Aluminium Boat Owners: Which Type Of Boat Trailer Rollers Should You Choose?


Aluminium yachts, fishing boats and speedboats have a number of advantages over their cheaper fibreglass brethren. However, aluminium boats can be more difficult to tow on a trailer, and not just because they tend to be heavier than fibreglass boats.

The rollers fitted to the base of your boat's trailer may be pretty innocuous, but they are vital for protecting your craft's hull from damage during the launching and loading procedures. Unfortunately, not all types of boat rollers are suitable for use with aluminium-hulled boats, and fitting the wrong kind of rollers can seriously damage both your trailer and the boat itself.

If you need new rollers for your boat's existing trailer or are fitting rollers to a brand new trailer, you must ensure that they are made from the right materials. 

Which type of boat rollers should I choose for my aluminium boat's trailer?

EPDM rubber rollers

A decent budget-friendly option, boat rollers made from EPDM rubber are usually very inexpensive, and are consequently fitted as-standard to many boat trailer models. They are reasonably resistant to wear and tear, and can safely be exposed to saltwater without cracking or perishing.

However, rubber boat trailer rollers also tend to be quite soft and pliant, especially during hot weather. This can be bad news for many aluminium boat owners, as the bulls of heavier aluminium boats may dig into the rubber as they pass over the rollers, causing them to split and tear. As such, EPDM rubber rollers should only be used with lighter aluminium craft, such as unpowered yachts and tenders.

Some cheaper EPDM rubber rollers can also leave indelible black marks on the hull of your craft, especially if your hull has a gel coat. If you choose rubber rollers, make sure they are fully sealed and obtained from a reputable trailer parts supplier.

Polyurethane rollers 

Polyurethane rollers are a popular choice for fibreglass boats and their trailers, but they are almost never suitable for use with aluminium craft. They are extremely soft and will split easily when subjected to excessive weight. The sharper angles of aluminium hulls compared to fibreglass hulls can also cause the hull to slice into urethane rollers as the craft passes overhead, destroying your rollers and potentially damaging your craft's hull and keel.

HDPE rollers

HDPE (high-density polyethylene) rollers, on the other hand, are eminently suitable for use with aluminium watercraft and their trailers. They are much stiffer and more durable than polyurethane rollers and are not vulnerable to splitting or slicing. However, they still provide enough cushioning to protect your craft while you are loading or unloading it, or when you are towing it over bumpy or uneven terrain.

The relative firmness of HDPE rollers also means that your craft passes over them more easily while it is being loaded onto your trailer -- a useful quality if you use a hand-cranked winch to load your boat. The only real disadvantage of HDPE rollers is that they cannot be safely used with many fibreglass boats, and can cause serious damage to gel-coated fibreglass hulls.


25 March 2020

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