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How to turn a harbor freight trailer into a Kayak/Camping trailer

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Picture of How to turn a harbor freight trailer into a Kayak/Camping trailer
This is my first instructable but I have posted this on some kayak forums with positive feedback so I wanted to post it here and enter it into the outdoors competition. I wanted a trailer I could haul our three kayaks on and our camping gear but all the trailers I found for purchase were $1000 plus. Here is how I built mine for $363
I started with the harbor freight Kit and turned in into exactly what I needed.
 
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Step 1:

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 I started with harbor freight #42708 - 870 Lb. Capacity Utility Trailer, 40" x 49". It was $219.99 and with a coupon I got it shipped to my door for around $160. In addition to the trailer kit here is what I used for this project –

10’ 11ga 2” square tube

14’ 1/8” 2” angle iron

2 6’ pieces of 1.25”od round tube

4x8 sheet of 1/2” treated plywood

2 12’ 5/4” deck boards

2 8’ 5/4” beck boards

4 10’ 2x4s for bunks

7 eye bolts for tie downs

6’ wire for harness extension

Front braces are 3/4” steel bar that was already bent that I got from a scrap pile

For those who don’t know the above picture is what the manufacture intended it to look like.
 

Step 2: Start the build

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Day 1

First I started by assembling the kit to have a starting point, make sure you square the basic frame and check several times while you tighten since the entire build is based off this. After you are happy with this point throw away the instructions because now the fun begins!

 

I wanted to add a brace to connect the tongue directly to the spring hangers so I added this. It is a piece of the 2” angel iron lined up with the front spring holes. I turned the frame around so the axle centerline would be farther forward since I will be extending the front. This will make weight distribution better and be easier to pull and track better.


Step 3:

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Now grind off all the powder coat on the joints then some welding. I wanted a longer bed to haul all my camping gear and coolers so added some extensions. These are 2’L each and are made from the angle iron. This will make the bed 6' long. Tacked everything in place ready to square, used the original tongue for the front brace since I won’t be using it for its intended purpose. I then Burned everything in and hit the welds with primer, I welded all connections together including the spring hangers to the brace I added and the rear hangers to the frame.

 

Step 4:

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Tongue bolted with grade 8 bolts and welded on, if it is worth doing it is worth overdoing. Started welding all metal to metal connections but I ran out of welding wire so this is a good stopping point and hit with a light coat of primer to protect from rust until I can finish

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Day 3 started with a trip to tractor supply to get some welding wire then I figured I would do a little cosmetic work filling all the holes I'm not going to use. This is optional but I wanted it to look good

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Now it's time to put the front upright on using some scrap I had laying around, Bolted on with grade 8 and then welded. Also added a sleeve over the tongue to beef up where all the weight will be (this is optional but it was scrap I had so might as well use)

Step 7:

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Back uprights and bar welded on, Finished the day with a little wire brushing of welds and shot primer on the entire trailer. Tomorrow is family stuff so won't be able to work on it again till Tuesday, then I'll add the front supports for the sideboards and start wire brushing and sanding for paint.

Step 8:

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Okay, let’s get this thing finished

More grinding, sanding and priming and welded on front uprights. Let the primer cure for a few hours and time to start paint.

Step 9:

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Bottom primed and painted, I hit this with oil based black for the best protection. Shot this paint everywhere that won’t be color (places you don’t see)

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Now to work on the top side, shot everything that will be blue with a base coat of metallic silver to really make the blue bright

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I put 3 coats of blue on and 2 of clear.

Step 12:

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Coupler on with grade 8 bolts, added front eye bolt tie down and starting wiring

Step 13:

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Now time for the floor

Step 14:

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Got carried away and didn't take any of side rail and axle installation but it is pretty straight forward (might have to refer to instructions for axle setup)  here is the kids enjoying the "almost" finished product, we run up and down the road several times to seat the bearings.

Step 15:

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Total price is $363. And it weighs right less than 350lbs

Here is the finished product all loaded up, I have three kayaks on here (my daughters 6’ sits in the bed) a grill, firewood, tent and other camping stuff loaded.
 

 

I am very happy with how this project turned out. I pull it with my 4cyl escape and have had it to 70mph+ on the interstate with no problems. Since it is so light weight I can hardly feel it behind the car, and I have less invested than most put into converting a jetski trailer and everything is new. The only thing I might change is making the bunks moveable so I can put 3 full size yaks on top.

Bushie7 months ago
NICE WORK...

I'm always looking for hints and suggestions along these lines..
wmansfield1 year ago
You might consider putting larger automobile rated wheels on your trailer. I built a trailer some years back using the Harbor Freight utility trailer as a starting point. I drove it from New York to California at highway speeds. Somewhere in Texas we had stopped for food and noticed that the entire tread was missing on both tires, save for the one strip of rubber on the outsides of the tire. That could have been disasterous. I was lucky.
I really like this!
It inspires me to get to work on camping-kayak combo of my own.
Thank you!
We have two HF trailers--one the "full size" 4' x 8' or so that we use for general hauling and to trailer our motorcycle--850 lbs dry. Plus ramps etc. The only prob we have had with that one is the orig paint and lights--both are politely--crap.

We then bought the smaller one --dunno the size but about 4' x 6' mebbe?---And we sanded the "paint" off of this--I am pretty sure the entire thing was just dipped in pure red colored lead!!!--and painted it black. We had the axles and frame etc cut down to make it match the width of the bike and the saddle bags so we could make a tow-behind-the-bike size. We then mounted a fiberglass or ? plastic type car top carrier on to see how we liked it. This has held up well altho the paint that we used to paint THAT part (plastic cover up paint) is---not the best altho we used the name brand. We have done many miles on some pretty rough roads and you wouldn't even know she is behind the bike.

Get the BIGGER TIRE option for any HF trailer! And get a spare--they make a mounting bracket and you will be very happy if you ever need it that you invested the few $$$ in this!

We used some "diamond plate" black rubber cut to fit (also from HF) on the fenders to avoid chipping the paint and also used plastic "chrome" door trim (Wally world auto section) to go around the fenders and other parts inc the edge of the car topper to add a nice chrome look.

We had to replace the lights--rear lights--on the big trailer several times--first with HF replacements and then we discovered that PEP BOYS and WM have super bright water proof boat trailer lights--PEP BOYS are cheaper---and we replaced the ones on the big trailer and used them for the orig build on the tow behind the bike trailer. Do yourself a favor and just shell out the $30 or so that the Pep Boys lights cost--worth the cost in frustration and time saved!

All in all we love the trailer we built and altho we are thinking of building a more sturdy "Tear Drop" or other design for the same trailer this one is holding up well so this is not an urgent need.
Dr.Bill1 year ago
DeNault1 year ago
Nice job! You'll find it too easy to snap or drag those tail lights off though. Suggest mounting them on top of that angle iron and protect from above by another piece of angle iron. (Let the angle iron take the hit.)
Harbor Freight posted about your article on Facebook.
Frkzila (author)  capturedlive1 year ago
Thanks for letting me know! That is so cool to have a project featured!
artlife1 year ago
Good Job!
May I suggest that you change your photos around so that the finished product is showing on the list of instructables. Let folks see what a good job you did, so that they will check it out.
Much better!
Frkzila (author)  artlife1 year ago
Thanks for the suggestion! I do think it looks better on the search
Nick705871 year ago
Looks good. I was thinking of buying one of those trailers to make a small camper. What do you think of the trailer quality itself?
Frkzila (author)  Nick705871 year ago
The quality of materials is decent, the one problem I had with the kit is it bolts together and that could cause it to be out of square if you hit a pothole or something but I fixed that by welding everything together. Out last camping trip I had over 500lbs of gear on it (that includes 4 days of firewood) with no issues. I highly recommend the kit providing you can weld everything and not just bolt it.
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