Do-it-Yourself: Upgrading Your Boat's Trailer

Skill Level Description
Upgrading your jack, winch, or guides: 2 out of 10
Upgrading your tie-downs to Boat Buckles: 3 out of 10
Upgrading your lights to LED models: 4 out of 10
Upgrading your hubs to bearing protectors: 4 out of 10
Tools Required Shopping List

Upgrading your jack, winch, tie-downs or trailer guides.

  • Socket wrench set with deep sockets
  • Combination wrench set
  • (Possible) 3/8" drill with titanium or cobalt drill bits
  • For BoatBuckle: 7/16" drill bit

Upgrading your trailer lights

  • Wire crimp tool
  • Screwdrivers and combination wrenches
  • (Possible) 3/8" drill motor and metal bits

Upgrading your hubs to bearing protectors

  • Soft mallet or small sledge and block of wood
  • Grease gun
  • (Optional) new bearing set for axle w/seals

By Chuck Hawley, Last updated 4/1/2019

This season, lots of families will be towing their trailerboats while cruising the Interstate. Some of the trailers we have noticed recently are fitted out with the latest gear to make the trailer more reliable, and with accessories that look great at a modest cost. With that in mind, we would like to offer some suggestions for upgrading your trailer.

Working on your trailer requires only basic household tools like screwdrivers, socket and combination wrenches, since most of the components clamp onto the frame with U-bolts. Simple electrical tools, like a quality crimper for the wiring, are all you need to work on the trailer's electrical system.

The only hazards in trailer maintenance projects involve supporting the boat when you remove wheels, so use care and common sense. Let's look at some key cosmetic and functional upgrades you can tackle in your driveway to make your boat's road rig perform better and improve its roadway pizzazz.

Fulton's F2 Trailer Jack

  • This is the redesign of a basic system that makes our old jacks obsolete
  • Extruded aluminum alloy inner and outer tubes are anodized so the jack is virtually corrosion free
  • Twin 7" wheels roll independently
  • It fits either 3" x 3" or 3" x 4" tongues.

I recently installed this jack on our 21-foot boat, replacing the old-style single wheel model. Completing the task took about half an hour, and now I can push the 1,350 lb. boat around the parking lot by hand, instead of having to back it into its space with our car. This results in big smiles each time we couple and uncouple the trailer.

The F2 Winch

  • Fulton updates the trailer winch with their new F2 Manual Trailer Winch
  • Dual gears and a center-drive ratchet system make for easier cranking
  • One-piece corrosion-resistant handle and frame are anodized aluminum
  • Adjustable-length handle can be switched to either left or right hand drive
  • The drum and mechanism are enclosed for protection
  • Fits standard bolt patterns, so this upgrade is a five-minute project

BoatBuckle Retractable Tiedowns

  • Boats need to be secured at the bow, the gunwale and the stern for safe trailering
  • The best tiedowns we offer are the BoatBuckle retractable models for the bow and transom
  • All-stainless hardware and polyester straps assure durability
  • One-bolt installation is simple and fast
  • They look clean and make launch and retrieval quicker

LED Lights

Hot lightbulbs and cold water are a predictably bad combination. Designed to last for about 3000 hours, filament lightbulbs suffer from thermal shock when they're submerged—a good reason to unplug the lights before putting the trailer in the water. They also get damaged by vibration and grime while on the road. LED lights represent a better way, because they're virtually indestructible and last for up to 100,000 hours. They draw one-eighth the electrical current of lightbulbs and activate instantly, so drivers behind you have an extra instant to apply their brakes when you make a quick stop.

Don't waste your time fixing corroded trailer lights or troubleshooting wiring problems. Replacing the whole system is cheaper and better for your blood pressure. When you replace the lights, go with LEDs, and say goodbye forever to trailer light hassles.

Improving your Wiring

Start from the basics: install a new wiring harness. Over time, the insulation on an old wiring harness can crack and expose the wires inside leading to corrosion and light malfunction.

For a modest investment you can eliminate the main reason for bad connections. Don't use household wire nuts/twist on connectors on your trailer. Make the connections to your lights with waterproof adhesive-lined butt connectors and keep corrosion out of the wiring. Use a quality wire stripper and crimper from Ancor or Seafit.

Waterproof Butt Connectors

Make the connections to your lights with waterproof adhesive-lined butt connectors to keep corrosion out of the wiring.

Quality Trailer Rollers

Stoltz Super Rollers are the orange polyurethane models you may have noticed at your local launching ramp. They last forever, spin more easily and, most important, they don't leave black marks on white gelcoat like the black rubber original-equipment rollers.

Trailer Guides

Some of us have trouble seeing our trailers when backing the unloaded rig down the launching ramp, and submerged trailers are virtually invisible in murky water. The solution is to bolt on a pair of trailer guide posts. If you launch or retrieve in the dark, install a pair with LED lights on the tops of the posts.

Bearing Protectors

These hardly fall into the "luxury item" category. Bearing protectors prevent water from being sucked into hot wheel hubs when they're plunged into cold water, causing the air inside the hub to contract and create negative pressure. Water gets inside and rusts the bearings and races. Eventually the wheel seizes up, usually at a remote roadside location far from home on Sunday afternoon.

Get that trailer ready! The summer boating season is here. Get your trailer ready to perform flawlessly with these simple and affordable upgrades.