Many boaters adhere to the belief that if you carry a rain suit aboard, you won’t need it. But if you don’t take rain gear, it will definitely pour.
Trailer boaters might apply the same thinking to on-road emergencies. Take everything you might need to deal with boat-trailer breakdowns and hope nothing bad occurs.
Of course, breakdowns do occur on occasion. When these happen on remote roads, it can be tough to find the right parts and assistance. That’s when a roadside trailer repair kit becomes valuable.
Catastrophic trailer failures such as bent axles, broken springs or cracked frames lie beyond the scope of roadside repairs. Other mission-critical emergencies, however, such as tire blowouts, burnt bearings and even toasted spindles can be resolved with the right stuff.
Blowouts and flats are among the most common boat-trailer failures, and that’s why a spare tire is essential. In fact, on long-range trips, two spare tires make sense. If your tandem-axle trailer bangs over a deep pothole at the edge of the shoulder, it is likely to affect both tires on the right side.
Sometimes you can fix a flat using a tire puncture repair kit such as the TireJect ($6.95, tireject.com). These are effective for punctures in the tread up to 3/8 inch. If a repair kit works, a 12-volt air compressor such as the Klutch 12-volt Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator ($79.99, northerntool.com) will get it aired up.
Slime offers a complete tire repair kit ($60.13, walmart.com) that includes a tire puncture kit, spare valves, a tire air-pressure gauge, a can of Slime that you inject through the valve stem to seal the leak from inside, and a 12-volt inflator.
Jack It Up
Whether you need to change a tire or rebuild the wheel bearings, you’re going to need to raise the trailer to remove the wheel. The scissor jack in your truck might not cut the mustard, so think about a spare bottle jack such as the 4-ton Hydraulic Heavy-Duty Bottle Jack ($17.99, harborfreight.com).
Before you buy (and this is important), make sure the jack will fit under the axle when the tire is flat. If it does not, don’t despair. The solution is to carry two or three four-by-four wooden blocks (each about 12 inches long). Now you can carefully roll the flat tire over the blocks (laid down like planks) for extra axle height.
Carry a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood (about 12 inches square) to serve as the base for the jack, just in case you break down where the shoulder is comprised of sand or mud.
Wrench on It
You need an effective means of loosening lug nuts on the trailer wheels. Don’t count on using the lug wrench in your tow vehicle, as it’s unlikely the socket will fit the nuts on your trailer wheels.
A four-way lug wrench serves as the tool of choice for changing tires. With a piece of tape, mark the socket that fits the lug nuts on the trailer so you’re not constantly guessing which one fits. If space in your roadside repair kit is at a premium, think about the Torin Jack 14-inch Folding Lug Wrench ($28.75, walmart.com).
Some Boating staffers now pack a cordless impact wrench such as the Rockwell 20V Brushless Impact Wrench ($205.47, homedepot.com) coupled with a socket that fits the ½-inch drive and the wheel lug nuts. Just make sure the battery is fully charged.
Get Your Bearing
Trailer-wheel hubs and the bearings and races inside can become trouble spots, particularly when overheated by dragging brake pads or corroded by water leaking inside.
That’s why it’s a good idea to carry a complete set of spare wheel bearings and seals for your trailer, along with the bearing grease and the tools needed to rebuild the hubs.
Some trailer boaters go a step further and carry a spare wheel hub with the bearings inside, spindle seal installed and pre-packed with grease, with an extra bearing protector loosely fit on the hub to contain the grease. If you want the ultimate in spare hubs, check out Tie Down Engineering’s spare-tire carriers with removable hubs ($113.99, iboats.com).
Of course, if the spindle gets fried (which often occurs if the hub overheats) or bent, new bearings and hubs are no good until you replace the spindle, a project that hardly qualifies as a roadside repair.
Yet there is a roadside solution in the form of the E-Axle spindle repair device from Air-Tight ($59.99, easternmarine.com). Once you remove the hub and/or brake from the axle, the E-Axle slips over the existing spindle and bolts to the axle’s brake flange. Adjustment bolts keep it centered, so you can make it to a repair shop.
Other Spare Parts
Here, along with a full tool kit, are additional spare parts that can help you cope with trailer-boating emergencies.
•Chain and shackles to secure an axle to the frame on a multi-axle trailer (in case you need to remove the wheel)
•Brake fluid (in case the actuator leaks)
•Tire air-pressure gauge
•Spare trailer lightbulbs
•Assorted 12-volt connectors
•Blanket or large towel (to kneel on while you work)
•Waterless hand cleaner and rags (to clean up afterward)
•Portable/lockable toolbox for your roadside repair kit
•Reflectors and road flares