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.
"Weldman" wrote in news: email@example.com:
Since you didn't say what type of trailer you were planning on, here's a few comments:
If you'd settle for 4'x8' flatbed, try with 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.
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.
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:
Weldman, 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" quickly quoth:
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 or mini-lathe.
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.
Rule #35 "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 original backplates.
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.
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.