A different kind of trailer build: 20' enclosed "support trailer"

orangeTJ

Explorer
Back in 2012 there was a 3 month time period where I was re-evaluating my trailer needs.

I had a 6x12, which I used for camping, to haul camping gear and a motorcycle in. I towed it behind my truck and camper, and occasionally would haul it on local runs to Home Depot, etc with my Jeep. I took it to Overland Expo in 2011 and it was seriously undersized for what I did on that trip, which is what started the process of thinking it was time to upgrade. The 6x12 was a step up from the 6x10 I owned from 1993-2010, now it seemed time to upgrade again!

I used the 6x12 for multiple things and was getting tired of moving gear out of it when I wanted to use it for non camping activities, so my grand plan was to sell it, buy a 5x8 trailer for general hauling and a 7x16 for camping / motorcycling.

I bought a 5x8 and then ordered a very well outfitted 7x16. The 7x16 was going to cost right around $12k with all the options I added. Finally, I came to my senses and realized if I outgrew it, it would be a very difficult trailer to sell because of the cost. I started looking around on racingjunk.com and doing large regoinal area searches on Craigslist. During that search process I started to think I should get something big enough that I could haul my Jeep in, which was a 2004 TJ Rubicon.
I thought it would be nice to have something other than a motorcycle with me on long trips, to go exploring in, etc.

I ended up finding a very nice 2008 model year 8.5'x20' Haulmark trailer in Northern California, so I made arrangements with the seller to meet up and buy it.

This thread might get a bit boring for most folks because it's not what you generally see here on ExPo, but some of the maintenance items and upgrades will cross over to most any trailer, particularly my story about the bearings and brakes.

Here's a few photos from the ad on CL.

Looked pretty nice to me, and the price was more affordable than the 7x16 I had on order, and I concluded there's no way I'd outgrow this monster!





It had some 120vac halogen flood lights mounted in the rear door opening, which I promptly removed and sold at a 4x4 swap meet.

 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
It was a 600+ mile road (each way) to get it. I drove down from the Tacoma, WA area President's Day weekend to get it.

Fueling up, ready to hit the road:




Gotta love a DPF equipped truck - REGEN TIME!




Somewhere in Southern OR (Medford I think), the weather was taking a turn for the worse. I decided to pull off and grab a bite to eat. Then I decided to call it a night when I saw a nasty rain storm rolling in.





Cheap accommodations were found at Motel 6. This was the view out my window: (my truck)

 

orangeTJ

Explorer
The next morning revealed some light snow had fallen the night before in the Siskyous.




THERE IT IS!!




Hooked up and ready to make the trek home:




The owner told me the brakes worked really good, and that they'd stop the truck when manually activated.

I asked him if he'd ever serviced the bearings. He said he hadn't, but he shot a few pumps of grease in the EZ-Lube hubs once a year.

When I got on the road after pulling out of his driveway, I manually activated the brakes and got very little braking action. Hmmm... this isn't right.

I increased the gain some, still not much braking. I cranked the gain up to the maximum setting on my truck's IBC and finally was able to get at least some brake action, but not nearly what it should have been for any empty trailer with brakes on all 4s.

I stopped not far outside of town (Susanville, CA, where I bought the trailer) for a photo.



Yes, that's a roof A/C unit on top! :)

A view in my tow mirror:

 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
The drive through NorCal was pretty scenic. The previous trip through the area was in the dark, when I was returning from OX11, in cold temps, with less than desirable roads.



The previous owner used the trailer a lot. He used it to haul some sort of a mini race car that his son raced, on dirt track I think. The fact that the trailer was originally purchased in CA explains why it had A/C on it. They powered up the trailer with a large generator at the races.

The trailer was on its second set of tires. Owner said they were in good condition. Wheels were nice looking:




Upon getting it home, the upgrades began.

I rented a "garage condo" unit at a local facility and parked the trailer inside. It was nice to have a workspace out of the weather, considering it was February.

My 5x8 took up residency too.




First project was a bearing inspection/repack. I laid out a ratty old blue tarp I had, to contain the mess I'd make.




I masked off the front to prevent over-spray, for the A-frame (hitch) repaint:
My 6x12 found a temporary home in here too (visible in the first photo)








That became a wasted effort, because I decided it was easier to use brush-on paint with a foam brush.
 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
Here's some interior photos:

Interior features:
Diamond plate flooring
The black along the side walls is carpeting
Four 4' fluorescent light fixtures
L track on the floor
30 shorepower connection
RV style roof A/C
3 interior 120vac outlets
Onboard battery to run the DC lights



 
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RandomAbstract

Adventurer
I am very interested in what you are doing. I currently have a teardrop, but am thinking of building out a 6x12 or 7x14 into a full light off-road ( forest service roads, BLM) camper.
 

orangeTJ

Explorer
Looking forward to this build. How much does that workshop space run?
It cost around $650 for a month. Yes, it was expensive, but at the time I had oodles of extra income, so the cost didn't phase me. I am pretty sure they gave me a discounted rate since they only had this huge unit available, and nothing smaller.
It was important to get going on the project as soon as I could, so the trailer would be ready for my 2nd trip to Overland Expo (OX12).
 

orangeTJ

Explorer
I am very interested in what you are doing. I currently have a teardrop, but am thinking of building out a 6x12 or 7x14 into a full light off-road ( forest service roads, BLM) camper.
I'd like to do the same. 6' wide can be a bit cramped, but it's narrow enough to never need extended tow mirrors on most vehicles.
 

orangeTJ

Explorer
I forgot to explain what an IBC is when I was rambling about that earlier - it's an "Integrated Brake Controller". The big 3 have it (GM, Dodge/Ram, Ford). I don't know if other manufacturers of trucks have gone this route. It used to be an option, but might be standard with a tow package - I'm not sure. GM introduced it on the 2007.5 model year trucks.... or maybe it was 2008 - I don't recall. I love the IBC - it operates the trailer brakes in complete unison with the application of the truck brakes. There's ZERO jerkiness, and ZERO lag time to activate the trailer brakes. These two annoyances (jerkiness and lag time) aren't too noticeable (or annoying) on a small trailer, but on a big trailer, where you want more aggressive trailer brake action, the lag and jerkiness are annoying.

What I thought was going to be a simple bearing clean and repack turned in to a complete rebuild of the brakes.

The previous owner didn't understand that pumping more grease in the easy-lube hubs every year will eventually over fill the hubs. Eventually the grease will blow out the rear seal, and that's what happened. The brakes had been contaminated with grease for quite some time, which is why the brakes didn't work worth a darn.
Even before I picked up the trailer, I had every intention to repack the bearings, but I didn't expect to dump so much time and money in to the project.







The brake shoes were caked in grease, so were the magnets. The brake assembly shown above wasn't the worst one, it was the better looking set of the 4.
When doing a complete rebuild, it's far easier, and usually less expensive to just order a complete backing plate assembly. I ordered new brake drums too. The existing drums had deep grooves in them.
 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
The trailer sat on jack stands for at least two weeks while I worked on them a little bit in the evenings after work.



 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
The umbilical cord had been repaired by the previous owner.



The must have severed the cord by pinching between the ball mount and the coupler on a sharp turn. I removed the taped and found that all of the wires had been spliced back together. I replaced the cord.
I also installed a trailer wiring junction box in the front, under the floor. I thought I had a photo of it, but can't seem to find it.
 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
I ordered a spare tire and wheel from Les Schwab. I told them I wanted a cheap steel wheel. Les Schwab is a tire dealer in the Pacific Northwest.

The one on the right is what they ordered: (wheel on the left is what came on the trailer)



A few weeks later, I decided to just go ahead and replace all 4 tires on the trailer. I went back to Les Schwab and ordered 3 matching wheels and a steel wheel for the spare, and 4 tires.
I specified "all metal valve stems" and I wanted the tires/wheels balanced too.

I've had one rubber/metal combo valve stems fail and leave me along the road side. On a passenger car they are fine, but not a truck or trailer that is carrying significant weight.
I had another one fail on my dually (inner rear dual of course) when I was towing this trailer returning from OX12.

I listed the original tires and wheels on Craigslist and sold them within a few weeks.

Close-up photo with the new tires and wheels, with all metal valve stems. It was good getting the trailer back on all fours (off the jack stands). I had the trailer in the rental garage right up until the day I needed to move out. By now, the weather was improving somewhat and what few projects remained, could easily be accomplished at home, outside.

 
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orangeTJ

Explorer
Next up was an awning. I took the trailer to a local RV repair shop and had them install it. I bought the awning elsewhere, and they were totally fine installing it. It was far less expensive to have them do it instead of the local cargo trailer dealer, and it was done much sooner than if I'd have had the cargo trailer dealer install it. My other line of thinking is that the RV repair shop is far more experienced in awning installs, and would do a much better job of it. The shop was only 2.5 miles from my house, so that was another huge benefit.



 
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