I purchased a 5'x10' Trax utility
trailer in 2007 and it's been a great tool transporting my junk
dutifully for all these years, never giving even a hint of trouble.
The weather here in the northwest has
taken a toll on the many components of the trailer, the deck in
particular. The time had finally arrived to tear into it and replace
or upgrade those worn and weathered parts.
The deck of the trailer was the most
obvious part that needed a complete replacement, having rotted
through in several places. The original decking was comprised of
standard 2"x6" lumber that was not pressure treated or waterproofed
and secured to the frame of the trailer with five 3/8" deck screws
for each board.
Now, I don't know if you have ever
had the pleasure of removing deck screws that have been rusted in
place for eleven years, but... what a challenge! In the end, I used
a heavy spud bar to finish off the destruction of the wooden planks
and literally shredded them into submission, revealing the old and
rusted guard, proudly standing at attention, now holding only air
The most efficient way that I found
to remove the old deck screws was to hit them with a heavy blow to
the side, snapping them off flush with the trailer frame. This
method worked so well, it made quick work of the job and getting to
the rust clean up that much sooner.
After some vigorous wire brushing and
clearing of the rusty dust, I applied two coats of rust treatment to
all of the exposed metal, including the cross frames, axle and
spring components. I also removed the old wire harness for the
lights, seeing how it might be the best time, given the wide open
workspace I had without a deck.
During a recent camping trip we were
searching around many of the logging and forest service roads in
central Washington, looking for that nirvana of sites to call home
for the week. On a rather tight switchback I drug the drivers side
corner of the trailer over a berm and broke the tail light lens
(brand new, maiden voyage). At that moment I resolved to lift the
trailer by using the age old method of relocating the leaf springs
from under the axle to above the axle (spring over axle mod). Having
the trailer deck removed was, once again the prefect opportunity to
make this happen.
The only thing harder than removing
old rusty deck screws was removing old rusty u-bolts... just saying.
I am lucky enough to live in fairly
close proximity to a trailer supply store, having to pass right by
it everyday to and from work, so sourcing parts was easy. For my
particular axle the modification it was pretty straight forward;
lift the trailer, support it with jack stands, remove the u-bolts,
remove either the forward or aft spring shackles, roll the axle out,
reattach the spring shackles, rotate the axle 180°
and roll it right back in place. The same spring perches were able
to be used without having to relocate them, as my axle is straight
and not a bowed one.
One thing of note; in the above photo
you can see the clearance between the tire and lip of the fender. As
I recall the distance was less than 3" and now the clearance is over
7" giving well over 4" of effective lift to the bottom of the
trailer by using this quick and simple mod. Of course the axle
housing is still at the same height as before (1" taller than stock,
as I gained 1" axle clearance from a previous tire and wheel
My local metal supply store has a
great selection of quality, "Made in the USA" metal. My next
upgrade/modification came in the form of a new tongue and
fabrication of a rear receiver. So the plan was to cut the welds
holding the fish plate and coupler together, then weld in an
extended 6' tongue that also passed through the front of the trailer
frame and back to the first cross brace. The rear of the trailer
received the same treatment with the 3' receiver 2 1/4" square tube
material passing through the rear of the trailer, extending the last
cross member. I remember thinking, why don't I just run the square
tube the entire length, but with the deck removed I just didn't want
to compromise the integrity of the trailer by cutting all of the
cross sections of frame apart leaving very little to keep everything
square and plumb, so that's where my compromised landed.
The new tongue and rear receiver is 2
1/4", 1/4" thick square tube. I also welded a 2 1/2" collar on to
the ends to help with the extra anticipated stress of off road use.
Additionally, I fabricated a new coupler that is removable so with
the pull of a pin you can add an extra layer of security to your
trailer when you park it. Pull the pin and take the coupler with you
when you leave camp.
The new tongue and coupler combination extends the
trailer two more feet than the previous set up, which will help
tremendously gaining access to the rear of the Jeep. At one point I
had to remove the factory landing leg because it fouled against the
spare tire of the Jeep in certain situations.
My welder is a little buzz box made by Lincoln, Weld
Pak 100. 110v, flux core wire, and burns like a champ. Most of this
material so far is 1/4" thick steel and will be supporting a lot of
new weight, not to mention the new dynamic of changed leverage
points. I called on one of my buddies with a big 220v Miller to burn
over a few key welds and to hit the underside welds that I hadn't
Reinstalling the deck was pretty straight forward;
lay down a 2"x6", drill some holes and screw in the new deck
fastener. This task only made complicated by the amazingly true
pieces of wood that pass for quality lumber these days. Some pry bar
action was needed to keep some of the decking into position while I
secured each piece, but in the end, it all fit like a puzzle.
I was down at the local Tractor Supply Co., and came
across a trailer storage box that would defiantly qualify for a
scratch and dent. I put it on the cart and headed out to find the
manager. After a little show and tell the box was mine for 50% off
and it found a new home on the front of my trailer.
With the new receiver coming out of the backend, it
was necessary to make a small modification in the tailgate. not a
big deal, I'll box in the open sides when I work on some of the
Once the storage box was mounted, it left little
room for the clamp mounting of the hokey clamp mount of the
aftermarket landing leg. I figured a good position for it and
marked, drilled and tapped for the fasteners. I opted for threads
rather than welding in blind nuts for now, we will see if the mild
steel gives me any trouble down the road. Also I'm not very
impressed with the quality of this one and will be looking for
landing gear that is a bit more substantial in the near future.
The next small upgrade to the trailer was the
fenders and lack of a running board. At 29" at the widest point, the
fender wouldn't allow for any kind of off road tire without risking
rubbing or cutting of the tire.
The fenders and running boards are fabricated from 1
3/4" .021 DOM steel tubing, running the full length of the trailer
on each side. To make this happen I needed to get some tubing bent.
Unable to beg, borrow or steal my way to fenders I picked up a
Westwood tubing bender. The biggest trick to this tool was to try
and find a place to mount it. My garage is not big enough to
accommodate the length of steel that needed to be used and mounting
it in the driveway was a no go, so I mounted it on a piece of 1/2"
plywood. As a side note, it worked very well all things considered.
At a full one foot wide, the running boards and
fender can easily be used as a step to access the rest of the
trailer and will serve well as rock solid rails if they encounter
anything on the trails that they need to slide by.
One of the goals for this trailer is have it sit
level with the Jeep, or as level as I can get it as I have a
Lock-N-Roll off road coupler that I will be using. The magic formula
hasn't been worked out yet, so how large of a tire I need to have,
to achieve the proper height is still a mystery. I stumbled into a
really good deal for a set of tires and wheels that came off of an
older Jeep, so the 5x4.5" bolt pattern on the wheel and the 32/10.5
tire was perfect to get me started.
I opted to cut the welds with my Dremel cut off
wheel and remove them when the time came, getting rid of the
I have about an 1 1/2" of clearance between the
trailer and the sidewall. If it becomes an issue with full
articulation I'll go with a spacer and change it up to a 5x5" bolt
pattern to match the Jeep. I'm leaning this way anyway just so I can
interchange tire/wheels without issue, but as I mentions this is a
cheap set up to get me started.
The profile length of the fenders were exciting to
complete and to hang in place. The cross pieces were made from the
same 1 3/4" .021 DOM tubing as the rest. We used a hole saw with a 1
7/8" bit to cut the fish mouth notches for the joins and a cut off
saw to cut them to length.
And side two. You would think that having already
done one side the the other would be even easier. Trying to
replicate all of the bends in a mirror fashion were not as simple as
you would expect. Freelancing without a jig or other hard measuring
devices proved to be a little sketchy. Some of our measurements are
off just a bit from the other side but will probably never be
noticed. We are pleased how both sides came out.
As with all projects sometimes things do not
go exactly as you had planned, or more directly... measure once, cut
One of our measurements was off a full three inches!
Luckily it was three inches long and not three inches short. I took
an eight inch piece of tubing and cut 3/4" from the center
eventually making a split pin. Then in the vice I started to
carefully roll it back closed, being sure to keep the roundness
intact. After about thirty minutes I was able to tap it into place
for a really nice plug/butt weld fix. I have no doubt that it will
be the strongest part of the entire trailer.