One of the most common requests we get at our workshop is, “Can you make my boat easier to launch and retrieve from the trailer?” The short answer and the one everyone loves to hear is yes. There are a number of options to make launch and retrieval a piece of cake, compared to earlier days where no matter what type of boat you had, there was only 1 option. In this article we are going to explore the different types of trailer systems available to make life easier for you.
Rollers are a great system for all boats, and as the name suggests they allow you to roll the boat off and on the trailer. There are 3 different types of roller setup you will find on a trailer, depending on the make, shape and weight of the boat.
Most commonly used on fibreglass boats, wobble rollers move (or wobble) to the shape of the boat hull, allowing the boat to easily roll off the trailer when launching, and roll up when winching it back on. By having wobble rollers, you don’t need to sink the trailer into the water as much as other systems. When set up correctly, you can also drive the boat up onto the trailer with ease.
The main reasons we don’t recommend wobble rollers for an aluminium hull are:
- Wobble Rollers can put pressure on the aluminium hull, leaving dents behind.
- There are a number of channels on an aluminium hull, and if the boat isn’t centred perfectly when winching it onto the trailer, wobble rollers can push the hull to one side, causing the boat to sit lop-sided. This is frustrating for the owner.
- Wobble rollers wear faster under an aluminium hull, due to the aluminium pulling on the edges of the roller.
Roller bunks are used on a lot of sit-on jet skis, but are also becoming more popular as a replacement for carpeted bunks on boat trailers. Roller bunks are great for sit-on jet skis, as they allow you to push the ski straight off for launch and drive straight on when retrieving.
A lot of American trailers are fitted with carpeted bunks; this means when launching the trailer you need to sink the trailer into the water to the point that the rear of the boat is floating in order to launch. Using a roller bank as an alternative allows you to push or drive the boat off the trailer in shallower water without damaging either. Keep in mind that this type of system does not suit all fibreglass boats, so seek expert advice before changing to this system.
Keel rollers are fitted in the centre of each cross member on a trailer, and can be used on both fibreglass and aluminium boats. They can be installed on single, double or triple brackets, or can be on a rail going all the way up the centre of the trailer. Most trailers with skids have keel rollers; they are added as support to the keel for both launching and retrieving. They also help with centring the boat when driving up onto the trailer. The different types of keel rollers include:
- Soft poly — used on fibreglass boats
- Hard poly — used on aluminium boats
- Rubber — used on fibreglass boats
Skids are made up of 2 primary materials — Teflon or carpet. What your boat is constructed from will determine what material your skids will be made of. One great advantage of having skids is the amount of support it gives to the boat when travelling.
Aluminium boats are renowned for having trailers with Teflon skids under them. The skid is made up of 50mm x 50mm galvanised tube with a Teflon strip fastened on top. The Teflon has a groove up the centre to allow rivet heads to sit lower than the contact point of the Teflon. When set up correctly with the hull of the boat, you are able to drive the boat onto the trailer and the skids will keep the boat centred. I would not recommend using this system on a fibreglass glass boat, as the Teflon can scratch on the hull.
Carpet skids or bunks are used on fibreglass boats and are usually found on American-made trailers. They add support to the boat’s hull when travelling. A lot of custom-made trailers will also use them, as they allow the trailer to ‘hug’ the boat when under it. Although they can make a trailer look great with the boat on top, there are a few disadvantages to having this system.
- The wood rots over time
- The carpet can tear, exposing the boat hull to wood splinters, causing damage
- The boat needs to float off the trailer, which means you need to sink the trailer deeper into the water. This in turn exposes more of the trailer’s mechanical parts to salt water
Two other systems that can assist in centring your boat onto the trailer are:
- Centre Line: these are positioned both sides of keel rollers and help aluminium boat hulls to slide into the centre of the trailer if you were to drive or pull the boat in off-centre.
- Gliders: Used the same way as Centre Lines, Gliders are used on larger fibreglass boats, protecting the hull from the trailer frame and cross members, which could cause damage if the boat is retrieved un-centred.
The best thing to do if you are getting frustrated because your boat is not coming up straight on the trailer is to take it to a trailer specialist like Bold Trailers, as they can assess the boat’s hull and the system you have on the trailer. It could be a simple case of the trailer not being set up correctly for the shape of your boat. Boating should be relaxing and stress free, and the last thing you want after a day out on the water is to be arguing with the person trying to centre your boat on the trailer as you’re driving it on.
Christian Bold, also known as ‘The Trailer Guy’, is one of Australia’s leading trailer and caravan repair specialists. As the Director of Bold Trailers, he is a licensed motor mechanic, auto electrician and automotive body builder. Christian is also an AUVIS and e-safety examiner for the RMS. You can contact Christian and the team at Bold Trailers for any information regarding trailer and caravan repairs, maintenance, modifications, legal requirements, imported trailers, parts and accessories, and new and used trailers for sale. Their friendly technicians are always willing to help you to make the towing experience safe and enjoyable. For more great tips go to www.boldtrailers.com.au or phone: (02) 8544 8114.Reads: 6456