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Simple Observations on Trailers, Tires, and Wheels

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On: Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 10:37AM | By: Captain Ron Kowalyk

To the average layman, or those of us who aren’t engineering majors, ratios and gearing and wheel circumference may be weird science. However, it can be easily explained by stating that a bigger wheel rotates fewer times to cover the same distance as a smaller wheel. That’s clear as mud but it covers the ground.

Several factors will determine the optimum wheel size to carry a prescribed load at a desired, safe speed. Smaller wheels and tires will generally have a lower load rating than larger components.

The important point here is that the increased number of revolutions the smaller wheel makes to cover a prescribed distances will determine the heat, i.e. friction, it generates on the bearings, spindles, and tire proper. This increased heat has a direct effect on the bearings, spindle, and tire life.

Simply put, bigger is again better, if it's practical. One should take into consideration the distance, load, road conditions, and load characteristicsyour trailer and wheels will encounter.It’s good practice to run larger wheels on your trailer to insure cooler, smoother, and more trouble-free transport. That said, there are other factors that can influence wheel size for boat trailer applications.

Under atypical conditions one may find themselves launching from a particularly shallow or flat ramp; one with a very slight angle. Under this situation your may be forces to opt for smaller then optimum diameter wheels. These smaller wheels aid in launching and recovery on the shallower waters typical of ramps with slow drop-offs or less pitch. The smaller wheels are also helpful on primitive ramps and in areas where tides may be severe. Smaller wheel sizes lower the center of gravity of the loaded trailer and can be useful for special applications.

Some smaller diameter wheels and tires can help to counter the heat and load issues by having a wider tread profile, similar to a floatation tire. A compromise at best!

Another consideration is the performance comparison of conventional-style bias ply tires and radials. For super heavy loads some experts still prefer bias types or true eight-ply tires. The boaters I know—trailering moderate loads—have as a rule opted for the radials. Radials make for a smoother ride and seem to have a longer duty life than bias plies; they are generally comparable in price to the older style.

The bolt pattern of the hubs will dictate the load rating and applicable tire sizes. Tire quality is, as with most vehicle components, correspondswith the price. Good rubber costs good money.The hubs are designed to conform to the load rating of the axles on your trailer. Overloaded trailers will often result in damaged axles and bearing and tire failure.

Your trailer hitch and ball are designed to support a load rated in pounds and that corresponds with the axles, hub bolt patterns, and, of course, tires. If you’re dragging the just old scow for the marina storage yard to the dock, about anything that rolls will suffice; well, maybe. As a precaution, most of the guides I know run dual-axle trailers;four wheels will usually get at least off the road in a jam and probably let you limp home.

90% of all serious boat hull damage occurs on the highway; I hate trailering, but they refuse to move the waters any closer to my driveway! I've gotten home more than once on one good wheel and a prayer!

A word to the wise, carry a spare and a good grease gun!

Captain Ron Kowalyk


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