How to avoid jackknifing your boat trailer

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When you’re towing a boat, factors like a passing truck [link to [40 – Buffeting from trucks], wildlife on the road, unfavorable weather or road conditions can cause a loss of traction, especially at high speeds. This in turn can make your trailer swing sideways. Even skilled drivers can be in danger of jackknifing the boat trailer.

Here are some ways to avoid jackknifing your boat trailer, and recover quickly if it happens.

Four ways you can reduce the likelihood of jackknifing your boat trailer:

  1. Install an air/hydraulic braking system

For greater control over your boat trailer’s braking, install an air/hydraulic braking system. It comprises an in-car controller mounted inside the towing vehicle in full view of the driver, and a compressed air actuator mounted on the boat trailer.

  1. Use the rear-view mirrors constantly

One of the best ways to avoid jackknifing your boat trailer is to be vigilant in keeping a lookout. Depending on the size of your boat, you might not see larger vehicles approaching from behind. Crosswinds and high-pressure buffeting can affect the stability of your boat and trailer. Install extra mirrors for better visibility so that you’re prepared.

  1. Take it slower

Reduce speed a little when towing a load. Even a few kilometers less will make an enormous difference to response time in the case of an incident, and will reduce your vehicle’s inertia should it become destabilised.

  1. Use brakes thoughtfully

Instead of braking during turns, slow down on the stretch before a bend. Avoid slamming on the brakes since that might cause them to lock and put you in a jackknife situation.

How to handle a jackknife situation

If your trailer does become destabilised and you feel like you could be heading towards a snaking or jackknife situation:

  • Gently apply the manual override on your electric brake controller (if fitted).
  • Avoid braking and swerving at the same time.
  • Accelerate to pull the combination out of the sway.
  • Ease back off the accelerator and slow down as smoothly as possible, reducing the forces playing on both the towing vehicle and trailer.
  • Engage hazard lights.
  • Move your vehicle into the left lane if possible.
  • If necessary, find a rest stop and inspect both vehicles, ensuring in particular that the load has not shifted.

Jackknifed reversing your trailer?

It’s all too easy to jackknife a boat trailer when you’re concentrating on getting it down the boat ramp and into the water. A good habit to adopt is to place your hand at the bottom point of the steering wheel, then move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go.

Sudden changes in wind or road conditions will challenge the stability of your boat trailer. However, if you take advantage of the latest technologies and drive with care, you can greatly reduce the possibility of jackknifing.

The tyres on your boat trailer play a crucial role in its performance and its ability to retain traction under pressure. Here are some tips for keeping them in top running order.


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