the boat akimbo on its trailer, wife and kiddies sitting on a grassy bank across the ditch, looking stoic but wondering why in the hell Dad didn’t have a spare trailer tire. It was upon these unfortunates Chuck and Toes ­plotted to prey.

“I’m telling you, we buy a dozen mounted trailer tires and assorted bearing kits, and we patrol I-39 all the way to Minocqua [Wisconsin],” Toes said.

“We’ll put some tools and the floor jack in the truck,” Chuck added.

“And charge them double the retail price of the wheel,” Toes said. “Triple if they’re from Illinois, of course. We’ll probably even get some tips.”

A couple of real good Samaritans, these guys.

I want to see those wheels for sale at a swap meet this fall, not on your boat trailer. So, remember these three tips.

Air Up the Tires
If, on May 1, your boat-trailer tires are each holding about 12 pounds of air, they will overheat and fly apart after about 50 miles. Tires naturally lose about a pound of air a month, and if you last added air in 2014 … well, there you go. Fill them to the psi limit indicated on the sidewall.

Carry a Spare Tire
It doesn't even have to be mounted on the trailer. Just throw it in the truck bed. Then make sure your jack fits under the trailer axle and your lug wrench fits the nuts on the ­trailer wheels. If neither is the case, get equipped. Now your family will find you handy when there's a flat.

Don’t forget to fill the spare tire.

Service the Wheel Bearings
By the end of last season, your trailer bearings were dry, and then they sat all winter, and now they are rusty and will fail before you get to the cottage. If the wheel doesn't simply fall off — a serious safety issue — it will be restrained only by the axle nut and a big washer, and any remaining grease will be cooked to coke, and a sad bearing race will be welded to the spindle. Service those bearings in the fall.

If you do end up stranded and two guys in a ratty Ram truck pull up and offer you a new wheel and tire, offer them beer in lieu of cash.