Modify or Build from Scratch? How do you like this idea?

TheNatural

New member
I have a dilemma! I'm after a trailer and can't decide if I should modify an existing utility trailer or start from scratch.

My existing trailer is a Karavan with a 6x12' flat deck, a 3500lb axle, and a really nice boxed steel frame. The wiring is shot and the deck is a little old, but it is otherwise in great condition.

My goal is a trailer that matches the width of my Tacoma, WMS to WMS about 61". And is long enough to accommodate an "expo pod" at the front and an open deck at the rear for hauling a toy (atv by summer, snowmobile by winter). Sort of like the Patriot Campers toy hauler, TH610, but scaled way down. Probably 4' for the enclosed expo stuff (fridge slide, kitchen stuff, etc) and an 8' flat deck for a length of around 12' (not including the tongue). My RTT will be mostly above the enclosed portion of the trailer but will overhang the flat deck by however much is necessary. Trailer will have electrical to run fridge, lights, water pump, etc and I'd like to have brakes. Here's a super crude concept sketch:


So.. my options are:
1) chop the existing trailer's width down, build my front box and RTT rack, rewire it for a 7 pin with desired features, replace axle with narrower one w/ brakes and correct hubs to match tow vehicle, replace deck.
2) sell the existing and start from scratch.

What do you think would be the better way to go? Financially it would probably be cheaper to start from scratch and recover some funds from the existing trailer, but it would be slightly more work to do that way. I think most of the extra work would be applying for VIN and getting a ubuilt registered; it's not terribly tough but adds a requirement for more document keeping and dealing with bureaucracy.

It's going to be quite a long trailer which is not ideal, but it should also be great for off grid camping. I have the RTT on my truck now and I tow just the flat deck for toys, but I'm looking forward to shifting some of the weight of the expo stuff off of my daily driver and being able to leave it all packed in the trailer ready to go.

I'm a little worried about narrowing the trailer while also increasing center of gravity. Should be concerned about flopping it over in moderate terrain?
 

Spvrtan

Member
If you plan on only hauling ATVs (ie. not a SXS or UTV), go with a smaller trailer to be more nimble. I have a 5x10 that I've been slowly building with maybe 5-10 hours of spare time per month. I plan on putting a RTT on mine, too, but don't see a need for a permanent box inside the trailer area apart from the tongue box. Personally, I feel it's better to have more deck space and if you really need more storage then you can figure out a removable storage system that bolts to your deck that'll house your fridge and expo gear. That said.. if you don't want to go smaller then stick with your current trailer. FWIW, I registered my trailer in CA within two hours tops of arriving at the DMV without an appointment.

Here's my trailer currently..

http://instagr.am/p/B584GEkgBDL/
 
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TheNatural

New member
The trouble with getting a smaller trailer to start with is the snowmobile I'd also like to put on it. It's ~11 feet long so with the storage up front it'll be hanging off the back of the trailer 3 feet already.

A 5x10 trailer would be a much nicer size to pull, but still wouldn't quite work. With a 60" wide deck the axle would have to be wider than my 60.75" WMS on the tow vehicle.

The hydro assist gate you mentioned is a nice touch!
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Every time I’ve modified a car hauler or utility trailer (like 3 times), I’ve ended up doing so much “little stuff” that it quickly became obvious that starting over from scratch was a better plan.

IMO - Use your existing trailer to haul stuff for your new trailer build and be happy with a totally custom trailer where you made the decisions on design.

And, given the length of a sled, which you mentioned above, I would go longer. A 3’ overhang will be significant, possibly in the eyes of law enforcement, no matter how well you tie it down.
 

TheNatural

New member
Every time I’ve modified a car hauler or utility trailer (like 3 times), I’ve ended up doing so much “little stuff” that it quickly became obvious that starting over from scratch was a better plan.

IMO - Use your existing trailer to haul stuff for your new trailer build and be happy with a totally custom trailer where you made the decisions on design.

And, given the length of a sled, which you mentioned above, I would go longer. A 3’ overhang will be significant, possibly in the eyes of law enforcement, no matter how well you tie it down.
Thanks for the advice. The part I bolded seems like an especially good point. The more trailer builds I read the more I see them taking way longer than originally expected... it would be kind of foolish to expect mine to be any different. If I hack up the trailer I use to haul the toys around I might be facing a lot of down time.

For length... I agree that a 3' overhang is significant, but it's about the norm for how much they hang out the back of a pickup around here. I don't think law enforcement would be too interested. But! I could try to design the trailer for the front "expo box" to not be a rectangle, but to be a horse shoe shape and wrap around the snowmobile. It could have a ~4' wide open deck up front with 1' wide boxes on either side if I could design a good way for the kitchen stuff to fold down instead of slide out. The fridge is the only thing I can think of that would have to slide, so the "top of the horse shoe" would only have to be wide enough for that. Now you have me thinking!
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
The big negative will be the galvanized from on the Caravan trailer. I'm not a welder but I'd sooner start fresh. From the sounds of it not much will be left original.

Otherwise, if you find a frame which will work without modifying it, I'd buy a manufactured unit every time. They are almost always lighter, stronger and cheaper than a homebuild.

There is no problem with overhang if you flag it daytime or hang a light on it at night.... be cool to power the sleds tailight eh.

Nelson an hour from my home.
 
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TheNatural

New member
The big negative will be the galvanized from on the Caravan trailer. I'm not a welder but I'd sooner start fresh. From the sounds of it not much will be left original.

Otherwise, if you find a frame which will work without modifying it, I'd buy a manufactured unit every time. They are almost always lighter, stronger and cheaper than a homebuild.

There is no problem with overhang if you flag it daytime or hang a light on it at night.... be cool to power the sleds tailight eh.
Oh it's actually not one of the galvanized frames. The tailgate/ramp is galvanized, but the rest of it is painted black. It looks like this (borrowed from google):


Buying a rolling frame isn't a bad idea if I can find one that fits my needs. I'm pretty picky and I haven't seen any narrow but long options on the market, but I haven't looked very hard either.
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
and wrap around the snowmobile. It could have a ~4' wide open deck up front with 1' wide boxes on either side if I could design a good way for the kitchen stuff to fold down instead of slide out. The fridge is the only thing I can think of that would have to slide, so the "top of the horse shoe" would only have to be wide enough for that. Now you have me thinking!
You could also design a heavy hinge and a door with “depth” that allows the kitchen to “swing open”. Think residential refrigerator door.

I’m hauling a lot of steel on my Jeep roof rack now that I sold my truck... there is definite value in having that trailer around while you build a new one!
 

TheNatural

New member
You could also design a heavy hinge and a door with “depth” that allows the kitchen to “swing open”. Think residential refrigerator door.

I’m hauling a lot of steel on my Jeep roof rack now that I sold my truck... there is definite value in having that trailer around while you build a new one!
I think I could get a big door to swing open with a surface that folds down to give me an L-shaped kitchen space. Perhaps mount a sink in the fold down counter and have space for the camp stove next to it. That would be pretty slick. Mounting an awning above it that has mesh/mosquito net walls will give my wife the bug free kitchen zone she desires.

I saw this example of a trailer similar to what I'd like to build while I was Googling around for ideas. For anyone that didn't understand my crude drawing.


I don't think I'd do a dual axle set up though. 3500lb single axle should be okay; budgeting 1000lbs for trailer, 1000lbs for camping stuff, 700lbs for toy, still leaves me 800lbs under axle weight. I guess if I'm loading up with lots of water and spare fuel for a long trip I might need a little more capacity.. but I do have the back of the Tacoma for cargo too. I don't think I'd want to tow more than 3000lbs anyway.. no problem on the highway, but that's an awfully big land anchor in the mud. The trailer cargo will be mostly just a simple kitchen and some electrical for lighting and running the kitchen; the stuff that I don't want to permanently plumb into the tow vehicle.
 
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Teardropper

Active member
Maybe somebody's mentioned this but if you put that axle in the middle and load an ATV, that trailer could easily become unstable and put you and it in the ditch.

And that would be bad.

T
 

TheNatural

New member
Maybe somebody's mentioned this but if you put that axle in the middle and load an ATV, that trailer could easily become unstable and put you and it in the ditch.

And that would be bad.

T
Nobody has brought it up yet, but I'll put the axle in a good spot to get appropriate tongue weight when loaded up.
 

dado5

New member
Shortening a ttrailer lengthwise is easily doable. You couldn't pay me to try to make one narrower and the axle as well. I would start from scratch.
 

CampStewart

Observer
I would recommend building from scratch. I have a few ideas not already mentioned. If getting anywhere close to 3500lbs and using off road I would move to a 5k axle particularly if you want to use oversized tires. It may not look as cool but you could get your desired track width and make the deck wider in front and/or behind the tire, there is no actual rule that the bed has to be inside the wheelwells. For the snowmobile you could build a couple of trailer hitch receivers into the rear of the trailer and slide an extension into them to lengthen the bed when using the snowmobile. Think it as one of those hitch haulers but with 2 or 3 hitches. Around here tube frames tend to rust from the inside out. I would recommend using C channel and angle iron and minimizing tubing. Tubing is also a lot more expensive. I am a leaf spring guy, and for a trailer used off road would recommend longer than trailer leaf springs. Look for something off a vehicle that has about a 3000 to 3500 GAWR . Something like your Tacoma springs from craigslist or junkyard would probably be ideal
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
I think I could get a big door to swing open with a surface that folds down to give me an L-shaped kitchen space. Perhaps mount a sink in the fold down counter and have space for the camp stove next to it. That would be pretty slick. Mounting an awning above it that has mesh/mosquito net walls will give my wife the bug free kitchen zone she desires.

I saw this example of a trailer similar to what I'd like to build while I was Googling around for ideas. For anyone that didn't understand my crude drawing.


I don't think I'd do a dual axle set up though. 3500lb single axle should be okay; budgeting 1000lbs for trailer, 1000lbs for camping stuff, 700lbs for toy, still leaves me 800lbs under axle weight. I guess if I'm loading up with lots of water and spare fuel for a long trip I might need a little more capacity.. but I do have the back of the Tacoma for cargo too. I don't think I'd want to tow more than 3000lbs anyway.. no problem on the highway, but that's an awfully big land anchor in the mud. The trailer cargo will be mostly just a simple kitchen and some electrical for lighting and running the kitchen; the stuff that I don't want to permanently plumb into the tow vehicle.
For me the consideration for tandem axles is less about weight and more about safety. The two primary areas are with blowouts on the highway and improved departure angles. For the first, if you will be doing a lot of highway miles going to your destination then a tandem would be valuable. A blowout on a single axle can be catastrophic. For departure angles it would be beneficial if you are doing a lot of off-roading with significant drops. For these two reasons I bought a tandem. Fortunately I haven't had a blowout to worry about but have used the improved clearance many times.
 
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