Off-road teardrop scratch-build

rob cote

King in the Northeast
I've been making a lot of progress this week, but not really taking any time for pictures. Here's a few crappy ones I got yesterday. Sorry they're not that great, I'm just hustling.







Current status is the roof is on, sealed, insulated and interior-skinned. The exterior of the rear wall is cut to fit, but needs insulation, interior skin, and final installation with sealer. The solar panels are secured and wired with a water-tight pass-through on the roof. The ceiling fan is installed and wired. The last of the floor pieces required notches for the shocks, which is done and they're installed. It's registered, we have the plate ready to go on.

Fenders on on-hand, but need some fabrication before assembly. Need to do some other miscellaneous small tasks. Still targeting a maiden voyage tomorrow, but it's uncertain. I figure if I work hard tonight and get up early tomorrow, I have like 9-10 hours of time left to button up everything. It's gonna be close. Win or lose, I'm taking a break for a while after tomorrow. And I'm having a huge beer.

All in all, I'm stoked with how it's coming together. It's not perfect, but we're really pleased. It finally actually looks like something. And we think it looks good.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
We worked until about 11pm Friday with a friend helping out as well. This is about where we started off,



So we pulled the rear wall off to work on it.



It seemed there was an endless stream of detail things that needed to be done to get it roadworthy. I had to pass the towing lights harness through the front wall and secure the junction box to the tongue.





I cut out a plate for each fender and welded it to the inside of each fender to give us a surface to install them.



They each got primed and painted black. Then I started working on the taillight panel. I want to make it from steel sheet. I started with that:



but when I realized one of my holes was the wrong size, I tabled it temporarily. I made them from 1/4" plywood because it cuts much faster and we were running out of time.



I'm not a fan of the taillight setup right now, but it works so there's that. This is about where we wrapped up Friday night. Meanwhile I was doing the work above, the wife and our friend, Chris, were working the rear wall, installing "studs" and insulation and getting it ready to go on. It was a group effort to get it installed and sealed. We installed the CHMSL after it was in place and ran the wires down the inside of the wall. Then we installed the interior skin on the rear wall, which was the last interior piece. Then the interior got a thorough cleaning. Then we threw the mattress inside and removed the packaging to let the memory foam inflate overnight.

Saturday morning we were back at it around 6am. The weather was great so we pulled the wheels off to aid in installing the fenders.



Mandy worked on the layout of the holes while I finished up the taillight panel.

The small panels I'd made the previous night secured to the rear face of this storage area door. Since it hinges up to allow access to the storage area, I needed to add a bit of length to the harness going to a couple of the lights.



The trailer wiring received its first butt connectors because soldering would have taken longer. They'll only be temporary. Mandy killed the fender mounting hole layout, which was a real challenge. All I had to do was blast some holes where her Xs were, and the fender bolted right up, no issues.



We repeated the same process for the opposite side. I called the taillight panel good enough for now:



And we hit the road! We had a minor mishap about 10 miles from home when the hitch came off the ball on the truck, on a bridge, next to a pedestrian, going about 25mph. And one of the safety chains failed. All that considered, we got really lucky. It seems that the hitch was not properly seated, my fault. It really looked like it was, and now I know what to look for exactly, it won't happen again. I still don't believe this part should have failed:



There's damage to the entire section of male threads, so I am confident the barrel nut was fully tightened. I don't understand; it was a 5,000lbs.-rated chain. Anyway, the rest of the trip was terrifying, but uneventful. We setup in my dad's yard for a bbq and spent the night.



Loki likes it too, which is a bonus.



Looking forward, there's a list of detail items we want to address. Lots of corners cut in the final hours last weekend, that will be fixed.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
What we have is obviously getting replaced. I'm thinking about going with a cable instead, something like this:



And ditch the threaded chain links. I'll just bolt through the cable eye, with an oversized washer. I like that these would stay off the ground when not hooked up to a truck. Any thoughts/concerns/input? Whatever it is will definitely be a more quick-connect type of hook on the truck side, after I had to flip it around manually in a tiny parking lot. I didn't know the lot was so small with no other outlet until it was already too late. Kind of embarassing.
 

stomperxj

Explorer
Yeah definitely better than the threaded links for sure. I like those coiled cables. I usually use weld on loops for my chains like this. You can open the gap slightly with a cut off wheel in your grinder. Thread the chains/cables on, clamp it and weld it on. Pretty permanent.
loop.jpg
IMG_20180512_175050114.jpg
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
I could get some better pictures of what we had setup, but i can probably explain it fairly well. There was no issue at the trailer side, regarding the safety chains. The ball receiver bolts through the tongue tube with (2) 1/2" grade 8 bolts. I put the last link of each 3' safety chain around the bolt. So the stackup goes bolt head, washer, chain link, receiver, tongue tube, receiver, chain link, washer, lock nut.

My truck side setup for the chains is very similar to what you have on your trailer there. It's just a loop welded on like that. The first problem I had was that the diameter of this loop (the cross section, not the bend) was too large for the threaded links to pass over. I picked up a pair of small shackles to solve that issue.

Anyway, the thing is that the ball hitch was kind of a temporary thing, and we've been weighing the pros and cons of a 3-axis coupler for a while. They're just a lot more money, and we wanted something we could receive and install quickly, hence the ball. After the whole ordeal over the weekend, I'm leaning strongly towards throwing it in the garbage. The thing is that when we were hooking back up on Sunday to go home, it was raining, and it tried to do the thing again where it looks like it's seated but it's not actually. At least now I know what to look for, so I had to take it back off and reassemble it. It's just annoying if that's the process every time.
 

ottsville

Observer
I hate the coiled cables. They tend to twist around each other and can be a pain to see if they are properly crossed if they do twist around each other. I like the gated "s" hooks that stomperxj shows. They are the same thing that comes on our 7700lb camping trailer.

A trailer coming off the ball is either improperly adjusted, worn out, or user error. Put the trailer on the ball and make sure the ball receiver is properly adjusted. Before towing, use the jack on the trailer to lift the tongue and make sure the trailer doesn't come off the ball.
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
That's good to know about the coiled cables. That sounds annoying.

I will freely admit this was a case of user error. I didn't properly assemble the hitch to the ball. The "fingers" that hook underneath the ball when you flip down the latch were actually smushed inside the ball cup above the ball. It dropped down when i assembled it, and it looked to my untrained eye that it was seated over the ball. Now I know it wasn't, and I know what not-fully-seated looks like. I will definitely be testing the connection every time now.
 

Hawk136439

New member
Not sure if I missed it earlier but what are the dimensions of your trailer? Overall and living space? Also do you have plans to seal up the exterior? I'm not familiar with marine grade plywood so if it is already protected from the elements I apologize.

This is some amazing work thanks for sharing it with us!
 

motoboss

Bad Influence
You might check State law. Here in Indiana, coiled cable is not allowed as safety connection for trailers. Chain must be used with a closed, your choice, attachment link. A chain with s-hook and clip is really a great way to go.

Might avoid a ticket somewhere in your travels.

Nice build!
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
Not sure if I missed it earlier but what are the dimensions of your trailer? Overall and living space? Also do you have plans to seal up the exterior? I'm not familiar with marine grade plywood so if it is already protected from the elements I apologize.

This is some amazing work thanks for sharing it with us!
Thanks for the kind words! Marine grade plywood is supposed to be pretty well protected, based on my research. Like you, I don't have much experience with it either. Some people suggest fiberglassing and epoxying the exterior when making boats. Some suggest it is fine to leave as is. We're undecided, but we know it's something we need to think more on.

The dimensions of the frame are 64"x101" if I remember correctly. The interior space is just a queen size mattress, so 60"x80".

You might check State law. Here in Indiana, coiled cable is not allowed as safety connection for trailers. Chain must be used with a closed, your choice, attachment link. A chain with s-hook and clip is really a great way to go.

Might avoid a ticket somewhere in your travels.

Nice build!
That's great to know! I had no idea cables were outlawed in certain places. Thanks for the tip!
 

CFD614

New member
Thanks for the kind words! Marine grade plywood is supposed to be pretty well protected, based on my research. Like you, I don't have much experience with it either. Some people suggest fiberglassing and epoxying the exterior when making boats. Some suggest it is fine to leave as is. We're undecided, but we know it's something we need to think more on.

The dimensions of the frame are 64"x101" if I remember correctly. The interior space is just a queen size mattress, so 60"x80".



That's great to know! I had no idea cables were outlawed in certain places. Thanks for the tip!
As far as coiled cables, I had them on my M416 trailer for the past 3 years with no issues of tangling as reported above, could it happen? I am sure it could but I never experienced it. For them being outlawed is weird as they are as strong or stronger than chain. I believe wherever it is registered is the law that would be followed for using them. Anyways nice work Rob maybe this weekend ill come and see it!
 

rob cote

King in the Northeast
Thanks!

Not sure where we're going this weekend, but surely somewhere. It's been far too long. We're excited. Will probably end up bringing tools to tinker while we're at camp.
 
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