Lock It or Maybe Lose It
To have some low life steal your boat/trailer can be devastating and yet while there are plenty of ways to help prevent it, many of us just don’t take enough precautions.
Many hundreds of boats on trailers are stolen every year and more often that not they are never ‘seen’ again. There is no 100% way to lock your boat trailer so that it can not be nicked. However there are some damn good security devices that make the theft that much harder.
Unfortunately, it does not matter how well a boat is secured if professional thieves decide to steal the rig there is not much that will stop them – besides mounting a 24-hour guard on it. However, there is a lot an owner can do to stop the opportunist who sees a rig unsecured and decides to steal it on an impulse.
The first thing is to make the rig unattractive to steal and the easiest way to do that is with a security device. If there are a number of rigs or trailers at a boat ramp, at home or in a yard a thief will always be attracted to the rig that does not have any security devices attached and is easy to take.
There are quite security devices on the market that are suitable for your boat trailer. Some lock the wheels, others secure the tow ball, but all do the same thing…make it damn hard for someone else to drive away with your boat on the back.
Most of the devices are extremely well priced for what they offer and then there are some, electronic devices such as cameras and GPS systems that are reasonably expensive. These let you know where the rig is after it has been stolen and don’t prevent the theft in the first place.
There are definite steps you can take that will deter a theft, but, as you know, nothing is totally fool proof. The vast majority of thieves are looking for an easy target and if presented with an effective theft deterrent will move on to easier objective….namely the other guy’s unsecured trailers that are just waiting to be stolen.
For thieves, their two biggest enemies are time and noise. Anything you can do to slow them down and make them generate noise will definitely improve your chances of keeping your valuable property.
Trailer security devices fall into two basic categories; Hitch-Coupler locks and Wheel Clamps. Although hitch-coupler type locks provide some measure of deterrence, thieves can defeat them very easily by using a rope or chain attached around the coupler to tow the trailer away and worry about getting the coupler lock off later.
Wheel locks are a lot harder to remove and take time and make noise when doing so. To have an effective wheel lock, the clamp should not only prevent the wheel from turning, it should also prevent the removal of the wheel from the trailer. A tandem axle trailer can run along quite well with only three wheels.
JME Products Corporation (www.trailerlock.com) offers a couple of important tips regarding the use of wheel locks. There advice is that you always install the wheel lock on the “driver’s side” of your trailer. There are two very good reasons for this recommendation:
- If potential thieves back their tow vehicle to your trailer with the intent to steal it, as they open the driver’s side door of the tow vehicle and look back at your trailer, they will “see” the wheel lock, if you’ve installed it on the driver’s side. Most thieves, after seeing that you have installed a wheel lock, quickly move on at this point to search for an easier target…an unsecured trailer.
- Installing your wheel lock on the driver’s side of the trailer helps remind “you” to remove the wheel lock before using your trailer.
These are one of the most popular deterrents and there are quite a number of brands available, most of which are manufactured in New Zealand or Australia. All essentially do the same thing, by stopping a wheel (or wheels) from turning when towed. However it is very interesting the different ways in which this can be done. Some popular examples are:
SAS Wheel Clamp
SAS manufacture two systems, the Disc Clamp and one of the most popular and easy to use, U Clamp. The SAS wheel clamp is available in three sizes to fit tyres up to 400mm wide. The SAS Disc Clamp is designed to covers the wheel nut, preventing wheel removal and has rubber on the sides, preventing scratching of the wheels. They are available to fit 25cm to 46cm rims and tyre widths from 110mm to 265mm.
This is a great anti-theft device made of heavy-duty, weather-resistant steel to withstand the elements. It features anti-scratch coating to protect your wheels. The lock is key operated and easy to store when not in use. The AL-KO Easy-Clamp Wheel Clamp is adjustable to suit 33cm – 38cm wheels.
AL-KO also offers the Secure Wheel lock, which has proven itself year after year to be a superb security device. The AL-KO Secure Lock provides over 30,000 security combinations together with a drill resistant lock and anti-pick tumbler mechanism.
Trojan Sentry & Defender Clamps
They offer two clamps, the Sentry and the Defender. The Sentry has a large diameter plate to stop the wheel nuts being removed and comes in its own carry bag with a special compartment to keep the lock keys in. There are models to fit most trailer wheels.
The Trojan Defender features a zinc and powder-coated finish and it’s fitted with a high quality lock. It also includes a disc that helps to cover the wheel nuts. This wheel clamp has been designed to fit most 25cm to 38cm wheels.
An Australian-made wheel clamp that comes in sizes to fit wheel diameters from 22cm to 44cm. It is lightweight and folds up for storage. Klamp It also makes a smaller clamp for PWC trailer wheels. The steel plate protects wheel nuts from access and the clamp grips the tyre, preventing movement. This double action security is secured with a high security built in push lock for total security.
A wheel clamp from Barrier Group is a unique heavy duty wheel clamp capable of fitting a wide range of wheels. Steel jaws are clamped around the wheel using high tensile steel chain and our unique tensioning system. Unlike most wheel clamps, which attach around both sides of the wheel, the Scorpion is fitted from the outside only. This makes it quick to fit and easy on the back. It weighs 12.5kgs making it easy to carry.
Australian Wheel Clamp
This is different to all other wheel clamps, instead of arms that wrap round the width of the tyre it uses 10mm diameter High Tensile Chain that not only wraps round the width of the tyre it also wraps round the vehicle’s chassis. It fits all diameter and width wheels without adjusting anything.
HITCH COUPLER LOCKS
There are a number of devices on the market to render a ball coupling incapable of fitting onto the tow ball. They simply fit in or over the coupling and make connection virtually impossible.
Most tow ball locks are made from hardened steel to prevent the use of a hacksaw and are designed to lock the trailer coupling when disconnected or in some types connected to the tow vehicle, however most of these cannot be used when towing.
Some popular examples are:
This zinc coated security device allows the securing of both non and no braked couplings and is a visual deterent to help[ avoid theft. It comes complete with a good quality lock and is very easy to use.
Fits inside the coupling so that it can’t be hooked onto the tow ball of a vehicle. It comprises a barrel the shape of a tow ball that is expanded with an allen key until it fits tightly inside the coupling bell, a barrel lock is then inserted to stop access to the Allen Key slot.
Goes over the coupling and comes with a separate tow ball that slots in to the body of the device and then sits in the coupling. It has the added advantage of being able to be used when the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle and acts as a safety device to stop the rig coming adrift from the tow bar. There is also a stand that can be bolted into a concrete driveway, the coupling is attached to this and the Hitch Helmet sits over the coupling to secure the rig to the stand. www.oceanictrailers.com.au
Talon Trailer Lock
Secures your trailer both on and off your hitch with the simple turn of a key. Made from fully cast marine grade 316 stainless steel. Two models available, FATL140 Talon Trailer Lock only and the FATL145 that includes a hitch locking pin.
This Australian hitch lock is made from specially hardened high strength steel, which is resistant to cutting and drilling.
For added security the FullStop Saracen Australian Hitch Lock incorporates a high-security, 9-lever barrel lock, resistant to picking, drilling and gas freezing. The FullStop Saracen Australian Hitch Lock is suitable for most trailers fitted with an Al-Ko hitch and is designed to secure the vehicle by preventing it from being towed away.
CM Trailers Trailer Lock
Assessed and approve d by NZ Marine, the CM Trailer lock fits all towball sizes and is self adjusting. It secures to the trailer when attached to the tow vehicle and or when the trailer is detached. Construction is hardened steel with a chrome plate finish.
Replacing your existing hitch pin with a locking version is a good move because it is all too easy to remove the pin and push the receiver assembly out, trailer and all. There are a number of manufacturers who make locking hitch pins to suit the receiver type tow bar. Trailer locks are designed to slow down criminals, make them create noise and attention.
It always pays to have the key for the locking pin either on your car key ring or somewhere where you can find it in the boat. Nothing worse than going to hook the boat on and not being able to find the key. Ruins a good day’s boating before you even start.
Trojan Coupling Lock
Trojan Trailer Coupling Locks have a quality brass padlock and stainless steel pin. These locks allow the trailer coupling to be locked while either connected or disconnected from the tow vehicle.
CM Trailer Hitch Pin
This very popular lever coupling lock was designed to suit Trojan, Viking and CM lever couplings. It is easy to fit and features a hardened pin, making it difficult to cut off.
CHAIN & PADLOCK
Generally not worth the time and effort for a serious thief. It may slow them down slightly when used with a security device, but the chain can be cut with a pair of bolt cutters in seconds. The chain alone offers no deterrent at all.
There are however some very good stainless wire cable systems with electronic sensors that activate an audible alarm when cut. These are quick and easy to wrap through a wheel and around part of the trailer frame, stopping the wheel from turning.
LOCK IT OR YOU MIGHT LOSE IT
Despite the use of security devices the most vulnerable part of a trailer is the coupling itself. It is a simple matter to undo the bolts holding it to the frame with a shifter and fit another coupling. It is strongly recommend that the nuts be tack-welded to the bolts. Unfortunately, trailer manufacturers use galvanised nuts and bolts and the welding can damage the galvanising and rust marks will probably appear.
These can be painted with an anti-rust paint or a primer. Some manufacturers are not keen to recommend this saying that it makes the original coupling harder to get off if the owner wants to fit another style of coupling. In view of how simple it is to remove a coupling there is probably a case for manufacturers to think of a way to solve the problem.
It is no good having a security device fitted if the complete tow ball can be removed with the device on it and simply slid into the fitting on another vehicle. At the end of the day it is up to you to take some simple precautions to make it harder for someone to steel your rig.
How To Select The Right Towbar
All towbars are the same, right? Wrong!
They may do the same job, but a good towbar is one that has been designed especially to suit the vehicle to which it is fitted. There is no such thing as a generic towbar. That means anyone who buys a new towbar online from an unknown original, without knowing what vehicle it was made for, could be putting themselves, and others on the road, in danger.
“A towbar fitted to a vehicle that it was not designed for could be a recipe for disaster,” says John Frear, GM – Sales & Marketing of Best Bars Limited, the leading towbar designer and manufacturer in New Zealand.
“If it has to be adapted to fit the vehicle or does not have the correct fittings it could lead to failure whilst towing on the road……with unfortunate consequences.
“You should never fit a second-hand towbar, either, even if it is designed for the right vehicle, as there may be hidden corrosion or metal fatigue.”
Mr Fear advises drivers to have a towbar fitted by a reputable vehicle dealer or specialist fitter and to ensure that it carries at least one of the following statements; one that reads ‘Genuine/Approved Accessory’ and the other should indicate ‘Manufactured in accordance with NZS5467’. These signify the towbar is made for and approved as a genuine accessory by a motor company and/or that it also meets the required New Zealand safety standard.
With towbars available from a number of less-than-reputable sources, both locally and imported, Mr Frear says it can be confusing for buyers wanting to know if the product is not only safe and reliable, but will also fit their vehicle. To be certain, he says, it pays to go to a franchised dealer or specialist fitter who supplies towbars that are made especially for the vehicle in question.
In order to be approved as a genuine accessories supplier, towbar makers must meet stringent design, testing and manufacturing standards, including building them to NZS5467. Buyers should make sure their towbar is made by a manufacturer that has long established credentials as a supplier of genuine accessories to a wide range of motor companies.
Over the past two decades, Best Bars has made huge advances in towbar technology to ensure that its products can be used in complete confidence and that they suit vehicles sold in this market.
Every towbar design is put through a rigorous testing regime on a special rig which is independently calibrated & certified. The rig duplicates the tremendous forces exerted on a towbar, not just in a normal vehicle life cycle, but for far longer than most people will ever use it.
“It is highly unlikely that any towbar will ever get that amount of use in its lifetime,” says Mr Frear, “but it is essential to set very high thresholds to ensure maximum safety limits are designed into these products.”
Best Bars supplies towbars as approved accessories to most new vehicle distributors in New Zealand, and a growing number in Australia, and says the ability to test to the most extreme conditions is part of its ‘best practice’ approach to meeting their requirements.
That’s very comforting to someone who regularly tows an expensive boat or caravan and doesn’t want to risk losing their investment, let alone causing a crash. Equally important is the validation of the products made by Best Bars that the comprehensive testing programmes provide.