Instructables
Picture of Teardrop Trailer
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Please visit my website for all the steps of this project: http://www.teardropdiy.com


Each step is one day.

First of all, my day job is software programmer. This is my first build. I have basic knowledge of wood working and I have some tools. The build is going to take a while (a month? two?). I only have time to work on it from 8PM until I go to sleep (about 3 hours) and in weekends when we have nothing else planed.

My plan is to keep the price under $1500 $2000. You can buy already made teardrops for $4000-$11000.

My Hyundai Sonata can pull a trailer of 1000lb max. My plan is to make the teardrop be under 700lb with all the equipment inside.

The only size of plywood that I can bring home is 4'x8', so everything that's made of plywood should fit in that size.

Here is how the side wall of the trailer should look like.


A list of parts with links from where I got them:

  • Trailer. I'm going to use the 4x8 Super Duty Utility Trailer from Harbor Freight Tools to built the teardrop on. On the time of creation of the website, the trailer was on sale for $350. I got in mail a %20 off coupon and that made the price $280. Note: If 4' wide is not wide enough for you, you can use this trailer. It's a little more expensive, but 1 foot wider.
  • Doors. You can build your own door. I won't. I'm afraid that I'm not going to be able to make it water tight, so I'm going to use already-built doors. I was lucky enough to find two brand new doors for $230 both, from someone who builds teardrop as a business. Here is his business website, he sells anything you need for a teardrop, including kits and custom made teardrops (http://www.dnmteardroptrailers.com/). Note: You can use only one door on one side, and a window on the other side. I got two doors because they were cheap and I won't have to step over my wife if I have to pee at night.  You also can get them from eBay for $240. 
  • Vent. I need a vent to put on the top of the trailer. I need one that's able to move lots of air (the door windows won't open on my doors). From my research the best vent is "Fan-Tastic Fan". I already ordered one from eBay for $120.
  • Hatch hindge. For the big door that lifts open at the back of the trailer. This should be water proof. I'm using a "Hurricane Hinge". Already ordered from eBay for $71. You also can get it from here.
  • Porch Lights. I need two porch lights to install above the doors. Ordered 3 from eBay for $63. 12V LED.
  • Dome Light. I also need some dome light for the inside the teardrop. Already ordered from eBay for $17.99. 12V LED.
  • Water pump. The best pump I found is the 12V Whale GP1352 submersible water pump. You can buy it from eBay for as low as $25.
  • Hatch handles. Got those from eBay.
  • Aluminum. I called around all the sheet metal places that I found in my area until I got the best price. I got mine from http://www.ircalum.com , they are from Portland Oregon.
  • Aluminum Molding. Go here and click "Online parts catalog" then go to "Moldings"
  • Sink/Stove combo. Got it from here.

Tools I use:

  • Box cutter
  • Pencil
  • Framing square
  • Wrenches. Big ones. You'll need for the trailer 16mm, 17mm, 18mm wrenches (I suppose this depends on what brand of trailer you are using)
  • Wireless drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Sander
  • Belt sander

Cost so far:

Trailer
$280
Doors $230
Vent (Fan-tastic Fan) $120
Hatch hinge (5' hurricane hinge) $71
12V LED Porch lights (3 pcs) $63
12V LED Dome light (1 pcs) $18
Black spray paint (2 bottles) $12
1/2"x4'x8' Birch plywood x 3pcs (one for the floor and 2 for the side walls) $120
5mm Utility plywood 4'x8' x 2pcs (for side walls interior) $23
2x4x96 x 8pcs (for the frame, not sure if I'll use all 8 of them) $22
Exterior screws (1box) $8
Henry Asphalt Emulsion (1 gallon) $12
Brush $3
Bolts & washers & lock washers & nuts to bolt the floor frame to the trailer (3/8" x 3" 20pcs) $26
Bolts & washers & nuts for spare wheel (1/2" x 6" 2 pcs) $6
Hard foam insulation 1/2" 4'/8' (one sheet) $10
Hard foam insulation 3/4" 4'x8' (3 sheets) $30
Sink-Stove combo $187
12V Cigarette lighter socket (2 pieces) $16
Automotive Fuse Holder Box Holds 6 Blade Fuses $14
Electric Facet & Pump System $50
1/8" birch plywood (3 pieces) $70
Molding $16
Wood stain $12
Aluminum sheets 4x8 (1 pcs) 4x12 (2 pcs) $170
Aluminum molding, plastic insert for molding, External Drip Cap $160
1 Gallon Contact Cement $10
TOTAL $1759
 
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It seems the majority of the pictures for this are missing? I've tried it on multiple computers just in case it was something to do with mine, but I only seem to get a small fraction of the images. Even when I became a member and downloaded the PDF, still the same. Any ideas?

e1ioan (author)  tearworld538029 days ago

The pictures are fixed now.

Thanks so much for taking the time to put this out there. And for following up on these messages. I am pulling from a variety of sources in planning my build and this definately is a big help.

tanderson451 month ago

How did you do the axels? Did you place the axel 4 inches back from the original spot?

e1ioan (author)  tanderson451 month ago
No, I kept the trailer the way it was designed.

thank you.

ardrhi2 months ago

Nice tutorial, good detail, and a wonderful ending.

Really great, but a bit labor intensive for a lazy old guy

like me

DeeRilee2 months ago

I may have missed it, but what was the total weight of your trailer (loaded for the road & just the trailer)?

I would love to build a teardrop, but want to build a rack to carry my Grumman canoe over the teardrop (it weighs 50 or 60 pounds). Thought about a rack to carry it on the roof of my car....but the canoe is almost a foot longer than my Accent, LOL.

Kinnishian2 months ago

(1) The only detail I missed was how you cut the aluminum siding for the doors. It's unclear how you made the cuts so clean. Was it easy becasue the plywood was already cut? And how did you initially pierce the siding?

(2) I take it that you are one of the wonderful software engineers who code with very good comments...because this thing is a really well laid out instructable. Thank you!

go back to step 25. he shows how to use a drill to start, how he had someone push on the other side to keep from making a bump and the router bit he used to cut the opening.

Thanks! You're completely correct, it's clear when I reread it. Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote the comment (about that part.)

More proof that the instructable was very clear, I guess :D. Nothing missing

a.steidl2 months ago

aha, I see, water protection. :) ^5

a.steidl2 months ago

I may be jumping ahead here, but did you put any plastic between the steel frame and the wooden one? If not, I hate to say, you could be looking at a LOT of water from the road, should you tow it in the rain.

capman9112 months ago

The only thing I would do about the battery to battery connection is the wire that runs from the car battery to the trailer battery is to put in a proper size diode that would let the flow of current flow towards the trailer and block it from flowing back to the car battery. A diode lets power flow in only one direction and not back. If you run just a wire to the two batteries when you start the car it will pull from both batteries and possibly cause the wire to burn up because of to much amperage being pulled through the small wire to the car battery. I love the trailer design.

http://tinyurl.com/oklnyls

pattiemelt2 months ago

If you don't want the added weight of solar panels attached to the camper, I wonder if there is a way to add a small wind turbine for charging the battery while you drive, or even while parked.

r_e_l_a_x2 months ago

Excelente proyecto, muy bien detallado y explicado, tu Teardrop Trailer quedo muy bien. Saludos!

stevenrterry2 months ago

What a great instructable! I am blown away with how well you created the instructable and the teardrop. My hat is off to you.

Invention12 months ago

Nice build! I built mine on a 5' wide trailer, which gives room for a futon-sized bed inside. My wife and I have trouble sleeping well in a 4' wide bed. Also, a hint for those wanting to build one of these: A galley kitchen is nice, but skipping the galley kitchen makes the whole project far less complex and far more weathertight. If you are considering a build and want to make it less challenging, then skip the galley kitchen. We have a platform on the toungue of the trailer, just bring out a big rubbermaid box of stuff and cook right there. A 5' X 8' trailer allows room for a rubbermaid box and some folding chairs, and still pulls OK with our teeniest car. The sources of doors and windows you link to are spot-on, anyone should totally use windows and doors made for trailers as they are watertight and made to take the stresses inherent in moving a trailer. Trailers flex - that's a fact.

One BIG addition: You can buy rolls of BUTYL RUBBER SEALANT. This is a gooey tarlike rubber sealant http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/butyl-tape-3-4-x30/39160 that never dries. It keeps flexing as the trailer moves down the road. DO NOT caulk a trailer with silicone rubber - it will eventually fail because of joint movement. Put this stuff at all windows, edges of aluminum sheathing, and under all aluminum trim and your trailer will stay watertight and mold-free. If you dear reader are considering a teardrop build, don't skip the butyl rubber sealant.

abinc2 months ago

People like you give me hope for America! Well thought out and executed. Have you considered top-mounted solar panels for electricity? I know you have to be cautious about the tongue weight for your car so would it be wise to move the battery under the kitchen and install a 5-gallon propane tank near the hitch instead of using the little propane bottle as you have it now? Also, loved the photos you took of your work as well as those of the other campers. Finally, you're right about your wife! She and your little girl are so pretty. I hope you are a happy man.

eneumueller3 months ago

hi, I'm really interested in building a teardrop trailer. Im gathering info and plans and parts. I was wondering what the dimensions of ur floor where the mattress is and where did u get the mattress. thanks

e1ioan (author)  eneumueller3 months ago

122 cm x 194 cm (4'x 6'4"). I got the mattress at Ikea.

insonh3 months ago

I just finished putting up the walls on my trailer after running into your build about a month and a half ago and I've been re-reading the directions every step of the way. i have a question about bonding the aluminum to the sides and top. does the contact cement dry hard or does it stay gummy? the reason i ask is because i need to take in account expansion and contraction of the birch plywood and I'm worried about delamination because of a hard drying cement. I've looked up everything i can on Weldwood contact cement and i cant find that info and short of calling DAP to ask them i figured you would be the expert on it. I did make a few changes to the frame for the floor, 1. rather than using angle brackets to hold it together i went with gluing and screwing the pieces with wood glue, I've done this on other project and its actually stronger if done right its just a little extra work. 2. instead of using the asphalt emulsion to prevent rot (i couldn't wait the three weeks under current weather conditions for it to dry) i went with a 1/16, 4x8 fiber board sheet from home depot and secured and after putting in the insulation (1in hard pink foam from home depot, easier to cut without all the little white pieces sticking to everything) and sealed it to the bottom of the wood frame with locktite calking adhesive that allows for expansion. i also ran galvanized roofing nails along the sides and across the center ribs as backup, this should prevent any water being thrown up underneath from touching wood. not sure how well this will work , only time will tell. 3. before re-installing the wheel bearings after dissembling them, I cleaned them with break fluid as well as the housing (harbor fright makes a nice little degreasing bath for $25 and the also sell the degreasing fluid, found this out after i already cleaned everything) and used a high quality grease to pack them (put them in a Ziploc bag with the grease and just work it in good, its easier and cleaner, plus used disposable latex gloves to handle after packing) and I'll grease them regularly as maintenance every 1000 miles. thanks for your detailed instructions, they are awesome

I am the least likely person on earth to build a trailer or caravan, hate the idea of dragging something everywhere, would much prefer driving a kitted out Kombi van or a Merc Sprinter (or an old fire truck!).... however, i have read every bit of this fascinating instructable, and congratulate you on the design and build, your excellent attention to detail, and the trouble you have gone to in recording every step. Really professional end product, great work!

One interesting advantage of a teardrop trailer is that you will get better fuel economy with the vehicle you already drive, towing a teardrop, than you will in a dedicated RV/Converted-Vehicle/Motor-Camper. Of course, it's up to each individual in what you prefer for camping and mobile living/travel.

bennelson5 months ago

As a general reminder, builders should think about odor, fumes, and off-gassing of any sealant used on the interior of the trailer. I had a cabinet-maker friend do a commercial clear sealant on the interior of my trailer. It looked great, but took FOREVER to air out. I advise anyone building their own to consider using Low-VOC, No-VOC, and all-natural paints, oils, and sealants.

bennelson5 months ago

I also painted mine black. Teardrops built with Harbor Freight frames that keep the red just DO NOT look good! Black is the way to go!

bennelson made it!5 months ago

Here's the one I built in about 2004. And a little more info on mine - http://300mpg.org/2014/04/02/so-you-want-a-teardrop-trailer/

camper_kristin_ben_01.jpgDSC_2386.jpg

Another thing that I found out the hard way is that the Harbor Freight trailers uses a weird size bearing - something like 0.98 inches. I had the bearings on BOTH wheels go out on the same camping trip, and spent the weekend beating bearings out with a mallet carved from firewood, finally finding the odd size replacement bearing just before the last store in town closed. After that, I replaced the entire axle with one from Tractor Supply (about $115) and have been very happy with it.

lastrom15 months ago
Other than a 5x8 is there anything else that needed adjusting after two years of use? Looking to start this project in the next few weeks on the larger trailer. planning on using truck bed liner as opposed to Al. has the DC system lived up to your expectations? Considering putting a jack on all four corners for leveling and stability. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Yours looks great!
bighaus7 months ago

awesome build looks great.

mhoffman19578 months ago
Outstanding! Thanks for putting this together.
enovoa8 months ago
I would add some wire screen to the fan to keep away pesky critters such as mosquitoes.
The battery-charging-while-you-drive idea is great, though the teardrop's battery should be charged at home when starting the trip and recharge it only if you're going to make a stop somewhere else, otherwise, if the battery is too drained from previous uses, it won't be charged that much because the car's alternator won't be able to provide charge for 2 batteries, and prolonged driving trying to charge a depleted battery will likely overheat the alternator causing more problems.

However, it was a great idea to use a deep cycle battery end even a better one using one of those yellow-top batteries from Optima, since fully charging it at home will likely fit your power needs for more time (depending on the individual's needs and usage of the teardrop) and charging it with the car won't be that necessary.
iclmb5108 months ago
This is a fantastic tutorial. I am very excited that I found it. I am planning on building a teardrop that will be very similar to yours. I will be using a slightly larger and heavier trailer that I already have so it will be wider but you have given me some great ideas. Your trailer turned out awesome. I hope your wife totally loves it. Thanks for making this instruct-able. You did a great job.
Dr.Bill10 months ago
Outstanding ! This should be "Featured".
Consider a 20Watt solar panel to trickle charge the battery.
It would replace any power you use at night.
I would change out that switch to run the water to a water proof kind.

Great way to bond with the family too.
aekent10 months ago
I really enjoyed seeing this. Thank you for sharing

One thing I would share with viewers is that marine stores have a pretty wide selection of items that can be easily run by 12v.
hobbyman10 months ago
such a wonderful project. congrats.
I am about to start this project. I didn't want to riddle you with questions so I will try to ask them all now. Can you give me any tips on things you would have changed. I know you said that you would use the 5 foot trailer but what else. Have you had any problems with it since building that could be changed? Is there anything you would have added for comforts or ease of access? Is the electrical system sufficient or would you have added more lights or the ability to plug in AC power? Any suggestions would be great!! Thanks!
e1ioan (author)  outdooradventureman11 months ago
I would only change the trailer size to 5'x8', nothing else. Everything else turned out great. Yeah, AC power it's a feature that some might want, I didn't need it... also you could find lots of camping appliances that work on 12V.
Have you had any trouble with leaks?
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