I'm looking at making a small, 5'x10' trailer to haul things that I
can't get into my Volvo station wagon. According to Volvo, the maximum
towing capacity is 2000 lbs.
I would appreciate any inputs you guys have in regards to building this
type of trailer (tubing diameters, plans, etc.)
I've read that some guys use the drum brakes that are already on the
rear axle of the minivan that donates the axle. Is this a good option?
I understand that I would need to get some sort of hydraulic actuator
for the brakes if I want to use them.
Thanks very much.
"Weldman" wrote in
Since you didn't say what type of trailer you were planning on, here's a few
If you'd settle for 4'x8' flatbed, try
the stake side kit
The brakes on the minivan axle will require a source of hydraulic pressure to
function and tapping into your Volvo's brake system is a B-A-D idea.
A better choice might be to go to a trailer repairer/builder such as
or a trailer parts outlet such as
You'd be better off looking for an abused U-Haul trailer and rebuilding it. This
would provide surge brakes on the axle, a stout frame and hitch, and much, if
not all, of the electrical system. It would even be licensed.
I don't think you need brakes on a trailer that light (2000 pounds total
weight). Ask others, but we in our family have pulled trailers in that
load range for many years without braking problems.
States vary on that. If your state does require brakes, a surge brake
should suffice. That's just a spring-loaded master cylinder between
the hitch and the rest of the trailer. You have to get out and pin it
if you want to back the trailer up a hill.
If you keep the loads light, you don't need trailer brakes. Push up
above 1500 pounds regularly and they are a good idea. Shouldn't be
any problem using a minivan axle - but make a stamped ID plate on the
back side of the axle ("1994 Dodge Caravan") so 20 years from now you
can figure out where the axle came from to get parts for it. Don't
count on remembering.
The one advantage of a minivan axle would be you can rig the parking
brake. Just don't forget to release it before towing. ("Honey, do
you smell something burning...?")
For hydraulic trailer brakes you need an actuator. They make the
"Old Fashioned" tongue coupler with the master cylinder inside, which
is simpler for utility trailers. But they may need to be adjusted as
the trailer load changes.
And the new electric over hydraulic actuators, Carlisle HydraStar is
one - but it needs a battery on the trailer to operate the breakaway
function. If this is a travel trailer or something with an engine
(generator, welder, compressor) that already needs a battery, it's a
twofer. If not, it's just another thing to check and replace.
Either way the bad part is I don't trust the breakaway system to be
that effective - it counts on a separate cable to be the last thing
attached and actuate the brakes on as it is separating. People don't
think about why these cables are there and I almost always see these
improperly attached to the safety chains, which can break free from
the car and never actuate the trailer brakes.
You really need a separate anchor ring attached to a totally
different part of the vehicle - with a bumper hitch you need to anchor
that breakaway leash to the frame or body, with a frame-mount receiver
hitch you can go to the bumper. Point being if the hitch comes off
the tow vehicle that E-brake leash has to be attached someplace that
isn't likely to be coming apart at the same time as the hitch is...
A pendulum acting on a master cyl on the tounge will give you a simple
"decel" brake, or go with a sliding tounge with an "over-ride" spring,
giving you a surge brake. A solenoid lock-out will allow you to
reverse by pinning the brake actuator when the backup lights go on.
I have built more than 5 trailers. I have made alot of mistakes in their
design. But, I do have some advise to you.
My advice -- Build the trailer with the parts you have available and dont
connect any brakes at this time. You may find that you dont need brakes
for your loads and speeds
Trailer brakes are great but they can be complicated to make work
properly. You can add the brakes when/if you find that they are needed.
If you intend to have a trailer with brakes, I'd advise you to look for a
used one locally that you could buy from someone who no longer wants it. You
can clean it up and modify it to *meet your needs*.
If you want to build a proper trailer with brakes, I'd advise you use
proper electric brakes.
Thanks to all of you guys for the advice.
I'll probably just opt for the trailer without the brakes as I probably
won't be towing any really heavy loads with the Volvo.
As for the construction of the trailer, does anyone have any advice as
to which diameter/gauge of tubing to use? I basically want a flat
trailer with maybe 1' high rails around it for hauling sheets of
plywood, drywall, etc.
A friend made one out of old gas-pipe. 2" for the main frame, 1 1/4
for the top. He used old pipe fittings for the corners, bored out (no
threads) and welded. He used a sheet of 1/16"? plate as a "shear web"
tacked between the top and bottom pipes for side panels which also
made the sides EXTREMELY strong. Sides about 8" high. Cross-rails
every foot or so on the bottom, and 3/4" plywood floor.
On Mon, 18 Dec 2006 12:59:22 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm,
clare at snyder.on.ca quickly quoth:
You can buy 4x8' folding trailers for $200 or less at Harbor Freight,
Northern Tools, Fred Meyer, etc. They come with all the goodies:
springs, axles, lights, wiring, tires, wheels, hitch, etc. Just add
plywood for the base.
You MIGHT be able to build one cheaper, but it could take you weeks or
months to find the parts at the scrap metal yard.
Not only that, but they go on sale, and you can use one of the coupons they
were sending out, so mine was only $143 by the time I got it out the door.
It was $60 to register it, and I have found it to be really useful. I
hauled a new dryer home from Fry's, a used Mopar Magnum 360 motor to Austin
from halfway to San Antonio, a pile of stuff to the dump, and numerous other
light hauling tasks. I like the plywood deck, as I can use deck screws and
fasten down 2x4s to hold down whatever I have.
Actually, I haven't been getting those coupons in my email lately - is it
just me or have they stopped sending them?
On Tue, 19 Dec 2006 03:42:11 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, "Emmo"
Short and lightweight trailers aren't registered here in OR.
Cool, but let's hope you also strap things down.
Instead of 15/20% off coups, they're sending low-priced coupons for
individual items nowadays. The list of items on their home page gives
example of the savings. I still have a lone copy of a 20% off coupon
and will use that on the next high-dollar item I buy, like a mini-mill
I saw one of those HF trailers on the side of southbound I-5 about
half way down the south side of the Grapevine this morning. Drivers
side hub was missing from the axle. Well..actually the spindle wasnt
there either, nor was the tire. Just a sheared off section at the end
of the axle.
There was nothing in the trailer. Some duckboards as sides.
"That which does not kill you,
has made a huge tactical error"
On Wed, 20 Dec 2006 05:56:44 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, Gunner
SoCal is HELL on trailers. The tailgate of my truck knows that well.
And that was one part -you- didn't weld on, right?
P.S: Any luck on finding bandsaw gears and alice clips?
Chuckle...nope. Ive learned that lesson well long ago. Now when I put
bits of metal together..they stay together.
#$@! sigh...too many things to do. Damnit. And Ive got another
package ready to go for another poster here as well, sitting unsent.
I unfortunatly will likely have time between Christmas and New Years
to catch up. Nothing service related scheduled. Damnit.
"That which does not kill you,
has made a huge tactical error"
It used to be popular, but it's effectively illegal to do this (UK
laws) for the last few years.
Trailer brakes for trailers over the magic weight limit need to have
functional rear brakes. This requires either a hydraulic system on the
trailer that uses the original brake cylinders (possible, and has been
done), or else getting the mechanical handbrake system to provide more
braking force than it was ever designed for.
People have tried to do this. For some car brakes (disks with an
integral handbrake in the main caliper) it's practical to do this, but
they rarely have the sort of solid rear axle that's convenient for
building trailers with. If you try and convert the handbrake, then you
end up needing stupidly high forces through the linkages, such that
you'll never keep it working afterwards. It has been done most
effectively by fitting wedge actuators from a trailer supplier to the
So, although it's not specifically illegal to do this in the UK, it's
now effectively impossible to do so and be legal. Bit like building
trikes really - they didn't ban them, just made non-lightweight trikes
impossible to build in a format that's both legal and rideable.
If I were doing it, I'd also use a Volvo 240 / 740 as the axle donor.
It's worth having just one format of spare wheel for both vehicles. Not
a bad axle either.
If you want an easy life, just go to a trailer shop and buy some wheel
units. They're dead easy to use, they bolt or weld straight onto the
chassis and the brakes work straight off.
For ultra-light trailers, just buy the things. They're rust-proof
aluminium and they're cheaper than the effort of building them.
What's wrong with over-run brakes operated from a cable or master cylinder on
a spring loaded hitch? I had thought that was the standard system for caravans
and braked trailers. What changed?
For trailers between 750kg and 3500kg, that's the normal system.
However it's impractical to have such an over-run system actuate a
mechanical brake based on the handbrake mechanism of a recycled car or
van rear axle and achieve usable brake efficiency. The original
handbrake just wasn't designed to generate that amount of braking force.