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Harbor Freight Utility Trailer (2010)

After living without a pickup truck for several years I decided to spend a few bucks on a folding utility trailer to make hauling lumber and tools easier.  No more wresting things into the back of my SUV or borrowing pickup trucks from friends.  Now hauling stuff is easy peasy, and as a bonus it works great for lots of other tasks as well (mulch, topsoil, home improvement materials, furniture, etc).  I wish I had bought this thing years ago.

This is how the trailer looked after it was initially assembled.  Assembly was straightforward if you are mechanically inclined but it takes several hours (there are many joints to fasten).  After I got this far I made a bunch of upgrades and modifications (inventoried at the bottom of this page).  Most important was getting help from a friend to weld up all the bolted connections - that made the trailer frame much stronger and more rigid.  After welding the frame I sanded everything down, applied a good coat of primer, and sprayed a couple topcoats of paint.

This is what it looks like now that everything is finished.  The plywood sides are fantastic to contain whatever fits inside, and they can be easily lifted out of the stake pockets to make it into a flatbed trailer.  I added the spare tire on the front before towing the trailer on a 6 hr round trip on the highway.  It's low cost insurance, and it fits on the front nose assembly really nicely.

Here's a rear 3/4 view.  The white pvc pipes slip into grooves in the plywood sides, and their purpose is to make the trailer visible while backing it up.  Without the poles it's hard to see the small trailer and keep it on course but the poles make it easy.  The corner brackets on each corner of the plywood sides allow the walls to interlock with each other by just sliding them up and out of the stake pockets - no tools needed.  The side panels can be individually removed which provides access for loading or unloading the trailer.

And here's one of the best parts: it stores in my garage up against a wall.  I can't keep a trailer permanently parked outside of my house (and I wouldn't want it there even if I could) so this is a fantastic solution.  Within 5-10 minutes I can remove the sides, fold up the tailer, and store it in my garage.  It leaves plenty of room for our cars.  With the plywood deck it gets a little heavy for one person but it is manageable if you're very careful.  With 2 people it's a breeze.  The small casters to roll the thing around are very convenient but I'll probably change them out for something sturdier and smoother.

The trailer has seen heavy usage in the few months I've had it - much more than I would have ever expected.  Including a 6 hr round trip at 75 mph-ish on the highway.  Also a 3 hr round trip with it loaded almost to capacity with lumber.  We also hauled several full loads of topsoil with no issues.

Here are the modifications I've made:
- fully welded frame
- plywood bed
- removable wood sides
- added eye bolts to the frame sides for tie downs
- reprimed/repainted
- led lights
- wire loom wraps for the light wiring
- drilled holes in frame & zipties to secure light wiring
- move the folding hinges outboard slightly to permit full 48" between them 
- tool-less locking open of the 2 halves w/ c-clamps & bolt/wing nuts
- pvc poles at the rear of trailer for backing up
- tarp to cover trailer if needed

In total I believe I have about $400 invested ($240 for the trailer, $75 for a MI lifetime license plate, plus a few $s for paint/primer, plywood, led lights, eye bolts, etc).  It's been money well spent.

Finally, here are a few links for reference material (all links were active as of Nov 2010):

Copyright 2010 Chris Billman