Mini Harbor Freight (type) Trailer Ultimate Build-Up Thread
Lets face it, there's only so much you can fit in the back of a Jeep, even with the rear seat removed. Some folks get pretty creative with Rubbermaid tubs and trays and such, but bottom line space is limited.
One option is to get a trailer. My goal for this thread is to discuss how a little 4' Harbor Freight-type trailer can be used and improved upon to be pulled behind a Jeep. I will provide pictures, part numbers, prices (to the best of my ability), measurements, internet links, suggestions (etc.), and will be using my little trailer as an example. Lets have fun with this.
A couple of disclaimers:
1. I am an Army Nurse - not a trailer salesman. I have no financial interests in any companies I may mention or provide links to, other than I may have purchased from them.
2. The owner of the trailer assumes any risk that may result from modifying their little trailer from how it came from the factory.
3. Sometimes over time the links I've posted stop working. You'll have to try googling it then. If you've got a question about a link and you can't get to it send me a PM.
Subsequent postings on this thread will include:
Define and give examples of a little trailer.
What other options are out there besides these little trailers?
What needs to be done to a little trailer after I buy it?
Tires - going larger - how big?
Axle - going wider - how wide do I need?
Raising or changing out fenders.
Spare tire mounts.
Options for the hitch mount.
Gas can mounts.
Cargo box options and ideas.
Modifying the suspension.
Off we go!
Table of Contents
Edit 1 September 2014: Since this thread had become quite long, I have made a sort-of "Table of Contents" to break it down into subjects. This is not all-inclusive, nor does it imply that the way I did things is the only way to do it. When it gives a page number, there may be more than one post on that page related to the topic. A couple times I give a "Post" number - that probably means there's a link on that post for you to go to. And definitely read through the first few pages first.
Spare tire mount: Page 1
Mounting a wider axle: Page 2
Wider wheel option: Page 109, 112, 113, Post #1625
Ammo can mount: Page 8
Kolpin can mounting: Page 1, 8, 9, 106
2" front receiver mount: Page 9, 10, 15, 43, 67, 68
2" receiver tongue bolt: Page 11, 43
Vinyl tub liner: Page 11
How much stuff can a little 4' trailer hold: Page 19 (Post #273)
Suspension swap (longer springs with shackles): Page 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 74
Using factory Jeep rims on a HF trailer (and hub related stuff): Post #306, #704, #719, Page 47
Home made 3-axis coupler: Post #328
Bear box: Page 28
Calculating axle width for your trailer's wheels/tires: Page 29
Shortening/narrowing a HF 4x8' trailer: Post #459 on page 31 (thanks jscherb)
Diamond plate trailer tub: Page 36, 37, 46, 80, 81, 85, 86, 89, 92, 94, 96, 97, 98, 100, 101, 105, 106, 121
Epic fail (and fix): Page 51, 59
Tongue extension/frame reinforcement: Page 62, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 90, 105, 112, 118
Trailer tongue tray: Page 68, 70, 104, 112
Mud flaps: Page 112
Quick fists: Page 114, 119
Shock absorber mounts: Page 141, 142
I'm really interested in seeing what you are going to do or have done with the trailer. I have though about going this route with one of the HF small trailers so I can haul stuff easier when I go camping.
I have heard a couple horror stories about them including one guy (believe it was on here) who was towing one down a slightly muddy road. The suction of the mud apparently caused the trailer tongue to start to twist.
Granted I wouldn't expect these trailers to be super strong and sturdy, but I do wonder how much abuse they can stand up to.
For this thread, these little trailers are defined as advertised or sold as "mini trailers" or "4-foot trailers" in which you have to put together. They are often sold at Harbor Freight, Northern Tool & Equipment, or from a multitude of places on line. They generally just include the frame, springs, axle, wiring/lights, and wheels & tires. No flooring or sides are included.
Generally, the ones sold at Harbor Freight are red in color, and have a frame size of 40 or 40.5" x 48", and come with either 8" rims or 12" rims. We'll call these the "Red Trailers". If you Google "Harbor Freight Trailers", you'll easily find them. They run about $180 - $250 depending on if you're getting one with 8" or 12" rims. Often times you'll catch them on sale, and Harbor Freight is always posting coupons for 20% or more off on a purchase, and they'll often times have them in stock in their larger stores. Other places besides Harbor Freight will sell these Red trailers too.
The others are usually black in color, and have a frame size of 40" x 50", and also come with either 8" or 12" rims. We'll call these the "Black Trailers". Notice the black trailer has two additional pieces of metal coming from the front of the trailer forming a "V", and the tongue is about 10" longer compared to the red trailer. If you google "LCI-832T" (with 8" tires) or "LCI-832TA" (with 12" tires) you'll get multiple hits for the black trailer. Prices will vary greatly between $240 - $500, so shop around. Here's a place or two that seem to have them on the more inexpensive side: http://www.iowaboys.com/utiktrlkit/utiltrlkit.htm and http://www.deiequipment.com/s.nl/it.A/id.10521/.f (google deiequipment.com)
My trailer I ordered on-line from Harbor Freight about two years ago, but they no longer carry it. It is a "U.S. General, A-Tongue Trailer, Model 02575". I think it's just an LCI-832TA that Harbor Freight put their own part number on. Mine came with the metal floor as part of the package though (more on flooring later). This is the trailer I'll be using as an example for this trailer thread - a "Black Trailer", although other than the Black trailer's bed area being about 2" longer than the Red trailer and having a longer tongue, everything else we talk about will be the same between the Red and the Black trailers.
We'll be talking about tires and axles later, but let me mentions this now. If you're not planning on putting larger tires on your trailer, go with the 12" tires. You'll have a little better ground clearance under the trailer axle, and the bearings won't be spinning as fast on the highway as they will be with the 8" tires, and you won't be needing as much as a dropped hitch. If you're going to modify your trailer with larger tires, why pay the extra for the 12" tires? Go with the 8" tires - I don't think the trailer springs are any different between the two versions (8" or 12"). Or if you plan on changing out the suspension later for longer springs with a shackle you can save some money by starting out with the 8" tire version.
Edit: According to one of my sources, the springs are different - they're a two-leaf on the trailers with 8" tires, and a three-leaf on the trailers with 12" tires. And the fenders may be smaller on the trailers with the 8" tires too. At least for the black trailers - don't know if the same applies to the Red ones.
Even better would be if you could purchase the trailer minus the axles and tires. It wouldn't hurt to ask when you're shopping around. Shipping would be less, and why pay for something you're not going to use?
What other options are out there besides these little trailers?
Some of the things I like about these mini trailers are:
1. They're lightweight. My TJ has a four cylinder engine, and isn't really rated to tow that much.
2. They're small(er). My trailer spends most of its time in the garage between the kids' bikes and the recyling bins (sad, I know).
3. They're inexpensive. I don't have a lot of money to spend on something that spends most if its life parked in the garage.
But there are other options out there:
1. An honest-to-goodness old Army trailer like an M-100 or an M-416. Maybe you're one of those lucky types that finds a bargain on Craigslist and scores a pristine one for $500. Most of us aren't that lucky. What most folks find are very used ones that "need a little bit of work". You can spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to fix the rust, paint, rewire, change out hubs or axle & hubs to match your Jeep's bolt pattern, etc. They do look cool though. But they're heavy, and you either need to run a pintle hitch on your Jeep, or modify the trailer's tongue to match your Jeep.
2. Adventure Trailer makes a really nice looking trailer (http://www.adventuretrailers.com/page/trailers/chaser/). The Chaser model is more in line of the military type trailers. Awesome trailer - very state-of-the-art. This is a trailer you'd want if you were going to take a few months to go to South America. They make a fold-out tent you can put on the top along with a ton of accessories. Prices start at $6387.00. Ouch. They're also very heavy.
3. Sierra4x4 also makes a very nice trailer (http://www.sierra4x4trailers.com/). Another awesome trailer - not as high-tech as the Adventure Trailer (leaf springs instead of airbag suspension for one thing) but looks just as sturdy. This is another trailer that if you were going on a South American journey would be a great option. Actually, its simplicity (compared to the Adventure Trailer) to me makes it even more attractive. And you can get fold-out tents and optional accessories just like the Aventure Trailer. Prices start at $3495.00. And it's also a heavy trailer.
3. Varozza Trailers (http://varozza4x4.com/jeeptrailers.aspx) makes a trailer out of aluminum. Not near as high-tech as the above two or having as many options, but it's also lighter in weight, which is a plus for us four-cylinder Jeep owners. Prices start at $2995.00.
4. Pike's Peak Trailer (http://pikespeaktrailers.com/) makes a nice looking trailer, and they were recently having a trailer give-away contest on this forum. Nice looking trailer with the option of wooden sides, and also doesn't seem as heavy as the first two. Prices starts at $2995.00.
These four trailers all seem to be very high quality trailers, and other than their increased weight (and varying levels of cost) I can't think of anything bad to say about them. If you've got the money and a six-cylinder (or greater -at least for the first two trailers) Jeep go for it!
And I'll toss these options out because I can and someone might find them interesting:
The first two new trailers mentioned (Adventure and Sierra) have tub floor measurement of 41" x 72" for a total of 2952 square inches. The Varozza trailer has a tub floor measurement of 48" x 60" for a total of 2880 square inches, and the Pikes Peak trailer has a tub floor of 36" x 60" for a total of 2160 square inches. The little trailers we'll be talking about and modifying have a tub floor measurement of 1920 - 2000 square inches. So we're talking about two-thirds the floor capacity compared to the first three trailers referenced above, and just shy of the Pikes Peak trailer.
You should be able to get a little trailer modified with larger tires (and the needed wider axle) for under $1000.00 if you plan it right. I don't plan on taking a months-long trip to South America. I'm not planning on running the Rubicon with it. It's mainly to haul a bunch of camping gear to the trailhead, or carry my stuff to Moab.
What needs to be done to a little trailer after I buy it?
As mentioned previously, these trailers come just as a frame and running gear - you have to put it all together. You'll have to put the hubs on the axles, but otherwise it's all bolt together. Then you need to add flooring and sides (purchased separately). Of course you'll also have to register it and get tags.
Flooring: Only limited by your imagination and how much you want to spend. If you get the Red trailer, you're on your own - they don't sell any flooring that I know of. If you've got access to some thick aluminum diamond plate you can put that down. Most folks put down a sheet of plywood. If you're going to go this route, do it right. Get at least a 1/2" thick sheet (although 5/8" or 3/4" would be better). You'll have to cut out cut-outs for the stake pockets, and drill a bunch of holes to bolt it to the frame (for both the plywood or the diamond plate). Not technically difficult; you just need a hand drill and a small jigsaw. And if going with plywood, either get pressure treated plywood or stain/seal it well and put on a few coats of outdoor varnish (on the top, sides, and bottom of the wood) before bolting it to the trailer frame. So figure flooring into the cost of your trailer - wood (or diamond plate) and hardware.
The Black trailers have the option of purchasing some steel diamond plate (runs about $95.00) for flooring. If you google "LCI-832T" (or LCI-832TA) they'll list it as an accessory. Find out if it includes the hardware to bolt it down. And of course, you can go the lumber route the same as the Red trailers.
Again, for the Red trailer, I haven't found any pre-made sides. Generally what you have to do is use 1"x4" lumber (that's what fits in the stake pockets to make vertical stakes), and then put some sort of horizontal slats on the sides (I used 1"x4" lumber as seen in the picture below) or plywood to make more of a solid side. Some folks have used tongue-and-grooved boards for the sides. Your imagination and woodworking skills are your only limits here. And again, if going with lumber, use either pressure treated, or stain/seal the wood and put a few good coats of outdoor varnish on the lumber.
The black trailers have the option of metal stake sides, and a metal trailer box. Again, if you google "LCI-832T" (or LCI-832TA) they'll list these as an accessory. The metal stake sides run around $129, and the trailer box runs around $155 (but I don't know how sturdy the metal box is). The following are some pictures of metal flooring, stake sides, and trailer box.
If anyone gets a Black trailer and wants the lumber measurements from what I did on my trailer for the sides send me a PM.
Even the largest of these mini-trailer factory tire options aren't that big. The 4.80x12" tires on a 12" x 4" wide rim are only 20" tall. This makes the clearance under the trailer axle of 9". Using my TJ as a reference with an RE 3.5" lift and 285/75/16" (33") tires, the clearance under my Dana 44's pumpkin is 9.5". And these trailers come with a 4-on-4" bolt pattern on their axle.
With these 4.80x12" tires (and I would expect the same with the 4.80x8" tire) and the factory width axle, it leaves about 1" of clearance between the side of the tire and the side (frame) of the trailer. Not a lot of room for a wider tire and rim.
The largest wheel you can get with a 4-on-4" bolt pattern is a 13" rim (and it's about 4.5" wide). A common trailer tire size is a 175/80/13" tire (around 24" tall). Would that fit on a factory axle? Maybe, but the tire would be awfully close to the trailer frame; too close for my taste; but tow your trailer to Walmart and see if they'll let you do a test-fit in the parking lot. It would raise the trailer up 2", and increase your trailer axle clearance 2" (now up to 11"). I'm just mentioning this in case someone was thinking about this as an option. If a trailer place would let you try mounting a four-hole 13" rim and tire on your trailer as a test-fit give it a shot. I wouldn't go spending the money for the wheels and tires to find out later they don't fit.
Any larger size wheels need a 5 on 4.5" bolt pattern, and I'm not even going to talk about 14" wheels; I'm going to go straight to 15" tires and rims. And you'll be needing a wider axle from here-on-out (we'll talk more about this later).
The next larger size tire is a 205/75/15" tire, and I'll only be talking about trailer tires - not passenger car tires. A 205 tire is about 27.4" tall and about 7.7" wide. These are usually put on a 15x5" rim. The tires I purchased are Loadstar Bias Ply ST205/75/D15 load range C from http://www.etrailer.com/Tires-and-Wheels/Kenda/AM1ST92.html mounted on a set of Dexstar 15x5" rims http://www.dexstarwheel.com/products.html#changer. The tires were about $75.00 each, and the wheels were about $40.00 each. I wanted black spoke rims to match my Jeep's rims. I ordered three wheels and tires from etrailer.com for about $347.00 (free shipping for orders over $150). I still had to get them mounted and balanced, so that cost a few cents under $40. Unfortunately etrailer.com accidently sent me silver rims instead of black, so we made a price adjustment, and I'll be running silver rims instead of black; they were very pleasant about the whole thing. If you're not as picky about your rims as I am, you can maybe get them cheaper (and already mounted) from places such as http://recstuff.com/ST205/75D-15TrailerTireLoadRangeCon5BoltSilverSpokeTrailerWh ee.aspx or your local trailer place. This size rim and tire are very common. This size tire will increase your clearance under your trailer's axle to just over 13" (remember, the lowest point on my Jeep's Dana 44 with 33" tires is about 9.5").
The next larger size trailer tire is a 225/75/15" tire, and it measures at about 28.1" tall and about 8.4" wide. These are usually put on a 15x6" rim. I didn't think the added cost per tire (compared to the 205/75/15" tire) was worth the small amount of increase in height. And I think anything a lot larger than this your trailer is going to start looking like it's on steroids - dare I say look like a freak? And we haven't even addressed the wider axle and fender issues yet. A 235/75/15" tire on a 6 or 7" rim would look nice and large on a little 4' trailer without being oversized (or overly stressing the spring mounts).
Someone may ask "but why don't you make it so you CAN use your Jeep's tires on the trailer; that way you only have to carry one spare? Besides the "steroids" thing, that's a lot more trailer weight for your Jeep to be pulling (I at least am trying to keep my trailer's weight and cost down while lifting it), if I'm out in the boonies I want a little bit of redundancy built into my equipment I'll take a spare for the Jeep and one for the trailer thank-you. You'd also need a more HD axle like in the 3500 lb range (more money), plus it might just overtax the lighter-weight metal used in these mini-trailers. I guess you can do whatever you want, but in the interest of keeping the trailer cost and weight down, I'd skip the super large tires on a little trailer such as this - you're still going to have more clearance under the trailer axle with a 205 tire (just under 13") than you would on your Jeep with even a 35" tire (figure about 10.5" - 11" with a Dana 44). Also go too large a trailer tire and you'll be hitting the tail light assemblies.
Today I also ordered three black chrome center caps for the wheels from http://recstuff.com/319-Chrome-Center-Cap-Black.aspx (including shipping $24.00). I still need to find some black lug nuts to match, so add the cost of center caps and lug nuts to your trailer's cost if you want them on your trailer. You don't have to run with a center cap, and chrome lug nuts are cheap.
Here is a picture of a 175/80/13" tire beside a 4.80x12" tire (taken at Walmart while they were mounting and balancing my 205/75/15" tires), and a few shots of my new 205/75/15" tires beside my trailer's 4.8x12" tires. And you'll be able to see how my trailer becomes the "box storage unit" when parked in the garage. And you can also tell how the new tires look a LOT larger than the factory 12" tires & rims.
The factory axle's spring center to spring center measurement is 38.5". The factory axle's hubface-to hubface measurement is 47.25". That gives you 1" of tire-to-frame clearance with a 4.8x12" tire. With a 175/80/13" tire you'll about cut that in half; too close for me.
With a 205/75/15" tire it's just a little over 2" wider than the 4.8x12" tire, so with half of that outside the tire and half of that inside the tire (by the frame) you'd pretty much be rubbing the frame even if you did have a matching bolt pattern. So to add an inch just for the tire clearance (on each side - that's two more inches) and add another inch on each side to account for possible tire flex (two more inches) you're now looking at four more inches, or a 51.25" hubface to hubface wide axle. Which is what I ordered today from http://www.easternmarine.com/shop/ . With shipping (to WA state) it came to about $221. I also ordered a spare hub and bearing set (included in that $221 price).
My soapbox - always carry a spare trailer tire, and if you're venturing far from home, carry a spare hub and bearing set. Of course if you're a real Jeeper you're already carrying enough tools in your Jeep to change them out if you have to along the side of the road. The money you spend on a spare trailer tire and hub/bearing set now will seem very cheap and well spent if you have a trailer flat or bearing go bad out in BFE.
EDIT: please note - if these links do not work (or any links for parts provided in this thread), just google the name and part-numbers (copy and paste into google) and it should take you to it. If not, send me a PM and I'll help you out.
It was nice to be able to talk to a person at Eastern Marine. I found one place on-line that was slightly cheaper, but I emailed them the day before and got no response, and I could not find a phone number for them. I'd rather order from a place where I can talk to a person if I have a question or problem with my order.
I ordered this specific axle for a couple of reasons:
1. I did the math and measuring, and it should be plenty wide enough without being too wide for the tires I bought (205/75/15).
2. It's a square tube axle. The factory axle is a square tube. I should be able to re-use the factory square axle to spring mounting hardware (save a few bucks)
3. The new axle is already set-up for mounting to a 38.5 spring center set-up. If I had gone with a round axle, I would have needed to get the spring mounts welded on (I don't have a welder, so that's an added expense, but not really an expensive one).
If I had needed a slightly wider axle (or had gone with a 225/75/15" tire) I would have gone with this axle http://www.easternmarine.com/52-Round-Tube-Straight-Trailer-Axle-2200-lb/ but you need to order the hubs and such separate (no big deal - order three so you have a spare). It's a round axle, and would need the spring perches welded on. If for some reason I still need to go wider this axle will be my next choice.
So until my axle arrives I'm in a holding pattern - hopefully they'll all get delivered next week. I'll be going to a 4WD swap meet tomorrow, and hopefully I'll be able to get a TJ factory spare tire carrier to mount the spare to the trailer. So once the axle gets here I'll do a write-up and post pictures of the modifications.
Please let me know if you have any comments or questions. If this is helpful to anyone let me know, and you do some similar modifications to your own mini trailers please post pictures of what you've done with a small write-up.
Thanks for the time and links, in about a month I'll be building a trailer as well but have been looking on CL & side of the road for a flat trailer bed to modify that isn't beat to death. Another thought is to check local boat building companies as they can build a trailer frame to your specs for around $200 with sealed hubs.
Old enough to know better, still young enough to do it.
1994 YJ to give the 89' company.
"At this time the trailers can only be sold as a complete unit. The warehouse is telling me this is because that is the way they are designed and have been approved for sale. I suppose there is no reason that you cannot make the changes you are wanting to do and then possibly putting the unused parts on ebay or craig's list to resell.
The frame for both is the same. The 832T (8" tires) has 2-leaf springs, the 832TA (12" tires) has 3-leaf springs and wider fenders for the larger 12" tires".
So I was wrong about the springs being the same for both the 8" trailers and 12" trailers. At least for these Black trailers.
I picked up a TJ spare tire carrier at the swap meet yesterday for $5.00. I've already drilled the needed holes in the trailer boards, and ordered a 12g sheet of metal for the inside of the trailer to sandwich the wooden slats between the steel plate and tire carrier. UPS expects to deliver my axle next Monday (a week from today). I will update when I have something new to report.
THANKS armyRN for both your military service and for posting the links for those trailer axles!! I've been thinking about making a trailer to pull behind my Jeep and one of those axles is just the ticket.
Great thread and nice job on fixing up that little trailer of yours.
I got a TJ spare tire carrier at a swap meet for $5.00. Then I got a piece of 12 gauge steel 15" x 15" and had a 90 degree bend put in 5/8" from one end. I drilled a few extra holes in the spare tire carrier, and measured and drilled the wood and the metal. The steel plate was about $30.00, and 16 stainless steel bolts/washers/nylocks was another few dollars. The pictures should explain it. I have the tire resting on the trailer beam so the weight is not being supported just by the wood. And if you're observant, you'll notice I have the spare tire mount mounted upside down. If I had mounted it right side up, some of the mounting holes would be between the wooden slats.
This is a Kolpin gas can. I think I paid about $50.00 for the can and mounts about a year ago, and have been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since. I mounted it on the back of the trailer. I had to do quite a bit of work with some additional pieces of wood (with some thin steel plates mounted between the boards for additional support) but it worked out. Like the spare tire, the gas can isn't fully supported just by the wood; there are two Harbor Freight tow-bar brackets mounted to the back of the trailer that the gas can will sit upon. Hopefully the pictures will help tell the story.
if you have to change axles you mite as well build it from scratch.
I have looked high and low and could find nothing to suit my needs and will be building one from scratch.
getting a quote for an axle,springs,tongue and lights from a vendor on pirate. will have a build thread here in a few weeks.
If he is to expensive I will just go to tractor supply for the parts.