The Short, Short Trailer

Suggestions and tips to keep your boat safe when not in the water.

Moderators: TDockside, Miles, a j r, Moderators

The Short, Short Trailer

Postby John Hart » Sun Jul 04, 2010 2:48 pm

Have any of you seen The Long, Long Trailer?.. It is a fifties vintage classic with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz..... It is good clean fun for all ages. This poor guy is newly married and learns how to pull a trailer .

A little over a week ago, on Friday, my wife and I were headed for a week long vacation in Michigan. My son was going to meet us there and so would have my parents, if my mom hadn't fallen down the stairs and broke her ankle a week before that. Our daughter was staying home. Both my wife and son had asked me to bring the Seacoaster, as it might be the last time we went to that lake for a while. We had been there perhaps 25 times or more over the last 50 years. The thought was, even if there was only one nice day, it would be worth it to have the boat there for a joy ride around the lake or pulling a knee board in the afternoon sun. I figured, why not, it runs good, it doesn't leak a bit, and you can hardly feel it on the road.

So, after getting caught up on all the mowing, packing tackle boxes, fishing motor, clothes for hot, clothes for cold, and a horrendous amount of other things, we headed out about 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday. No kids to tell me I was not turning my blinker on fast enough, or having it on too early, that I should or should not have let a merging car in.... Just a nice drive there by two happy empty nesters.

After about ten miles, I wanted to crank down the nuts on the trailer's wheels, since it hadn't been on the road since I replaced the hubs. I swung into a big lot next to a Dairy Queen and checked things out... Hubs were cool... I tightened the nuts a little more, and checked everything else. So we continued on for a relaxing drive to northern Wisconsin.

About a half mile down the street, my wife mentioned that she saw something in the mirror... I must have run over something.. I asked what it looked like, and she said a black rubber ball and made about a 3" circle with her hand... I had better pull over.

I walked around one side of the trailer.... Everything OK there... Then the other side... Sure enough, what I thought... the black bearing buddy bra was gone... That was it... But wait, why is there a nice smooth, clean cone of grease... Gee... The whole bearing buddy was gone... How did that fall out. I had to tap that in with a block of wood and a hammer, to work it in all the way... We had only gone a couple blocks, and I should have noticed it being worked out when I had just looked things over. I didn't think I caught a curb on a turn...

So, I walked up and down that street and yards for 15-20 minutes in the hot sun... Back and forth, and I could not find that Bbuddy... I even had my wife help, though she didn't particularly like all of the cars and trucks whizzing by. I have no idea where it went, or bounced to... Or how it came off so suddenly. But I had a new back up hub with me, plus an old one, and had a couple of the regular hub caps. So, I tapped on a cap, and we were on our way again.... Time to relax.

After about another 40 miles, we went through a small town in Wisc... Ellsworth. We were going through the town, and all of the sudden we went into a huge DIP in the road... Down and up, and boom/boom... Then I felt a yinging and yanging at the rear, and heard a fairly unnatural scraping noise behind me. My wife asked what it was, and I said.. "We just poked a hole in the back of the Tahoe"..

I pulled over to some empty parking spaces on the right, and went around back. Sure enough, the trailer had jumped off the ball. The tongue was on the ground scraping on the blacktop under the truck, and was held to the back via the safety chains...

But there wasn't a mark on the tailgate.... Although the situation was certainly not a good one, at least I didn't wreck the back of my vehicle, and I didn't get a bow light though my back window...The only mark was that made on the plastic step on the rear chrome bumper... Where it overhangs about an 1 ¼ or so. The vertical pieces of the winch frame dug in pretty deeply over a 1 x 6 inch area... All and all, I realized how fortunate we really were... It happened in a small town going 15 mph, where we could pull over, it stayed with the truck, and it really didn't damage that much.

How did that come off ?... I thought back to hooking up. It is always a little tricky getting completely on the ball, since the trailer is level, and the truck is angled down the driveway a little. But, I yank up and down, and outside of a little slop at the ball, and the rattling in the drawbar, it has always seemed solid. I had even thought about putting on the new safety chains I had bought a few years ago, but figured, I didn't want to mess with it right before I went out of town. I also wondered if the tongue would really rest in the crisscross of the chains anyway, especially since mine connected to the same loop on the trailer. I'd hate to be the poor slob that had a trailer fall off, I had thought.

Even though we were heading downhill, I decided that we could hitch back up ourselves. I stuck a giant Crescent wrench under one wheel, and a four way lug wrench under the other... Pulled ahead a few inches, and we got the trailer on the wheel jack. Now my wife was really creeped out, with cars and 18 wheelers going by in the next lane. A minute later, we were hitched up again, and I readjusted the inside of the coupler, and jerked up and down to make sure it was on good... The nut turned by hand, and had only a couple treads sticking out. Turning it in or out, either prevented the latch from being flipped, or going on a little too easy.

We thought about going home and dropping the boat, and heading out early Sat.... But I did not want to head home with my tail between my legs... This was probably the last time we would be going there for a while, and my son hadn't ridden in the boat for a few years. He had helped with a lot of the restoration, and I wanted to do it for him too.

AND, I had confirmed our reservation at a neat place on Lake Superior for late arrival. That was a half way point to the resort destination in Michigan. So we decided to keep going... My wife mentioned that it was beginning to seem like we were the leads of a new movie... like National Lampoon's U.P. vacation..

So, we headed the remaining 200 miles to Ashland Wi.. Even though I figured that I must not have ever gotten the coupler locked down exactly right in the first place, and that the unique double bumping of the truck and trailer set up an unusual prying action against each other, every bump made me nervous the rest of the way.

The next day, Sat, I wanted to see if I could find a trailer place, so I could get a opinion of whether I needed to put on a new coupler.. I found on the web that Northern had couplers for $16-35, and I thought I had a 1 7/8 ball versus a 2" ball... I couldn't find a trailer place, and not even a good place that sold boats, that would have known where to go. I did see a NAPA store, so I thought I would see if they had a 2" ball... I could change that with the tools I had.

Good news, they had both... And a great employee there said I could pull up along side the alleyway, and he would give me his opinion and help me change out whatever I needed. That was super, since I didn't want to go very far, unless I was really confident there wasn't a real hazard. After a bit of shopping in town, we headed over to NAPA.

He thought it seemed tight enough as it was, but we thought we would check my coupler with his 2" ball.... After unhooking, we noticed that I already had a 2" ball... He tried a ball he brought out from the store in both my coupler and a new one, at it was clear that the innards of my coupler were a little worn and sloppy..... The ball in the new coupler was nice and tight.

We then slid the old coupler out from the inside of the channel on the trailer, and he matched the hole pattern and brought out a new coupler. This one went outside the channel on the trailer, and we banged it all the way down, but it was not far enough. I would have to drill new holes to put the new coupler on. The NAPA guy, Brandon, then pulled out the guts from my coupler, and replaced them with the ones from the new coupler, and the 2" ball was tight as could be. I could switch things back later and install the new coupler housing when I had the time and tools to drill new holes at home.

So we reinstalled the old coupler with the new mechanism, and we were on our way... It worked great the rest of the way there.... And we came back to Minnesota yesterday (Sat) and things worked perfectly the whole way back. There is zero slop in the ball/coupler attachment. Coming back through Ellsworth, it was clear that the pavement had buckled or something in that spot, and my wife watched two cars, probably with locals, slow way down, and dip and twist in a pretty dramatic way.... There was no sign for a BUMP or anything, so we had hit it cold and at normal speed...

So, even though I have pulled a number of trailers over the years, I never thought I would be the poor schmuck that lost one. But I will never again be too casual about the fit of the linkages...

Sorry that this post is a little long.... But I wanted to emphasize the need to be cautious with our 50 year old trailers. (and by the way I refrained from using some of the colorful titles that ran through my mind for this post.)

John Hart
Posts: 208
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:26 pm

Postby LancerBoy » Tue Jul 06, 2010 4:48 am


Posts: 1417
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 3:47 am
Location: Minneapolis

Postby thegammas » Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:13 am

First, glad to hear that with that close call you came out unscathed. Second, as a “long poster” myself, no worries. Love the long ones.

Oddly enough, my 1962 Holsclaw trailer decided it was time to torture me as well. Hooked mine up for the first time this season for a short trip to a local river for a test run. The bearings were humming like a choir of 300 people. "Wow, better repack those babies. Sometime". I don’t recall any sound from them last year.

Towed it again this weekend. Twice as loud. Popped off a BBuddy. Out flows the water. "Well. That's Sub-Optimal". So I canned the 4th of July Fire-Works-from-the-boat plans, and pulled the wheels. Bearing were shot on both sides. I looked to me like neither inner bearing had ever been repacked. If they were not the originals, they were close to the originals. (Add another lie to the list from the “restorer”, whom said he had put in new bearings) . The inner seals were clearly leaking.

So new bearings, races, inner seals for both sides (Napa had them on the shelf. Love that place). Hope to be remounting everything tonight.

In hindsight the timing was good. I had had plans for the end of June to tow 600 miles round trip to Connecticut (Mystic area) to see family. Those bearings would not have made it. Those plans are tentatively rescheduled for end of July.
Peter Stransky
1962 Cortland Custom Sea Lancer
Wilmington, Delaware
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:10 pm
Location: Wilmington, Delaware. - put wooden boat in the subject

Postby Phill Blank » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:15 am

Keep in mind that Wal-Mart (I only go there as a last resort only if I have too) also carries trailer parts like couplers, rebuilt kits for couplers and I have seen wheel bearings there also.

Phill Blank
Posts: 412
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:20 pm
Location: Hurley, Wisconsin

Return to Trailers

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest