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nimblemotorsports New Reader
5/7/19 1:23 a.m.

So after almost 20 years, my car trailer is ready to be replaced, although it works about as good as it did 20 years ago.

Having had this trailer and towed probably many hundreds tows on it over the years, I know what I like and dislike about it.

Perhaps I should make this a long list of trailer design parameters, but I will try to make it short.

I always try to do things cheaper, faster, better, so if I built one like everyone else does, it would not be any of the former.


The first thing is that the trailer can't be heavy.  Big feature-rich trailers are just too fkin heavy. 

If you have a 4500 lb tow capacity and want to tow a 3500 lb car, how much can the trailer weigh?  Yep, 1000 lbs, not 2000 lbs or more.

Here is a picture of my current trailer, with my 92 Mazda MX-3 Lemons Racecar on it.


It is fairly short (16ft total), which usually means cars overhang over the back deck, I usually just get the tires on it.  It also does not have a full deck, I have 3 inch channel rails, two on each side with expanded metal covering the tire track.   It started as a dual axle, but eventually the second axle fell off, and I put it back on twice, but it came off both times.

After making it a single axle, I will not go back to a dual axle, because it makes rolling it around very easy, even with a car on it.   A dual axle can't be pushed around by hand.  

I also need to fit it into tight spaces all the time,  picking up derelict non-running cars in backyards or tight driveways, etc, not to mention my one-lane back alley shop location.

It is very narrow, so narrow I can't have fenders on it, because any full-size car will not fit between the tires.  A Ford Explorer barely fits on it.  I towed a Subaru Tribeca on it,

and it rubbed both tires to get on the trailer.   I like it being narrow, but sometimes stuff (not cars) that I load on it, will shift and rub the tires and this can be a disaster.

Cops have never hassled me about this trailer in 20  years of no fenders, no license plate (fell off after first 6 months), and often lights that don't or barely work.

If you watch this video of me picking up rollbar tubing, you can see the trailer very well, and at the end, so my hellhole of a shop location..


So there are two major things that I hate about this trailer.  Mostly it is my ramps.  There is no place to store them on the trailer, so I must put them in the back of my explorer,

and they are aluminum, but are not lightweight, so always a hassle to deal with them.  And they can rattle when stacked on top of each other while driving which drives me nuts.

The second is my trailer lights.  I am always hitting them, scraping them, smashing them, the wires get chafed and broken, the connectors drag on the ground and become destroyed, etc, etc.  

Seems 1/3 of the time I go to use it, I have to fix the lights again, usually a short-term fix cuz I can't spend all day on it, i'm trying to tow someething.  So currently I have electrical tape holding one light on, and zip ties the other.    Because I 'plan' to replace it, I keep thinking I won't spend the time to fix the lights right, but even when done right, I will smash one and have to fix them 'right' again..

This leads to perhaps the third problem, which is the trailer sits pretty low using torsion spring axles, which is good for loading, but its also narrow, so it is impossible to open the drivers door on any low car, like the racecar shown above, but even normal cars can be a problem.  So I often just use a winch even for a running car, and I will not tow without a winch anymore.

I have the cheapest 2500lb HF winch.  I bought a bigger one, but as the trailer sits outside who-know-where all the time, I didn't want someone to steal the big one, and its pretty heavy to load and unload it, so i keep the small one.  And frankly I think it is best, because sometimes when I drag up a car it can catch on something, and the smaller which will stall, whereas a bigger one would just rip apart whatever was snagged.


So that is my experience and current trailer.   I want to replace it with something that is better, faster, cheaper. 

 I've spent hours combing the internet to look at every design possible.

I really want to eliminate the ramps.   I had the idea when I built it originally, to make the torsion axles pivot, so the deck would drop down, but never did it.

Here is a design like what I was thinking originally, 


Something like that would be good, but remember, the mechanism can NOT be heavy.   My trailer is similiar to the one shown without a full deck.

The Tilt bed trailers look to be too heavy, adding significanly more steel.

When I had dual axles, I'd often have to jack up the tongue to get my short ramps to work, but with a single axle, the bed pivots and lifts the tongue up and back ack down, which is great.  But I don't like having just two tires, as one can go flat and then I'm screwed, and I don't carry a spare either.  Oh, this also is a problem with my current trailer, it uses some odd wheel bolt pattern, so I can't use any normal wheels.

My plan is/was to build a trailer that has a single 'axle' yet has four wheels by making a 'dually' type setup.   Then I put the wheels UNDER the deck, so now the deck is clear and no issues with opening doors.   To make it low, I am using 'tiny' wheels, they are only 18 inches tall, 8-ply tires with 1000 lb capacity each, so 4000 lbs for the trailer.

And then the idea is make it a rollback design, so the wheels slide forward allowing the deck to settle down to the ground.

Here is a rollback design, one must be careful not to make it heavy, and seems a bit of pain to use, but this is the idea:


So mine will rollback, but the wheels will be under the deck.   That has been my plan and I've bought the parts for building this.


Then I came up with a brilliant new idea..To load the trailer backwards, i.e. from the front, NOT from the back.   

So this is the whacky idea.  Instead of making the axles roll, just put them towards the back of the trailer, and then unhook it from the tow vehicle,

and lower the FRONT of the trailer to the ground using a simple jack (you know like a tongue jack but stronger).  Then drive or winch the car onto the trailer,

raise it back up and reconnect it to the tow vehicle.    So now there is no heavy mechanism needed, basically just adding a jack.

OK, so i think there are some minor issues to work out here, but I think this will work.  What I wonder is how inconvenient will it be to unhook the trailer?  

I'm so used to backing it up to the car to tow, I am having trouble seeing how this will work, as one will pull in towards the car, then unhook trailer, then drive away leaving trailer,

and then push it up to the car.  Hmm,   crazy right?  Maybe not faster, but cheaper and better (lighter)?


Ok, so now I make a new tow vehicle that is designed to use this trailer.  One with a very short wheelbase, where the trailer hitches right above the rear axle, like a fifth wheel,

so now the trailer axle can be all the way to the back, no tonque weight issue, and with the super short wheelbase, the tow rig can easily manuver in tight spaces.


So wanted to get some feedback before I start building something that won't work....


mw Dork
5/7/19 6:08 a.m.

Wow! Wacky might be an understatement. There’s a lot of different ideas in your post. Many of them seem to feature a moving axle. I’m curious how someone has an axle fall off twice on your current trailer? That would likely make me want to make sure the axle on the new trailer is well connected and probably fixed.

You mention “cheaper faster better” a few times and so I think that rules out designing a trailer that also needs it’s own custom tow vehicle. 

Your idea of a dually May be hard to implement. Trailer axles usually come in 2000lb, 3500lb, and 5000lb ratings. A 5000lb axle is going to have big hubs and likely 6 or 8 lug pattern. I’m not sure what 18” 8ply tires tire looking at, but I’m guessing finding wheels that will fit them and your 5000lb axle and are duallies will be very difficult and likely not cheap. 

Based on your post, I would make a similar trailer to what you have. Use channel and expanded metal for the loading surfaces, then make long ramps that store inside the channel and just pull out when you need them. You won’t have to lift them ever and don’t need to store them. 

Min my experience with trailer wiring, the biggest issues are wires being broken and smashing lights because you backed into things. When building your trailer, run a small tube down each side to run your wires through. That will save a lot of broken wires. Then try to find a place to mount the lights that is unlikely to get smashed.  Maybe in between the two pieces of channel? 

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 6:25 a.m.

I didn't read the entire post- but if you want to keep it light, KISS.  Use ramps- you can make them out of simple bended aluminum which will weigh less than a mechanism that can tilt the entire bed, and still be strong enough to hold.  

My 700lb trailer (capable of 3000lb) is almost all bent aluminum.  Really nice to pull.  But to replicate it, you need a pretty big brake to bend 1/4 in aluminum plate.

oldopelguy UberDork
5/7/19 6:49 a.m.

If you are talking about 18" tall and 1k# capacity you're talking about little 8" trailer tires. The only way to dually those I have ever figured out is to taking a non-brake trailer hub and bolt a 2.5" wheel adapter to both sides of the flange, bolt the wheels on, then slide it onto the axle.  You don't get trailer brakes and if one tire blows so will the overloaded other one. Far more reliable to get the larger 12" snowmobile trailer tires that are only a little taller but can handle the weight individually. 

1000# for a trailer is tough.  My car hauler was built on a single 7k torsion axle with an open center 16' deck and it's @1500#. You would have to make some serious compromises to cut half the weight. 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
5/7/19 7:09 a.m.

Look at the smallest C2 Blue model. Under 1000# and capacity for a small car. There are a lot of good design details you may be able to copy. I like European trailers because they are offered in so many sizes. My first trailer was built to accommodate the car I had at the time. I comfortably towed a Formula Vee autocross car on it and the tow vehicle was a 1983 Pontiac 6000 , 2.8L V6,FWD. I also hauled my VW GTI on it a couple of times, too.


Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
5/7/19 7:28 a.m.

Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two?

A friend has a Trailex CT-7541. No, they are not cheap. But it easily hauls most vehicles behind their mid-size SUV and because it is 911 sized, resale is very good.  The base model without options weighs well under 1000 lbs. 

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 8:44 a.m.

I am thinking something like the raceking.. but instead of springs, use airbags and an onboard air canister to keep them full. Release the air to lower the trailer to ground level and then refill to raise it back up.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
5/7/19 8:53 a.m.

Outside of any wacky ideas, get the lights fixed so they stay fixed.  It's not about avoiding police issues, it's for safety.  And get the license plate mount fixed as well.

To reduce the width by putting the wheels under the deck, look at how snowmobile trailers are often built:

dculberson UltimaDork
5/7/19 9:26 a.m.

Putting the wheels under the deck is going to end up making the car ride pretty high off the ground. It's going to want to sway sway sway. Even with just 18" wheels you also need to add in suspension travel room and that's quite a bit given it needs to sag for the weight of the car and then also have travel beyond that. A standard car trailer deck is about 20" off the ground. You're going to end up closer to 26-28"+ off the ground with the wheels under the deck.

bearmtnmartin GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/7/19 9:59 a.m.

My trailer has no suspension, which I discovered you really do not need on a racecar trailer. It has beam axles welded directly to the frame which makes it very low, and my 240 which was 4 inches off the ground loaded without issues. 

Some of your ideas sound like a fiddly loading process. I personally want to get into the pits, get the car on the trailer and get out. Messing around with sliding axles, or disconnecting from the tow to load are far too time consuming.

914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 10:30 a.m.

Nimble, load from the front?  Yikes!  We have a (British made) sailplane trailer with front loading, it sucks.  Disconnected from the tow vehicle you have no support, like if you're inside it may just roll down the hill.  Also the geniuses never put any kind of access in the back, so drop your wallet in the back, you have to disconnect and pull the plane out to fetch it.

The trailer you have, I see no suspension so I suspect it's a torsion bar job.  Maybe I skimmed over this part, but aside from an open center and no fenders, what does your current trailer not do?  If it hauls your Lemons car OK, fill in the center with aluminum diamond plate, weld some fenders to the torsion axle and add paint.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 11:01 a.m.

Small wheels means higher bearing speeds which means hotter, shorter-lived bearings...and even very small wheels will mean a lot of deck height if they're entirely underneath the deck. Plus you'd always need a 5th-wheel/gooseneck towing vehicle to handle the insane tongue weight, that's something of a disadvantage.

I'd say you should either get something like the Raceking trailer, or resto-mod what you have now with lighter materials. Space the wheels out a bit, using a more common bolt pattern, and add minimal fenders to keep the rooster tails down and reduce the chance of damaging the load with the wheels.

GTXVette UltraDork
5/7/19 11:04 a.m.

 permenatly fix tag, lights, but repair / Replace the missing axle and add Two feet the Trailer legnth, If You Mount The lead axle so it sits 2" higher than the rear or just enough to unload them when empty . If you can build a cage........ widen the axles while you are there it sounds like 4" is good.

californiamilleghia HalfDork
5/7/19 12:09 p.m.

How much for your old trailer ?

And look at European trailer design , first thing is a handbrake , required so it does not roll away :)

But since roads are narrow , many use dual axles and small wheels and the car sits above the wheels.

One other thing to think about , do you use the trailer for hauling stuff ?

Maybe put some stake bed mounts so you can have a set of stakes at home , or stop at home Depot , get some 2x4 s and plywood an build the stakes on the road if needed.


Vigo UltimaDork
5/7/19 12:49 p.m.

Call me crazy but it sounds like you need your current trailer but with pivoting axles so it can be raised and lowered. 

akylekoz Dork
5/7/19 12:53 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Pictures please, I know of a large cnc brake that I can use.

Brake_L8 Reader
5/7/19 1:08 p.m.

Am I the only one who thinks a sub-$2k EconoTrailer with properly-functioning safety gear and axles that aren't falling off is the best solution? 

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 1:18 p.m.

In reply to akylekoz :

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 1:23 p.m.

The pictures are old- but since someone is borrowing my trailer right now, that's what I've got.  Last I heard about 18 years ago, the guy making them no longer does.

One part you can't see- on the inside of each tire, there's another small L bend. 

So for the entire trailer, there's the two long bent aluminum sections, the steel tongue, two steel side braces, 4 bent aluminum braces in the back (that double as ramp mounts) and two 2000lb axles.  Total weight- 700lb (that was the shipping weight).  I had to assemble it at home.  There are some AL plates that make it look nicer and keep the mud from getting in places.

A friend has the last Travel-Lite trailer, but has a modified tongue design, increasing it's capacity by another 500lb.

Given that my cost 20 years ago was about $1500, it's no wonder why the guy went out of business.  Very cheap.

914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 1:46 p.m.

I remember that from the 2004 Challenge, impressive.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
5/7/19 1:56 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

So longitudinally , the only structural elements are the fender/tread plate bent aluminum pieces? What are the springs bolted to, the plate or something else?

nimblemotorsports New Reader
5/7/19 2:10 p.m.

The axles 'fell off' because the mounting point bolts come loose, the mounting tabs crack, etc. 

The rear axle/tires scrubs when you turn a dual axle trailer, it puts a lot of stress on the mounts, which obviously needed to be stronger/better.  I had another great idea that worked for a while.. I used smaller diameter tires on the rear axle, so when the trailer was unloaded, it was effectively a single axle and could be moved around easily, but with a car on it, the rear tires would carry part of the load, and also helped it tilt back when loading.   Don't think I've ever seen anyone do that before.

I also found out after one of the trailer bearings failed, that the spindles are standard, and I could replace the hubs with normal 3500lb hubs, so the removed axle is now used with ford mustang wheels under a truck bed as a utility trailer.  Can't find a pic of that.



alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 2:17 p.m.
DeadSkunk (Warren) said:

In reply to alfadriver :

1)So longitudinally , the only structural elements are the fender/tread plate bent aluminum pieces?


2) What are the springs bolted to, the plate or something else?

1) Correct.

2) The "springs" are incorporated into the axles- they have a torsion spring in the housing.  Making them nice and compact.  They are bolted to the aluminum pieces.  And I forgot to mention they have electric brakes in them.

Thinking like nimblemotorsports line of lowering the trailer to drive onto- theoretically, one could use the torsion system to rotate the axle up.  But it's not perfect, as one does have to factor in the wheel clearance to the door bottom.  Still, in theory, you should be able to lower the trailer for easier mounting by having an axle where the torsion spring mount rotates via a mechanism.  

AWSX1686 GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/7/19 2:22 p.m.

Following this! 

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/7/19 2:32 p.m.

So thinking about it a little- if you can create a rotating assembly that spans the width of the trailer, and them mount these to it- https://www.truckspring.com/products/FlexiRide-Adjustable-Torsion-Half-Axles-with-5-45-Inch-Bolt-Circle-Hubs-3-500-lbs-Capacity__FF-350B-3-LUBE.aspx?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0ef5yZOK4gIVDp7ACh24NA76EAQYAiABEgK_bfD_BwE

then you can also mount a simple hydraulic ram to lift and lower the entire trailer.  And some HD shear pins to keep it all together.  

Even with the trailer design I have  (which, structurally, isn't that different than the lowering deck video above).  With the ball height mostly fixed, you still need to drive up, but not nearly like a totally horizontal deck.

That would work pretty darned well.

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