Save Yourself The Trouble: Some Simple Trailer Rust Prevention Tips

It doesn’t take a sharp eye to understand what salt can do to metal. Whether you’re talking about the rusty hulks of iron-hulled ships or the corroded body panels of a daily-driven Michigan pickup truck, salt is no friend to metal. As a bit of a cautionary tale, I thought I’d share my experience dealing with saltwater problems on a PWC trailer.

Back in 2015, I decided to grease up the front U-bolts of a brand new trailer. What I didn’t do was remove all of the lug nuts and leaf spring hardware and apply anti-seize (or a grease) to the threads. Now my trailer is 6-years-old and I there’s no way I would trust taking it too far for fear of something letting loose while on the highway.

I discovered this when earlier this year, I purchased a new spare tire and saw how hard it was to remove the lug nuts. After 7 coats of PB Blaster and using my 1400 ft. lb breaking impact wrench and a 6-point impact socket, I was able to remove all but one lug nut. (I had to use a torch on the last one.)

Learning my lesson, I purchased a new set of lug nuts and coated them three times with clear acrylic spray. While installing them, I used Permatex anti-seize lube – generally, this is used for spark plugs due to plugs being steel and the heads are aluminum (dissimilar metals) – do not want the threads to strip.

After the wheels were taken care of, I moved to the leaf springs, which were very rusty. My local boat trailer repair shop suggested I replaced the leaf springs every two years since they rust no matter how much you rinse them off. The shop owner said, “A trailer gets dunked into salt water and one can only rinse it off, not dunk it to clean it.”

He sold me two new springs and said to brush in some old motor oil in between the gaps between the springs it will help a little. I went a step further; I used three coats of clearcoat and let it dry in between. Secondly, just before installation, I brushed in the old motor oil.

Since the old bolts were all but completely worthless, I picked up a set of 9/16-inch galvanized bolts and nuts. Some of the original bolts required that I ground the head off and use a center punch to knock them out.

So what does all of this mean? My brother’s trailer is a year old and I intend on replacing and removing all nuts to add Permatex to all of the aforementioned surfaces. This will allow him to change a tire right on the beach if he needs to.

Hopefully some of this can be useful to newer riders who may not know what to do with their trailer that hauls around $20 to $40,000 worth of watercraft. It is just as important to take care of the trailer as well as their PWCs.

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