When you select a trailer, axle and brake options can affect handling and maneuverability. Read on for some helpful suggestions.
Brakes Protect Your Boat Investment
Depending on the size of your watercraft, your trailer might need brakes. PWCs and smaller boats – like aluminum skiffs – are light enough to haul without brakes. On the other hand, medium and larger boats will definitely need brakes to provide added stopping capacity and greater peace of mind. The last thing you want to do is overpower your towing vehicle and risk damaging your boat or someone else’s vehicle.
Most states require trailer brakes for mid-sized boats and larger. To confirm whether your boat trailer needs brakes, ask your boat dealer or check here.
The most common types of trailer brakes are surge and electric. Surge brakes are activated by momentum from the towing vehicle. And some boaters favor surge brakes because their simpler, non-electric design withstands being submerged better than wiring and components. They’re also an inexpensive alternative to electric brakes.
But one big tradeoff is handling. When they’re applied, surge brakes can cause the trailer to jerk and buck, making the ride rougher.
On the other hand, electric trailer brakes offer faster responsiveness and better stopping power. They also provide a smoother ride when hauling a boat at high speeds.
Water and corrosion damage are a drawback to electric brakes. And higher cost versus surge brakes can be a factor.
Keep in mind, if you are feeling budget constraints, trailer brakes can be upgraded later when your budget allows.
Axles Affect Trailer Handling and Maneuvering
You may have noticed some boat trailers have two wheels and others have four. Boat size and budget can help you choose between those single- and dual-axle (tandem) trailer configurations.
Single-axle trailers are ideal for watercraft that are up to 22 feet (6.7 meters) long. They are lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spots. Plus, they’re easier on fuel consumption. And fewer tires, axles and brake components mean single-axle trailers cost less.
The tradeoffs for single-axle models are capacity and handling. They obviously cannot accommodate larger boats. And single axles don’t handle as smoothly on the highway, particularly when traveling at high speeds.
Tandem or dual-axle trailers, on the other hand, are perfect for larger watercraft. Two axles split the load more evenly, which provides greater stability on the highway. Plus, the extra axle means another set of brakes for more stopping power.
For some added peace of mind, if your tandem-axle trailer gets a flat tire, you can typically continue driving with the other three tires until reaching your destination.
Price and fuel efficiency are the biggest drawbacks for dual-axle trailers. Maneuverability in tight spaces can also be a challenge. And more axles, tires and brakes translate into higher maintenance costs.