boat trailer rust prevention

Tips to Prevent Boat Trailer Rust and Corrosion

If you own a boat, chances are you own a boat trailer to get your vessel to-and-from various waterways, as well as into and out of the water. Boat trailers, for the most part, are made up of one of three materials: aluminum I, tube steel, or channel steel. Each has the potential for corrosion. (Most opt for steel in freshwater and aluminum in saltwater – but both will corrode eventually, especially without intentional precautions.) Those hoping to prevent boat trailer rust and corrosion must take into account the type of metal, the type of water, and the type of storage.

Why even consider boat trailer rust? For one thing, boat trailers aren’t cheap.

Most people baby their boats, but don’t give much thought to the trailers. Yet a tandem axle boat trailer typically ranges for somewhere between $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size of the boat they’re hauling. Tri-axle boat trailers, which are for even bigger boats, start at around $5,000. There’s no clear ceiling, but the average is around $8,000. Because a trailer is an essential part of getting your boat from storage to a trailer, it needs to remain in good working order – as a matter of practicality, but also safety. A faulty, rusted boat trailer in itself is problematic, but it also puts a much larger investment – your boat – at risk.

Not to mention, boat trailer rust can put lives at risk on the road. Don’t just take it from us. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 9 out of 10 trailering accidents that occur on the road can be traced back to some failure of preventative maintenance. Consider also that an analysis of five years worth of BoatUS Trailer Assist’s 24-hour dispatch service received thousands of calls for roadside assistance due specifically to boat trailer issues. Among those:

  • 21 percent involved wheel bearing and hub problems
  • 44 percent called for tire issues
  • 11 percent called for rusted, broken, or bent axles

Even when not expressly attributed to rust and corrosion, these can still be secondary factors. For instance, boat trailer rust can factor into some of the issues that lead to blown tires.

Prioritizing boat trailer rust and corrosion prevention is key to protect your investment – and your safety. Proper maintenance and storage makes a huge difference.

Why Boat Trailers Rustboat trailer rust prevention

Anything made of metal is susceptible to corrosion. Rust is a specific type of corrosion that occurs when iron and iron alloys come into contact with water/moisture and oxygen. Other types of metal can corrode with similar exposure, as well as when in proximity to dissimilar types of metal. Salt, sand, and dirt can accelerate the rate of corrosion.

It doesn’t take the sharpest hook in the tacklebox to realize that by putting your boat trailer constantly in the water, at some point, it’s going to corrode or rust. Of course, it’s impossible for a boat trailer to avoid water or moisture, but there are things boat owners can do to slow the progression of corrosion and minimize the odds of it becoming a serious issue.

The two parts of your boat trailer that may be especially susceptible to rust are the wheel bearings and the axle.

Wheel bearings, by the time you arrive at the boat ramp, are often heated from the friction. Then, they get dunked into the water, and cool rapidly. This combination can lead to a breakdown of grease and quick-forming corrosion.

Axles, meanwhile, get rusted and corroded typically from the inside. That’s because it can be difficult for water to drain from these areas.

If the wheel bearings are rusted or damaged, you’re going to have a tough time getting your boat in the water. If your axles are rusted, it could cause the trailer to wobble out-of-control, and potentially cause a crash. All it would take would be a single pot hole.

It’s a good idea to check for rust before every trip – with a more in-depth check before and after each season. (If you’re in Florida or some other state where you boat all-year round, plan to do a rust check on your boat trailer every couple months – especially if you’re out on the water with some regularity.)

Keep Your Boat Trailer Clean, Dry, Vapor Capsule Protected

First step in keeping your boat trailer corrosion-free is to keep it clean. After every use, rinse the trailer with fresh water – including the hubs and axle. Allow it to dry thoroughly before putting it back in storage.

Early on in the season, take the wheel bearings apart and check them for any indicators of overheating. (A red flag is discolored race, that surface against which the bearings spin.) Take a moment to grease those bearings for ample protection.

If you spot surface rust bubbling up on the axle, use a wire brush to scrape it off. If the metal is pitted, use a rust inhibiting aerosol spray and/or rust inhibiting lubricant oil to protect the metal surfaces. (Note: If the rust has gone deeper than surface level, unfortunately, it’s time to replace that axle.)

Once you take your boat into storage, you can use one of our larger rust prevention vapor capsules for boats to help protect the boat trailer beneath the cover and/or in the garage. These high-performance vapor capsules release non-toxic vapors to protect against rust within a 1-6-foot radius of any enclosed area.

Beyond these measures, make sure to routinely check your headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and taillights. It’s also a good idea to grease up the tongue jack and coupler a few times throughout the boating season, or every couple of months.

If you have questions about how our boat trailer rust and boat rust prevention tools can be used to protect your boating equipment, contact us with an email or give us a call at (330) 405-1965. Our friendly team is responsive and happy to provide answers!

Additional Resources:

Maintenance tips for your boat trailer, May 2019, Allstate

More Blog Entries:

3 Ways To Prevent Tool Rust on a Boat, June 17, 2023, Boat Rust Prevention Blog