By Leon Archer
I suspect every sportsman who has ever owned a trailer – boat, camper, utility, or whatever – has experienced the occasional times when the lights simply refuse to cooperate.
Other things can go wrong with the various trailers, but light problems probably make up 90 percent of all the frustrations. I have had my share of run-ins with lights that were intent on spoiling my day.
Their favorite time to go on the blink (or no blink if they are signal lights) is just before one sets out on a camping trip or just before the trailer is due for inspection, whichever comes first. Just before inspection is best, because now the garage can figure out why they refuse to work – at a price of course.
I have been rebuilding, almost from scratch, a small boat trailer. It belonged to my brother-in–law for many years prior to his death, and for the last seven or eight years of his life it sat unused behind his wife’s flower garden.
Last fall I asked my sister-in-law if she would like to see it gone, because I was willing to bring it home as I thought it would be the perfect size for my canoe. She was more than happy to be rid of the eyesore and convert the space into flowers.
I had to take my regular trailer to Redfield to collect the old boat trailer, as it was in no condition to travel any other way. Without any help, I humped it up onto the bed and the trip back to Fulton was uneventful. That was the cheap and easy part.
It sat in my back yard all winter, and when I came home in the spring, I started to look at what I had gotten myself into.
It wasn’t pretty. The tires had long before lost any usefulness having succumbed to age and porcupines. The rims were badly rusted, and I would have to scrape them and paint them (a job I decided I didn’t want to do) so I bought new tires and rims.
That was easy. Then I took the grease caps off and checked the bearings. And by the way, I guess bad bearings comprise most of the other 10 percent of trailer frustrations. Of course they were shot. Water had gotten to them somehow over the years of disuse.
I removed the rusty, gritty, bearings and checked the races. Of course they were pitted and needed to be replaced, which is always a good practice anyway. That was where the real trailer fun began. I just love pounding out old races, especially when they are rust-welded to the hub, but pound them out I did. That led to a couple of sore knuckles when my hammer slipped and whacked them instead of the punch.
I cleaned out the inside of the hubs with gasoline and wiped them dry before putting some clean, new grease over the surfaces.
Much to my surprise, pounding the new races into the hub went quite well. They can be a lot of fun sometimes, but I had a big piece of flat iron that made the job a cinch. Once the races were in, the rest of the bearing job was a piece of cake. I greased the bearings, and I now had the trailer back on wheels.
The lights were beyond repair, so I took them off. It would have been an easier task if the bolts were not all rusted so badly that most of the nuts refused to budge even with rust remover and heat, but they twisted off under pressure instead which solved that problem.
I bought new lights and fastened them on the trailer. I replaced all the wiring after removing all the old. I secured the ground wires on the lights to the trailer. Things were looking good.
There was no serial number or VIN number on the trailer, the plate having long since disintegrated or dropped off. The registration was long gone, so I would register the trailer as homemade, which other than the bare frame, it certainly was.
I had to take it to the landfill and get it weighed in order to register it, but the registration went like clockwork.
Now here is the amazing thing. The lights worked perfectly. They were bright and flashed in unison with those on my truck. They even performed that way when I had the trailer inspected.
I only had one more task to accomplish. The trailer had gotten bent slightly under the annual loads of snow in Redfield. I couldn’t handle that myself, but my good friend, Windsor Abbott of Abbott Farms in Baldwinsville, who can bend, weld and repair just about anything made of metal, came to my rescue.
It has been a long trail (or trial) but I have come out with my canoe trailer ready for the road. I am not going to check the price for a comparable new trailer.
I’m just going to be happy that I was able to recycle the one I have. Whenever I use it, I will be reminded of my brother-in-law, Perry Yerdon. That’s worth all the trailer fun I had.