Building A Trailer – Critical Things To Get Right

There are a lot of little details that go into a trailer building project.  Some big, some small.  Overall, it’s not hard, yet, when we think about the really important things that make a trailer perform well, the list is pretty short.  Give just a little extra care on these for a big pay back in success.

Maybe a list of priorities in order is the wrong way to think about it, because one is not more important than another.  Perhaps we should just consider the things above the “Critical” line.

(Not to say that other details are “not” important, they are, but successful performance relies on just a few.  The things you really need to get right for your trailer.)

The “Critical” List

These are the items “Above The Critical Line” for your trailer.  Get these things right when you make a trailer, and it will perform well.  If you’re buying a trailer, check these areas carefully.

This list is in no particular order because they are all important.  (We have articles about most of these, so follow the links for a lot more info.)

  • Start by choosing proper materials so that the trailer is strong enough to do your jobs.  This includes loading calculations or other engineering analysis to be sure.  (We don’t often think about it, but this is carefully evaluating the materials if we are buying a trailer, too.)
  • Use components that meet or exceed the requirements of the trailer.  Things like Axle(s), Wheels, Tires, Springs, Safety Chains, Hitch, Ball, Drawbar, and Receiver.  Some have Class ratings, some have strength ratings.  THEN, don’t ever exceed the stated limits.
  • When you build, make sure the welding, and skills are up to the job.  A trailer is not a good first welding project because welds are critical, and the consequences are really serious.
  • If you’re building, Place the trailer tongue (and hitch) on center and true to the trailer frame.
  • Axle Position.  Set the axle(s) location properly, front to back on the trailer frame.  See the article, “Where Does The Axle Go?”.
  • Axle Alignment.  Make the axle(s) straight and true with the trailer and direction of travel.  And related, making sure they are mounted correctly – Single axle trailers – and equalized loading for tandem and multiple axle trailers.
  • Loading and weight balance.  Part of this is discussed in the article linked above, “Where does the axle go?”, then more in our Trailer Towing Tips.

Some More “Important” Things

Maybe we should have a second list of “Important” things too.  Here are a few more things that we couldn’t decide if they actually fit the critical list.  They are not “critical” for trailer safety, but they sure can cause headaches when they are not right.

  • Make a trailer frame straight and true.
  • Trailer frame stiffness.  If the trailer frame is flexy, or wobbly, it can give some weird out of control like feelings as you drive.  It can also be a little weird when loading.
  • Use good Tires, always.  Don’t flirt with disaster.
  • Lights and wiring.  Again, if these are not right, it won’t cause the trailer to be unstable, but it might make the police a little unstable.  Just make sure the lights are all working and meet your local legal requirements.  If you need it, we have trailer wiring diagrams with this article.
  • Tongue Length.  A tongue that is too short will work, as will a tongue that is too long, but get it right, and it will be more pleasant to pull.
  • Get the trailer attitude level in all directions.  (Granted, just a little out of level doesn’t matter, but shoot for it.)
  • All the double checks in making sure the trailer is connected right, and running perfect each time before you take it out.

What Happens If You Don’t?

OK, I’m sure some of the above feel like “Yeah, they are critical”, but maybe there are also questions?  So, let’s illustrate with these fun articles showing examples of failure.  I don’t mean they are funny, rather, educational.  They put an emphasis on some of the above.

Hopefully these are a good enough reminder to take the time to make the critical things right.  True for building, and true for every day use.  Make a trailer, and use the trailer, for success.

Make A Trailer Awesome

The two above lists are not the only things that go into building a great trailer.  While these are the critical ones, we also have a bunch of articles on related topics worth reading if you are setting out to make a trailer.

If you are up to make a trailer, especially if it’s your first time, please see the many Articles from the Mechanic.  We realize there is a lot to browse through, so we included the “Show Me” search bar at the top of every page.  Just type in a subject, then we’ll show you what we have on the topic.  (It works for articles as well as for plans.)  With a library of more than 200 selections, the search feature is really helpful.

When you’re ready, we have many trailer plans to help.  We can help you check off several items in the critical list because our plans have all the engineering done, materials lists, axle placements, tongue lengths, and more.  When you are ready, the plans are here.

Thank you for joining us for a quick read.  It’s all there to help those who want to make a better trailer.  We say:  Build it Better than you can Buy it!  We’ll help with plans and perspective.  Good luck with your next trailer build.

 

Did You Make A Trailer?

If you have recently built a trailer — especially if it was made from our plans — we would love to see it, and share it.  There is nothing better to inspire people in DIY than seeing other success.  Please consider submitting your story and a few photos.  Thank you.

Have A Wonderful Day!

Comments

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View All Comments

We Found These For You . . .

Product
Mobile Gantry Crane Plans

Adding a crane is a game changer in the shop.  It’s perfect for lifting . . . anything.  Use the free standing mobile gantry crane - from plans - for pulling engines, to lift the boat, the car, or other…

Article
How We Make The Plans
What goes into the engineering of Do It Yourself Plans?  How do we make them?  When you purchase and download project plans from Mechanical Elements, you get a TON of work and information, much more than first meets the eye.

Read The Article

Article
Looking At Car Hauler Trailers
Where do you get plans for true, tough, Car Hauler trailers.  After a ton of market and product study, we are stepping in and stepping up.  Our niche is engineering better plans for DIY, so read on to learn about…

Read The Article

Article
Trailer With Attitude
When we think about airplanes flying, or boats sailing, it’s easy to imagine how they move.  An airplane rolls some as it banks into a turn.  A boat pitches up and down with the waves.  So, how do these factors…

Read The Article

Product
24' Tiny Home Trailer Plans

Build on a solid foundation starting with plans specifically designed for the unique needs of a Tiny House Trailer. Low 8.5’ x 24’ top deck. Up to 14,000 lbs total capacity. Fully Engineered.

Article
How To Stop Utility Trailer Bounce
If you pull an empty (or nearly empty) utility trailer, you probably know the feeling of utility trailer bounce.  It’s that bumpy jolting extra bouncing you feel in the tow vehicle as you drive.  Sometimes it feels like the trailer…

Read The Article

Product
2-Post Shop Press Plans

Build your own awesome, simple, and super strong hydraulic shop press with these plans.  We've got them.  Plans have instructions, illustrations, parts lists, components, materials and options.  Just add the jack.

Article
Trailer Suspension Equalizer Link
There are many different sizes and shapes of the suspension equalizer link.  What are they for?  Better yet, when should I choose one shape over another? If you’ve read much on this website, then you know

Read The Article

Article
Attach Safety Chain With One Bolt
What are the best ways to attach safety chains on a trailer?  That’s a simple question without a single best answer.  Don’t you hate it when the answer starts with “It depends . . . “?  Unfortunately, it does depend…

Read The Article

Article
Trailer Axles - Springs - Wheels - and Tires
I’ll just drop by the parts store and grab an axle . . . . Well, trailer axles are not quite that simple, but knowing a few important details, we can certainly get the right one.  Here’s a quick guide…

Read The Article