Trailer Modifications


A car hauler is one of the best "modifications" you can do to your trail rig, once you have a trailer you always have a way home no matter what breaks on the trail. So once you have a trailer everything will be good right?  Wrong, sadly your trailer will also be one of the most poorly designed and assembled pieces of equipment you will ever buy.  Here's some of the stuff I have done to my 16' trailer to make it more reliable and lighter. I picked this trailer up from a friend who had used it 2 or 3 times.  The trailer is your typical car hauler with an open center with (2) 3.5k lb.axles with brakes on one of the axles.


My trailer came with the typical black finish but on closer inspection I noticed the underside was not painted. I would later discover this is pretty typical among trailers builders, anything to save a buck.  So my first project was to spray the underside with some spray paint.  Luckily I had access to a forklift at work, I just picked the trailer up by the tongue and was able to cover the entire underside with about 4 cans of spray paint without too much effort. I should mention from that vantage point I was able to admire the craptastic wiring job which was the next project.


My trailers wires were strung underneath the trailer and were either run thru small pieces of 1 x 1 square steel tubing or thru holes punched in the frame with a blow torch.  The lack of grommets at these rub points meant it was only a matter of time before a short was going to occur.   As luck would have it the lights on the trailer didn't work when I bought it and the trailer reseller had convinced the previous owner it was a problem with their tow rig. Two seconds of inspection turned up a lump of melted wires at the trailer plug. From there I traced the problem to a poorly installed light which had crushed it's power wire between the light body and trailer frame causing a short.

At this point it seemed easier just to re-wire my whole trailer rather than try to deal with the lump of molten wires. I ended up running the wires down the inverted angle iron that ran from the front to the back of the trailer.  This routing was easier to reach than the original path and had no rub points to chaff the wires. To secure the wires (instead of leaving them hanging like the original install) I drilled and tapped the frame for tie wrap holders (the little white things in the pictures).  

Odds and Ends

This particular trailer did not come with any tie down points so I installed some D-rings front and back.  To aid in backing up at night I also mounted a driving light at the rear of the trailer which is powered on when I put the tow rig in reverse (used one of the existing lines on my 7 pin plug).

The fenders were pretty flimsy until I fabricated these corner steps for each side, front and rear.  My previous 12 foot trailer had these on it when I bought it and I just figured they were standard as it makes the fender much more rigid.  You couldn't step on the fender before without it deflecting downward.

I mounted an old storage box I had lying around to the front of the trailer.  I plan on making a gas can rack which will sit on the tongue which is the reason the box does not sit on the tongue.

Trailer Diet

Remember when I mentioned poorly designed?  Why in the world do you need a nearly foot long piece of 5 x 5 x .25 thick steel angle to hold a taillight on? Also note the broken lenses on the left side of the light.  This one broke when I walked too close to the trailer and bumped it with my leg.  The previous two had been broken when I brushed them with a tire while trying to squeeze by my trailer.

Another area of excess weight is the ramp holders which stick out needlessly from the trailer.

With the goal of cleaning up the clutter on the trailer and eliminating some weight I got out the plasma cutter & angle grinders and got to work. First the ramp holders were trimmed flush with the trailer.  Next I cut off the stake pocket behind the rear light (most likely the reason for the light having to be so far out boarded).  Once the stake pocket was gone I trimmed the light mount back.

I replaced the existing lights with some smaller units that tucked in better under the mounting bracket. The originals had a side marker which I would either tag with my leg or buggy as I walked/drove by.  This new light is fully protected under the mount so accidental contact will hit steel instead of plastic.

The new cleaned up ramp holder.  I usually don't even carry my ramps as this trailer is much lower than my previous trailer.

I also went and removed the 4 stake pockets on the front of the trailer, 2 near each corner.  I have no use for adding sides to the trailer as the open center limits it's dual purpose utility.  The stake pockets also made lousy tie down points due to their positions at the extreme ends of the trailer and the fact that the any strap attached to them was always stressed over an edge. I ended up drilling some 2" holes at various intervals for light duty tie down points.

Here's the metal removed in this first round of optimizations, 26.5lbs of material I don't have to haul around anymore. My goal is to eventually eliminate 100lbs. Stay tuned.