The life of a boat trailer jockey wheel can be a tough one. Between the novice that drives down the road with the wheel still in place, and the boatie who never maintains their jockey wheel - it’s a wonder they survive as long as they do.
But you can help give your jockey wheel a better life with some simple maintenance completed on a regular basis.
Like all things boat-related, boat trailers and jockey wheels require attention. The wet salty environment, the dirt and grime they collect in transport, even the fact that they are only used occasionally, all contribute to their high maintenance needs.
The Need for a Working Jockey Wheel
You rely on your jockey wheel to help manoeuvre the boat when it’s on land. It’s an important piece of safety equipment on your trailer because it stops the boat from tipping or falling. The jockey wheel also keeps the boat trailer drawbar off the ground and is vital when hitching your trailer to the car.
Inspecting your Jockey Wheel
Most jockey wheels are made up of a few standard components – inner core, outer tube, inner tube, bearing, handle, wheel and axle. Some jockey wheels have the handle pinned onto the shaft which makes it difficult to grease the bearing, but most have a roll pin which can be pushed out.
The first part to check is the wheel itself. If it has been damaged or is worn with flat spots, you should buy a new one. The wheel needs to be able to take the weight of the boat and allow you to move the boat around slightly while hitching. Buy a new nylon, solid rubber or pneumatic jockey wheel to make your job easier.
Jockey Wheel Maintenance
You don’t want to take apart your jockey wheel too often to give it a complete service as it’s not necessary, but you do need to do some quick maintenance to ensure your jockey wheel is kept in good condition.
Your boat trailer needs regular checks and maintenance to ensure the rollers and lights aren’t damaged, the tyres are pumped up, and the trailer isn’t showing signs of significant rust. It’s easy to overlook the jockey wheel when you are doing your trailer checks but consider its role - it’s worth adding to your maintenance schedule list.
To maintain your jockey wheel, you should check the spring-loaded handle and extension pins lock into both holes in the jockey wheel mounting plate. Extend the jockey wheel as high as possible and check for signs of corrosion and trapped dirt. This is especially important if your boat is stored out in the open as the wheel handle is subjected to moisture and dirt which can work its way inside the unit. Wipe them off and regrease, so they stay lubricated and keep corrosion at bay.
How to Service a Jockey Wheel
It’s best to service your jockey wheel every year or two to keep it in good working condition. You don’t want to run into the problem of trying to hitch your boat with a jockey wheel unable to wind up or down. It doesn’t take many tools to complete a service, just the basics and a sturdy work area with some space to hold the disassembled parts.
Remember the job of the jockey wheel is to keep the boat level to stop it from tipping when it’s on land. Before you do any work on your jockey wheel, ensure your boat is secure and can’t tip or move as this could cause serious injury to you or someone else.
Apply the handbrake and place wheel chocks under the boat’s tyres. Place a piece of wood or sawhorse in one or two positions along the trailer to take the weight of the boat. If the jockey wheel bracket hasn’t been removed from the trailer for some time it may be worth taking it off to check the bolts. Even though they don’t go in the water whilst launching and retrieving, it’s still possible that there is some corrosion on the bolts which can’t be seen. To get the nuts off, spray with WD40 and tap them with a hammer without it touching the thread. The hammer will help loosen the nuts before using a spanner to get them off.
Check the jockey wheel clamp on your trailer is free of grime and operates smoothly. Remove the jockey wheel from the boat and place it on a bench. Begin by removing the rubber or nylon wheel from the lower case using a spanner on each side. Once the wheel is free, inspect it for any damage and check the axle shaft for wear. If any part is looking worn or defective, replace it.
Separate the upper and lower cases by winding the handle to extend the jockey wheel fully. With some effort, the last few turns should release the shaft from the mating lock nut.
Remove the jockey wheel handle using a punch and hammer on the roll pin. It’s best to place a support under the shaft top, so you don’t bend or break the handle when using the punch. Again inspect for damage and replace if faulty.
After taking the handle out, use a mallet to knock the worm drive shaft into the housing and remove the shaft. Take off the bearings, washers and nylon sleeve for a good clean. This can be done by placing them in a small bucket of turpentine or diesel and agitating with an old paint brush. Take the parts out and dry them off. Pack the top and bottom shell washer and cage with grease - marine grease is ideal for keeping the water out otherwise any grease will do. Pack them back together. Wind up the threaded rod and give it a clean and put some grease along the threads to make the movement a lot easier.
Place the shaft back into the upper casing. Clean the housing with a wire brush if there is any corrosion and remove the old grease with a rag. The inside of a casing can be cleaned with a rag wrapped around a long screwdriver. Check the lower casing to ensure it’s in good condition. The fixed nut should be secure and the internal thread not damaged. Regrease the nut and worm drive shaft.
Once the cases are back together, refit the wheel with a little grease on the axle. Tighten the axle nut and check that the wheel moves around freely. Refit the roll pin into the handle or replace with a new one if damaged.
Check the handle winds smoothly in both directions before reinstalling on your boat.
Replacing Jockey Wheel Bearings
If there is one part of the jockey wheel you want to ensure is working properly, it’s the bearings. Broken down, missing or seized bearings can cause numerous jockey wheel problems. If you open the case to find the bearings are broken or missing, you can easily replace them with a new bearing set. These can be bought from shops like Super Cheap Auto.
If you find no amount of servicing is going to help and you need a replacement jockey wheel, check out our range of jockey wheels. There is one to suit most boat trailer setups.
If you have any queries about maintaining or replacing jockey wheel parts, don’t hesitate to ask one of the experts at Boat Accessories Australia by calling 1300 308 161 or contact us online