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Thread: Building a flatbed trailer

  1. #1
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Default Building a flatbed trailer

    Ok fellow shadetree welders....

    I'm planning on building a tandem axle trailer to haul around my ice house and need some suggestions. The trailer will be a full 8'3" x 16' with 3,500# axles. I've got a basic idea of how to build this, but my question is for guys who use flatbeds a lot. What would you do different if you had the option to modify your trailers, what custom touches would you add? My ice house is 8'x10' so a 16' bed will give me enough room to put a wheeler on with the house (sideways). I'm not planning any fixed railing at this time, I'd like to be able to haul 4 ATV's and side rails just get in the way.

    So, help me out with some ideas. Where should I keep a spare tire? Ramp storage? Winch setup? etc...
    AKmud
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    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

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    Put 3 times more tie-down places on it that you ever think you'll need.

    Do not add your trailer wiring to the very bottom of the trailer; assume instead that you'll drag the trailer's frame over lotsa junk (stumps, high ground, etc) and make sure your wiring is instead embedded up high in the frame, just below the decking.

    Feel free to come by to examine/measure/whatever my flatbed trailer; its a 16' (I bought it from a fellow forum member, very much in used condition).

    The best thing I did to mine (besides rewiring it) was to staple astro-turf to the top of the decking; that dries fast and lets me haul stuff without scratching it.

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    Stake holder for 2x4ís in case you every want sides.
    Electric BRAKES on both axels
    LED lighting
    Seal all electrical connection.
    Make it 18 ft long there no such thing as to big.
    Aluminum ramp, rolled out from under the back.
    Heavy Battery cables and Welding disconnects for winch.

  4. #4
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Side rails for tie off. But if you really, really think you won't need side rails, put them on anyway, but make 'em low or below to get them out of the way. Side rails are not only for tie downs, but also give you a huge amount of structural support. The outer edges of a big flatbed are the weakest area and need some structure to them.

    No exposed wiring. Definitely go with LED lights, but you'll save yourself a ton of headaches if you run all your wiring through dedicated conduits welded to the inside of your framing (3/8 and 1/2 pipe is perfect for this) As an absolutely anal-retentive electrical guy, I beg you to not use any wiring from the automotive or trailer section of the store (never use that cheap 4-flat wire) and please don't use a single crimp connector anywhere in the system! Go to NAPA and buy the tinned marine grade wire and adhesive lined heat shrink tubing. Install your lights. Fish wire through your conduit from the tongue back to the lights. Use a soldered and heat-shrinked connection at every light. Buy lights that have a ground wire (not grounded through a mounting screw) and run ground wire return from every light all the way back to the trailer plug. Add a single grounding point on the tongue. Tag a ground connection off the wiring to the trailer chassis, but the main run from light to the truck connector should be wire. Don't rely on any chassis ground connections. They always fail.

    After you get everything connected to the trailer connection plug, fill the sockets up with dielectric grease to prevent corrosion.

    Spare tire on the tongue opposite of the tongue jack.

    Ramps are best stored under the rear by welding up some angle brackets to create a shelf that the ramp will slide into. Put a blocking pin on the back to keep it from sliding out.

    If you want a winch, you might consider mounting the winch to a 2" receiver insert and then installing a couple 2" receiver tubes in places where you'd want to be able to pull from. Gives you some flexibility, plus the winch can be used off the truck when you're not using the trailer.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  5. #5

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    Make it the full 8'6" legal width. Consider putting a slight beaver tail on the back deck, to assist in loading it. Double stick the tongue, by that I mean run one length of tube at least to the second crossmember and the second one welded on top, back to the leading edge of the deck...adds a lot of strength and takes out almost all the bounce and tendancy to bend. Put a slush guard on the front of the deck. Install a hefty/secure tie-down ring or coupling that will accomodate a winch or come-along, in the middle of the deck at the front of the trailer. Use quality LED truck lights...not junk incandescent trailer lights. Put brakes on at least one axle...consider putting disc brakes on that axle. Fab an X Member into the design of the frame, from the leading axle forward to the leading edge of the frame. Incorporate a mix of tie-down loops and holes for multiple options of securing loads. Look at the DOT web site and it has the legal requirements for trailer lighting and decals...some might be suprised at this!!! Do NOT use treated wood for the deck...it will corrode the frame and hardware. Use carriage bolts and lock nuts for mounting the deck...screws are brittle and will break.
    Have fun with the project....Hurry ice is forming!
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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Perhaps build it with a tube frame and spindle mount axels. Throw some airbags under it and you could drop that shack down to the ground and be fishing!

  7. #7

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    A few thoughts:
    As others have said, spare no expense on your wiring and solder/heat shrink every connection! Trust me, you WILL have to re-wire it in a few years if you go cheap...and usually that happens at o-dark thirty when it is cold and you want to head home and your lights aren't working or the fuses are blowing.

    I would look into a rail system with clips. I don't know the brand off-hand, but they are low profile (only stick up a half inch or so) and have slots to clip in at regular intervals. It gives you a very broad selection of tie-downs without having a lot sticking up in the way.

    I would also spend the money to get a good industrial coating on the steel if you go with steel. I would use a good coating that has some flexure when it cures out so it doesn't crack and fail.

    Oh, post some pictures when you get going on it so we can see!

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    Member greythorn3's Avatar
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    build a beer cooler into it.
    Semper Fi!

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    Default ground wire

    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    Buy lights that have a ground wire (not grounded through a mounting screw) and run ground wire return from every light all the way back to the trailer plug.
    So true.

    Google (something like) "trailer lights don't work" and you'll see that the universal advice on that point is to fix the ground connection; that is the failure of trailer lights 9 out of 10 times. I know this because my trailer lights quit working, and I googled it up looking for a quick fix, and sure enough that was my lights' problem.

  10. #10
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Good advice guys, keep the ideas coming.

    LED's are definitely on the list. I plan on either using conduit and junction boxes for the electrical or arctic cord and liquid tight connectors (I hate light problems!). As a previous electrician and avionics tech, soldering/heat shrink is a must. My BIL built a 24' trailer and used that movable tie down rail system Littleman was mentioning...works really well, I may have to run that down the middle and sides....

    Rutting Moose, I think I'm going to stick with 16' since 12' is all I really need. I'm still torn on the electric brake thing... I have a controller already in my truck, but I'm not sure I want to bother with brakes. The truck is 8,000# with a manual tranny so slowing a load down isn't usually a problem. Also, the main load I will be carrying won't weigh 2,000# 99% of the time.

    Any ideas how to do a side load system with ramps? I need to figure out a good way to hook the ramps to the trailer on the sides that is out of the way.
    AKmud
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    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    Any ideas how to do a side load system with ramps? I need to figure out a good way to hook the ramps to the trailer on the sides that is out of the way.
    Just put a pin on both top corners of the ramp and matching sockets everywhere you want to be able to set the ramp. I've always just used a 5/8" bit of roundbar about 2" long pointing down at the ramp corners. Then you can either punch a couple 3/4" holes at the edge of the deck or weld on some tabs with the 3/4" holes spaced to match the ramp. You can put 2 ramp spots at the back of the trailer, 2 at the front and as many as you want down each side.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  12. #12
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    I agree you donít need electric brakes for normal braking, itís the emergency stops, and going down a steep ice cover hills is when you will be happy you had them. I even put them on a light trailer and was happy I did, it save me when a person cut me off.

  13. #13
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    I built my own 17' flatbed years ago and the trailer is still running strong.
    A couple thoughts, some have already been stated;
    -Run wiring for lights ALONG the frame in a piece of PVC pipe to protect the wiring from dirt and ice.
    -My fenders pin in place, allowing me to drive something on that is wider than the gap between the wheels and then repin them or run with them off. (Has come in handy a few times like hauling home a little 84 Toyota once.) Also makes changing a tire on loaded trailer easier to access plus doing maintenance on bearings, etc...
    -Use carriage bolts for the decking, worth the extra effort, once it's done you'll never mess with it again.
    -Use untreated wood and spray each year with a deck preservative. (Use a dedicated pump up garden sprayer and it's done in 5 min.)
    -Mount tailights flush into bumper (LED) so they are protected.
    -Brakes on at least one axle.
    -A pin in place front spray guard.
    -Double the flush mounted tie downs you think you'll need. Put a set down the middle in front rear and dead center of the trailer.
    -Use a foot style jack and get rid of the wheel style, much more solid and you can load easier when trailer is empty as it doesn't want to walk on you as it does with a wheel up front.
    My thoughts....
    BK
    Post some pics of your final project if you would.

  14. #14

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    Oh...Keep at least a few of the receipts for items purchased. The last time I titled a home built trailer it was a pain with DMV.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Actually, registering a homebuilt trailer is a pretty easy process.

    The instructions are here http://doa.alaska.gov/dmv/titles/rechbt.htm

    The form you need for the trailer is here http://doa.alaska.gov/dmv/forms/pdfs/819.pdf

    The form you need for the registrations is here http://doa.alaska.gov/dmv/forms/pdfs/812.pdf

    They must see the trailer, so you'll have to take it over to DMV for an inspection.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  16. #16
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Ok, frame questions....

    What size stock should I use for the outer perimeter? I was thinking 3"x2" box.

    What size stock for the cross members? The same as the perimeter or can I go smaller? What spacing should I use? I was thinking 24" OC but I think 16" OC looks like a better bet.
    AKmud
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    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

  17. #17

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    2"x3" is fine for most trailers...I like to put crossmembers at the spring perches and then move out from there. Whatever works...they don't necessarily need to be evenly spaced. 16" OC would be overkill...but I favor that over building weak frames. I would also use the same stock on the tongue, only doubled up vertically....will accomodate a coupler nicely that way.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
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    Default weight of the load

    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    I'm still torn on the electric brake thing... I have a controller already in my truck, but I'm not sure I want to bother with brakes. The truck is 8,000# with a manual tranny so slowing a load down isn't usually a problem. Also, the main load I will be carrying won't weigh 2,000# 99% of the time.
    If you don't overload it, a buddy of yours will. Trailers and pickups always carry (some of the time) more load than they're rated/built for.

    Before that future trailer of yours has faded away into dust, you're going to haul a car/truck on it. Or at least if it were me, I would.

    When on ice, there is no substitute for hitting the trailer brakes instead of the truck brakes to both slow you down and straighten you out. Heck, one time, even without slowing down, I was on a sideways-tilted road which then turned into sheet ice, and my trailer starts sliding off the load side of the road into the ditch while my truck (so far at least) stayed in the road. I applied both trailer brakes and truck power at the same time and it straightened out and stayed on the road; I'm not sure what other solution would have worked at that moment.

  19. #19
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Frame-up...

    Start with a rectangle over your spring mounts. 2x3 is as small as I'd go, but 2x4 would be mo' better for those runs. Use a straight run front-to-back over the top of the springs on both sides. Then put a crosspiece of the same material on the front and back, extending outward to each side for the full width of the trailer deck. Now you can run a smaller material (I prefer C channel with the opening to the outside where you can mount your side lights and reflectors in a protected zone) up each side. Divide the length of the deck into thirds and put another heavy crossmember (though it can be lighter than the main frame) between your two longitudinals. Now you can finish up using just heavy (2x2 min) angle to fill in cross members on 2' centers with a flat to the top and the other to the front. This gives you a nice exposed flat piece to catch your deck bolts. The angle is also run for the crossmembers on each side.

    An alternative is to elevate the deck a tad and place full width deck supporting members on top of the main running gear frame. Less cutting and welding involved with that method. You can then use either C-channel or angle for the deck framing.

    A quick-n-dirty frame up attached. The blue is your 2x4 main frame. The purple would be the same material for the tongue, but mounted under the main frame level. The green is the smaller side channels. The red is the angle deck supports.


    Trailer Frame.PNG
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  20. #20
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info and pic JOAT, that is pretty similar to what I had in mind. I was going to terminate the angled pieces off the tongue back further though, probably on the second crossmember to help support the front corners a bit more. It won't make a drive off ramp quite as easy to do but at this point I'm not planning on forward ramps anyway.

    I'll also add some gussets (from flat stock) to the rear corners for added insurance.

    I guess it is time to put together my parts list and go visit Weld-Air for some steel!
    AKmud
    http://i78.photobucket.com/albums/j96/AKmud/213700RMK1-1.jpg


    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

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