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Teardrop Trailer

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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. You can get them from eBay for $240. I was lucky enough to find two brand new doors for $230 both, from someone who builds teardrop as a business. 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.
  • 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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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.

bennelson16 days 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.

bennelson16 days 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!16 days 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.

lastrom124 days 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!
bighaus2 months ago

awesome build looks great.

mhoffman19573 months ago
Outstanding! Thanks for putting this together.
enovoa3 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.
iclmb5103 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.Bill5 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.
aekent5 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.
hobbyman5 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)  outdooradventureman6 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?
e1ioan (author)  outdooradventureman5 months ago
No, no leaks at all.
dmccandlish6 months ago
Fantastic instructable! Great Teardrop. Thanks for the inspiring build! I hope to do one based on your guide sometime in the next year.
joshuafolken7 months ago
It's awesome, thank you so much!
liatione8 months ago
WOW indeed!!!

Great job dude!

Thank you so much - obviously a work of art and love - I so much appreciate your sharing - awesome detail

I am inspired to build my own too!

Again thanks so much
Captain Greg8 months ago
This trailer is impressive, it has inspired me to try it myself. I started building one with slight modifications to the plans, and I am at the point of either buying doors or making my own. Did I read right that you bought both doors for $230? Is there any way to post where you got them?
e1ioan (author)  Captain Greg8 months ago
The doors were one time deal. A guy who has a business building teardrops wanted to get rid of them because the window doesn't open on those doors. He doesn't have any for sale anymore.
dollar jr8 months ago
Is it possible to instal an ac and does the aluminum get to hot in the sun e1ioan
murphybedhq10 months ago
Thats VERY nice, never saw an instructional giude to build a teardrop trailer :) I wrote about teardrop trailers over at www.godownsize.com/teardrop-trailer - i love that you can build this for less than 2 grand! thanks for sharing...
insonh10 months ago
WOW, just WOW, you did an unbelievable job there. I came here looking for instructions and got a lot more.

my brother and sister in law are traveling out west (we're in Boston) and had planed to go away for a month camping and only lasted 2 weeks (both are in their late 60's and way past their roughing it days in a tent but they tried) I felt bad that they didn't get to see as much as they wanted to so I started looking into teardrops as a project for me and him when he gets back and I'm glad I found your post. I think they would enjoy seeing the country in a teardrop more so than setting up a tent every other day. they also have a scooter to get around and I can see that adding a trailer hitch for the scooter holder wouldn't be a problem.

between the two of us (I'm the woodworking guy, he's the electrical guy) I think this would be a great project for us.

again, awesome job
fitzman16311 months ago
I must say that was a fine tutorial! I bet that took as much work as the building of the teardrop. What a great finished product! I am entertaining the thought of doing one at some time I will keep your info I'm sure it will help me tremendously. Thank you for the great work of helping others with this type of project. Fitzman163
This is great--it blows mine away.

I didn't know you were a dorkbotPDX !  Perhaps I will see you there!
e1ioan (author)  MakeItWithJason1 year ago
Your looks good too! Yeah, I have to come once at the meetings. I'm from Salem.
Thanks, man. Not sure I'd build one again--want to make a "canned ham" style now. Maybe I'll see you sometime at the Dorkbot mtgs if you're ever up from Salem again!
hveve1 year ago
This is a wonderfully put together post! My husband and I plan to do something similar someday. Did you find the wheels on the trailer to be sufficient for extended travel? Also, with it all said and done, is there anything you would have changed? The aluminum skin you used it beautiful but seems like it might be quite difficult to install, is there anything in your research you found that would work instead? Thanks for any input!
e1ioan (author)  hveve1 year ago
If it was to build it again, I would use a 5' wide trailer (from http://www.northerntool.com/). The installing of the aluminium it's not as difficult as it looks, you just glue it to the walls and then cut it at the edges with a router :-)
Hey 31ioan,

Did you buy the aluminum and trim at interstate RV Metal in Clackamas?
e1ioan (author)  MakeItWithJason1 year ago
I got it from those guys: http://www.ircalum.com/
Martynor1 year ago
Fantastic job and great instructions. I am about to start a self build and now I need look no further for instructions. Last year (2012) i converted a Merc Vito to a camper and traveled through France, but the missus wasn't keen on sleeping in the tunnel awning so I said I would built one of these for this year so the kids can sleep in the van and we can have a bit of privacy ;-) in the trailer. So thanks for the comprehensive guide and I hope you have many wonderful holidays in it. Happy new year.
e1ioan (author)  Martynor1 year ago
Thank you! Happy new year to you too!
beach man1 year ago
Beautiful teardrop build job!
Thinking about building a teardrop. Is there another source for doors or will the same teardrop builder sell to others? Those e-bay prices are a little much for such a small door.
Thanks
Rick
This about the most heart-stoppingly beautiful project I've seen here. Its exquisite.

Incidentally, to anneal aluminium, coat it with soap: when the soap darkens, its hot ENOUGH.

Steve
great job. just keep it that way.
coirby1 year ago
I have a Toyota Corolla 2002. I have been wanting to put a trailer hitch on it, but haven't gotten much info on it over the internet. Can you recommend a hitch and do you know how many lbs it would be able to pull? I'd like a small trailer to take for weekend campings. Thank you. :)
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