Trailer Build August 2009
A Little History
I have wanted an off road trailer since the late 1980´s. We owned a full size Ford Bronco at the time. Four Wheeler magazine had an advertisement in the back for a basic trailer. I thought that it would be a great way to carry all our camping gear, even with the Bronco being full size there was not that much room in the back. Flash forward several years to around 2002, we get a Jeep and the trailer bug bites again.
Now we have the Internet so finding off road trailers is easy. I found a full on camper trailer designed from the ground up for off road use. I found one that was very similar to a pop-up tent trailer. I even found several that were boxes with lids with optional roof top tents. They were all built and sold in South Africa or Australia. I finally found one built here in the states, Tentrax. I like it, just don't like the price.
Around the same time period I stumbled across tear drop trailers. Even found an old Popular Mechanics article I could download. I even found a web site that described how he built his tear drop trailer for off roading! Outback Teardrop Trailer construction page has a lot of information about building teardrops. He even has trip reports and photos of his trailer off road.
I start collecting links, articles, photos, and notes. As time has gone by there are more off road trailers made here in the states, all adding to my desire to build an off road trailer. Adventure Trailers built in California had three models that resemble what is available in South Africa. I say had because just recently in 2009 they introduced a fourth model, a Teardrop!
I found a trailer I liked and thought I would build something similar. Milspec Offroad out of California had a couple of models that looked pretty good. I don't know what has happened to the company. My plans were to build a trailer similar to theirs. However since Adventure Trailers has introduced their teardrop and camping in the rain and snow with a tent, I am back on the teardrop train of thought.
I think it was the summer of 2005 when I started buying material for the trailer. I purchased a 3500 pound capacity axle, trailer brakes, and hubs. The axle is the same width as my Jeep and the hubs have the same wheel bolt pattern as my Jeep. Flash forward to August 2009. While on vacation to Colorado, we visited my brother-in-law. He had a little trailer with tiny 8 inch wheels. He gave it to us.
I took the little trailer over to a friends house. We looked it over and came up with a plan. I purchased some steel. Gathered together the parts I already had and took everything over to his house.
Since the frame of the little trailer was square we decided to just build off of it making it slightly wider and almost twice as long. We removed the tongue, axle, springs, and spring hangers. We tacked on two 9 foot pieces of 2 by 3 inch rectangle tubing on each side. The tubing extended almost a foot past the old frame and 4 feet on the other end. We checked everything to make sure it was still square and level. We then tack on a piece of tubing on the back and check to see if everything was still square. We cut pie shaped wedges out of the tubing and squeezed together the two pieces of tubing to form the tongue.
The tongue. I wanted the option of using different coupling systems; pintle and eye, Lock-n-Roll, or standard coupler. So we fitted a two inch receiver tube in the end of the tongue. I have a standard coupler mounted on two tubing. We only had to drill a hole in the tubing for the hitch pin. Tentrax says they have no problems with a standard coupler off road. We see, I can always change to a different coupling system.
We measured and remeasured, check every angle for squareness, and made sure everything was still level. Then we laid out the location for the spring hangers. We fabricated the spring hangers and tacked them onto the frame. Then we bolted on the springs to determine the location for the shackle mount in the back. Once we had everything tacked together, Brad finished welding everything.
We got the springs and axle bolted on. I picked up a set of stock wheels for $10.00, on KSL classifieds and had tires mounted on three of them. We bolted on the tires and removed the saw horses. We welded angle iron around the top of the frame. This will hold the bottom of the trailer box. We hooked the trailer up to my Jeep and I drove home.
Brad gave me a sheet of 3/4" OSB (wafer board) and had a sheet of 3/4" plywood. I used the OSB for the floor and the front of the box and the plywood for the rest of the box. I used self-tapping screws to secure the bottom of the box to the frame and Simpson Strong Tie brackets with bolts and nuts to fasten the box together. My son ask me how I was going to finish the box. I was going to just paint it or leave it exposed until after the trip. He asked If I cared if he finished for me. I told him to go ahead and do it. He used a propane torch to scorch the wood and then wiped on a coat of polyurethane. It turned out very good. It looked so good I decided to paint the frame before the trip instead of after. I picked up a set of fenders from TJ Trailers and after trimming them down a little simply bolted them to the box. I picked up a cheap set of trailer lights. They got mounted to the box.
The trailer performed almost flawlessly. The only problem I had with it occurs when hitting bumps at highway speeds. The bumps had to involve both tires such as an uneven bridge or cattle guard that was not same level as the pavement. The trailer would start to rock back and forth, the tires still track correctly though. I think added shock absorbers to the trailer will take care of the problem. Otherwise, I am quite satisfied with how the trailer performs.
Functionality of the box stinks! The box has two foot high sides and the trailer sits a little taller than my Jeep. It makes it difficult to get items out of the bottom of the trailer. Granted the box was only temporary for the trip we went on. I does look good enough to leave it on for awhile. The box at the very least needs a tailgate.
The frame. The only thing I can think of is, maybe we should have made the frame one or two inches narrower. The tires rub the sides when the springs flex. I think after market wheels with different back spacing will correct the rubbing.
The box. It needs a tailgate and a thicker coat of finish.
Overall I am very satisfied with my trailer. Surprised about how easily it towed both on and off the road. Our second day of the trip we found ourselves on a fairly technical trail. I do not feel that having the trailer made it any more difficult.
A very big thanks to Brad. He help me a lot. Because he was the one doing the welding, it seemed to me at times he was working harder than I was. Thank you Brad, the trailer works great.
Here are a few pictures of the Offroad Trailer Build.