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Harbor Freight Trailer - Custom Mods

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I'm making this thread to give some ideas to other in the future who make want to modify their Harbor Freight folding trailer.  Searching through other people's projects helped me so I'm trying to give back.  The goal was to do all these mods with regular tools and nothing special like a welder, but on item did require a welder.

 

 

The purpose of doing all this work was that I absolutely hate tie down straps.  They are so slow, annoying, and I don't trust them at all.  I've had a bike topple over before after it came unhooked from hitting a large pothole.  I also don't like compressing the hell out of the suspension so that left me with one option; the Pitbull Trailer Restraint.  It's only as strong as the deck you mount it to and no way I'd trust the 1/2" plywood I had so I was forced to upgrade that to 3/4" as well.  The only problem is that 3/4" plywood does not fit on the HF trailer while still allowing you to fold it.  So off I went to buy a band saw, scroll saw, and angle grinder so I could fix that problem.

 

 

Fixing the hinges:

 

To fix the spacing problem for thicker plywood all I needed to do was move the center bolt on the two hinges straight up.  This would keep the same gap between the halves when it was down, and when it was folded it would create a wider gap.  I scanned the stock hinge and put it in AutoCAD so I could trace and manipulate the shape.  I then printed it and traced it on to 1/8” steel and fired up the band saw.  Below is the result which worked perfectly.  I actually created slightly more gap than anticipated.  I was expecting 5/64” clearance between the bolt heads, but ended up with probably 1/2”….not sure where I went wrong since I measured probably 500 times.

 

 

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Fixing the fenders:
The next problem I found after about 10 hours of hauling the bike was that one plate holding up the fender was almost completely cracked in half due to road vibrations and a bad design from Harbor Freight.  No problem now that I have the band saw lol.  So, thanks to a local riding guy I was about to go to his place and use his TIG welder to fix the fender plate.  Then I made some braces out of 1/8” steel again.  I first used plastic sheet and a heat gun to easily get the template.  I was able to utilize the holes already in the fender to add bracing.  The other side bolts to the large leaf spring bolts and the holes were in perfect alignment.  I was a nice surprise that it was that easy.  Below are the results and the fender is now much sturdier and I shouldn’t have any more cracking problems:
 
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Fixing the ramp:

 

My first ramp was just a simple 4’x33” piece of plywood with deck framing angles bolted to it for the “tongues” that rest on the trailer’s deck.  This was annoying because I had to put the large piece of wood in my Jeep and I didn’t trust the ramp to not slip off the deck so I fixed that too.  I bolted a piece of 36”x4”x1/8” steel to the rear bumper using some spacers to create a gap between the plate and the bumper.  I then used a MAP gas torch, a jig I created from steel rod and a 2x4 block.  I heated up the deck framing angles and bent them into shape.  I had to do this because I wanted the ramp to sit flush (as possible) on the trailer’s deck while stored.  I used Gorilla Glue Epoxy and a couple of ½” screws to attach the angles to the plywood ramp.  I also didn’t want to use a huge piece of wood so I cut it in half and used a 48” piano hinge which is also Gorilla epoxied and screwed so it won’t separate if you step on the hinge.  Here is the result:

 

 

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So what’s up with the eyebolts right and bungee cord right?  Well I needed a way to attach the ramp to the trailer’s deck.  So I went to borrow some time on the TIG welder from the local rider guy.  Keep in mind I’m a Financial Analyst and not a welder.  I took a MIG & TIG class in college for fun which was about 6 years ago.  Anyways, I welded a washer to the eyebolt so that it wouldn’t chew up the wood when tightening and the bungee cord prevents the bolts from vibrating loose while traveling…basically large safety wire.  I then used some threaded inserts and epoxied them to the underside of the trailer deck.

 

 

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Edited by DuncR6
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Adding a spare tire:

 

I didn’t like the spare tire carrier options that bolt to frame.  I wanted the spare to be out of sight, out of mind.  I salvaged the spare tire carrier from my Jeep and will just buy another.  I then welded the threaded rod to piece of ¼” plate and mounted it between the first two frame rails underneath the deck at the front of the trailer.  This gives me about 1” clearance on each side.

 

 

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Fixing the license plate:

 

Like the fender, the license plate was cracking due to vibration.  I knew I had to relocate it, but to where?  I mounted it between the two casters on the driver’s side.  I ordered an LED plate light bolt to remain legal and went to town relocating it.

 

 

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Now that the plate was moved and I still had another 2 weeks before my first ride I decided to tackle the ugly trailer brake lights.  I had some spare circuit boards from when I created my own WR450 taillight that thread is here.  I ordered some more SuperFlux LEDs, but still need a way to make the circuit board to be water tight.  I wanted to use polycarbonate for durability in case a rock from the road kicked up and hit the enclosure.  Blocks big enough to fit my circuit board are far too expensive so I bought some 0.093” sheets and epoxied them together.  I used the scroll saw to cut out the shape and then capped the top and bottom with another sheet of polycarbonate.

 

 

If you look closely you’ll see the top sheet is cut to the shape of the circuit board.  I did this because I planned to flush mount it in the rear bumper.

 

 

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The back plate wasn’t cut to size yet:

 

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Eliminating the tie down straps:

 

In the above picture you’ll see the gold color mounting plate.  This is for the Pitbull restraint and since it’s thin I can still fold the trailer with issues.  The pins for the Pitbull are made for a ’07 WR, but the axle is the same on the ’12 so I was able to buy the ’07 pins for my ’12 WR450.  Now I can load the bike in less than 1 minute….WAY faster and better than tie down straps.

 

 

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Edited by DuncR6
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Nicely done, you did a quality job on all the mods. 

 

A big mod I'd recommend is painting the thing! I tossed the folder hardware and welded up the main rectangle on mine, then painted red with Velspar International Red tractor paint. The tongue I left bolt-on and the original Harbor Freight finish. Just yesterday we were looking at how horribly the factory finish held up to the sun. Trailer lives outside, but is less than 1 year old and parked partially under a lean-to on the shed, so it only gets later afternoon sun. The finish has faded to nearly white, and very chalky. Looks terrible. The tractor painted portions all look the same as when I finished them, which isn't surprising, as it's held up for 3-4 years on both snowplows and various bits of, well, the tractor. 

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These cheap HF trailers are kind of fun as they let the owner express their ingenuity.  Very ingenious setup you have!

 

My trailer's stock tires got old and worn out (have had it for going on 10 years) and I replaced them with Yokahama Y372 145SR12 radial car tires.  A bling trailer like that needs to ride on better rubber.  The radials work way better when on dirt roads and are 1" taller and slightly wider than stock.  Have the wheels balanced while you are at it and the trailer can be towed smoothly at 75 mph all day long.  Been from CO to UT with it many times.

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I didnt need the folding option, so it got bolted solid. All nuts/bolts got a quick spot-weld so they would never loosen up. I laid treated 4x4s across the frame rails and then laid 3/4in ply over it, effectively making a 6x8 trailer with decking completely over the wheels (eliminating the need for fenders). I made a short 10in side rail around the sides and front of the trailer and attached directly to the flooring with L-shaped brackets and additional bracing. The rear of the siderails had C-channel bolted so that a pair of 2x6s could slide in and out, doubling as a rear wall or loading ramps. Made for a lightweight trailer capable of hauling an ATV, 3 bikes in wheel chocks, or loading up my riding mower. Hope this helps.

Edited by inthedirtagain

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I have the even smaller 48x40 trailer with a rail for one bike.  It stands up vertical in my garage.  I put the axle above the leaf springs so the trailer rides lower, less drag when being pulled by my small car and easier to load when I'm exhausted.  I also removed the shortest spring in the leaf spring so the trailer wouldn't bounce as much, didn't need the 1100 lbs. rating.

Edited by speedtoad

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I have the even smaller 48x40 trailer with a rail for one bike.  It stands up vertical in my garage.  I put the axle above the leaf springs so the trailer rides lower, less drag when being pulled by my small car and easier to load when I'm exhausted.  I also removed the shortest spring in the leaf spring so the trailer wouldn't bounce as much, didn't need the 1100 lbs. rating.

Great idea concerning the axle/springs. :thumbsup:  Where did you get a rail?  How about some photos.

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Great idea concerning the axle/springs. :thumbsup:  Where did you get a rail?  How about some photos.

 

Craigslist.

 

In the garage stacked in the corner with everything else.  You can see the axle and springs under my arm pit.  It was originally a picture of the Goldwing my Uncle gave me.  "No such thing as a free bike."

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Notice the blue hose as a rub guard

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Maiden voyage

 

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Edited by speedtoad
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Have you measured the weight on the hitch when loaded? Backing that thing up must be a real treat. Please answer all the questions, this is a test.

Edited by YHGEORGE

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Have you measured the weight on the hitch when loaded? Backing that thing up must be a real treat. Please answer all the questions, this is a test.

 

No I have measured the weight of the hitch when loaded.  I'm guessing it's around 10 percent of the total trailer weight.

Technically you only asked one question.  So I don't know if responding to the backing up comment would be reflected in my test score. I've actually never tried backing it up going really fast, but going slow it's not impossible. 

It's all about the MPG's, and I only loose about 1-2 when pulling this rig.  When the Goldwing is running I'm a little tempted to see how it pulls the bike and trailer, but I'm a reluctant street rider and pulling a 400 pound trailer seems to be pushing ones luck.

Edited by speedtoad

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