My teardrop (ish) build V1.0

smritte

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Over the last decade, I’ve been running around with a small trailer and an RTT. I realized that half of my trips have high winds and even though the RTT holds up well, its noisy as heck and I don’t get much sleep. For this reason, I decided to build a small teardrop ish trailer.

My criteria are, under 2000 pounds loaded, low profile, moderate off road capable and all my gadgets. It must have a slide out for my fridge, some sort of kitchen, solar and an outdoor modular walled off area. Finally, it must look good.

I’m building the frame out of .090 2x4. I switched from 2x3 .120 wall because I’m going to tuck things into the frame underneath and the front section will act as an inside storage compartment. My box dimensions will be 5’ wide X 4.5’ High, 9’ long. In my first design, I had the fridge slide out and the entrance in the front. That was going to make the tongue way too heavy. I moved the fridge to the rear for better balance.

Axle is a 3500-pound Dexter with electric drums and a park brake. I wish my small trailer had a park brake. Tire chocks are fine if you don’t have to drive onto rocks to level the trailer.

Suspension. I wanted to be creative here. I drew up plans for everything from 3 link to trailing arm to independent. Spring wise, coil, air, leaf. One of the guys at work builds desert trucks and is real well known for his suspensions. He looked over my plans, checked the math and said, “what is the main purpose of this build?”. Well let’s see, I’m not track racing, not rock crawling, not flying through the desert. I don’t want the cargo to be vibrated to death, it needs to be easy to maintain and a moderate amount of suspension travel. I will be driving down dirt roads and occasional dry wash. So, simple leaf spring.

My leaf’s are 46” long. Early CJ7, rear, 2” lift. The main reason I chose the CJ spring is their everywhere and I can get them in whatever spring rate I want. Add in a set of Monroe gas shocks from a lowered king-pin VW and were done. Simple and effective.

Tires and wheels. I wanted something that would somewhat match my Cruiser, but I didn’t want to run 35’s. I ended up with 6 lug Raceline trailer rims (yeah they actually make trailer rims), with Falkin Wildpeaks 235/75 15 tires that measure 29” diameter.

I didn't get much in the way of start up pictures. It was raining and that means building in the garage (bare metal and all that).

spring mounts.jpg

Springs and mounts. The frame is only tacked for measuring and square. The axle is sitting on some furniture dollies. Once the axle was mounted, that's how I moved it around while waiting on tires and rims.

early frame.jpg

Frames cut down to final size, tongue jack in place, tires and rims on. It rolls so much better.
Frame ended up at 103” long, tongue at 44”. 147” total. Axle center is 50” from the rear, width is 60". That should give me the balance I’m looking for as well as good road manners.
 

smritte

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Ontario Ca
 
Ordered a set of Bal "C" jacks for my leveling jacks, should have those soon. Doing research on trailer park brakes, it seems most people struggle here. Getting the handle appears easy until you realize how few there are and the web sites can be confusing. I settled on a handle from Orscheln. They seem to run around $50. Then I saw this Manual Brake Lever 02182700 Orscheln Black . $20.00 free shipping supposed to be new. From what I read, that was the easy part. The cables seem to kick everyone's butt. The trailer shops have "kits" around $250 and up, your still going to have to "make them work". One place I looked would supply a universal "cut to fit" kit for about $200. Sigh.
Hit up Mr Google again and found this place Control Cables Inc. Did some measuring and made a call. Wow, they were nice and their about 30 mins from me. I'm looking at $85 for the cables and a few dollars for a couple of fittings. The only reason I didn't order now was, I need to see what cable mount the handle has. They said it would take 1-2 day's to make then whatever time to ship.

I have the water tank dimensions, need to call on that. Next will be side sliders and fenders. Back to the steel yard for sheet metal and 1" square.
 

smritte

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Ontario Ca
 
10 Gal water tank on order. Its going to be 5" high. I will mount it in front of the axle as close as possible. It should hang down about 1.5" below the frame counting the skid plate. I'm considering moving it as far as possible to the drivers side. My kitchen will be mostly passenger side. I'm hoping this somewhat offsets it. Lead time is 3-4 weeks. I should be done with the rest of the frame mod's by then (I hope).
 

smritte

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Apr 29, 2013
Messages
176
Location
Ontario Ca
 
Today I hooked up the park brake. Due to the issues I and other have had researching this, I made a separate thread. Hopefully it will pop on on someone's search.

 

smritte

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Messages
176
Location
Ontario Ca
 
Got a little more work done today.

slider mock up.jpg

The only picture I got before it started drizzling. Side bars welded on, fender framework on and diamond plate cut out. I'll get a better pic next week.
Water tank came in yesterday. Need to build the housing for that and the pump. I'm going to place it just in front of the axle. When it's done, it's skid plate will be 1.25 inches below the frame. I haven't decided if i will make it drop out from the bottom or lift from the top in case of repair.
 
Last edited:

ntsqd

technerd
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Apr 26, 2007
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I would seal the tank's skid plate & support frame to the bottom of the trailer, and make an insulated & removable false floor inside for access (under the mattress?). The reason for this is multi-point. Insulate the tank to keep it from freezing. Seal it off from rocks and debris being able to get between the tank and the skid or support where it will wear a hole in the tank.

Do think thru how you're going to drain the tank. It needs to be simple and easy, yet protected and as insulated as is reasonably possible.

Also, from experience 10 gallons doesn't go very far. Being water conscious, but not using paper plates etc. my wife and I could get maybe 4 days out of the 10 gal. tank in our old pop-top camper.
 

smritte

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Ontario Ca
 
I would seal the tank's skid plate & support frame to the bottom of the trailer, and make an insulated & removable false floor inside for access (under the mattress?). The reason for this is multi-point. Insulate the tank to keep it from freezing. Seal it off from rocks and debris being able to get between the tank and the skid or support where it will wear a hole in the tank.
Good points

Tank skid will be 10 gauge. Being almost over the axle, If something can hit it hard enough to damage the tank, that will be the least of my problems. The tank box will extend about 4" wider to the driver side to protect the lines. The fill, vent and drain will exit that side. The drain valve will be under the frame close to the axle protected with 1/4" plate. The fill hose, vent and pump hose will go into the frame, to the rear, then out the top to the fill port and pump. they will go through a sealed flange to prevent water from getting into the frame. The tank box itself will be completely sealed. I've pulled my share of gravel from skid plates, don't need it eating my tank.

I was on the fence with a 10 gal tank. On my other trailer I have a 12 gallon. The water tank is more for washing up and the occasional shower. Most of the time I almost didn't use half of it. I also carry a 5 gallon can on the cruiser and my cooking is normally bottled water.
I hadn't considered the freezing aspect. Never camped in that cold of weather. I'm leaning toward accessing from top. Ill build the box this weekend and stare at it for a while. Fortunately, I don't have to decide until the floor goes in.
 

ntsqd

technerd
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I didn't worry about freezing either. And then my wife decided that she wanted to go to Glacier Nat'l Park in late Sept. Since the camper's tank was inside I only had to consider how to keep the drain from freezing, but it made me aware of the issue. Since then we've been to the Alabama Hills several T-Day weekends. Last year there was 4" of snow on the ground in Tuttle Creek and the campground road had enough ice on it to make walking a very careful exercise. Overnight lows were into the single digits, but we were quite warm w/o the heater running constantly all night.
If you're used to tent camping then going out and about in weather like that isn't something that you'd normally consider (at least not here on the Left Coast), but with an insulated trailer to sleep in it will enlarge your camping window.

I have pondered building a traditionally shaped tear-drop trailer. I don't know that we'd ever use it, but I'd still like to build one. For an enclosure around the kitchen I'd use a CLAM 4 sided shelter. I'm tempted to build it w/o a steel frame so as to avoid the cold path. I'd build it using rigid insulating foam that was bonded together and then covered in epoxy resin & fiberglass cloth. Done right it would be strong, light, and well insulated against hot and cold.
 

smritte

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For an enclosure around the kitchen I'd use a CLAM 4 sided shelter
^^^^
This is going to be a must. My kitchen will slide out from the side. I'll have an awning to pull out then walls if need be. If I base camp now for any length of time, I have a walled easy up I set next to my trailer.

For me tent camping and RTT camping have been fine in cold(ish) weather. My biggest issue is wind. I've been out for a week at a time in nasty weather. Doesn't really bother me. Last year I got rid of my 11.5' Lance camper. I didn't use it anymore. I mostly camp solo and the RTT on my M-100 or back of the Cruiser has been fine.

I've never built a foam wall. Have read a bit on it. Still haven't completely made up my mind on what my walls will be. Right now I have plans drawn for between 1-2 inch wall thickness. Once the platform is done then I'll make a decision. If I end up with metal walls, there will be around an inch or more of insulation. Nothing concrete yet.
 

ntsqd

technerd
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We already have the CLAM shelter, used it as a shower & toilet tent with our old camper. We have the 4 sided version: Amazon product and 4 of the sidewalls: Amazon product The entry side doesn't really accept the sidewall very well, but it can be made to work. For a kitchen enclosure I'd break out the Bernina and modify a couple of the sidewalls to connect to the trailer.

A friend bought a 6 sided version and it is big enough for his family of 4 to sleep on cots inside it. He also discovered that you can leave the sidewalls in place on the shelter all of the time.

We've had ours set up in ~50 MPH gusts, staked out of course, and it was rock steady. Barely made any noise at all.
 

smritte

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Ontario Ca
 
Didn't get much time to work on it. Got the rear lifts in place, building the front ones. Got my template for the water tank box and need to order the fill hose so I can get that mounted.


lift up.jpg

Tucked up in the rear corner.

lited.jpg

Extended down. It lifts the tire off almost 3 inches. That will make it nice if I have to change a tire.
 
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Sorry if I’m seeing this wrong, but do the lifts work just by putting them down and then backing up?
 

smritte

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Sorry if I’m seeing this wrong, but do the lifts work just by putting them down and then backing up?
On the end, there is a 3/4 nut. That turns a thread and raises or lowers the arm. If you've seen a scissor jack, this is one side (ish).
 

smritte

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Didn't get much done this last weekend. Had family visiting. Well that and it rained. Was able to make a run to the steel yard and got my box made for the water tank, got my external junction box mounted and added in the mounts for the tongue box. Ran out of paint and forgot to order a few items.....sigh. Oh....didn't take any pictures.
On the plus side, the frame "should" be done this weekend. I think I'm going to throw some wood on it and do the registration before I make the box. I haven't ordered the doors and windows yet. I'm guessing there's going to be a bit of lead time there.

Major items left to order( beside doors and windows), fridge and kitchen slides, aluminum for the walls and roof, misc small doors for shore power, water fill.....ect.
 

ntsqd

technerd
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Messages
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What KA DMV told me when MISF & I registered the C.U.T. project trailer was that if it already had a S/N stamped in it that they would use that number. If it does not then they will issue you one with a sticker and it's up to you to stamp that number in the frame.

What that translates into is that if you want a personalized s/n for the trailer you need to stamp it in the frame before going to the DMV. I did this with the trailer that I inherited from my grandfather. Oregon doesn't register or title small trailers, so it never had been registered until it came to me. The s/n that I stamped in it is his initials, the date he completed it (roughly), and a 3 digit sequential number.

The other thing that we were told with the first trailer was to stamp the s/n in the tongue where it would be easy to see, AND then to stamp it again in the frame somewhere that only we knew about & preferably hard to spot with a casual inspection.
 

smritte

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Messages
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Location
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What KA DMV told me when MISF & I registered the C.U.T. project trailer was that if it already had a S/N stamped in it that they would use that number. If it does not then they will issue you one with a sticker and it's up to you to stamp that number in the frame.
WOW. I never knew that. I've built a few trailers over the years and had DMV issue a vin. Custom numbers? Cool. You don't happen off chance to know if it can be letter/number combo? Be nice if I can use my ham call sign.
 

ntsqd

technerd
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Apr 26, 2007
Messages
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As I recall their VIN's conform to the Fed's 17 (?) digit alpha-numeric format requirement, but any existing number does not need to meet that std. They do have some minimal requirements for the s/n that any existing number will need to conform to or they will issue one of theirs. Should be able to dig that up on one of the sites dealing with KA Vehicle Code.

My semi-educated guess is that if you used your ham call sign and added a sequence number suffix to it, say something like "KAIC7280-001"*, that you would meet the min requirements. One thing for sure is that if your s/n already happens to exist in their db they'll issue a new s/n, so it is important to make it as unique as reasonably possible.

*KAIC7280 was my cb license number. How's that for dating myself?
 
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