Transporting Boats etc



1) According to a recent survey less than 50% of drivers have ever changed a wheel on their car. As a sailor towing a boat you are much more likely to need to change a wheel so practice on a warm dry day so it is faster when you need to do it:-

a) Find the wheel wrench – normally in the boot with the lifting device and spare wheel. Make sure that you have a wrench to fit your trailer wheel nuts as well. They are slightly smaller size nuts than normal car wheel nuts..

b) Loosen, but don’t remove, the wheel nuts by turning wrench anti-clockwise If it is tight put the wrench horizontal and press downwards gently with your foot.

c) Insert lifting device(jack ) under the jacking point or axle and turn handle clockwise to lift wheel off floor, or lift trailer frame onto spare wheel. .

d) Fully remove the wheel nuts and remove the old wheel.

e) Put on new wheel with valve pointing out, and notch over the greasing point.

f) Put on wheel nuts, tighten as far as possible, by turning clockwise.

g) Lower and remove lifting device. Tighten up wheel nuts with wrench.

h) Put old wheel, lifting device and wrench back in boot.


Many beginners to sailing are tempted to buy a roof rack and transport their boat around on it. After all roof racks are much cheaper than a trailer, you will not have problems with trailer wheels and you can still drive at normal motoring speeds.

We need to be aware that most commercial roof racks are designed to carry a maximum of 50Kg, which would be fine for a couple of kayaks or a Topper dinghy. When boats above 50Kg are carried the loads imposed on the roof rack fittings when braking , cornering or having a minor accident will easily be sufficient to twist thin metal or break the small bolts.

We might be able to counter this by saying that we have tied our boat on well with straps passing inside the car to pass some strain to the shell of the car rather than just the roof rack. Because boat hulls are very smooth it is however very difficult to get a good grip on your boat. The bow and stern fittings are also not strong enough to stop your boat sliding forward if you brake sharply or had a minor accident. The main structural tie point is your centreboard case so pass ropes through it, through the rear doors and also attach to something solid under the rear of the car. Use a minimum of 10mm rope.

It is very difficult to secure spars, sails and trolley to the roof rack as well as the boat as most boats are wider than most roof racks. Bringing sails and spars inside the car restricts space and visability. Spars can also slide forward and break your windscreen. .

A car with a boat on a roof rack will use a lot more fuel as not streamlined.

Don’t put boat on roof rack with deck upwards. The aerodynamics may cause your car car front wheels to lift off road. Tie down the front of the boat to solid point under front of car to stop it flying off.


You can have a heavier boat than a Topper.

You can put the mast, rudder, centreboard and sails, camping gear , bike etc in the boat.

It is much easier to tie a boat to a trailer. The front of a trailer is a strong point designed to hold the boat so it is better at stoping your boat when you brake or have a minor accident. It follows that the front tie down is most important.

As trailers/trolleys are made to hold a curved hull the trailer cradle will readily resist most of the side pressure when cornering so the majority of ropes or straps are used to hold the boat down to the trailer to stop it bouncing.

With a light boat you will notice no difference to your cars handling ,speed or fuel use.

You will be limited to 50MPH on single roads and 60MPH on dual carriageways/Motorways.

Modern trailers are designed to take a matching launching trolley. This makes single handed loading and unloading easy.

Trailer tyres, bearings and suspension need to be replaced at least every 10 years . The manufacturers recommend checking these items six monthly. This fits in with the start and end of our season.

You will need a lighting set to suit your boat. It should be as wide as your boat and trailer. See more guidance below.

Make sure that you have a short strong cable or chain to secure trailer to the car should the hitch fail. Chain or wire should stop trailer hitting the road.

For best handling on the road a trailer and boat will be no more than 85% of weight of the car.

A Volvo XC90 weighs 2130KG so max towed weight 1810 kg boat and trailer.

A Volvo XC60 weights 1675KG so max towed weight 1423 Kg

The heavier the boat towed, or on roof rack, the less efficient your brakes will function to we need to keep bigger distance from car ahead and brake in good time.


Measure the suspension mounting plate on your trailer.

New standard suspension units have a 6 hole plate 180mm by 100mm. They normally come with new hub and ready greased bearings as well.

If not this size plate cut off old plate with a hacksaw and have new sized plate welded on square.

If plate is correct size unbolt 6 nylock nuts, remove old suspension units. They come as a pair.

Rebolt new suspension units with new bolts and nuts and refit wheel. The hub should be below and behind the axcle.


A trailer lighting set must include 2 red side lights, 2 red brake lights, 2 triangular reflectors, 2 amber indicators and an illuminated number plate. If trailer/boat is over 1.3m needs fog light as well.

Trailers built after 1990 must have a white reflector on each of the front corners and trailers over 1.6metres wide must have front white lights on the front corners. The law does not say what to do if your trailer does not have front corners. Most boat trailers are about 2 metres wide.

Stop lights must be no more than 100mm from the outer edge of the trailer.

Lights must not be able to move or swivel so tie it on well or fasten it to the pintle and gudgeon.

Light filaments must comply with BS 6873 so LEDS not allowed.

If a trailer is more than 800mm wider than the towing car then the trailer must have white front lights less than 400mm from outer edge. Again it does not say what to do if your trailer has no front corners.


Honda Civic is 1.7m wide

Dart 18 is 2.3m wide is more than 1.6m wide, and its two bows form front corners . Must have white lights on each bow. The lighting set must be 2.3metres wide and have brake and indicator lights at the outer edges. It will therefore need separate number plate light as composite lights are too far from the number plate.

Laser trailer is 2m wide so will need a 2 metre board but as it has no front corners. It is not clear about the need for front white lights.

As commercial number plates are too narrow both need DIY trailer board with separate number plate light and brake light as commercial ones are not wide enough and lights would not light up number plate. A robust lighting set can be made with a painted wooden board, lights from Amazon and 8 core cable from an electrical shop. Wiring guides available online.

Modern cars now have a 13 pin socket rather than 8 pin available with most commercial trailer boards. Don’t use a 13 to 8 pin adaptor, change plug. You can still wire the 8 core cable into a 13 pin plug as the other pins are for caravans.


In order to avoid breaking down when towing your boat trailer your trailer bearings need to be checked and regreased every six months.   I would also recommend checking them before long trips.

If your trailer wheels are already seized up, squeal or rumble when towing then it is time to change the bearings or complete hubs. You can buy mid priced hubs for about the same price as a set of bearings, and it is a lot less work to change a complete hub, so it makes sense to carry a spare set of hubs just in case.

Most small boat trailers have a 1 inch stub axle, use a taper bearing with an oil/water seal on the inside and a plain taper bearing on the outside. They fit into a outer hub with 4 inch between each wheel bolt/nut which is 3/8inch dia

The inner bearing has a part number 44643L and has a rubber seal to stop grease escaping out.

The outer bearing has a part number 44643 and has no rubber seal. The hub cap stops grit and water getting in and keeps grease in.

Replacement hubs are £18 each or £32 per pair from

Replacement suspension units are £100 for a pair inc hubs. Indispension Carlisle


Remove the trailer wheel as described earlier.

Prize off the hub cap with a screwdriver and hammer.

Straighten the split pin that goes between the groves in the castle nut, and knock out with hammer.

Undo the castle nut, anti-clockwise, by hand, using hammer and screwdriver or large wrench.

Put newspaper or plastic sheet under the wheel hub and gently ease off the hub , catching the bearings on the paper. Sometimes the inner part of the inner bearing will be corroded onto the axle. This can be removed with small gentle knocks with a hammer.

Clean off the grease from the bearing and the taper surface inside the hub.

Look and feel the surfaces of the bearing with finger nail to check if they are corroded or worn.

If the surfaces are brown, black, pitted or have groves the bearings need to be changed. They should be smooth and shiny silver coloured.

The rough corroded surface will quickly file away at the soft metal cage holding the bearings and they will fall out causing the wheel to fall off.

The inner edge of the axle, where th e oil seal spins also needs to be very smooth or it wears away at the seal and grit/water gets in and the grease comes out. Polish it with emery paper or wet/dry. If the seal is very worn then this bearing will need changing.

Easiest way to repair is to change the whole hub:-

Clean the spindle and polish inner end with sandpaper or emery cloth, then clean dust off.

Take the bearings out of the new hub and squeeze lots of new grease into the bearing with fingers. Alternatively put grease into a tin and push the bearing into the grease several times. Wipe off excess.

Put inner bearing on the spindle with the black seal towards the trailer on first, slide on the hub with bolts outer-side, then slide in the second bearing with wider side outside.

Put the cleaned/greased washer on followed by the castle nut. Tighten hand tight. Turn the hub and tighten the castle nut a bit more. The hub should not wobble. If stiff to turn use a spanner, but not too tight.

Insert a new split pin through the groove in the castle nut and through the hole in the spindle. Bend out the split pin to stop it falling out. The split pin should not touch the bearing. Replace the plastic or metal dust cover.

Put the wheel on the hub and tighten the wheel nuts with wrench. Lower jack and remove.

If you only want to change the bearings then ask a garage to change them as they can be very difficult to knock out. Doing this is likely to bend the bearing so do not reuse.

Replacement suspension units arte £100 for a pair inc hubs. Indispension Carlisle.


Trailer wheels and tyres do not seem to be as good a quality as standard car tyres so they need special attention.

The metal wheel that holds the tyre will rust after a few years. Regular repainting will prevent serious corrosion but as a whole new wheel costs the same price as a replacement tyre you could just replace the whole wheel at one go.

Trailer tyres will normally crack and fall apart before they wear out so look for cracking between the treads and around the side walls. Change your trailer tyres when they get 10 years old or crack on the sides and between the treads.

Recent advice from a local tyre dealer suggests that current trailer tyres are not designed for long high speed journeys, as we would do travelling to the Midlands or South Coast.. They recommend always carrying a couple of spare wheels.

The standard 4 inch hub will take either an 8 inch wheel or 10 inch wheel but you do need mud guards to suit the wheel size.

A 10 inch wheel will give a smoother ride and probably last longer than the 8 inch.

8 inch tyres/wheels are £25 and 10 inch ones £50

Almost THE END


Remove your trailer wheels and store them inside away from frost.

Put chocks under the trailer to take load off the suspension and tie plastic bags over the wheel hubs to reduce water ingress.


Your trailer will be covered by your car insurance and possibly your boat insurance.

The boat will be covered by your boat insurance .


Trailer tyres and bearings do have a habit of wearing out on long trips far from home.

Carry at least one spare wheel, at least one spare hub and tools to change them.

If the suspension unit fails the wheel will rub on the mud guard and will start smoking.

Join either the RAC or AA.

The Volvo towing guide recommend also carrying first aid kit, fire extinguisher, extra warm clothing, blankets, high vis jackets, and an extra mobile phone.


I have found the cheapest way to have a tow bar fitted it to buy the tow bar from PF Jones online who sells Witter tow bars at a good price. Then get your local garage to fit the tow bar and fit the electrics. As most cars now have complex electrics don’t attempt wiring the tow bar yourself.

Neil Garrison.