Should a Boat Trailer Be Level When Towing?
Getting your boat out for a beautiful adventure on the local lake is an American past-time. In all the excitement on the day of your outing, it can be easy to overlook things such as the level of your boat trailer. While it may seem inconsequential, knowing whether your boat trailer should be level when towing is critical to your safety.
Should a Boat Trailer Be Level When Towing?
Your boat trailer should always be as level as possible when towing. Any time you’re towing anything, you should aim to have your trailer as level as possible. This is because you want the weight of your boat to be evenly distributed across the axles of your trailer. This allows for better tracking and handling and ensures you’re being as safe as possible.
Keep reading to find out more about towing a boat trailer, why it’s necessary, and all the juicy info you need to know about your boat trailer and towing.
Why is Having Your Boat Trailer Level Necessary?
Having your boat trailer level is a safety precaution that all smart drivers know to look out for.
If you’re towing a trailer that isn’t level, it can be quite dangerous. When the trailer isn’t level, the weight of your boat isn’t evenly distributed across its axles.
This means that it’ll be more difficult to control and may result in reckless driving. When it’s not level you can expect premature tire wear, increased fishing tailing, more gas being consumed, and the risk of an accident increases substantially.
Tandem and Torsion Axles
Tandem and torsion axles are the most important type of axles to ensure are level. In the case of torsion axles, towing while leveled is an absolute must.
If you’re towing high, several axles can shift additional weight to the rear axles. If this happens, disaster isn’t far away. This can cause excessive wear on tires and suspension components which risk the overall integrity of your trailer. In the worst-case scenario, the trailer may malfunction and break while moving.
If this happens, life-threatening crashes may be imminent.
Single axles should always be level, but there is more leeway than dual axles. You can have your level off by a couple of inches without much damage being done.
However, you should always strive to be as level as possible no matter what type of axles you’re using.
Even when you’re using single axles, excessive wear, and tear and decreased handling are possible when your level is off.
But, if your level is off by an inch or so, there is no need to panic. Some even believe that keeping your level a little high is fine if you haven’t loaded your boat up yet.
The theory is that the additional weight of what you’re bringing on the boat will level it out. Although it should be noted that you should simply load up your boat before you level your boat to ensure that everything is as good as it gets.
What Happens if Your Trailer Hitch is Too High
Many people believe that having your trailer hitch be a bit high is optimal if you’re using single axles. The thought process behind this is that the trailer will bump lower when you add weight onto the boat.
Having your trailer hitch too high results in increased wear and tear to your suspension, which can lead to catastrophic failure in a worst-case scenario. Because of this, you should always strive to have your trailer as level as possible at all times when it’s in use.
The key to ensuring that your trailer is as level as it should be is to load your boat with all the weight you’re going to put on the boat when you’re about to head out. From here, it’ll be much easier to level your trailer.
How to Level Your Boat Trailer
Using an adjustable trailer hitch is the best way to keep your boat level no matter what type of axles you’re using.
If you own a dual axle trailer, the job will be a bit easier. This is because dual axle trailers place equal pressure on both axles and evenly distribute the weight throughout the trailer. This will help reduce tire wear and increase the lifespan of your suspension mechanics.
Use an adjustable trailer hitch to keep these dual axle trailers level with your vehicle. This is imperative as dual axle trailers are much more susceptible to damage and failure if the level isn’t properly adjusted.
If you’re the owner of a single trailer, a solid ball mount hitch that’s fixed to your vehicle achieves the optimal level fairly easily.
If you own multiple trailers, it’s unlikely that the single solid ball mount hitch will get the job done. If this is the case, adjustable trailer hitches are a lifesaver and can easily fix your issues.
They allow you to make height adjustments based on the load and trailer being used. Adjusting one only takes a couple of minutes, which makes them a popular option for those who don’t want to fuss around all day with getting just the right level for optimal safety conditions.
How High Should a Trailer Hitch Be Off the Ground?
A normal trailer coupler comes in at around 17 inches in height. Most manufacturers of hitches design them to work with a ball mount that ends up being around this exact height.
Because of this, your trailer hitch should be around 17 inches off the ground. However, the weight and type of trailer you’re using may throw this off by an inch in either direction.
How to Prevent Trailer Sway From Happening
One of the most common reasons for your trailer to be swaying is weight distribution and balance, which is directly affected by the level of your trailer. However, it’s not the only thing that could be causing a dangerous sway to occur.
Here are the most common reasons why your trailer would be swaying:
- Wind and drafts
- Hitch adjustments
- Balance and weight distribution
Wind drafts are the most common reason why your trailer may sway. For the most part, they’re almost completely unavoidable. However, you should still be prepared.
Crosswinds, drafts from descending steep hills, or from passing semi-trucks are the enemy in this case. Many people think that trailers are designed to not sway. And, to a point, they are. The front of trailers is typically designed to be aerodynamic to improve both gas mileage and to help prevent sway.
However, the sides of the trailers aren’t designed to be aerodynamic at all. Because of this, strong gusts of wind or drafts that hit the side of your trailer may cause significant sway depending on how strong the wind is.
For example, a 35-mph crosswind is capable of putting more than 3,400 pounds of force against the side of a large trailer. Because of this, you can never be too certain of the wind and how it’ll affect you and your control.
Hitch adjustments are what allow trailers to be level. While they’re great at fixing the problem, they can be a large factor in why swaying occurs if they aren’t used properly.
Hitches act as a pivot point between the center of gravity in between your vehicle and trailer. If you haven’t leveled your vehicle properly or if a strong enough force is pressed against your trailer or vehicle, the hitch can begin to cause a sway or your vehicle to fishtail.
If this happens, catastrophic failure may occur. In some rare cases, your hitch could completely detach your vehicle from the trailer. In a best-case scenario, your trailer is ruined after it’s gone off the road.
In the worst-case scenario, the sway becomes too much for your vehicle to handle and causes you to lose control in your vehicle. If this happens, rollovers are common and severe to fatal injury is definitely within the question.
Balance and weight distribution are what you should be on the lookout for as a boat trailer owner and it’s the cause that you have the most control over.
When your level is either too low or too high wear and tear to your tires and suspension mechanics will happen over time. In severe cases, they may fail.
Because of this, you should always ensure that your balance and weight distribution are as even as possible and your trailer is leveled optimally.
How to Control Trailer Sway
If your trailer does fall victim to sway, there are some steps you can take to help you regain control over the situation.
The NHTSA recommends that you activate manual brake control override by hand. If you apply standard vehicle breaks, the sway will become generally worse.
Here are the steps you should take:
- Take your foot off the accelerator but don’t engage the brake pedal unless you’re in imminent danger of hitting something or someone
- Always keep a firm grip on your steering wheel to maintain better control over sway that’s caused by semi-trucks or other large vehicles that are passing by
- Pullover to a safe location to check for proper weight balance and adjust your hitch as necessary