How to Build a Utility Trailer
Utility trailers are handy for a variety of applications, from hauling your tools to the job, or your gear to the gig. Whether you're planning on building a trailer for your business, or just need one occasionally for the family camping trips, this article will give you the basic information to start building your own!
Determine the type of trailer you'll need
A utility trailer should be customized to your specifications. You will need to decide on the length, the weight capacity, and whether or not it will be enclosed.
- If the utility trailer will be used for lumber or building materials, it may need a stronger trailer suspension and full-size wheels.
- For ease of loading and unloading—especially lumber—you would probably not want it enclosed. You would also want to make it long enough to hold lumber and sheeting.
- For machinery and valuable tools, you would not only want it sturdy, but also enclosed and secure to prevent theft.
The vehicle that you will use to pull the utility trailer will also help determine the dimensions. For example, a utility trailer to haul groceries behind a bicycle will necessarily be much smaller than a utility trailer built to haul a table saw.
Decide the method of construction
In order to build your own utility trailer, you can start from scratch or you can choose to assemble a kit. Either way, getting the right tools and materials are essential.
Search online websites for utility trailer kit plans or visit a home improvement store for ideas.
Confirm your level of ability
In the planning stages, it's important to know your level of mechanical expertise and construction capabilities. Building a utility trailer from scratch will require
- welding skills
- carpentry know-how
- electrical knowledge (to install taillights)
- the capacity for heavy lifting
Gather the materials and tools
Following a utility trailer plan will help you gather the right components. Once you have located a source for the materials, check with the customer service representative to arrange delivery. If you are a skilled welder and have the equipment you'll need, follow the manufacturer's recommended safety and procedural instructions.
Most designs consist of a bed, a hitch, a "tongue" (the wedge shape that extends from the front), an axle with wheels, taillights, and a license plate frame.
Many of the components for utility trailers (tongue, hitch, axle, jack, and taillights) can be purchased fully assembled, making it easier to contruct.
Construct the trailer frame
Image courtesy of Mechanical Elements
The frame will consist of 4 steel angle-iron rods, 2 for the sides, and 2 for the front and back. Depending on the length of the trailer, the sides will likely be longer than the front and back.
- Miter all 4 corners to fit together at a 45 degree angle.
- Tack-weld the angle-iron rods together, forming a rectangle. At this point, make sure the frame is perfectly square.
- Weld support beams (at least 3) made of flat iron across the width of the frame.
- Cut enough 2x6 inch pressure-treated lumber to cover the entire length/width of the frame. Drill holes where the boards intersect with the frame.
- Drill holes in the angle iron to match the holes in the lumber.
- Bolt pressure-treated 2x6 inch (5.1 X 15.2 cm) boards to the frame inside the lip of the angle iron.
Attach the axle and tires
Use a hydraulic jack to raise the frame off the floor. Block all 4 corners to keep it elevated. Weld the axle under the framing. On a rectangular frame, the axle should be attached using a 60/40 ratio: 60 percent of the frame in front of the axle and 40 percent behind the axle.
A trailer can be built with or without springs. Using a square-tube axle makes it easier to weld the axle directly to the frame. But an axle without springs produces a harsher ride.
Springs can be added to provide a softer ride for your cargo, but the center line of the axle should still remain in the same location specified in the above paragraph (60/40 ratio).
Install the spring mounts to ensure that the axle is positioned in its proper location. The fixed end of the spring should be toward the front of the trailer, and the part that is allowed to move should be toward the rear of the trailer.
Using the lug bolts and nuts included with the axle kit, install the predetermined sized tires on the axle.
If you wish to retrofit 1 or 2 existing axles, the Timbren Silent Ride suspension offers you a softer ride, and – if it’s a tandem setup - provides you with a suspension that is fully equalized.
Finish out the other parts
After welding the hitch to the tongue, weld the entire assembly to the front of the frame, making sure it’s centered on the frame.
Attach the jack behind the hitch on the tongue. Route the electrical wires from the front to the rear for the taillights. Make sure the taillight connector is in front.
The taillight assembly will consist of a combination of park, brake, and signal lights. The wiring harness should be secured under the trailer and the lights attached to rear with bolts on either side.
For more info about Timbren’s Axle-Less suspension, watch the video below which explains how to install it.