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Best tips for towing a boat on holiday

Top tips for towing a boat on holiday

Heading off on holiday and plan on taking the boat? There is some pre-trip housework that needs to happen.

The first thing to check is whether you have a car that's up to the job, says RACQ drive assist service delivery manager Brian Everitt. 

While it is not a common problem, he says, it is a legal requirement that both the car and towbar are not working above their maximum towing capacity - and that capacity is based on the combined weight of both boat and trailer. "Obviously a Ford Fiesta does not have the same towing capacity as a Toyota LandCruiser," he says.

Before you hit the road, get your car serviced. A pre-start check should include making sure the car has "good fluid levels" and the brakes are OK.

"Most car manufacturers would recommend a higher tyre pressure in the rear tyres compared to normal," Brian says. Also check the tyre pressure on the trailer wheels.

Newer trailers will have the recommended tyre pressure included on the compliance plate, but Brian says the rule of thumb is the heavier the boat, the higher the pressure. And don't forget to check the rest of the trailer.

"If you are submerging the trailer in water regularly, particularly saltwater, it does play havoc with the electrics," Brian says. "The bearings inside the wheels of the trailer in a lot of boats, particularly ski boats where they have to submerge the whole trailer to launch or retrieve the boat, also cop a hiding.

"The boat gets looked at, the motor is serviced and tuned up and then halfway to the destination, the wheels fall off the trailer." There's another reason to check the trailer tyres. "If the trailer has been left sitting for a long time, the wheel bearings dry out and the tyres also perish," Brian says.

"The tyre gets hard and they crack. When you start to drive, they get hot and they start to fail." A mistake many drivers make is in packing their gear for the trip. Gear stowed in a boat needs to be secured and covered and balanced evenly with the centre of gravity low.

"Any heavy items would ideally be placed down in the well of the boat with the lighter stuff up higher," Brian says.

There are courses that can help you master the skill of towing. "It is a totally different mindset to just driving a normal car," Brian says. "It takes longer to get going because of the weight you are pulling and, more importantly, it takes longer to stop because of that weight.

"You need a bigger space to merge into (traffic) and if you are overtaking, you will need a lot more space to overtake in." He says causes of boats jackknifing are the trailer hitch not being correctly fitted, weight not evenly distributed on the boat or excessive speed.

"Excessive speed in some cases could be 80km or more," he says. And if you are driving at less than the speed limit, be considerate of other drivers and allow them to get past you safely.