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Let’s roll: How To Attach Roller Pins To Your Boat Trailer

Replacing roller pins is an important part of maintaining your boat trailer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to choosing the correct rollers and attaching them so you are always ready to launch.

Which rollers?

You’ll find a plethora of different types of boat trailer rollers online or in your local marine store. How do you know which are the ones you need?

  • HDPE polyethylene rollers are mostly used for aluminium boats and trailers, while the softer polyurethane roller is more popular for fibreglass hulls.
  • Self-centering keel rollers have grooves to centre the boat’s hull and keep it aligned while it’s being winched onto the trailer. This can be especially handy when there’s a high wind or when you are on your own.
  • Bow rollers are used to hold the boat in place during transit. They need to be strong and durable as they bear a lot of weight and movement.
  • Keel rollers support the boat’s keel, so they carry most of the weight.
  • Wobble rollers fit the curvature of the hull and carry approximately 40% of the weight of the boat. If you’re travelling long distances over rough roads, use more rollers to evenly distribute the weight and reduce damage from rubbing on the hull.

Replacing the rollers

You’ll need:

  • New rollers
  • Stainless steel cotter pins
  • Roller spindles
  • Pliers, mallet, wrench
  • Penetrating lubricant spray

This is best done with the boat off the trailer. Head to the boat ramp, launch the boat and work in the car park or set up some tyres in the backyard and ‘float’ the boat onto them. The latter will give you more time in case you run into problems and the opportunity to do other maintenance work on your trailer.

  1. Pull the cotter pin on one end of the roller spindle. If it’s rusty, you might need to use a punch, pliers or drill to get it out.
  2. Remove the roller spindle from the support bracket and discard the old roller.
  3. Hold the new roller between the two sides of the panel bracket and push the roller spindle through it (you might have to use the mallet).
  4. Insert the cotter pin into the end of the spindle.
  5. Repeat for each roller.

Making adjustments

Once the rollers are in place, you’ll probably need to make some adjustments to ensure the boat’s sitting correctly with all the rollers making contact where they should.

  1. Set the keel rollers so that the bow sits slightly higher than the stern.
  2. Loosen the bolts on the wobble roller mounting brackets then adjust the rollers so they sit snugly against the hull.
  3. Tighten the bolts firmly again.
  4. Drive around the car park or block to ‘settle’ the boat and re-adjust where necessary.

When your boat trailer roller pins are in good condition and adjusted properly, you should find that launching and retrieving the boat is easy, even if you’re doing it by yourself or in lousy weather.

Want some clues on how to avoid jackknifing your trailer?

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