Trailer Bunk Slides vs Carpet – Jet Ski And Boat

You may notice jet ski and boat trailers with plastic slides on top of the the bunks.

Are the plastic and “Teflon” bunk slides better than carpet? Is it worth the extra cost to get the slides? Are there any downsides to getting the bunk slides for a jet ski or boat?

While the plastic bunk slides for boat and jet ski trailers seem like a great idea, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. I suggest you stick with carpeted bunks, as I’ll explain why in this post.

Carpet Bunks Vs Plastic Slides

The main reason why people put the plastic slides on their boat trailers is to make getting the boat on and off the trailer easier.

While the slides make it easier to get the trailer on and off the trailer, it also makes it too easy.

If you don’t properly strap down your boat or jet ski with these plastic slides, you run the risk of the jet ski sliding off the right or left side of your trailers if you take a turn too sharp.

Not only slide off, but you run the risk of the boat or jet ski lunging forward too much. If the bow strap breaks or the winch gives out, the jet ski or boat could end up in the back of your truck if no other straps are on it.

Carpeted bunks are less hassle and way better at keeping your jet ski or boat on the trailer. Everyone should strap their boats down, but sometimes things happen and straps break, so having that little bit of friction has saved me a few times.

Slides Make It Too Easy

Someone saying something is too easy is not always seen as a bad thing, but it can be with the bunk slides.

When you’re launching your boat, these slides are extra slippery in the water and if the jet ski or boat is not in the right position it could get away from you when you unlatch it.

These slides also make it harder to get the boat or jet ski on the trailer, as it will want to slide back off. So if you don’t have the trailer perfectly in the water you’re going to be fighting it.

Carpeted bunks have just enough friction to catch the boat when coming onto the trailer and just enough to keep it from going away when unlatching it.

Bunk Slides Scrape Hulls

The producers of bunk slides make them to slide on fiberglass with ease, but over time they get worn down and start to create rough edges and sides.

There is a good reason why most boat manufacturers only do carpeted bunks, as it’s softer on your boat’s hull.

I’ve seen these plastic bunks slides do more damage to the bottom of a jet ski hull than the carpeted bunks when they start to wear out. And when they do wear out, they’re more costly than new bunk carpet. It’s just not worth it to get the plastic bunk slides, especially for jet skis.

Roller Bunks Vs. Carpeted Bunks

I know some boats come with trailers that have roller bunks, wheels instead of a long board, but I consider that worse than the plastic slides especially for jet skis.

The roller bunks slide even more easily than the plastic slides and since the weight is not as distributed, they cause more hull damage.

Bunks disperse the weight more evenly, which is what you want when boarding the trailer or when hauling on roads. The roller wheels create pressure points that do damage over the long run, especially when you travel over roads with potholes and other uneven surfaces.

The wheels they use are often sharp hard edges which creates more points of damage in the long run.

Avoid roller bunks, especially if you have a jet ski, they’re not worth it.

Not only that, but the rollers are more likely to leave black marks on the bottom of your hull. It’s not damage, similar to sneaker marks on a basketball court is not damage, just material left behind from the roller. If the roller is leaving material behind, that means it’s wearing a spot out on the wheel and will lead to problems down the line.

What About Spraying The Carpeted Bunks With Lube?

Some people spray their bunks with WD-40 or some bunk lubricates to make it easier to get the jet ski off the trailer.

I don’t recommend doing this to your jet ski trailer as it suffers the same problems as the bunk slides.

Another problem with the sprays is that they soak into the wood and weaken it, which causes the wood to crack and break away from where it connects to the trailer. A broken bunk is much worse than a slippery bunk when it comes to damaging your hull.

What Carpet To Use For Bunks?

Not all bunk carpet for jet skis and boats is the same. It’s also not hard to replace, just need some basic sockets and a staple gun.

Get some good quality bunk carpet*, don’t use anything but bunk carpet as it’s very different from the carpet in your home. You also want to stick to the marine bunk carpet for your jet ski, boat trailer or even boat lift.

How Often To Replace Bunk Carpet?

Ideally, you should replace the bunk carpet every 5 years or when it starts to tear.

If you’re getting a used jet ski or boat, I would replace the carpet in the winter just to start fresh. It’s a good winter project to do before you fully winterize your boat.

If you notice your bunk carpet wearing out too quick on your jet ski trailer, it could be that they’re not set up properly. The chines, the lines on the hull, should not be resting on the bunk. If your chines are resting on the bunk, it will cause grooves which will eventually cut the carpet. The bunk needs to sit between the chines.

The carpet could also be wearing out because you’re not far enough in the water and winching onto dry carpet. Either back in more or get the bunks more wet. Before you put your jet ski on the trailer, let the bunks sit in the water for a few seconds to get the fibers to loosen up.

Jet Ski Is Hard To Get Off Trailer

Many people think about getting plastic slides for their bunks when the jet ski or boat won’t come off their trailer easily.

If your jet ski won’t come off the trailer, then the jet ski or boat is not far enough in the water. You either need to back in more, go to a new ramp, or use a different vehicle.

I see people all the time not back in far enough, some won’t even get the trailer tires wet. It’s okay to get the jet ski trailer wet!

You need the fenders (the plastic wheel guards) of the jet ski trailer almost all the way underwater, as seen in this photo below. You can also see the bunks are about 75% underwater, which is another clue to use.

Of course, you need to avoid going too deep, as your vehicle could end up in the water. Sometimes your towing vehicle and the ramp are not a good match, so you must go somewhere else that is. I have a ramp near me, I refuse to go to because it’s too steep, and if you’re near a body of water, there should be plenty of ramps to pick from.

3 thoughts on “Trailer Bunk Slides vs Carpet – Jet Ski And Boat”

  1. Thanks, i have had trouble with our boat launching but wondered about the safety of the slicker material while towing. I would hate the idea of wearing a 30′ boat if i had to slam on the brakes!


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