The Essential Boat Trailer Maintenance Checklist

Whether you use your boat trailer twice or a hundred times a year, you may be missing some of the most important boat trailer maintenance procedures. Although boat trailers don’t experience as many routine maintenance issues as boats themselves, there are still some important recommended boat trailer maintenance procedures to follow.  

Boat Trailer Maintenance Checklist 

Let’s start with a basic checklist to ensure you understand the key components and aspects of maintaining a boat trailer. 

  • Check tire pressure (before each trip)
  • Inspect tire tread (before each trip) 
  • Lubricate wheel bearings (every 6-12 months)
  • Inspect axles for rust (monthly) 
  • Replace worn or damaged bearings (as needed) 
  • Check brake fluid (quarterly) 
  • Inspect brake pads (annually, before long trips)
  • Test trailer lights (before each trip)
  • Inspect the hitch ball (before each trip)
  • Lubricate tongue jack and coupler (quarterly) 
  • Inspect trailer frame for rust and damage (every 6-12 months) 
  • Store the trailer in a safe environment protected from weather (when not in use) 

Tire Care and Maintenance

If you don’t take care of your trailer’s tires it can lead to disastrous consequences, such as blowouts, uneven wear, and damage to the trailer’s bearings and axles.

Proper Tire Inflation

Inadequate air pressure is the most common cause of tire-related issues with trailers. Check the tire walls for the recommended inflation pressure, and ensure tires are inflated to this level before every trip. Keep a digital air pressure gauge with you for quick and reliable measurements. 

If the pressure is low, use an air pump to inflate the tires to the proper tire pressure before heading out on the road. 

Inspecting Tread and Sidewalls

Uneven tire wear on a boat trailer could indicate a bent axle or an axle that is out of alignment. In addition, improper trailer storage can cause uneven wear and issues with the tire sidewall. 

For severe damage, replace the tire immediately. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50-$180 per replacement wheel. 

Trailer tires are typically replaced every 5-10 years or when tire tread has deteriorated to a tread depth of 2/32. Put a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires. 

Wheel Bearings and Axle Maintenance

The wheel bearings and axle ensure smooth towing and prevent trailer difficulties. Proper lubrication and inspection for rust and damage are the key elements of safe trailer operation. 

How Often To Grease Boat Trailer Bearings 

Grease your boat trailer bearings every six months with marine grease. This will help to ward off corrosion and guarantee efficient performance. 

To lubricate wheel bearings with marine grease, remove the wheel bearing protector. Then, apply a thin layer of marine grease to the bearing.

Inspecting Axles for Rust and Damage

A regular check for rust, damage, or wear on the axles is vital for maintaining your boat trailer’s integrity. Visual inspection won’t always give the full story; be aware of any abnormal vibrations or movements of the trailer when driving to alert you of issues. 

Replacing Worn or Damaged Bearings and Axles

Prompt replacement of worn or damaged bearings, axles, and leaf springs helps to avert trailer breakdowns and guarantees safe towing. Regularly inspect the axle shaft for signs of wear or damage. 

Brake System Inspection and Maintenance

Brake systems can be complicated; consult a professional if you are uncomfortable with brake lines and brake systems. 

Checking Brake Fluid Reservoir and Lines

Checking the brake fluid reservoir and lines for leaks or damage is critical to ensure the brakes function properly. The brake master cylinder reservoir is located under the hood of your tow vehicle

Compare the fluid level against the “minimum” and “maximum” lines on the reservoir, and top off the fluid if necessary.

Inspecting and Replacing Brake Pads

For optimal braking performance, inspecting brake pads for wear is important. Look for a wear indicator slot down the center of the pad. If the slot is barely visible, it’s time to replace the brake pads.

Lighting and Electrical Systems

Properly functioning lighting and electrical systems are crucial for safe towing, especially during nighttime or poor visibility. The NHTSA requires all boat trailers to be equipped with proper lighting. This includes:

  • Stop lights
  • Tail lights
  • Turn signals
  • Reflectors

Larger trailers may require additional lights and reflectors. Consider upgrading to LED lights to improve energy efficiency, extend lifespan, and improve color accuracy. 

Save up to $1,200/year on boat storage

Hitch and Coupling Maintenance

A well-maintained hitch and coupling ensures a safe connection between your boat trailer and tow vehicle and reduces the risk of accidents during transport.

Inspecting Hitch Ball and Safety Chains

Look for any indications of wear or damage, such as rust, corrosion, or cracks. If you find any signs of wear or damage, replace the hitch ball and safety chains as needed. Also, ensure that the safety chains are properly connected to the tow vehicle’s trailer hitch and criss-crossed under the hitch.

Lubricating Tongue Jack and Coupler

For smooth operation and prevention of corrosion, it’s vital to lubricate the trailer jack and coupler with marine grease. Regular lubrication will also help ensure that the trailer remains securely connected to the tow vehicle during transport.

Frame, Winch, and Support Systems

Regular inspection and maintenance of the frame, winch, and systems can prevent potential issues on the road and extend the life of your trailer.

  • Look for any signs of rust, corrosion, or discoloration on the trailer frame.
  • Lubricate any moving parts of the winch and support systems with marine-grade lubricant at least once a year
  • Check motor braces and outboard support sticks to ensure less vibration and better safety during towing. 

Keeping Your Boat Trailer In Great Condition

As important as boat trailer maintenance is, you must also ensure that your day-to-day care of the trailer is correct. Every time you use your trailer, make sure to rinse it. 

In addition, take it easy on the roads when it comes to speed and going around corners; you will cause unnecessary wear that will decrease the longevity of your boat trailer brakes and components. 

Finally, using a corrosion-resistant spray on any connections exposed to the elements is smart. Use something marine grade like CRC Corrosion Inhibitor. 

Boat Trailer Storage Tips and Advice 

Another important part of trailer maintenance is storage. Here are a few little-known but important tips to ensure proper storage. 

  • When storing your boat trailer, lift it off the ground with a sturdy jack and place it on plywood 
  • If storing outdoors, purchase a trailer cover to help keep rust and corrosion to a minimum. 
  • Set a reminder to check the trailer’s alignment periodically to avoid tire wear.
  • Ensure any batteries are disconnected during storage, and use a trickle charger to charge the battery from time to time so it doesn’t lose effectiveness. 

Fair warning: storing your boat outdoors can lead to issues with corrosion and even pest infestation. For affordable covered (and enclosed) boat trailer storage locations close to your home, use Neighbor, a peer-to-peer storage solution. 

With storage options in your neighborhood, you’ll be to stop by and check on your trailer at your convenience (without having to travel 15-20+ minutes each).  If you select storage nearby, you’ll be able to pop in and perform routine maintenance as needed. 


One last tip for proper boat trailer maintenance is to make yourself a kit with all the necessary products and tools needed to keep your trailer in great shape. Once you’ve assembled a kit, store it away in your tow vehicle. If you need to fix a flat or tighten lug nuts when you reach the launch ramp, you’ll have everything you need. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Service Your Boat Trailer?

Service your boat trailer once per year or every six months (if you use it frequently)

Is Rust on a Boat Trailer Bad?

Rust on a boat trailer is a sign of corrosion that can lead to structural damage. Deal with rust as quickly as possible and ensure your boat is still supported by your trailer. 

What Do You Spray on a Boat Trailer?

Spraying a marine-grade, corrosion-resistant spray on the boat trailer will help keep rust down and ensure salt water does not deteriorate your trailer frame. 

What is the life expectancy of a boat trailer?

The life expectancy of a boat trailer should be 15 to 25 years at the least, but you must take care of the boat trailer. Frequently used boat trailers tend to need more routine maintenance. 

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