Rebuild Your Boat Trailer – Winch, Wiring, Coupling

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We’ve restored the bodywork on our boat trailer, so now it’s time to look at replacing the winch, wiring, lights, jockey wheel and coupling.


Is the winch in good working condition? Carefully test the entire length of the cable or straps for any weakness that could cause problems and replace if necessary.

If you are planning to install a new winch on your boat trailer, this could be your opportunity to upgrade: will you go manual or electric? The choice might come down to cost, since manual winches are considerably cheaper – but take effort – while electric winches cost more initially but will make your life easier. Whatever you choose, make sure it has sufficient rating for your laden boat.

Here are some easy-to-follow instructions for installing a winch on your trailer.


A trailer that’s constantly being dunked in seawater needs submersible taillights that are sealed against leakage and condensation on rust-resistant stainless steel mountings. They might be more costly, but they will last a lot longer than standard ones.

Check the wiring and harness for any weakness, corrosion or breakages. Clean the plug and socket with electrical contact cleaner and a fine wire brush.

Find the earth or ground connector (typically the white wire), which will usually be attached directly to the trailer frame. Unless you’re replacing it or have already cleaned up the frame, use a wire brush or sandpaper to clean the area where the earth is connected.

If the wiring on your boat trailer is intact and you just need to replace the lights, check out our easy guide to installing 12V kits that available in most auto or major department stores. For anything more technical, we suggest you consult an auto-electrician.


Check the coupling for any signs of rust and wear. On an older trailer it’s probably the standard ball mount version but if it is due for replacement, consider swapping it for a system that’s better suited to the way you will use your boat trailer, such as over-ride brake or off-road coupling. Read our guide to which coupling is best for your trailer.

Jockey wheel

The jockey wheel you put on your restored boat trailer should also be rated for the trailer’s weight and suitable for your needs.

If you tend to leave the boat parked on the trailer for months at a time, a jockey wheel with a solid rubber tyre might be the better option as it will be less susceptible to dry rot. Alternatively, the 10-inch jockey wheel is popular with beach fishermen because it offers a larger ‘footprint’ in soft sand.

Follow this easy seven-step guide to installing your new jockey wheel.

Your boat trailer is now roadworthy again, so in the last of our series on rebuilding your boat trailer, we’ll look at replacing the rollers or skids and adding some essential accessories.

Want to know more about the lighting and rear-vision requirements for your boat trailer?


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