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New Off-Road Trailer w/Pictures

67489 Views 159 Replies 47 Participants Last post by  grogie
Off-Road Trailer w/Pictures

First, I have to give props to Scott Morris at Sunfire Off-road (Sunman, IN - 812-623-3473). Last December I had asked him if he had an interest in building me an off-road box trailer. Scott has worked on my Jeep on several earlier occasions, and he's always done great work. Well fortunately he did agree to build the trailer, and I just returned home with it.

The build included tires to match my TJ (32" MT/Rs), black Eagle alloy wheels, 3' x 5' x 20" box, hydraulic assisted lid, tailgate, custom built 3500# axle with ultra-lube hubs, leaf springs and shocks, electric trailer brakes with 7-way plug, battery box with cigarette lighter plug-in, gas can holder, and painted with a bed-liner. I also asked to have plenty of tie-downs.

Last fall I had installed a 7-way wiring harness for an LJ. (Which for my '06 TJ, the harness had to be hooked into the drivers side tail light, and as well to switch the left and right blinker wires at the harness 7-way plug to work… As otherwise the left-right blinkers were crossed... And again thanks to Scott for helping with this :D.) I also had installed a Prodigy P2 brake controller, and I bought a cushioned long ball mount with a 4" drop to clear my TJ's spare tire.

So towing it about 90 miles home, my TJ didn't seem to feel it at all on the highway (other then when I hit a few hard bumps or just a bouncy road surface). I don't know what the weight is, but I can easily unhook it and push it around so it's pretty light weight. Yet it is very solid built. :thumbsup:

And now for the pictures...

Shows up fine in my rear mirrors:

Easily pushed it into my garage.

My long term objective with this trailer is tow it out west for camping trips (as camping with a TJ is otherwise rather minimalistic).

I'll update this thread from time to time with modifications and trips. Once I get it licensed I'll tow it out to the Badlands and give it a try off-road.

Thanks for looking. :wave:

EDIT: A couple of pictures I had on my iPhone from when picking it up.

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Thanks for the update and the pictures. I'm in the process of building a trailer that is very similar.

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So I towed the trailer out to my mom's garage to park it in, about 45 miles from home. I filed up each time to check mpg, and I had 13.25 with the trailer, and 15.25 on the return trip. Speed was doing 60 to 75 mph. I almost think my Jeep is a little more stable on the road with the trailer behind it? (Not that my Jeep is unstable, just that it gets pushed around by wind easily.)
Funny you mention the improved stability while pulling a trailer: We recently pulled an enclosed trailer (6x10) to Moab and back (1400 miles) and I swear the Jeep was more stable myself.

Great trailer build!!!

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Looks good! I need to build one of these asap! :D
Wow! Impressive.

what are the box dimensions, trailer dimensions and the approximate cost of the trailer?

How can I reach the builder? I'm in StL, not that far.

I wonder if:

1] it can have a tail-gate at front and back [to haul long stuff]

2] a rack on top to haul kayaks

3] how much it weights

4] it'd still be 'manageable' if it didn't have trailer brakes?

5] what I should ask but didn't?


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^Thanks John for the comments!

The box is about 3' x 5' x 20". I'll have to keep the $ figure to myself. If you're interested in Scott building you one, I'd ask that you talk to him. It's a custom built trailer. Plus I think he did a great job as it's so well built, and for the work they put in it I think it was a fair price, especially considering I could not build it myself.

1) Yes, it could have a tailgate in front as well, but that wouldn't allow for a rack in front. I have purchased a real red Jerry can for my front rack. I have also purchased a similar sized Igloo water container for the rack when I don't think I'm going to need the gas can.

2) Yes, kayaks could be mounted (I thought about that as well). I'm thinking to spend the money next year on a roof top tent instead (as I'm going to Moab in 2014).

3) I haven't weighed it, but check out my video link on page one as it's easy enough for me to move it around by myself. I hardly notice it behind my TJ.

4) I don't know what you're driving, but with a lifted TJ and having weight in it, and going up and down hills I'd prefer brakes. Having brakes on it and a brake control is just cool. I can easily adjust the brake controller and lock up the trailer's tires to where they chirp! I think that will be helpful in the mountains.

Other then that, here are my latest two purchases:

Last Friday UPS dropped off the Blue-Top battery, and then today I received a power inverter. I really don't think I have a great need for extra power, but why not? This will run some extra lights, charge the iPhone, etc., etc. The battery will be hooked up to the Jeep through the 7-way wiring harness. I've been thinking about how to vent the battery for safety, being that it's going to be in an enclosed box. I found a chromed brass gas tank vent fitting for a boat that I think will work. With this I'll run a tube from the battery box up and out the side of the trailer (I'll have to drill a small hole for the vent fitting).

I was also thinking about building a wood kitchen box that would slide out the back of the tailgate, however a hard sided box just doesn't conform to available space (as we all know from packing the back of a Jeep :laugh:), so I found a really nice large compartment soft sided case that has three modular storage cases that fit inside (it's built for the back of an SUV). This will serve as my misc. camping gear and kitchen box.

I've also bought a small carrying case for security stuff. My keyed alike locks showed up, one heavy duty chain, and the coupler lock.

I've bought some other trailer/camping stuff that is currently hiding in boxes under my Jeep, away from my wife's eyes. :shhh:

Anyway, I'll take some more pictures as I further get stuff in place.
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Here is the Blue-Top battery that is now installed There was already a positive wire running from the 7-way plug into the box, so I connected that. I also drilled a screw into the floor (above the tongue) to ground the battery. I then hooked up an 800 watt power inverter. I may mount the inverter directly on top of the battery box. The inverter has two outlets, plus a USB outlet to charge my iPhone/ iPad. In the second picture, here is what I'm going to use to vent the battery.

And an Igloo water container in the same shape as a Jerry can to sit in the front rack. (I'll probably use this more then the red Jerry can I bought.)

I also found some decent battery powered lights at Lowes that I stuck onto the inside of the top.

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So after work yesterday I took the trailer for a drive. Again, it just tows great! The brake controller is really kind of cool. It's got an emergency handle on it to engage the trailer's brakes without touching the Jeep's brake peddle.

I also checked the blue-top battery's voltage before hooking up the trailer to the Jeep, and it read 12.1 volts. I then hooked up the trailer and turned the Jeep on, and the volts went up to 13.2, so there is power coming back from the Jeep. :thumbsup: After I towed it around for about a half an hour, after unplugging the trailer, the battery was at 13.3 volts. :thumbsup:

I'm still considering my battery venting options. I've read a lot of opinions about venting batteries, which is a good thing of course, even with an Optima/AGM battery. I kind of hate the thought of putting holes in the side of my trailer for vent tubes, as it's an airtight box. This trailer will see plenty of dusty, dirt roads... so I'm now thinking about moving the battery box to the tongue like most trailers?

Also, I was just looking at jscherb's thread on his fiberglass Jeep tub trailer, and I really like his larger rack on the front. So I may have to modify mine...
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Lastest updates...

I have installed a trailer battery charging module. This is pretty cool! Not only will it isolate the trailer and vehicle batteries when not charging, but it also won't start charging the trailer's battery until the vehicle's battery is fully charged, and then it will cut off charging the trailer's battery once it's fully charged. Nice! (I mounted it on the side of the battery box.)

Secondly, I had a battery switch that I had bought sometime ago for my Jeep that I never installed. The above module of course should do it's job, but I decided to go ahead and also install this switch on my trailer as just a backup to manually isolate the batteries. (It's mounted on top of the battery box.)

The trailer is NOW trail rated. :shhh:

I also found this cool net for the top of the trailer. I will probably place a large duffle bag on top with outdoor chairs, etc. I'll also use some other straps, but this net will be nice to have. It has plastic clips, that fit perfectly with the tie down loops on the lid. Another nice!

Next month I'm off the Michigan U.P. for a camping trip, including to visit Drummond Island. The trailer is mostly packed and ready to go. It's awesome having all that extra room as I'll be living big in the woods.
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Here are some pictures from yesterday as the trailer is mostly packed up! I've done my best to organize it so that everything has it's place and is easy to find. I have to say it's been fun to outfit it! Currently I have two four-galloon water jugs inside. I no longer have the original rack on the front, but I'll have to build a new one as I'd rather have the jugs outside (and this will help as next year I want to go to Moab). But being inside they'll work for now.

I also took it for test pull yesterday through the country. Although I have a cushioned ball mount, with the added weight on the tongue, it doesn't jerk much at all. It tows great!

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Nice Trailer! I'm a few weeks into mine. You have a lot of great features on yours.

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I just returned from the trailer's maiden voyage for a vacation/ camping trip to the Michigan UP.

Here are my observations after a 1500 mile tow with my two door, 3 inch + lifted TJ.
1) I'm again sold on electric trailer brakes with a controller in the Jeep. After the first rain storm, I noted that I had the controller turned up a little too high as the wet brakes were making the trailer's brakes easily lock up. So I adjusted the controller down due to the trip's damp weather conditions.

2) My Jeep stops better with the trailer in tow!

3) The trailer felt good as it followed the Jeep smoothly with no sway. On two lane country roads and dirt roads, the trailer felt great behind my Jeep.

4) The trailer's tire PSI was too high to begin with. It was set a 25, and when loaded and driving off of a dirt road onto paved, I noticed that the outside of the MTR's lugs were not showing wear (like doing a chalk test), so I lowered the PSI to 20.

5) On the interstates (mostly on the way home), I could do 70 mph, but chose to keep it down to 65 mph. I felt better about keeping the Jeep and trailer in the lane when hitting rough patches of road. Outside of Lansing, the highway was very "wavy" to where semi trailers in front of me were bouncing, and so were my Jeep and the trailer. We all slowed down to 55 mph for about 5 miles. I'm not saying that the Jeep is unstable, just that you know that they get pushed around easy from wind, bumps in the road, acts of God, you name it!

6) Passing semis from the other direction didn't move the trailer around at all.

7) I don't have a clue what the trailer weighs, but I can still move it around by hand when it's loaded, but still, I don't think I'd want to tow much more then it weighs. (Say 600 lbs.?) I'd never attempt to tow at the TJ's max tow weight. (As I had stuff in my Jeep as well, and my wife.)

8) The TJ's 4.0 tows a lot better then my wife's KJ with it's 3.7. I kept off the overdrive for the entire trip, and even experienced a record 14.7 mpg on one trip that was mostly 55 mph on a two-lane road. The 4.0 has lots of grunt and never sounded like it was running too hard.

9) Due to the cool weather (in the 60s mostly), I did not hear the Derale transmission cooler that I had installed last year run at all on this trip.

10) The weight of the trailer brought down the back end of the Jeep by 1/2". Should I consider 1/2" spacers in the rear if I tow a lot more? I did not feel like the front was pointing to the sky at all. (I have OME HD springs.)

11) Having the extra room that this trailer has brought is great! Everything but my cooler in this picture below came from inside the trailer. :thumbsup:

12) Having additional battery power is a nice option. I didn't use it for more then charging iPhones and my MacBook for this trip, but it's still nice to have. What else can I power?

And... the best fresh white fish can be found at Brown's in Paradise, MI. But note that if they don't have a good morning's catch, then they won't open for the day. :wave:

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Great write up. Thanks for sharing. Ive got plans as well to do this as well. Planning on doing a Wrangler tub trailer. But narrowed and shortened to about the same size as yours.....then do a Moab trip as well. But that is a ways out for me. Still lots of work to do.
Awesome trailer. Very nice looking tj as well!
Good looking trailer , glad to see it works well for camping out of .
Lastest updates...

I have installed a trailer battery charging module. This is pretty cool! Not only will it isolate the trailer and vehicle batteries when not charging, but it also won't start charging the trailer's battery until the vehicle's battery is fully charged, and then it will cut off charging the trailer's battery once it's fully charged. Nice! (I mounted it on the side of the battery box.)

details on this? Manufacturer? Cost? where you got it?

This is something I'm interested in for my camper, only issue is not getting enough amperage to the battery for it to bubble, and scrub the plates, but for intermittent charging or longer trips it should be a huge help.
10) The weight of the trailer brought down the back end of the Jeep by 1/2". Should I consider 1/2" spacers in the rear if I tow a lot more? I did not feel like the front was pointing to the sky at all. (I have OME HD springs.)

12) Having additional battery power is a nice option. I didn't use it for more then charging iPhones and my MacBook for this trip, but it's still nice to have. What else can I power?
10) You could always use load leveling shocks, that's what I did.

You can see I used to have negative rake: Very subtle, but the back of the jeep was lowered quite a bit. notice how close the tires are. I used to rub if i hit a whoomp on the highway. Rubbing at 70mph sucks.

New setup with Monroe Sensa Track Load Leveling shocks

Now when i put the camper on there, the hitch only drops 1/2"

I was pretty impressed with that! It still rides really well on the road, but it DEFINITELY made the back of the truck sit a little higher.

Or have you looked into the possibility of some simple air shocks? Pump em up when you put the trailer on.

ooooor, dont worry about it because 1/2" isnt very much lol.

12) Blender.

Margarita's on the trail or at the camp site are great.
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^Marns, as far as the battery charging module, it's the TBCM-40A and just call the manufacturer directly and ask for their sales. I think it was $70 with shipping. Not cheap, but I had it recommended by travel trailer guys to yes keep the battery from overcharging should something go wrong. Atkinson Electronics, Inc. at 801-261-3600.

UPDATE: Link to module:

Thanks for the recommendation on the shocks. I may put some more weight on the trailer in the future, such as a roof top tent (like the 95# Ayer Tepui tent). I am driving to Utah end of next summer and I will carry some extra water and a jerry can too. So I'll look into that idea.

That is a nice idea about the blender! Cool stuff like that would be awesome! Ha! Currently I have the battery and inverter inside the trailer. I'm thinking about putting a small box on the front and move the battery there, and then put a power outlet on the box for easier access to plug in from outside. Trailers are cool!
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Have you looked at this Roof top tent ? Seems like a really good deal .

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