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The trailer dimensions are tailored for the car top carrier made by Karrite, and sold by Sears ($99) and BiMart ($89), but the dimensions can be changed to suit the carrier of your choice, or for a custom trailer.
The trailer frame is fabricated from 2” square tube. The outer dimensions are 30.5” wide and 41” long. The dimensions were laid out and checked before ordering metal. The metal shop where I purchased the material offered to cut the pieces to specified lengths and angles for a mere $15, which greatly reduced my labor time for a very reasonable expense. All corner cuts are at 45 degrees, the remaining cuts are all at 90 degrees.
Confirm all dimensions before cutting or ordering.
The angle iron was originally purchased as extra bracing material to aid in attachment of the car top carrier, but was not deemed necessary. Instead, the angle was only used to support and position the fenders.
The trailer frame is a rectangle with one cross piece at the mid-point, and a tongue piece that extends “through” the front frame pieces and is welded to the cross piece. It is important that the pieces are cut to exact lengths and angles to maintain a straight and square frame.
Lay the frame tubing out on a flat surface and confirm the fit of the pieces. Tack weld in place, then proceed with finish welding.
In a nutshell, here’s the order of construction.
Drill or weld holes in the cross piece so that the wiring can be threaded through the tongue and cross piece to the lights at rear. Make the holes before assembling the frame. Holes made with the welder will generally be less sharp on the edges and will keep the wires from being cut as you snake the wires through the frame.
Once the correct length of the axle is determined, position the spindles in the axle and weld them in place. This can be tricky, as the axle’s inner dimension is slightly larger than the spindle outer diameter. To get a more precise position, drill three holes in the axle about 4” from the end, equidistant around. The holes can be small and threaded. With the spindle inserted, thread bolts into each hole, and, run the bolts in to the same amount, thus centering the spindle in the axle shaft. With the spindle thus positioned, weld the end of the axle to the spindle completely around. Once this weld cools, remove the bolts from the axle and weld the holes to the spindle. The spindle should now be straight within the axle.
To position the axle, turn the trailer right side up with the springs and hangers installed. Position the spring saddles on the base and lay the axle on the saddles to determine where they should be welded to the axle.
Axle looking on end with bolts threaded
to position the spindles for centering.
The biggest challenge for me was hanging the springs and axle. I hadn’t done this before, and a little help from my friend Kelly was invaluable. Once I did it, I realized how easy it really was, if you have all the hardware. We originally forgot the axle / spring saddles and had to go back and get them.
In the picture below, you can see where the weld on the spindle goes around the axle end (the holes to align the spindle aren’t seen, but would be hidden by the spring assy). The rear hanger is welded so that the pieces supporting the spring are vertical (remember to position the front hanger pieces first).
The light brackets can be welded or bolted into place. I chose to weld them.
The trick here is to get the axle width and spindle widths correct for your overall trailer width, keeping in mind the fender clearance. This was done by putting the pieces together without welding, and lots of measuring of the car top carrier and frame.
I’m using a Dauntless Hitch. Because I have ABS brakes, I elected to go with an “isolator” type harness. The Dauntless hitch came with a standard harness, so if you’re not using ABS, you should be able to get by fine with the one supplied. The common thought on ABS is that an Isolator type harness will keep from interfering with the ABS circuit (don’t know if it’s true, but I thought the $49 wasn’t too much to pay for the added insurance).
The Isolator harness consists of a separate relay for each trailer light circuit. In effect, the bike’s lights only activate the relay for the corresponding trailer light. The relay provides direct current from the battery to the light (i.e., the bike light circuits only trip the relays, so that little or no current is drawn from them, keeping the load on the bike’s lights to a minimum).
There are two common types of lighting systems used on
vehicles in the
The “American” three wire systems use the same filament/bulb
for the brake lights and turn signals.
When engaged, the turn signals cycle the appropriate right or left brake
light, so that this brake light (right or left) flashes whether or not the
brakes are on. This system requires
three wires (not including ground) to function (tail/2brakes). This type of system has been around forever,
and was the most common on vehicle produced in the
The “European” system uses a separate turn signal bulb (usually amber), so that the brake lights operate independently from the turn signals. This system requires four wires (not including ground) to function (tail/brake/Rturn/Lturn). This lighting system is more common on today’s cars, especially imports and motorcycles.
The bad news:
To convert from a European (GL1800) to the “American” type system a converter must be used that converts signals. Unfortunately, there appears to be some problem for standard or basic converters in dealing with the GL1800. I’ve tried 5 different types and brands of converters and none worked. I spoke with the technicians at two of the electrical manufacturers that make the converters about the problem, and both told me that most converters don’t seem to work on motorcycles. They didn’t know why, but they suspected that the ground system “floated” or had some effect that prevent the electronics from working properly. Their recommendation was to try a converter that incorporated a ground wire. The one tech told me that he knew that only about 20% of the applications on Goldwings worked properly, and he didn’t know why. I found that on the five different converters, 4 which also included a ground, none worked properly. It really was puzzling, as the relays appeared to be working fine, providing a nice clean and strong current to the converters, but they refused to properly work. The most common symptom was tail lights worked, but no brake/turn worked.
The good news:
I happened to try a converter that was carried by the trailer parts house, which advertised that it worked specifically on motorcycles as well as cars. It was a $14.75 gamble the paid off. On trying this one, my sixth, it worked from the beginning… no worries. The brand and part number are included in the parts lists (Wesbar). I know that as of July 02, Autowheel was carrying them.
I didn’t find any off the shelf trailer lights that supported the European system. All the trailer lights I found were designed for the 3 wire. Since this is a standard among auto/trailer applications, and I conceivably might pull the trailer behind another vehicle, I wanted to use the 3 wire system on the trailer. That’s the only reason. If you’ve got the lights for a 4 wire trailer and you don’t plan on pulling it conventionally, by all means, skip the converter.
The 2” square tubing (2x1/8 ST) used for the frame is very stout. After seeing how heavy it is, I considered that using 1½ “ or even 1” might work fine for the load I planned on using with this trailer. I figure that it would probably save a fair amount of weight, but as I had already finished, I don’t think I’ll be making a new frame any time soon. The only drawback with using smaller tubing is that the alxe/spring hangers are too wide so you might have to be creative when positioning the hangers on the frame.
I believe some of the pro trailer outfits are using aluminum tubing on their trailers. I wasn’t about to try and weld aluminum as I hadn’t done it and didn’t have the equipment. But, that would be a pretty good way to go to keep the frame very stout and reduce weight. As finished, the trailer weighs about 160#. Very acceptable (comparable pro trailers weigh about 145#).
The front jack-stand is of course optional, as no stand is probably necessary, really. I saw one on an older trailer and thought it looked great and might add functionality, so I included it in mine. Cost was about $13.
Prepping and painting:
I prepped the entire trailer by grinding and sanding. I then used acetone liberally to remove any grease or other foreign stuff prior to painting. I then “rattle-canned” it with a good quality gloss black. It took just under two cans, even with a third coat, and it looks good. I don’t think you would have guessed it was a rattle can job.
I used a 3/8” piece of plywood I had on hand, cut to match the frame, and painted it before attaching. I used a countersink and 1” machine screws with a counter-sink head to achieve a flush fit. I pre-drilled the holes slightly smaller than the screws, and used about 12 overall, probably overkill.
Add two chains and “S” hooks for safety chains. One 2’ length with the center link bolted to the under side of the coupler provided the two safety chains required by law.
Although I haven’t put it on yet, I plan on attaching a spare tire/wheel to the undercarriage for storage. I was going to use a U-shaped bolt that matched the hole pattern of the wheel, and mount the bolt over the tongue between the frame midpoint cross member and the front frame cross member. It would then hide under the trailer body until needed. But, that would have required mounting the plywood deck over this piece and would have caused a bulge, so I revised my plan. I also had trouble locating a U-bolt with the specific width to fit the hole pattern of a 4-hole trailer wheel.
I now plan on using two bolt shanks (cut from the U-bolt mentioned) welded along the tongue to match the hole pattern, extending down far enough to catch the wheel. This will leave the top of the frame clear and not interfere with the deck, and provide easy mounting of the wheel from underneath (hidden until needed).
I purchased some cheap stick on reflectors that I cut into smaller pieces and mounted on the four corner points. I don’t know if there’s a specific requirement for reflectors on a trailer of this small size, but they add a nice finishing touch to the trailer.
In my state, trailers under 2000 lb gross do not require a license plate. I’m not sure about the “title”, but I believe one isn’t required also on trailers of this small size. You should consult your local DMV for clarification.
Cooler carrier, front cargo area:
Some have suggested creating a front shelf area for storing a cooler or some other gear, like fuel cans. Using the 1½ “ angle, a person could weld this as shown below and finish off with plywood or some other material. One neat product sold at the metal fab shop I considered is “expanded” metal. There is a type of flat expanded metal that would make a great “floor” for the shelf and be very useful. You must have the shop cut (shear really) this to fit your space, then weld it down at each contact point. There was a ¾-10 type I believe that looked like the right size and was only about $1 per sq foot.
An alternate method I plan on using is to create a cooler “carrier” which will bolt to the tongue. I think this will look nicer and has the added option of being removable.
Well, that’s about it. I realize I haven’t provided a real step by step on this, but I don’t think common sense assembly will really require it. Laying out and welding the tubing is probably the most time consuming part. Next is the hangers and axle. Welding the spindle in the axles is probably the most complex, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t forget that you must pack the wheel bearings in grease prior to using. If any of this seems a bit difficult, there are a number of books available on trailer building basics. You also might do what I did and seek out a willing friend who has done this before.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email and I’d be happy to fill in any gaps. If you make a trailer, let me know and send me a picture, I’d love to see it. Maybe we could even take our trailers out for a drive some time? Good luck.
As used by me. Your quantities may vary
Karrite Car top carrier Sears, Bi-Mart $95
Trailer Parts Autowheel
Coupler, 1-7/8, 2 2000lbs DL940-P1 7.17
Bracket, Oval lamps TL60720-3 (2)@ 2.70ea 5.40
MR&W Spindle R116BT8 (pair) 15.00
Spring AS2 (pair) 18.25
Wheels 8x3.75 4-4 w/480-8 B TI DC844W/T email@example.com 37.30
4-4.0 Hub Grp for BT8 H44-9 32.17
Attaching Parts FR175 16.24
Fenders T65S (pair) 16.46
Wesbar Flat 4-Wire 25’ kit WE107725 4.90
Lamp Kit S/T Oval TL60002R3 7.35ea 14.70
Atwood Jack Stabilizier AT82301 12.60
Spring saddles 1.75” for 2000 lb. Straight axle 3-49 6.00
2x2 1/8” square tube 31.00
1 ½ x 1 ½” x 1/8 Angle 11.00
labor for cut 15.00
Axle 36” black pipe, 1¾” Ace hardware 6.00
Gloss black spray paint 3 cans 9.00
Plywood deck 3’x 4’ 10.00
Coupling bolts 2 ½” 5/16 bolts and nuts (3) 3.00
Total cost $380.94
Spare tire hanger
Cooler carrier frame and square bolts
Auto Wheel Service Inc.
class=MsoNormal style='tab-stops:3.0in decimal 5.0in'>Spare tire hanger
Cooler carrier frame and square bolts
Auto Wheel Service Inc.