I have a confession to make – I’ve never towed a PWC on a trailer before.
We were heading out to film the PWCs for BoatAdvice.com.au, which offered up the perfect opportunity test out the towing prowess of both the cars, and myself.
Many of you are likely experienced with towing but for those who are amateur’s like me, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s a piece of cake.
These Sea-Doo’s don’t weigh much and the trailer is narrow and also lightweight, all up they weigh less than 500kg each. The trick here is maneuverability and visibility.
You can’t see much of the Sea-Doo in the rear-view mirror, just a glimpse of the handlebars popping up, and nothing in the side-mirror’s unless you’re heading around a corner.
In fact, it’s easy to forget it’s even there.
First up we collected our towing vehicles, the Nissan X-Trail TS and the Jeep Cherokee Limited.
The X-Trail is a diesel 4WD TS, only available with a manual transmission. It has a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 96kW and 320Nm.
Priced at a reasonable $35,680 before on-road costs, the five-seater scores a few notable features as standard including a five-inch colour display, reversing camera and 17-inch alloy wheels.
It’s braked towing capacity in diesel guise is 500kg higher than the unbraked capacity of other variants, at 2000kg.
The Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel is a bit pricier at $49,000 before on-roads and comes with some added extras like adaptive cruise control, automatic headlight levelling, 8.4-inch touchscreen plus 7.0-inch colour display and it’s off-road ability compared to it’s competitors can’t be questioned.
It has a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, generating 125kW and 350Nm. The diesel Jeep has an increased towing capacity too, a whopping 2393kg.
Once we had our landlubber transport sorted out, we headed to pick up the Sea-Doo’s from Beaches Recreational Powersports in Balgowlah.
Like many places in Sydney, getting access to the business involved a sharp turn off a busy main thoroughfare, down a steep and narrow driveway. I had to wonder how I was going to handle getting the trailer back out around the bend and into the rush of traffic.
Hitching the trailer was a quick and easy process – read our DIY article on hitching trailers here. After backing down the driveway and lining up the tow ball with the front of the trailer, we jacked it up and dropped the coupling down on the tow ball. With safety chain attached and electrics hooked up, we were back on the road.
Corners required a little care because of the length but getting through the city and out to Pittwater was pretty much a breeze.
As I mentioned before, it’s easy to forget the trailer is there – save for the handle bars in the rear-view mirror serving as a reminder, and the occasional glimpse in a side mirror around a corner. If that’s a bit disconcerting, wide-angle mirrors are a great aftermarket option that can provide a little extra peace-of-mind.
The weight had little bearing on the performance of either car, the only times it was vaguely noticeable was taking off from a full stop on a hill, or when braking quickly.
We were expecting a top of 38-degrees that day, and by the time we arrived at the boat ramp the sun was beating down. Being my first time backing a trailer down a boat ramp, it was slow and steady. Trust me, fast does not work unless you’re an expert.
It’s a good idea to practice your reversing technique in a quiet area before tackling the ramp, particularly if there’s a queue of people waiting to launch. No one needs the pressure of an audience added to the first-time nerves.
The easiest way to back the trailer into the water is with the boot open, allowing for a full view of the watercraft and the direction its headed. Opening the boot does however, mean the reversing camera is pointing skyward which can be a bit bizarre if you glance at the screen out of habit.
It’s a good idea to start with the trailer straight, so drive away from the ramp until the line is right, then slowly start backing it in.
Constant small turns of the steering wheel are required to keep a small trailer heading in the direction you desire, but remember to turn the wheel in the opposite direction to where you want to go.
Any attempt at doing this at any more than a snail pace resulted in the trailer kicking around or ‘goosenecking’ at a sharp angle quite quickly. Practice makes perfect!
There were no complaints from the X-Trail or the Jeep. Both were steady and visibility was excellent.
The Sea-Doo’s are shallow and light, so it wasn’t necessary to get the wheels wet. How far back you need to go depends on a number of factors including the angle of the ramp, the length of the trailer, the weight of the vessel and the depth of water it needs to be able to start it safely.
Too far, and you risk submerging the rear of the car when you don’t need to. Boat ramps are slippery too. Not far enough and you risk damaging the PWC/boat while launching, or not having enough buoyancy to get it off the trailer.
If it’s a particularly long and shallow ramp, or you’re launching a larger vessel, there are a few things to keep in mind.
If any part of the car is submerged, give it a good rinse to prevent salt-water corrosion or think about adding a tow-bar extender.
If the tail-pipe goes under, don’t turn the engine off. Keeping it running will help prevent water intake, and if the tail-pipe is under, remember the brakes and wheel bearings are wet too.
Another useful tip is to disconnect the trailer lights before launching. Water and electricity don’t mix.
Never drive in forward…
Before we knew it the Sea-Doo’s were in the water ready to go. With empty trailers bouncing over the uneven ground, we parked the X-Trail and Cherokee and left them high and dry (and lonely) for the day.
While the PWC trailer was fairly simple to master, one would assume a bigger boat would present more of a challenge. Well, challenge accepted – perhaps a fishing boat next time.