Modifying my AT Chaser

NatersXJ6

Explorer
So, I was the lucky purchaser of a 2007 AT Chaser last fall. It was a pretty nice deal, although I had to drive 600 miles for it.

I’m sort of pre-wired to modify and overhaul things, so it didn’t take long to decide I wasn’t going to live with a few little things I wanted to change. This is why I usually like to buy things used, it hurts much less to cut into them!

With that in mind, after a few short trips, I made a list of planned mods:

1) telescopic tongue so I can open swing out on Jeep without disconnecting. This will incorporate bits similar to the max coupler that was included with the trailer. This work could almost constitute a thread itself.

2) racks inside the lid for “hanging” fragile items such as fishing poles

3) a new custom lid rack to incorporate table storage, solar panel storage, a basket, and rooftop tent mount

4) general repaint and freshen up, plus removal of many of the electrical options and re-wiring the trailer... this was driven by the need to move some junction boxes and my dislike of 12V outlets

5) permanent installation of 2 Bal-C style stabilizer jacks,

6) installation of drains in the floor

potential changes: I might build a new tailgate panel that is configured a little differently, I might move the gas struts inside, and I might do something to keep crap from building up in the lower channels inside, essentially building a new floor design (this last one seems unlikely based on the amount of work involved).

Some of this work is done and much is underway. Photos and details for those interested will follow in the next few posts!
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Bal-C jacks. This wasn’t the first thing I did, but it was the first one I took pictures of.

A pair of 31” stabilizers was about $100 give or take on amazon. The shipping box destroyed itself in UPS so make sure you check for all the parts when they deliver.

Some 1/8” plate bent for a little stability and welded into the corners mounts the jacks. I started trying to do this from the bottom, then decided to just remove the entire tub and take it apart because all the hardware was badly rusted anyway. That let me weld from the top.

I laid the jacks out “upside down, then drilled and tapped for 3/8 bolts. I welded the bolts into the holes and then cut the heads off underneath to leave studs behind.

I wanted the jacks mounted within the frame as high as possible, and that meant shorter jacks raised and lowered with a wrench (slow and potentially muddy work) or drilling access for the provided tool. Welding a short piece of pipe into the frame provides access.

Everything got a good wire wheeling and black spray paint. I believe life should be spray painted whenever possible!

One can now walk around on the frame without fear of tipping, even though it isn’t coupled.

As a side note, I’ve never taken a side in the tube frame versus channel frame debate for trailers, but the amount of flaked rust in the back of these tubes has me seriously thinking channel is the way to go. This trailer lived most of life in Colorado, Arizona, and California and has quite a bit of packed up rust flakes in the back of the frame. I’m drilling bigger drain holes, as the existing ones are clogged for sure.7420F495-FFCA-4485-BE9E-63321269789B.jpeg98579050-975B-4F1A-B64D-21AE81A273BD.jpeg8BA7C957-1367-40B2-9F4D-7A03A89A2C07.jpegE4868C95-B9D3-4C0F-90B6-B2D73D0511B2.jpeg
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Inside - lid rack to hang items:
This was the first thing I did. The lid has a “spine” of sorts with a row of bolts holding 2 halves together. I put an angle iron along the outer row of holes where the roof carrier will mount and a strip along the spine on each side and connected them with uni-strut so I can hang long and fragile things and reinforce the lid a bit in preparation for the new carrier.

Get some help to hold both halves while you bolt them in, or only do the upper one, it is hard to reach the hinge side anyway.

doing this helped convince me I needed stabilizer jacks, as I almost tipped the trailer by leaning on it.

0F3525D7-275F-4DB2-837C-FED40978AB9E.jpeg
 

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NatersXJ6

Explorer
have one as well... like the "hanging things from inside the lid" idea
Thanks. If you wanted to do something similar but lighter duty and easier, you could probably replace all the roof track bolts and bolts down the middle of the lid with eye bolts and then lace or use bungee cord through them. Some strips of thick foam weatherstrip tape stuck to the lid would prevent rattling and abrasion. I can see hanging stuff like shovels and camera tripods from the Unistrut version though.
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Now the telescoping tongue with the max coupler compatible end built in.

This was the most difficult part, requiring a lot of home “machine shop” games. Lots of grinding and drill press, plus a bunch of welding. There are definitely easier and perhaps smarter ways to do this, but I committed to a path, so I plan to follow it to the bitter end.

The beginning was easy, removing all of the wiring. It was pretty corroded, so cut and replace made for quick work of removal. Then I had to raise the water tank, jerry cans, and toolbox from the bottom of the frame to the top. In doing so, I discovered huge amounts of flaky rust along the join of the water tank support and the frame. Many flap discs gave their lives fighting the removal of those supports and the associated rust. Then, I built new angle iron supports for the water tank and fuel can. I made sure to move this away from the front wall of the trailer box about 1/4” to allow future pressure washing mud out of the gap. I think the former buildup contributed significantly to the rust. I also raised the toolbox mounts, leaving the old ones in place, as I was tired of grinding and they didn’t hurt anything.

After all of this, opening up the back side of the receiver was easy with a 2” hole saw and a die grinder. I made a sliding tongue out of 2x2x.250 wall tube and welded a 1” thick piece of 2” solid bar to the end with a 1” hole in the middle that threads into a 2” cube with a hole for a pin through it. A bit of 1/4” plate on both sides takes up the slack in the other end of the coupler. This is a poly bushing in the Max Coupler, but I really couldn’t see the point. Driving with any attendant clunks might change my mind. Down the center of the shaft is a 1” socket head cap screw with a bronze thrust washer. I had to strip the weld bead from the inside of the tube to make this work and rotate inside. Have fun with that. I hammered a die through it with a sledge after breaking 1/2” all thread trying to pull the die through. Sometimes violence is the answer.

I ended up drilling holes for 3 positions. Tight at about 6” back, open tailgate at 23” back, and long at 18” further. I initially thought that the far end would go into a socket, but found that there was too much play in all of the system to easily align the hitch pin and the socket behind, so I cut it shorter and don’t care about the socket. A bolt through the top of the trailers receiver will help take out any slap or slack when I’m driving.

All it needs now is a little paint and a grease zerk and a stop bolt across the tube to keep it from accidentally pulling out during hookup or adjustment. Then some safety chains and wiring will make it come back to towable.

This has been a pretty big project, but I’m happy with the results so far. Body work in the trailer and toolbox continue. There were pretty bad rust blooms hiding under the paint, and lots of layers of respray that convinced me to take most of it to bare metal. Next project is floor drains and bedliner in and under the box.

7C8402F3-3D5F-4431-AD50-2F7D396142DF.jpegCC007AC8-D2EB-42A2-88C5-9DC5B0154126.jpeg4C961006-4A2E-43D7-BCBA-92CDA29DC7ED.jpeg53137E89-42F3-480A-992B-E2C97FB70149.jpegC78C7C55-35A7-4575-81DF-7DA70FF8B40C.jpeg
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Welded in some pipe fittings to serve as floor drains. This might not really make life that much better, as I think the real need is in the channels along the sides, and front but I haven’t dealt with that yet. I’m going to try to live just with bedliner for a while and see how much mud builds up. If I put in a drain, it will probably be through the side or front of the trailer, not the bottom.

I used Herculiner for the floor pan and will use it on the inside panels too. It isn’t the absolute best, but it can be done piecemeal and that matches well with my working schedule. I took the entire floor to bare metal, applied an etching primer, and Herculiner over it in 2 thick layers. It appears to be curing well.1BC26402-9112-40A5-8BF3-1903506EC56B.jpegD25EF1F2-13A1-4210-9351-F5B07862908F.jpeg
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
6 weeks farther on, and I have (almost) finished the paint freshening, bolted everything back together, added different sealed tail lights (had to build new brackets as they are a different size) and built a handle to help close the lid.

A note on the paint. I am far from an auto body expert, but I have painted a half dozen or so cars with decent results. To facilitate doing this trailer panel by panel, I decided to use the RustOleum Automotive rattle cans instead of cleaning the spray gun every time. Most of you are screaming about how stupid this was. You are correct!
What I got, despite following the flash and dry time instructions religiously, was a really crappy and soft paint job that marksand scratches really easily! After 6 weeks, it still isn’t well cured or hardened. And wasn’t cheaper than shooting something better.

I was about to sand it all off and start again with “real” automotive paint, when I decided that it wouldn’t matter after this thing started eating gravel behind the Jeep. I’ll do it again in a few years!

Anyway, if anyone cares, enjoy the progress!



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NatersXJ6

Explorer
Roof rack / basket progress. I learned a lot doing this one so far. In a week or so I hope to have this done, but it has been well over 100 here, and that doesn’t make for happy welding time... then I ran out of wire and gas.

7FB0D785-708D-4A42-A669-65AD84642B68.jpeg13EAE625-8E91-4D92-8300-5432CD1535FD.jpeg4F7E92AD-18CB-49DE-98E2-67E6F9F1DB50.jpeg
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Weeks further on, my project is wrapping up. I reached that magical point on the roof basket when a guys says “f-it”. And just sprays the paint. At this point I’m really quite proud of 20 tube bends in 1” 0.083 steel that all came out properly (enough). I only trashed 2.

Immediately upon trying to lift it I realized a string of design changes that would make it more effective and lighter, but for now... camping is calling!

it pulled a bit into a bow when welding, but straightened out okay when bolting down. My daughter is tiring of climbing into and out of the trailer / coffin to help with bolt tightening! She’s a good sport.

version 2 will probably be upgraded and lighter, but a few years will go by before so try that.

6 beers and 3 guys got the massive CVT Denali mounted. A few wiring bits, and replace the air lines I melted through and this will be a road-worthy trailer!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’re inspired to try and weld something up in 110 degree heat!

AB7399EC-1D84-402A-814D-A7B7A94DE908.jpeg33F3F225-D886-48E6-9553-DC59EEE07C5D.jpeg594C656D-F60C-4BC4-A3F5-7F52AEDF499D.jpeg8704AB6D-008F-423C-ADD9-190C9622C7AF.jpeg102C87DC-6B0C-494B-85FE-FB9520A43BA3.jpeg
 

high-and-dry

Active member
Looks good, I will point out one thing. The stabilizes work much better when you put them at 45 degrees in the corners. When building my trailer I put them in like you did and tested em. the trailer swayed like no tomorrow when I stood on it. I went "no wonder every puts them at an angle". I changed em to an angle and it is now solid with no sway.

I understand your committed but there is always version 2.
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Looks good, I will point out one thing. The stabilizes work much better when you put them at 45 degrees in the corners. When building my trailer I put them in like you did and tested em. the trailer swayed like no tomorrow when I stood on it. I went "no wonder every puts them at an angle". I changed em to an angle and it is now solid with no sway.

I understand your committed but there is always version 2.
I realized the same thing shortly after welding!

Im pretty sure that V2 of the trailer will be a scratch build integrating stabilizers into the frame itself, then I can hit optimum angles and still install within the frame rails!

I had 3 people up in the tent last night with the kids playing and everything and no hitch connected or stabilizers deployed, and it was at least as solid as having the tent on top of the Jeep, so maybe they weren’t really needed, but the whole project kicked off because of them... so ... yeah... live and learn.
 

high-and-dry

Active member
I realized the same thing shortly after welding!

Im pretty sure that V2 of the trailer will be a scratch build integrating stabilizers into the frame itself, then I can hit optimum angles and still install within the frame rails!

I had 3 people up in the tent last night with the kids playing and everything and no hitch connected or stabilizers deployed, and it was at least as solid as having the tent on top of the Jeep, so maybe they weren’t really needed, but the whole project kicked off because of them... so ... yeah... live and learn.
Its solid until its not, like every one rolls over to the rear side of the axle and over you go.
 

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