How to Tow a Boat

Jun 12, 2014

How to Tow a Boat

The good weather is here and what a better way to cool off than to head to the nearest lake or beach with your boat! Here are some steps and tips on how to tow a boat:


If you don’t have a trailer hitch on your vehicle already, you’ll want to get one installed. This hitch guide will help you select a trailer hitch. You can determine this online or have a company like U-Haul assist you. When it comes to installing a hitch, you can do-it-yourself or you can head to the nearest hitch installer to help you out. If you choose the DIY route, keep in mind that most boat trailers require a 4-way flat wiring package.

Before you head out

Now that you have a hitch installed, there are a few things that can help you best tow your boat:

  • Practice! Take a practice drive to the lake or beach you’re going to; if this isn’t an option, try a practice drive on a Sunday or a time when you know the roads will have less traffic.  Additionally, you can test backing up in an empty parking lot!
  • When towing a boat, you’ll want to avoid making sudden sharp turns when you are on the road. It’s best to plan the route to your destination before you head out.
  • It’s best to back up your vehicle and attach your boat trailer on to it.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s hitch ball is the correct size for your boat trailer’s coupler.
  • Check that your boat is secured to the trailer using the winch cable in front, and occasionally there will also be a second attachment point at the rear of the trailer/transom.
  • Check to see that the taillights, brake lights and turn signals on your trailer all work properly.
  • It’s a great idea to check your spare tire pressure and condition!
  • Make sure your boat is good working condition- the last thing you want to happen is to see your boat crash out on the water!
  • If your boat has a water drain, confirm that 1) the water from the last trip is drained and 2) you place the stopper back in it place.
  • Most people will throw items needed for a day on the water into their boat (especially if it won’t fit in the truck’s cargo). Make sure these items are secured so they won’t blow away en route.

While on the road

  • As a precaution, go a little slower than the traffic around you. Don’t worry about drivers passing in front of you.
  • You’re familiar with your vehicle’s braking capability without the weight of a trailer.  Increased weight requires increased braking distance! You should at least double the distance between you and the car in front of you until you are comfortable with your vehicle’s braking ability while towing.
  • Towing a trailer means you’ll have to increase the radius of your turns,  give yourself plenty of room for a wide turn.

Backing up your trailer

  • The ultimate tip when backing up your boat trailer: place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel to ease backing-up. It’s crucial to turn the bottom of the wheel in the direction you’d like the trailer to turn.
  • Steer in small movements when backing up your trailer.
  • Look over your shoulder when backing up.

The boat ramp

  • Most lakes have an area where you can prepare to launch your boat, typically called a boat ramp.
  • Be sure that everything in your boat is ready (other people in the boat ramp line will appreciate your preparedness!).
  • Have another person help you prepare for your boat launch- a set of extra hands is helpful!

Do you have any tips on how to tow a boat? Where is your favorite spot to go boating? Let us know in the comments below!


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