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Tech Nerd Tractor Convert
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This is the inexpensive folding 4'x8' HaulMaster 1200 lb flatbed trailer (deck not included) that goes for about $300 at Harbor Freight.

I put this together earlier this year but just now getting around to posting about it. I've seen this one posted here before but not with as many pictures and, hey, who doesn't like more pictures?

Assembly took maybe 15 hours given all the futzing around I did with the added deck, painting, and anchors. Plus having to redo a few steps of the process due to (in my opinion) ambiguous and in some cases missing assembly documentation.

One thing I'm wondering from any of you with this kit trailier is if there's a right way to tilt the trailer for drive-on loading. I don't think it's actually designed for that but it seems to be close to being able to handle it. However there seems to be a few problems...

1- the caster wheels prevent tilting the back end all the way to the ground, 2- the license plate also gets in the way of a full tilt, and 3- there is no good way to keep the trailer tilted while you're lining up the tractor (hitching to the vehicle and chocking the wheels works ok, but once tractor is on, it's an accident waiting to happen when you unchuck and it wants to slam down like a big pair of shears).

So any suggestions on making it a better tilt trailer are welcome. For instance I like the pneumatic shock idea.. others?



The trailer is packed in just 2 cardboard boxes - small but deceptively heavy. One is about 150 lbs, the other 100 lbs...




Cover of the manual and a couple diagrams of the trailer:








Label from box B (axle/wheel parts):




Contents of box B as packed:




Contents of box B laid out:




Label from box A (frame parts):




Contents of box A as packed:




Contents of box A laid out:




Fasteners I purchased separately for attaching a plywood deck (plywood and fasteners not included in kit). I think they were 1"x1/4" bolts, galvanized. I used flat washers between the bolt head and deck material, and lock washers on the nut side.




Decking material (2 4x4 sheets of treated 3/4" plywood):




Front frame section being assembled. All frame members were assembled with 3/8" diameter bolts and nylock nuts. Note to self.. remember to go back and retighten all frame bolts periodically (there are a lot of them).




This is a view of one of the attachment hinge points for the front v-shaped tongue (which also folds). Note how it's bent sideways slightly. This was enough to prevent proper alignment of the hinge bolt so I had a fun time bashing it back into proper alignment. A bit of quality control there.




Attaching the v-shaped tongue to the front frame assembly:




Here's a closeup of the receiver bracket for the coupler. I later found out I had the v-frame rails upside down (VIN and warning labels were upside down) and had to unassemble and reverse this. But I hadn't figured that out yet at this point...




Wide shot with front frame and tongue:




Starting to assemble the rear half of the folding frame:




Hinges where front and rear attach:




Hinge close-up:




Front and rear halves assembled:




Here is how they fold:




Flipped over and with the tongue folded now also:




Here the fixed caster wheel assemblies are attached to the frame. These are designed with protruding "feet" that grab the ground as the folded trailer is tilted up to a standing orientation so that the caster wheels don't become mobile until the trailer is almost fully vertical.




Fenders and leaf springs being attached (the trailer is in an upside-down orientation at this stage of assembly):




Closeup of where the axle attaches to the leaf springs with U-bolts:




Shot with the axle assembled. Notice anything funny? I didn't at first:




Here's another angle. See the problem yet?




How about that the axle is now trapping the folding tongue so it can't unfold? Duh.






Ok, took the axle off, lifted the tongue, then reassembled the axle. That's better:




The hubs come with bearings installed and pre-greased, but I have heard horror stories about there not being enough grease, so I took them apart so I could do my own packing:






Wheel lugged onto hub, no bearing yet:




Bearing inserted, (re)packed with grease, castle nut added and retaining key inserted:




And re-capped:




With the wheels installed I'm now noticing that the fender bolts don't have a lot of clearance from the tire tread, (maybe an inch) and when the trailer is loaded and the leaf springs compressed, there's a possibility the sharp bolt ends could rub on the tread (not good).




So I decided to grind the bolts down so they'd be flush with the nuts. Here's the before and after bolts:




And some final grinding once in place:




There.. not ideal but the chance of premature tire tread wear and/or tire puncture has been reduced:




Trailer standing upright, sitting on it's casters, ready for wheels to be re-attached:




With wheels:




And with frame unfolded:






Installed (but not yet wired) the forward marker lamps and rear park/turn lamps:






Started running the wiring in the frame, beginning at the tongue. Noticed the next issue.. can you spot it?




Decals are upside-down. Arrrgh:




So to rectify that problem I had to basically unassemble the entire tongue assembly (including the coupler bracket) and swap the two members that make up the V, put it all back together again and remount the tongue. That looks better:




Well I've reached the limit of text allowed in a single posting so I'll post the remaining 30 or so steps in a 2nd posting below...
 

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Tech Nerd Tractor Convert
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Discussion Starter #2
... Trailer assembly pics (continued) ...



Starting to attach the wiring now.. some strain relief where the loose connector pigtail attaches to the frame:




Here's where the wiring runs through the fold point. See 2nd photo for closeup. There was a hole there so I just passed the wires through that, but later (too late to want to go rewire everything) I realized this wasn't the best way to do this because these wires can get pinched during the unfold process if they aren't carefully guided back through the hole. Of course the manual said nothing about proper routing of the wires in this area other than "leave some slack" which I did. Later I realized a better route would be to let the wires pass underneath the cross members (with enough slack to not go tight during folding), not go through them.






More wiring.. they provide these black metal clips to help hold the harness in place but they aren't very strong, plus they're sharp, so I worried about wires wiggling around and gradually getting cut into. So I applied liberal amounts of hot melt to keep things in place.

Oh, and be warned, there was not nearly enough wire included in the kit (arrgh again!). Following the recommended routing path in the manual's wiring diagram, I came up about 3 feet short of being able to reach the left rear tail lamp. So I had to improvise and splice in some sufficiently-high-gage automotive electrical wire to finish the task. Frustrating, but managed to get by.




All wired up and attached to the vehicle for a quick lighting test... passed. Note the included 4-conductor in-line trailer connector did not match up to my GM vehicle so I had to purchase an adapter to match the circular pin orientation of the vehicle I was using.




Here the decking is just resting in place so I could plan out the locations for the fasteners:




I noticed (as have other posters who bought this trailer) that the way the frame members nest into each other, as well as the nut-and-bolt attachment method, leaves an uneven surface for the deck to mate up to, and that some "grooving" of the deck material would be needed or it would bow unacceptably once fastened down:




But I didn't have any fancy router or planing setup, so my poor-man's router was my circular saw:




The circular saw got the job done, even if it did fling high speed wood splinters at me in the process...




Here you can see how the decking rests flatly against the frame now that a relief groove has been cut:




I also drilled pilot holes (through both the deck and the underlying frame members) and countersink holes for every deck fastener:






Next, I sanded the deck surface in preparation for painting it on both sides. On the top side I'd be adding non-slip grit to the paint.




I decided to add 4 heavy-duty tie-down anchors, one at each of the 4 corners of the trailer. Later I decided these weren't the best locations (kind of gets in the way of the tractor tires), but it's better than nothing. Here I'm using a plastic template to map out the anchor's bolt holes:




Here the bolt holes and relief hole have been cut:




Here the anchor is (loosely) in place.. I'll remove it for painting then reattach it later:




Painting the deck. I used 1-part epoxy garage floor paint, probably 4 to 5 coats. I did make sure to let the treated plywood dry out for a good week or so before painting to minimize any paint bubbling issues later.




Hanging up to dry...




Before painting the top surface of the deck I added some non-skid floor finish additive (glorified sand) to the paint in the pail. Here's a closeup of the resulting texture once applied to the decking:




Here is a shot of the specific paint and grit I used:




After drying, I attached the anchors:








And then bolted the deck down to the frame with the gazillion deck fasteners..




Trailer folded with deck attached:




Folded trailer standing upright. Notice the bungies.. this is very important. Don't try to stand the folded trailer up without securely fastening the two halfs together so they don't flop open once stood up. This can damage the trailer or, more importantly, human body parts.






Here it's hooked up to a 1 7/8" ball hitch including safety chains:




Closeup of the front of the tongue from behind:




Completed trailer attached to truck:




Finished (for now) project:




As I mentioned at the beginning I'm still looking for a good way to load the lawn tractor onto the trailer. I do have some curved ramps that I can use but I'd really prefer a method where I can just drive on directly to the trailer in a tilted orientation and not have to carry the ramps. If someone has this model of foldable trailer and has worked out a good method, I'm all ears.

The other remaining issue I have is that my 50" mower deck (which is really about 53" wide total) doesn't fit between the two fenders on this trailer. I thought by going with a flatbed trailer that the 48" trailer width wouldn't be a problem, but I didn't count on the fenders being 3" higher than the deck. So my plan here is to lay 2 removable 8' long 2x8's on the deck and drive up on top of those, raising the tractor (and thus deck) height by another 1.5 inches which will let the mower deck clear the fenders. Unfortunately it's more parts to drag around to make this work but it should get the job done.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!
 

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Very nice! Do you have any plans to add front and side rails and a tailgate? I see there are brackets for them, or maybe I missed something. Sometimes I read too fast because I'm fascinated with the pics. :)
 

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Old Stonebreaker
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Did you also attach the ground wire to the two halves of the tlr w/ lites so the ground won't have to go thru hinge points?
Mike
 

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Thanks for all the pics and tutorial.
If it were me, I would drill some other holes somehow and make the two storage arms pivotal so the would be out of way for transport and tilting. I used to have the same issue with my license plate on my tilt trailer. I turned my plate mount upside down and now plate it mounted above the light, just have to watch your leg as it sticks up.
As to keeping it tilted while loading....just leave it out in the rain, eventually it will rust up enough, trailer will stay put where ever you put it :lalala: Seriously though, may jam a piece of 2x4 under you tongue when tilted, get the front tires of tractor trailer, then remove 2x4, I've had to do that before on mine, worked okay.
Good call on checking the bearings, those things looked too dry for me.
 

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Tech Nerd Tractor Convert
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Discussion Starter #6
@JimD - yes I think I'll be making some stake sides for it eventually. But again the trouble is they would get in the way of the 53" wide mower deck making me have to either remove the deck or not use the sides when transporting the LT, so the stake sides will be more for when the trailer is used to haul more ordinary stuff (mulch, etc) which I don't do a lot.

@mla2ofus - I thought of grounding the lights locally at the frame to make for fewer wires in the harness but decided against it because I was afraid the electrical conductivity between the two frame halves might not be consistent given that it's hinged, and that the frame members were all pre-painted. It would probably work, at least for a while, but since the return wires were included I just went ahead and routed them.

@tahoe99 - I never thought of making the storage arms movable, I might try that if I can find a way to avoid any slop/wiggle or else it won't be stable when standing up. I did consider simply removing them during transport but that kind of defeats the convenience of having them there and ready when it's time to put the trailer away. I'll give the 2x4 method a shot sometime. I guess the trick there will be to go slow when driving the tractor past the tipping point so that it's not a big dramatic slam...
 

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kccraftswoman
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Hi toolin, you could put a shock absorber under the deck so the deck won't slam down while taking tractor off or putting on.just a thought. tootles. K.C.:050::bellyemot:bellyemot:050:
 

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Tech Nerd Tractor Convert
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Discussion Starter #8
Hi toolin, you could put a shock absorber under the deck so the deck won't slam down while taking tractor off or putting on.just a thought. tootles. K.C.
Yeah, I had seen that idea in a few other MTF posts and seems like everyone that tries it is happy with it. Would take some planning to get the right one and mount it properly so I was just looking for something quick and dirty for now, but using a gas shock would be cool down the road.

Or even something like a hydraulic cylinder with the input plumbed to the output with a check valve so it would act like a hydraulic jack cylinder where I could control the lowering of the trailer by how much I open the valve...
 

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Nice work...been thinking of buying the little brother to that trailer. It's a 4 x 4 version that doesn't fold.
 

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Premium Member
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Nice job, Toolin.

They sell gas strut kits for tilt snowmobile trailers - just a thought.
 

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My Orange Jane Deere
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Hi toolin, you could put a shock absorber under the deck so the deck won't slam down while taking tractor off or putting on.just a thought. tootles. K.C.:050::bellyemot:bellyemot:050:
Good job Toolin.
I like that shock idea, Does anybody have any good pictures of that. I would like to do that to mine. But have never seen anything like it. :thThumbsU
 

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I saw a home made tilt bed trailer that had a floor jack mounted on the tongue to raise and lower the bed. Worked well and made for an inexpensive system as he had a cheap Harbor Freight type jack on it.

Mike
 

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The voice of reason !
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Looks good Toolin, I've been eying one of those for awhile just never pulled the trigger.

Theres a local guy that has a trailer I would really like to get if I can ever figure out who makes it, it has a perimeter frame with the deck mounted on pulleys so the whole deck lowers drive on and crank the deck up pretty slick idea but something tells me it would be very expensive.

Ron
 

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Great article! Enjoyed the photo's. I bought the 40 by 50" version of this from Harbour Freight a few years ago. I attached 2 2x12x70" treated boards on the trailer so I could haul my 2130 Cub, It was just barely large enough but I didn't want anything larger because of the storage space. The wood would allow the mower deck to clear the fenders just fine. I wasn't real happy with it so I sold it a garage sale for what I had in it. Haulmaster makes a $399 mower trailer with a built in loading ramp. If you could get it with a 25% off coupon they periodically have it would be a real deal. It's a similar build.

If I build one of these next spring I would:
1) weld all the joints together
2) repaint with Centari at the very beginning so the trailer would look nice longer. That powder coat will start rusting the first year if kept outside.
 

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i didnt quite understand if you had done this by what you said but you need to run a ground wire from the plug to both sections of the tilt bed for a good ground

good work :trink39:
 

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A semi-retired senior cit
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Why a bolt together trailer? I hope you used a lot of lock tight. Those bolts that you ground the threads down on you may have melted the the plastic in those stop nuts, then what good are they. Those small tires and rims will turn faster then say 14" or 15" rim, over heating the wheel bearings. Plus where the axle is located is in the middle of the 8' long trailer you have to make sure what ever your carrying is centered over that axle, if the load is to far back and your on the highway doing 65 mph it`s going to sway on you. that type of trailer will limit usable space. You do great work, but I just hope you don`t have the same problems I had.

The reason I`m telling you this is because I had a good heavy duty welded trailer that was a 4' by 8' tilt bed, made by Car Mate it was built like a tank. I wished I hadn't spent the money I did on it. It use to wag all the time, if I didn't getting the load centered perfectly over the axle. Plus it wasn't that easy to back up because of where the axle was located. I`m not trying to be a wet blanket, but you`ll find out it`s drawbacks. I`d use wheel chocks so if the Cub is going to ride on your trailer that you get it centered each time you load it. I use the heavy duty rubber ones and they are screwed into place so my mower gets loaded where it rides the best, it will save you time and guess work.
 

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My Orange Jane Deere
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Why a bolt together trailer? I hope you used a lot of lock tight. Those bolts that you ground the threads down on you may have melted the the plastic in those stop nuts, then what good are they. Those small tires and rims will turn faster then say 14" or 15" rim, over heating the wheel bearings. Plus where the axle is located is in the middle of the 8' long trailer you have to make sure what ever your carrying is centered over that axle, if the load is to far back and your on the highway doing 65 mph it`s going to sway on you. that type of trailer will limit usable space. You do great work, but I just hope you don`t have the same problems I had.

The reason I`m telling you this is because I had a good heavy duty welded trailer that was a 4' by 8' tilt bed, made by Car Mate it was built like a tank. I wished I hadn't spent the money I did on it. It use to wag all the time, if I didn't getting the load centered perfectly over the axle. Plus it wasn't that easy to back up because of where the axle was located. I`m not trying to be a wet blanket, but you`ll find out it`s drawbacks. I`d use wheel chocks so if the Cub is going to ride on your trailer that you get it centered each time you load it. I use the heavy duty rubber ones and they are screwed into place so my mower gets loaded where it rides the best, it will save you time and guess work.
Boy you just made Toolins. Day :sorry1:
 
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