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Unread 08-20-2007, 05:44 PM   #1
lupinsea
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Utility Trailers for my Jeep (not off-road trailer)?

Questions On Potential Small Utility Trailers

SITUATION
After figuring out that a beater pick-up truck is a no-go* I'm still looking at options to increase my load carrying capacity without having to resort to borrowing my aunt's old pick-up truck **.

One idea is to purchase*** a small utility trailer I can tow with my TJ (with it's 2000 lb. towing limit). I'd like something not too big, that I can haul some 4x8 sheets of plywood and lumber for home projects, and hopefully also some gravel or top soil for gardening projects.

A friend tipped me off to some cheap Harbor Freight trailers and the ones I have in mind are (weights listed are load capacities):

990 lb. Trailer - $240
- 48" x 96" (will hold sheet of plywood
- lightest payload of these three
- 221 lb. trailer weight
- folds up to 5.25 ft x 2 ft (good for storage of trailer)

1175 lb. Trailer - $300
- 48" x 96" size
- medium duty payload of the three, only ~ 200 lb. more than above
- 287 lb. trailer weight
- folds up to 5.25 ft x 2 ft

1700 lb. Trailer - $400
- 48" x 96" size
- highest payload of the bunch by 525 lb.
- 122 lb.
- DOES NOT fold up = 5.25 ft x 12 ft storage foot print

All of the trailers are basically frame platforms, upon which the user can throw down a sheet of plywood for the floor and set up rails for containment. But they'd get me the rolling stock, lights, hitch, tires, wheels, axle springs, etc. in a trailer form for cheap.

I like the capacity of the 1700 lb. trailer but its inability to fold up is a major draw back for me. The 1175 lb. trailer would be my next choice since it does fold (and would take up 1/6th the storage foot print) but has a slightly higher payload rating than the cheapest trailer.

Even the highest rated trailer could only hold about 2/3 of a cu yd of top soil (absoltue max) before I hit the weigh limit, The middle one would hold about 1/2 cu yard.

Harbor Freigh stuff has never been of a high quality nature and I normally don't much like it but for a basic steel frame with wheels for intermittent, occasional duty I'm wondering how badly they can screw it up.


QUESTIONS
Any suggestions on which trailer I should go with (or other trailer options)?

For the potential uses would the higher load capacity be better? Or does the folding capability for a tighter storage foot print make it worth sacrificing 500 lb. of additional load carrying? In other words, does the extra 4 1/2 cu ft (1/6 cu yd) of volume/weight capacity of the larger trailer out weigh the invconvenience of having to deal with a bulkier trailer storage issue? Would it for you if you only had a 10,000 sf lot and semi-tight parking space options?

Any insights from those with trailer experience would be helpful.

Would it be best to just stay completely away from the Harbor Freight offerings all together?

Anyone know what the speed limit rating is on these trailers?

Anyone have any experience with the HF trailers?



Thanks a bunch, guys!






* Keeping an old beater truck around the house isn't making sense due to the added (though nominal) insurance cost, additional maintenance the truck would take, extra up keep, purchase price ($3k-4k), but most especially the the limited long-term parking space.

** I burn up 4 hrs just to borrow my aunts truck when you include 2 round trips to go pick it up and then drop it off again. Not to mention fuel costs for driving the 120 miles (2 round trips) at about ~9-10 mpg. Oh, and now that it doesn't have tabs (because it won't pass emissions). . . the $24 three-day trip permits I need to get when ever I want to borrow it . . .and the time it takes to get the permits. . . .aaargh.

*** I realize I could rent a trailer when needed but it then is a convenience and time issue to go, pick it up, and deal with returning it. Plus, using the trailer at least 4-6 times in one year (easily) would pay off the buy/rent differential


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Unread 08-20-2007, 08:42 PM   #2
dl425
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Once you get a utility trailer you're going to wonder how you ever lived without one. My advice is to get a good one. I got a 5'X8' with 16" sides, mesh floor, a 3500# axle and 15" wheels. Has a payload of about 2500lbs or so. I added wood to the sides and extended them about 10" so I wouldn't have to worry so much about stuff falling out.
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Unread 08-20-2007, 09:28 PM   #3
Terrain Twister
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I'd have to agree with dl425. Pay a little extra and get a good one. Consider the extra payload capacity a safety cushion. And do yourself a favor and get one with brakes! Some will disagree and say you don't need them, but when has anyone been too safe?

I'm not sure, but I think I also read that the HF trailers have speed limits to not exceed. 45mph tops?
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Unread 08-21-2007, 01:48 AM   #4
lupinsea
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Ah.

I was able to download an instruction manual. . . yup. Trailer maximum speed = 45 mph.

I do wonder what the limiting factor is for the the folding-type trailer speed. Tires? Hub capability? Frame construction? Or dynamic stability of the whole trailer? Otherwise, it'd be a great little utility trailer.



Yeah, I'm getting annoyed that I don't have my own crap/cargo hauling abilities such as a trailer or truck and I'm seeing a small utility trailer as a good option for bulky and odd size items or messy cargo.
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Unread 08-21-2007, 02:35 PM   #5
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Check on the tire sizes and don't buy the one with 8" tires which should be the 900 lb unit. I've been using the HF 1100 lb unit with i think the 10" tires for hauling camping gear, mulch, car parts etc. and it has held up just fine (3 years). I built sides and a top for it so all my gear was secure. I even towed it up to Michigan with a 440 snowmobile on it and survived without any problems. It can handle speeds well above 45 mph. I know I've driven 75 with mine without a problem. I keep mine stored folded up next to the shed and it takes up nearly no space.
Figure out how much weight you'll be towing, what you'll be towing and will it be mostly flat towing or a lot of hills/mountains?
I'd get one with brakes if I was doing more hills/mountains along with a stronger frame.
If you are using it for an occasional trip with no significant weight then try the HF unit, but if you plan on keeping it for years and hauling anything heavy (+1000 lb) then buy a bigger stronger trailer with brakes. Don't exceed the limit of your tow vehicle.
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Unread 08-21-2007, 02:46 PM   #6
tcourdin
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I bought this 5X8 at Lowes. I bought it just to use behind the Jeep back when I drove it alot. You couldnt even tell it was back there.

Dont get one that is too heavy, I had a 6X12 with a wooden floor. It was heavy duty, but it was also very heavy and you dreaded even hooking up to it, and you could definitely tell it was back there, I sold it after I bought this one.
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Unread 08-21-2007, 04:02 PM   #7
lupinsea
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That's about the size of trailer I'd like to get, tcourdin. But I like the folding capabilities of the HF versions. Makes storage easier to deal with for an infrequently used trailer.

Idiot Magnet, thanks for your feed back. I don't have any snomobiles, ATVs or anything like that to move around but I'm figuring on using a small utility trailer similar to how you're using it: lighter weight "stuff" that won't fit in a TJ.

My biggest frustrations have been when i've needed to pick up 4x8 sheets of paneling and some small loads of lumber (6 - 10 pieces) for small projects around the house. The lumber I can "sort of" fit in the Jeep by having it stick out the back. But I'm at the complete mercy of friend's to use their trucks to get the bulkier stuff like plywood sheets.
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Unread 08-23-2007, 07:37 AM   #8
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Lupinsea, well thought out question(s) & research. Tryin to get the most for the least. Same as IdiotMagnet, I run my trailer at least 4 to 6x a month, for 20mi to 100+mi a shot. I've a HF, so I've not discredited "HF Offerings", no horror stories (cept took a while to assemble, then here and there customize to my needs).

Customize.
Besides the initial cost of a HF, you'll need to buy the floor, and build your walls to your height-needs. To me that was a positive, since went with 4' walls, and have removed the sides only twice in 5+ yrs to accomodate loads. Beware a purchase that doesn't allow modifying/increasing side wall height if your plans/needs in the future require that mod.

Folding Capacity/Footprint.
Already said, I don't fold mine up, since I'd have to dismantle/unbolt all the wood siding = :20 min beforehand, :20min afterwards. I really don't have that much time.
Side note though is any horror story of home owner associations dictating what you could/could not leave stored on your property in plain view.

Weight Capacity.
Tricky, If you plan on being prepared for the worst, 1 time out of 10?, expect to buy the larger unit. Simply put, my 670lb cap HF does what I need (IdiotMagnets capabilities). There's been three times I was worried about maxing out, being a hazard on the road, or ruining my trailer - but didn't end up ruining it. Throughout it's lifespan haven't put any repair $'s into it-but a 'spare and fastened it to the side, and switch it out once in a while. So in hasn't "Screwed Up"
Reasons for less of a wt capacity for that 1 time out of 10? 25tons of gravel is going to take a 25ton truck; hauling a 4x8 trailer of mulch myself is going to save me $30+; tonight, I'm going to save $139 by avoiding freight on a kitchen table/chair set.

So I'd say your reasons to buy are similar to what I'm describing. Oh, and when it's a 4x8 trailer-regardless which model, 4x8 ply is going to fit kity-corner-wise, or I'll take the gate off and gripe down. Y'know I forgot all about also using my HF for 10 days, 2loads a day of removing display towers for free. Hpe you can get the gist of it by me describing each load was 20 4x4x16's, or 20+ 2x6 and 2x8 by 10's each trip. I was estatic for the opportunity and the $$$ I was able to obtain in 95 plus degree weather!

Speed.
My HF is 45mph. I've ran it higher, but only - only if it wasn't a hazard to others (read: disdain for folks runnin loads wagging left and right at high speeds).

I've gotta hit up work, will edit this post again later.... good luck. Cannon.
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Last edited by Cannon; 08-23-2007 at 08:09 AM..
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Unread 08-27-2007, 05:19 PM   #9
lupinsea
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Thanks for the feedback, Cannon.

I ended up getting the 1450 GVWR 4x8 folding trailer from HF. They had it on sale at a local store for $240 so no shipping charges. It comes with 12" tires rated for 55mph.

Taking a much closer look at it the little trailer could be a good utility trailer with some extra effort.

To that end I've started assembling the trailer using the bolts to temporarily hold things in place while I weld the different sections together. So far I have the front frame section squared and welded and as well as the tongue. I feel muuuch better about the trailer having it welded together instead of bolted. Nothing to potentially come loose. By the time I'm done I should have only 3 chassis pieces: front section, rear section, and tonge with no bolt. . . . all welds.

The heat from the welds has caused the nyloc pieces on the nuts to melt a bit so I'll be removing the bolts when finished. They'd be a bit pointless on there now anyways.

Oddly enough, when the c-chanel HF frame is welded together, there is 1/2 to 1/4 the flex as the $700+ factory built, fully welded trailers available from the home improvement stores.

I'll have to figure something out for the side-walls. Might weld a nut to the inside of the frame c-chanels to make bolting together just a little easier since I'll definitely be folding up the trailer. I just don't have the space for it otherwise.. Heh heh, even at 40 min to bolt and unbolt the sidewalls it's still much less time than the 4 hrs it takes just for me to borrow my aunt's truck. Or the days it could take me to work out a schedule to borrow a friend's truck. Not to mention saving about $30 in gas for all that driving, too. Anyways, I'm thinking of calculating the weight of both gravel and top soils and making some easy reference lines on the trailer so I know how high I can safely fill it up.

If I need to modify things slightly to get the 4x8 ply to sit flat on the floor with the sides on I will. I don't forsee significant difficulty or expense with that. It may mean I weld up my own stakes with an off-set to get the actual wall panels on there but so be it. Probably won't cost more than $15 in steel.
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Unread 08-28-2007, 12:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lupinsea
Thanks for the feedback, Cannon.

I ended up getting the 1450 GVWR 4x8 folding trailer from HF. They had it on sale at a local store for $240 so no shipping charges. It comes with 12" tires rated for 55mph.
What determines the speed rating? I like the set-up of the trailer you purchased, but if I drove it at 55 mph around here I would get ran off the road. Would changing the tires increase the rating?
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Unread 08-28-2007, 09:41 PM   #11
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I think changing the tires definately would allow you to go higher speeds, however the axles, hubs, and bearings might not perform or hold up if you are increasing the weight on them. I just finished assembling my HF trailer today and was wondering how I could beef up the axle and change the hubs and everything to add bigger wheels/tires. I know they sell upgrade kits on ebay, but for $300+, I could have bought a better and stronger trailer in the first place.

For anyone else thinking about getting one, check out my thread in this same section as a few others who have them have put in their feedback.
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Unread 08-29-2007, 06:30 AM   #12
Cannon
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Another 'mod is fabbing or picking up a rubber coated handle to bolt in alongside the tongue for easier lifting on/off the tow ball.
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Unread 08-30-2007, 05:55 AM   #13
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I bought this from Northern Tools. It's a 4 X 6 and has 12" tires. I built a little gate for it already and plan on changing tire sizes. The thing about this trailer is I had to buy a smaller ball for the hitch and a large drop down hitch as well. I know when I get bigger tires put on it will change up a little. I actually have been thinking about putting 33's on it since I have two spares and 3 Jeep rims. I bought it to haul my camping gear and tires to the trail when I'm not towing it.

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Unread 08-30-2007, 04:29 PM   #14
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JrXtJ, I think the upgrade kits for the HF trailers are a bit of overkill. As you said, when you add the cost of the trailer, the cost of the upgrade kit, you're pretty much at the cost of a fully welded, higher capacity trailer.


Nice trailer, DogHouse. It's a good size but I wanted something I could carry 4x8 sheets of plywood with at at 6 ft that'd be having a bit too much for my comfort hanging off the end. Still, looks like it fits everything you want to carry!



My understanding is that there's a combination of factors that relate to trailer speed ratings:

Tires
The larger the tire the more heat it can absorb (to a certain extend) which helps keep the tire cooler while it rolls. Also, the larger the tire/wheel, the greater the circumference and the slower it actually turns to cover the same road distance in a given time period.

Regarding the HF trailers, the 8" wheels/tires are rated for a 45 mph max speed and the 12" wheels/tires are rated for a 55 mph max speed.

Can you exede these ratings? Probably but there are safety factors which relate to those ratings. Any speed beyond that is probably going to be pushing your luck on safe operation of the trailer.

Hubs
Another issue is the quality and design of the hub itself. The hub is the mechanical device that actuall has metal-on-metal moving parts. . . the wheel simply bolts to one side of the hub.

Again, with smaller wheels the hub is having to rotate faster for a given road speed compared to larger wheel.

However, it's not simply a matter of bolting on larger wheels to a hub as the hub needs to be design to take the increase weight and leverage of the wheel/tire.

Likewise, hubs (like chassis, tires, and wheels) are designed to take certain loads for their rated capacities and while there are saftey factors invovled it's not a good idea to exede these rated limits.

Axle
The hubs and wheels are carried by the axle and so the axle needs to be designed to carry the necessary loads. With the HF folding trailers the max rated load cap is 1450 lb. And looking at the axle I believe it. It's basically a VERY heavy guage bent, open u-chanel. Despite the heavy gauge of steel, the open u-chanel design is much weaker than if a roude, larger diameter tube or square tube would have been used.

I'm sure its fine for the HF trailer weight rating but not much beyond that.

Chassis
And of course, all of these things bolt to the trailer's chassis. Based on my observations of the kit it the HF trailer steels seems fine for it's intended load rating. But it's a reasonabl light guage of steel and I wouldn't put too much weight in the trailer.



If you really want to have a higher capacity trailer, DON"T get the HF folding trailer. it's a light duty utility trailer and that's it. You can haul a some junk, modest loads of lumber, crap to haul to the dump, yard waste, some motor bikes (if they can fit) ATVs and stuff like that. But it's not meant for heavy duty stuff.

If you want a HD trailer, HF sells a stronger, non-folding trailer for around $400 (basically same as the folding trailer but it does not fold).

Or, you can shell out around $700 and get a pre-assembled, fully welded, 2000 lb. GVRW trailer from lowes. They'll have a 1650 lb. payload, built-in loading ramp with good latches and are pre-wired and ready to haul with 12-13" wheels.

The only reason I'm going to the efford to weld my chassis is for the peace of mind it'll give me. I just didn't want to rely on a fully bolt-together chassis. I'm also going to be fabricating my own hinges since I don't like the HF single-shear design. But apart from that not much else will be altered and I fully figure on only carrying the recommended load capacity and sticking to the speed ratings. My primary reasons for going with the HF design are:
  • It was cheap ($240)
  • It had sufficient cargo capacity (note, not abundant, "sufficient")
  • It folds up for reasonably compact storage
  • And it was cheap, did I mention that?
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Unread 09-04-2007, 12:10 PM   #15
Glenn J
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I've got a HF 4x8 trailer I use to tow my 2003 Yamaha Wolverine. I've towed many times around and a little above 70 MPH. (I have the trailer with the larger wheels/tires) The hubs and tires are never that hot after I arrive. Granted, I'm on the highway for 40-90 minutes...depending where I'm riding. But so far, so good.
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