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Towing a trailer

September 10, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Back from a lengthy hiatus to the Florida Keys, I have breaking news for everyone. There is a trap waiting for unsuspecting travelers on the Alligator Alley section of I-75. I have it on good authority that if one were to turn off on State Road 951 to get a bite to eat at the Cracker Barrel, one would find that you can't get there from there. Although the restaurant seems to be on 951, there is no access from 951, and if one were to continue around the block (it would seem), one would find oneself at the toll gate toward Ft. Lauderdale, the direction from which one just came. There, a nice man would say something like: "Lemme esplain you something You gotta go 20 miles to the nest exit to turn around. That will be three dollars toll please." The road designers are punishing you for your dumbness about how to get to the Cracker Barrel. Your sentence is 40 miles driving plus three dollars. I'm not revealing my sources on this scoop.

Yes, I was catching lobster in the Keys. Your editor and my friend, Bob Petcher, told you to put in your orders for lobster upon my return. All such orders have been reviewed and dealt with. Summarily. I suggest you place orders for gyro sandwiches directly with my ex-friend Bob next time he goes to Greece. I can't think of a better way to thank him for his suggestion.

On the car front, let's talk about towing a trailer, specifically a boat on a trailer, and what might happen during that little adventure. First the tires. Trailer tires are different from car tires. Don't use car tires. Trailer tires are stiffer and stronger. Second, trailer tires go bad from age whether they are used or not. If they are about five years old or so, inspect them for little cracks, known as "weather checking" on the tread and on the sidewalls. If you see those little spider-web-looking cracks forming, don't trust the tire. It will throw off the outer cosmetic layer of rubber, then the tread, then blow out, usually following a well-known procedure called "Murphy's Law," which means it will happen in heavy traffic during a blinding rainstorm on a section of road with no shoulder area to pull off on. When you finally pull off, congratulating yourself because you were smart enough to carry a spare trailer tire, that's when you discover the lug wrench for your towing vehicle doesn't fit the lug nuts on your trailer.

Remember that all of the lights on the trailer must work and the boat must be tied down to the trailer, to avoid a citation. I once saw a pick-up towing a large outboard boat that ran off the road into the mangroves. The truck stopped when it hit the trees, but the boat didn't stop until it sat on top of the cab of the pick-up. Always tie the bow of the boat with a line leading back on the trailer, to avoid that scenario.

Check the wheel bearings of the trailer by jacking the trailer up enough to spin each wheel by hand. Listen for rumbling noises. If you hear any, the bearings are bad and have to be replaced. Grab the tire and feel for any looseness on the bearings. There should be none. The bearings can be adjusted if there is any looseness. If you don't know how to do that, have it done professionally. If it's not done right, that wheel you might see rolling past you could be your own.

Yes, most of the above has happened to me, and no, Bob is not my ex-friend. He's a great guy, (just too generous with my stuff).



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