Bulding a trailer?-Metalworking Content-Warning <G>

I just negotiated for a service body (one of those plumber truck type
beds with the bins and doors) thats currently mounted on the ass end
of the original truck frame. They removed the cab, and torched the
frame about 4' in front of the bed. Axle, drive line etc are all
This came off either a Toyota or S10 pickup..and the kicker is...the
rear axle has dualies on it. Which Im not sure I want to deal with. 4
tires on the same axle can be a bitch.
Im intending to make a trailer out of this body. Im doing more and
more electrical/air/welding/plant maint. and I have a Ford
Ranger/Mazda B3000 as my normal work truck. Ive only a limited amount
of storage in the work truck, and simply cannot carry the needed
wire/conduit/fittings etc etc etc in the truck, so figured that having
a trailer I can load up with the Stuff and only haul it when needed
makes some sense (at least to my fevered brain). I maintain an RV in
southern California, with zero storage space, so I find I have to run
the 175 or more miles home to get the pipe threaders etc etc to do
these jobs. With the service trailer, I can simply park it in secure
storage at buddies machine shops, and pick it up easily and pull it to
the job site. It will have an Oster electric pipe threader, genny,
welder, ladder racks, conduit racks and whatnot, plus of course all
the pipe/emt fittings etc.
The question arrises..do I simply strip the superfluous shit off the
frame and bend the frame rails together and weld in a hitch, using the
exisiting dualie axle, or do I get a 3000 lb axle and build a new
frame to mount this one? If I use the existing axle..could I use the
existing brakes and put on a surge brake unit?
Ive not made a trailer in years, and while Im equipped to do so..any
hints, suggestions etc would be greatly appreciated in how the best
way to get wheels under this critter would be appreciated.
"If I'm going to reach out to the the Democrats then I need a third
hand.There's no way I'm letting go of my wallet or my gun while they're
"Democrat. In the dictionary it's right after demobilize and right
before demode` (out of fashion).
-Buddy Jordan 2001
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Can't you remove the dualie wheels and go to a single wider tire/wheel. Dualies will make it harder to hand move and turn. If you change the axle, I'd go with a 7500lb axle. Keeping the shocks would be a plus, I would think. Also, if you go to a trailing type axle (assuming the original axle has a diff), you can put a bit of tow-in in the axle to make towing more stable. You might even consider putting a dual axle under it (if practical). That thing is gonna be top heavy and "rocky", front to rear. As far as the tongue, Forming the frame I think would be stronger than a cut and weld of a new front.
Reply to
Ron Moore
The first issue to address is the CG. Load the thing up as you expect and see that the (virtual) tongue weight would be. If you need to shift the axle location to fix the CG / tongue weight you're probably best off building a new frame.
As for the axle, I'd suggest keeping it with the duallies. The service body can't be light and neither are the tools and whatnot you'll put in it. I doubt a 3k axle would be up to the task once it's loaded.
I'd think a surge brake unit would work fine. If for some reason you can't use the existing axle then electric is probably better.
If you are able to use the existing axle and frame I certainly wouldn't try bending or welding the frame since it's probably heat treated. I'd cut it back to a suitable length (gen up front perhaps) and then fab a new steel tongue unit to bolt to the existing frame with grade 8 bolts.
As with all trailer related stuff, safety should be the top priority. Cut corners and you could end up killing someone which would generally not be fun. Watch carefully the gross weight, tongue weight, CG, brakes, safety chains and general security of all fasteners and welds.
Pete C.
Reply to
Pete C.
Before you lift a finger I'd talk to CHP. California isn't known for being lax on regulations.
Reply to
Grant Erwin
I wonder if the original vehicle was overloaded, since (I think) the S-10 was typically a half-ton or so truck, right?
I found an automotive suspension too soft for a trailer, though truck suspensions might be different.
If the frame and axle look sufficient for the job, I'd see no reason not to use them. The axle, bearings and spindles on a 1/2 ton truck are generally more substantial than 3000-lb trailer axles sold at Northern etc.
What kind of payload do you think you might need? 3000 lb (1.5 ton) is considerably more than the S-10 was good for -- but it might be OK as a trailer with different springs. Most automotive tires are good for 1500 lb each, so you shouldn't need duallies except perhaps to reduce sinking into mud or soft sand.
You may need to move the spring mounts to get the CG right. You'll want 10 to 15% of the total weight on the hitch for towing stability. That puts the CG slightly ahead of the axle, but tongue length will determine how far in front. No big deal to change springs, though it might be best to make new mounts that bolt on rather then weld on to preserve heat-treat properties of the frame. I'd make bolt-on spring mount plates out of 1/4" or 3/8" plate, and then weld the shackles etc to that.
I made my 5 x 9 frame out of 2 x 3 x 3/16" rectangular tubing so I welded everything including spring mounts. I used an old automotive (van) axle and a new 3000-lb spring set from Northern -- under 50 bux. I've never loaded mine to 3000 lb, but others who have made very similar trailers have with no problems. I know my neighbor has loaded it to over 2000 lb several times.
Cars and trucks need shocks to stop resonance with springs soft enough to provide a good ride. They don't "absorb" shock at all; in fact, they transmit shock undiminished. Think about it: they deflect fairly easily with sustained force but you could easily drive a railroad spike with a "shock absorber" between the spike and the maul. They're really viscous dampers. In Europe they even call them dampers. Their function and purpose is to damp spring-mass resonance, the mass being the vehicle and its load. They might have gotten the name here because everyone knows that when your shocks are shot your vehicle bounces a lot after hitting a railroad track -- response to shock. If the shocks are good, the shock goes right thru them to the vehicle and slams your head against the roof -- but the vehicle doesn't keep bouncing afterwards.
In a trailer, except perhaps for those to be air transported, (pilots doen't like bouncies in the back) it's better to use stiffer springs and skip the "shocks". They don't sag as much under load, they actually transmit less road shock to the load (and tires) because there are no shock transmitters( not absorbers) between road and load, and the stiffness raises the resonant frequency enough that it ceases to be an issue. Higher frequency resonances have smaller amplitudes, and fewer milder stimuli to tickle them in the first place. Further, flex in the tires provides some viscous damping, perhaps enough to damp higher freq resonances. A rider in the trailer might not enjoy the ride. Tough shit, puke over the tailgate -- downwind, please. Machines and "stuff" don't get carsick but they don't like shock.
My trailer with original 1/2 ton van springs but sans "shocks", loaded full, went resonant at about 60 mph on a section of undulating road that dang near had it hopping off the ground. Trailer Mc Boingboing. Slowing down a bit stopped that. Speeding up would also have stopped it but I'd have had to go back thru resonance when eventually slowing again. It also dropped quite a bit when loaded, giving less clearance between axle and frame and more risk of bottoming out on a hard bump. (OW!) Zero problems since I cut off the soft spring mounts and welded on new mounts to fit the much shorter and stiffer 3000-lb trailer spring set. They had 4000 lb springsets for about the same money, but I didn't want my buddies who also use it to think the heavier springs would make it a 4000-lb trailer. The limiting factors are wheels, tires and possibly the axle though I doubt that. The bearings and spindles on that van axle are considerably beefier than those found on 3000 lb trailer axles at Northern.
I would think that a surge brake should work fine with automotive wheels, though I've not tried it. It's just a master cylinder with a bit of mechanism surrounding it. I was gonna do that on mine but never got around to it. It would be a good idea if your customary payload will be over 1500 lb. It's probably required in some states, particularly mountain states. MN requires it, but nobody has ever hassled me about it. CA probably requires trailer brakes, backup surge brake, redundant brakelights with alphanumeric display (in Spanish) explaining what the lights mean, a dozen safety labels in four languages possibly including English, a self-deploying anchor and three lawyers in the trailer. It may be permissible to use one of the lawyers as the anchor...
Reply to
Don Foreman
Basically, that's all I did for mine:
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Several construction notes here:
This is in MA, and trailers under 3000 lbs are not inspected and do not require brakes here, so YMMV. Brakes would be nice, it's got a very noticable amount of "push" with a full load of compost. I think I'd get a straight tube trailer axle with electric brakes before I tried to make the old truck brakes and a new surge hitch talk to each other. I think getting surge dialed in would be a royal pain, and I think you'd find the cost isn't that much different. Especially if you already have a brake controller for another trailer.
I used the original truck axle and suspension. While perfectly adequate for mulch or compost, the suspension is really too soft for much of what one uses trailers for. Once hitched up, it is relatively easy to tip the trailer side to side just standing in the bed. I wouldn't trust it not to tip if I were to use it to haul a lathe, for example. Some of that might be fixable with the use of either overload leafs or a sway bar. You wouldn't need the one that goes over the driveshaft since you'll be yanking it.
If your original truck had duals, there is a good posibility that the original suspension is stiffer. My original axle was rated by Ford for 2875 lbs, and when I went to get it registered, I wrote down that for my GVW. The registrar crossed that out and wrote in 3000 before processing my application. Since 10% of the weight is on the hitch, I don't think that's out of line.
Empty, my trailer weighs 1100 lbs, which is really very heavy for incidental hauling. I'm not sure how much of the drag I experience from towing it is from the weight alone and how much is from the truck axle. Note that my build construction could have been a little lighter without the toolbox and dump feature.
I've found a little import 4x8 with 12" tires much easier to deal with for at least 90% of what I use a trailer for, so I'll probably get rid of this one in the near future. Also, I am contemplating getting rid of the vehicle I used to tow it, as has a number of issues now.
For your uses, I'd not bother building the "dump" feature I used though it does come in handy for use with mulch.
If you were closer, I'd consider offering you a package deal on the truck and trailer... heck, if anyone on RCM is interested, drop me a line and we'll talk. --Glenn Lyford
Reply to
I did this with an old chevy full size truck bed about 20 years ago.
I notched the frame top and bottom, heated it up and bent the frame to meet my tongue tube. (sounds kinky don't it?) Gussets where the notches came gether and a piece of flat across the top made a nice triangle. The hitch was bolted and welded to the tube. (belt and suspenders is Ok with me)
Only issue I noted was that the springs made it ride too high and bounce too much.
I used it for what I needed, then sold it for a couple hundred.
Sounds like you could just remove the outer wheels and use 1 of 'em for a spare.
Mark (lurker on RCM) Dunning
Reply to
Mark Dunning
Surge brake units are no longer OK in NY for commercial trailers. I'm told you need a breakaway box now. There may be some way to do this with surge brakes, but a battery powered breakaway box for electric brakes seems to be the practical way to go.
Service bodies are really heavy. That weight will detract from your carrying capacity, as well as put a bit of strain on a small truck. I think an enclosed aluminum trailer would serve your needs better.
Reply to
I second this, I heard a rumor that the formerly common practice of using a pickup differential for the trailer axel was banned.
What you might want to do is to buy or build a flat bed trailer and mount the utility body on the trailer as a tool box. I am not sure if you pay weight fees on a trailer or not, but if you do the unladen weight is what they base the weight fees on. If that is the case, the annual savings could be hundreds of dollars.
Reply to
Roger Shoaf
Nice work Glenn. That looks like a fun project!
Reply to
Christopher Tidy
Make sure you have a receipt for the chassis and bed, and if they know it, list the VIN number of the dearly departed truck that the bed and rails came from on it. Because the CA DMV is going to want all that info before they issue you a new VIN number and a license plate. Don't spend the effort to convert it if you can't get it licensed because you can't prove ownership to their satisfaction.
Toyota made the 1-Ton Cab-Chassis for many years, with true duallies for most of that time.
Find out which it is now and stamp it on the tongue next to the new VIN, because you may need axle parts later - wheel bearings, brake parts, springs and hangers... If it's a real dually axle you are golden - duallys are almost guaranteed to be a full-floater with hydraulic brakes - the axle shaft has nothing to do with wheel bearings.
All you need to do is pull the center carrier out of the axle, button it back up, and fill with gear oil so it sloshes out to the wheel bearings on each end when you turn corners. And if it's the kind with grease-packed wheel bearings (not oil bath), you don't even need that.
KISS - the old axle will work fine if you pull the center carrier and axle shafts, and blank off the ends. Bend the frame together at the right angle and get an A-mount surge brake master cylinder style coupler. They have a breakaway arm and cable that will ratchet the brakes on full if the trailer tries parting company with the tow vehicle.
Don't plan on hanging any more crap off the tongue, like another storage box. It'll already be way tongue heavy, the axle is usually set too far to the rear on a truck body to make it a well balanced trailer.
Universal wiring, plug and go - use a 6-way round coupler and put separate stop and turn lights on the rear (all red). Will work properly with the "Euro" wiring on the Mazda, and the two-lamp "USA'n" wiring with no converters.
I put a female coupler on the trailer tongue, and make the cables with a male on each end - it's easy to lock away so it doesn't get stolen, and it's trivial to make adapter cords to fit other coupler flavors like 7 or 9-pin commercial or travel-trailer styles. Or the old standby 4-pin flat 'bullet' style.
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
Forget the surge brakes. The absolute best trailer brake out there is an electronically controlled hydraulic pump. I prefer the Hydrastar. With this unit you have a standard electric brake controller in the cab, the pump is mounted on the front of your trailer, and from there back to the wheels it's regular hydraulic brake lines. Cost of the unit is no more than youl'd pay for a surge brake master cylinder. With this set up you can control and adjust the brakes using the electric controller, it is all set up with a break away system. I've pulled a ton of trailers, and built a few too, there is nothing that even comes close to this unit for good safe trouble free braking!
Reply to
Thanks..Ill check this out. Ive never heard of this method before
"I think this is because of your belief in biological Marxism. As a genetic communist you feel that noticing behavioural patterns relating to race would cause a conflict with your belief in biological Marxism." Big Pete, famous Usenet Racist
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You mean these? -
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Looks interesting. Verrrrrry Interrrestink...
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
Yes, exactly! I have these on a boat trailer that I built. I used a pair of 3500 pound torsion axles with stainless steel discs. Brakes and axles are from Tie Down Engineering. I have pulled a number of horse trailers, boat trailers, and flat bed equipment trailers (usually overloaded). What I don't like about electric brakes is they are usually off and on, rolling or locked up, there is no "feel" to them. Of course there are also problems with corrosion when submerged on a boat trailer. I have always hated surge brakes, anytime the installation instructions tell you to take an ice pick and puncture a part on your new product I begin to question the engineering! I've pulled trailers that belonged to friends that had surge brakes, they seemed to come on when I didn't want them to, and not come on when I REALLY wanted them to. One in particular that you just could not back up cuz the brakes would lock up on you immediately. Maybe I just had bad experiences with poorly set up trailers, but if the choice was electric or surge I'd go electric every time! Then I stumbled on to "electric over hydraulic" and I am SOLD! For a time I was towing my boat (boat and trailer = 4860 pounds) behind my 1968 FJ40 LandCruiser (4740). Initially I had the trailer set up with standard electric brakes, it was ok, it didn't feel "dangerous" but you had to plan your stops and PAY ATTENTION. Then I switched the axles and set up the Hydrastar system. I swear, that vehicle braked better with the trailer than without! And as I say, the brakes have "feel" to them. Oh, I did give the old LandCruiser a break, I now tow with a 3/4 ton, 4wheel drive diesel pick-up. It handles the loads better and has a ton more creature comforts too....like AC!
Reply to
Indeed. When building a trailer with one of those units..the most valuable item on the trailer will be the actuator at $600 each for the cheap one.
I think Ill pass and look for something more..reasonable..err..affordable
"I think this is because of your belief in biological Marxism. As a genetic communist you feel that noticing behavioural patterns relating to race would cause a conflict with your belief in biological Marxism." Big Pete, famous Usenet Racist
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You don't like my "Beer Truck" idea?
Reply to
Tom Gardner
Tom, I know a guy that doesn't like trailers. He has a big Morgan stallion that he hauls around. He bought an old Frito Lay truck and trained the stallion to climb up some steps to get into the van. Best part is the horse can stick his head right up into the cab area and look out the windshield as he's going down the road.
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I love it..but I cant afford the fuel costs
"I think this is because of your belief in biological Marxism. As a genetic communist you feel that noticing behavioural patterns relating to race would cause a conflict with your belief in biological Marxism." Big Pete, famous Usenet Racist
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