Trailer Maintenance

We are only 2 sleeps away from the opener on the Ottawa river. With my opening day fishing plan in place (since Feb.), thoughts turn to other important aspects of Muskie fishing that can definitely make or break your day.

Trailer Maintenance

by Trevor Smith Originally published in the Muskies Canada Release Journal May/June 2010

The soft water season is fast approaching! Our boats have been cleaned and prepped, but what about your trailer? Over the years I have come up with a check list, I go over not only in the spring, but throughout the season. Let’s get started!

I will start by providing a reference for the trailer wiring colours:

Brown -Tail lights / Marker lights
Yellow – Left signal
Green – Right signal
White – Ground wire

Most lighting problems can be diagnosed with a multi meter and a 12 volt test light:
When diagnosing, start with your tow vehicle; trailer unplugged. Test for power at each terminal, with the appropriate accessory on. (Turn each light on individually). This will verify you have power on the correct terminal.

After this has been completed, plug the trailer wiring in and connect trailer to vehicle. It is important to have the trailer connected as this can be your ground connection on some trailers. Continue to test for power working back to the problem light.

Lighting Tips
Most lighting issues are related to a bad ground. A bad ground can cause vehicle lights to malfunction, and numerous lighting problems with your trailer. Some ofthese problems include: dim lights, flickering, or not working at all.

When I wire a trailer, I like to have the ground wire from the trailer connected thru the trailer plug to a well known ground on the vehicle.

As mentioned earlier, some trailers ground thru the trailer ball, which can cause connection problems; due to rust and dirt.

Another problem I have found is the wrong bulb has been used. The most common bulb is part # 1157. This is a double filament, incandescent bulb. It can be identified by the 2 contacts on the bottom of the bulb and offset notches on the body of the bulb.

This bulb can be mistaken for an 1156 bulb, which is a single filament, 1 contact on the bottom and no offset notch. The bulbs should not be able to get interchanged, but do. The sockets on trailers tend to be cheaper lighter gauge metal; making it possible to install the wrong bulb. This can and will cause major issues.

Newer trailers use 30 and 31 series bulbs and LED lighting. If you are looking for an upgrade; LED lights are a great choice because of there low maintenance.

Wheel Bearings
Wheels bearings are integral in getting you to and from the lake. In my opinion they need to be inspected yearly.

Tires / Wheels

  • Tires should be checked regularly for cracks, cuts and foreign objects in the tread.
  • Tire pressure should be checked regularly when the tire is cold.
  • Trailer tires are identified by the ST in front of the size. P and LT identify passenger and light truck tires.
  • Tires only rated for trailer use should be used. Passenger tires are engineered for ride comfort and sometimes cannot handle load capacity.
  • Tires are rated by load range and identified by a letter. (Usually B, C, D) The higher the letter, the more weight the tire can carry. Your tires work in conjunction with your trailer suspension. Increasing tire load range does not allow you to exceed axel rating.

Load Range “B” = 4 Ply
Load Range “C” = 6 Ply
Load Range “D”= 8 Ply

A tire showing signs of wear that indicate a replacement is due

Wheels should be checked for tightness at least once a season. Check tightness with a torque wrench, if available. Torques specifications will vary depending on stud type and size. ( refer to manual or internet).


  • Look for broken or damaged leaf springs.
  • Tighten all hardware.


Frame Inspection

  • Inspect trailer frame for cracks and loose bolts.
  • Check rollers for adjustment and wear.
  • Inspect trailer bunk for damage and wear.
  • Check license plate mounting screws. I have upgraded to lock nuts for my license plate, as it has come loose on a couple of occasions.
Inspect rollers and frame for cracks, wear, etc.

Trailer Winch / Tie down Straps

  • Check winch mounting bolts for tightness.
  • Make sure winch locking mechanisms release and lock properly.
  • Inspect winch strap for frays. Be sure to check safety hooks and latches as well for damage. Inspect tie downs straps as well.
Check winch mechanism, strap and mounting bolts
Replace broken hardware

That’s it! You can inspect your trailer relatively quickly, and you should do some sort of an inspection before each use. Spending a little time before your trip can provide you more time on the water, and that’s what it’s all about.

Mike Mitchell