Do-it-Yourself: Trailering Checklist

By Tom Burden, Last updated: 2/21/2018

Before Leaving Home

Checking the bow tiedown on a trailered boat

Checking the bow tiedown. Notice that the safety chains are criss-crossed, the Emergency Breakaway Cable is attached to the vehicle, and the trailer jack is retracted.

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Person checking the tension on the tiedown straps after pulling out the boat

Checking the tension of the tiedown straps after pulling the boat. Next, she will lower the Bimini top and the VHF antenna and remove loose gear from the cockpit.

  • Check tires for cold air pressure and general condition, lug nuts for tightness, and wheel bearings or bearing protectors to make sure they’re adequately filled with marine grease. (Do not overfill.)
  • Properly fasten the hitch latch (or coupler), and secure it with a safety bolt or lock. Be sure the trailer rides at a level attitude; if not, use an adjustable-height drawbar to level trailer.
  • Make sure trailer safety chains and emergency brake system breakaway cable are securely connected to vehicle.
  • Depending on tongue jack used, either remove wheel (or foot) and fully retract jack, or swing jack into traveling position along trailer frame and secure.
  • Plug trailer wiring connector to vehicle, and check that all lights are working properly.
  • Inspect transom tiedown straps, bow strap and bow-strap safety chain. All should be secure and in good condition.
  • Install and make sure outboard or sterndrive lower unit support is secure and “road ready.”
  • Properly secure and balance any loose gear inside boat. If trailering with a boat cover, make sure it’s tightly secured.
  • Before hitting the road, adjust tow vehicle’s rearview mirrors.

Before Launching

  • Disconnect trailer lights and secure loose electrical plugs above water level.
  • Install (and double check) boat’s drain plug.
  • Turn battery switch to “On” position, and remove outboard or sterndrive support bracket.
  • Remove transom tiedown straps and bow safety chain. Leave bow strap connected until launching.
  • Attach dock lines and fenders.
  • Raise antennas (VHF, etc.), Bimini top and tower, as equipped.
  • Turn on blower aboard sterndrive and inboard-powered boats. Pump primer bulb aboard outboard boats.

Before Trailering Home

  • Before pulling boat out of the water, double-check that the sterndrive or outboard is raised.
  • Attach and tighten bow strap, making sure winch is properly in gear.
  • Check that the hull is resting properly on the trailer bunks or rollers.
  • Lower antennas, Bimini top and towers.
  • Secure transom tiedown straps and bow safety chain.
  • Attach sterndrive or outboard support bracket.
  • Reconnect all trailer lights, and check operation.
  • Walk around trailer, inspecting tires, bearings, tiedowns, hitch latch, safety chains, wiring connector and emergency brake system breakaway cable.
  • Secure boat cover and/or stow loose gear such as ice chests, life jackets and buckets.
  • Wash trailer and boat in fresh water to remove exotic species and/or saltwater contaminants.