Without one, you're going nowhere!

Extreme Game King 400 - NZFN Project Boat

GRANT DIXON - AUGUST 2009
Last updated 10:50 05/08/2009
Project boat 2
A flush kit helps keep the Trojan brake units in good shape.
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NZFN Trailer

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Trailers – without them boat-based anglers are going nowhere, yet they tend to be a neglected part of our equipment.

National holidays, especially those such as the Labour Day weekend early in the warmer months, often stress just how important trailers and their regular maintenance can be. We head off for the first fish of the new season with the boat in tow, only to discover that the ‘essential’ work you planned for your trailer has been overlooked. Perhaps the rollers, brakes or winch are seized or, even worse, the wheel bearings have collapsed – or maybe that rust you meant to get fixed has finally eaten through the frame.

But it’s just as important to maintain the trailer’s legal status. Forgetting to replace that lost trailer flag, fix the indicator wiring, or simply forgetting to warrant and register the trailer, can have expensive consequences if pulled over at a check point. It might even result in a loss of insurance coverage should you be involved in an accident.

Over the years Fishing News has had a long association with Voyager Trailers, a reputable Hamilton-based manufacturer that has always been part of our boat projects. The current Extreme 700 Game King is no different. While we only ever have our boats for a two-year period, you just have to look around any boat-ramp carpark to see the longevity of Voyager products. Over the course of the two-year tenure, we rack up a fair few miles; there would be few boats around that do the road miles ours does.

The trailer beneath the NZ Fishing News Extreme is a Voyager Elite tandem-axle model that features Trojan override brakes on one axle, guide bars and a walk plank.

The A-frame-style trailer features 12 sets of wobble-rollers that support the hull well and guide the boat centrally onto the trailer. All metal components are galvanized, and after 12 months of regular use there is no hint of rust anywhere.

The Trojan over-ride braking system works well. These units feature stainless steel calipers to ensure longevity as well as to reduce the opportunity for rusting and/or the brakes seizing if not well maintained.

A Brake Mate flush kit has been fitted. This ensures the brake unit is kept as free as possible from salt water. Salt-Away, a handy product, is added via an in-line dispenser. When washing the boat, it is simply a matter of hooking up the hose with the dispenser fitted and leaving the water to flow for a few minutes to douse the brakes thoroughly with the treated fresh water. The whole trailer gets a spray with Salt-away as part of any boat wash-down.

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Perhaps the only upgrade on my wish list would be the addition of a CT Trailers braking system. I used one of these on The ITM Fishing Show’s project boat, towing it from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, and was impressed with its performance. This is an electric system that operates via the wiring. Put your foot on the vehicle brakes and the trailer brakes are applied via the brake-light wiring.

Other items that need special attention are the wheel bearings, as they are particularly vulnerable to salt water.

This is because while trailing your boat to the ramp the bearings can get quite hot, especially if taken some distance, so when immersed in cold water the metal and air within the unit contracts, potentially allowing salt water to be sucked into them. The likes of Trojan Bearing Mates helps get around this. And we have been trialing another system, Durahubs, which uses light oil instead of grease, or a combination of both, to prevent bearing damage. After six months and thousands of kilometres, they continue to do the job well. Durahub covers have a glass sight face so you can check the oil level easily.

We have added two features to the trailer that have proven indispensible. The first is an aluminium tread-plate walk board down the centre of the trailer that enables you to hitch the winch line onto the boat without getting your feet wet or the water overflowing your sea boots. Not quite so important in summer, but a bonus in winter (yeah, I know – harden up!).

The other is the guide poles either side of the trailer. These prove their worth when driving the boat onto the trailer (where it is still allowed) or while winching it on with strong wind, big surges or current present. As we launch off the beach on a regular basis, the poles keep the boat straight as we winch the trailer back under it.

Another advantage is found when backing the trailer down the ramp to retrieve the boat using your mirrors, the poles acting as a guide so you know where the trailer is heading. (Anyone who has used a ramp such as the one at Half Moon Bay, Auckland, will appreciate what I’m saying; the angle of the ramp where it meets the parking area is an acute one.)

Deck tread has been added to the top of the mudguards to prevent feet slipping off when loading or getting in or out of the boat.

Lights can be another problem area with trailers. We have had LED rear lights fitted on the last three Voyager Trailers and these have been trouble free. We do a fair bit of after-hours travel, so staying legal is important.

Anything that extends a metre beyond the rear lights (not the back of the boat!) must be flagged (minimum 400mm x 300mm) and lit with a red light after dark, so many outboards will require a flag and light.

Another useful feature is the rubber number plate mounting that easily flexes if the plate comes in contact with the ground, such as when the trailer bottoms out on the steep tracks and beach accesses.

On the road the trailer tows well, thanks to its low centre of gravity. When ordering the trailer, a miscommunication resulted in a slightly longer drawbar than normal. However, this turned into a bonus, especially when launching and retrieving, and also serving to give the whole rig a nice ‘balance’. The only downside is you need to take a slightly wider swing when negotiating tight turns.

Tow vehicle
Another important consideration is the ability/capacity of your tow vehicle. For the last 10 years we have towed our boats with Chrysler Jeeps. We currently have a Grande Cherokee, powered with a 3.0 CRD diesel that delivers on both the economy and power fronts. And, just as importantly, it has excellent braking. The Extreme 700 Game King is just on 2500kg with a load of fuel on board. This is well within the towing rating of 3500kg for this model, one of the few makes with such a generous towing capacity.

The Grand Cherokee’s full-time four-wheel drive is a bonus on slippery ramps and when beach launching.

Rarely do we need low ratio to get us back on firm ground. Another great feature is the reversing camera, which enables the driver to idle back to the coupling with pin-point accuracy.

And when not used for towing duties, the Jeep is a particularly comfortable and capable vehicle, both on the highway and when asked to take on occasional forays off-road. Did I mention the heated seats? Now that’s really getting soft!

Maintenance basics
Trailer maintenance, like all forms of upkeep, is best done in small doses – an ‘ounce of prevent…’ and all that jazz.

Starting at the sharp end, there are grease nipples for the Trojan override system. If doing beach launches, especially where there is the likelihood of a dousing courtesy of the swell, regular coating of Inox and a temporary covering with a plastic bag will add to the longivity of the braking system. Inox, or even a light marine grease, coated around the seven-pin plug is a must, too.

The trailer winch always appreciates a dose of light oil or grease. It makes a difference when the time comes to pull the winch rope out and everything runs smoothly.

Regular checks of the brake units – including fluid levels – are important, while (as already mentioned) fitting a Brake Mate Flush Mate System helps to keep the effects of corrosion at bay, especially when used in conjunction with Salt-Away. While not the complete answer, these measures will go a long way to ensuring your trailer and its brakes do not fail at a vital moment.

When was the last time you undid the nuts holding the wheels on? Thought so! Two or three times a year the trailer should be jacked up and the nuts removed, the studs greased and nuts replaced. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of getting a ‘flatty’, changing the tyre will be much simpler and less frustrating if the wheel nuts come off as they should.

While on the subject, how good is your jack? When travelling any distance from home I carry a five-tonne bottle jack, a decent wheel brace and some solid pieces of timber, not to mention a spare wheel. Most car jacks will not do the business when it comes to raising a tandem-axle trailer loaded with a decent-sized boat.
LED trailer lights have gone a long way to solving electrical problems. If you have conventional bulb lights, take the units apart from time to time and spray with an appropriate product to prevent corrosion. A bit of lanolin or light grease on the washers or o-rings, applied when you tighten the lenses up, will also help keep everything waterproof.

As for the wobble-rollers, they always benefit from a little grease, as do the pivot points.

Galvanised trailers will rust. Minor spots can be dealt with using specialised paints, but there will come a time when a regalvanising job is required. There are plenty of places like Voyager Trailers that can organise or do the job for you. However, in severe cases it can be just as easy to replace the whole trailer and start again for peace of mind!

- © Fairfax NZ News

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