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.
  • 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:

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

Step 1: Day 1 - February 8th 2012

Feel free to click on the pictures to see them in full size for more details.

The trailer box opened.  Looks small. 

Lots of screws and parts. 


Here are the doors I bought. Is two of them in that box, shiny and new.


Hmm.  All the trailer parts look the same.


The trailer starting to get shape . 


I had to go buy some more wranches, mine are too small. Enough for tonight. 



I woke up in the morning with muscle pain everywhere. I discovered some muscle that I didn't know I had. Crawling on the floor trying to put a trailer together is not easy :-)

I'll have to paint the trailer frame black. Red with aluminum gray won't go nice.


What a great job building this trailer. <br>You did an even better job of documenting and presenting this build. <br>People would do well to learn from your work. <br>I have just 3 suggestion for you: <br>1 - a solar panel to help keep your battery charged. <br>2 - I would recommend some struts for your hatch <br> (the kind that minivans use for their hatches). <br> This way you don't have too lift the hatch up. <br>3 - I would have started the aluminum lower to cover the trailer. <br> It would just look nicer and prevent water from the sides getting <br> between the floor and trailer. <br>Great Job!
Thanks! <br> <br>1 - I have in plan to get a 30 watt monocrystalline solar panel <br>2 - That was my original intention, but I decided to make it this way to have more control on how to do it and how it looks like <br>3 - the aluminum sheets I had were only 4' wide... there was no way to put them lower.
<p>tonoos</p><p>Hi, I have thought of building a tear drop for years. Not in my ability scope. If was to venture, your work in progress would make it possible. We over here Australia, don't have the same access to the parts that you mention so I am looking for a ready made one. Your $3000, even American, is way off our prices. As you said $4000/$15000 range. Ours are more $10000/$18000. </p><p>Great read and project. </p>
I was also thinking of some sort of axle mount alternator on the trailer that would catch some of the energy while driving to your campsite to charge the deep cycle battery. Love the Solar panel idea very much, might do a suction mount vertical axis wind turbine as well...
You can connect the trailer battery in parallel with the car battery and that way the towing car will charge the both batteries in the same time while you drive. Just pull a wire from the positive from the car battery, put a 30A fuse on it and connect it to the trailer battery. The negative from the trailer battery goes to the ground of the car. This is how the trailer shops are doing it. Just don't forget to disconnect when the car is stopped (else you use the electricity from both batteries). <br> <br>A second option is to use a continuous duty solenoid, this way you don't have to disconnect the two batteries when the car isn't running. <br> <br>I'll make 2 schematics and post them on the last page on how to connect the trailer battery to be charged by the towing car.
<p>What a wonderful thing you have done, and what a wonderful service you are providing your followers like me.</p><p>You may cover my questions in your addition on wiring so I will look at that. I would like the tailer to draw from the car only when the car ignition is on, or in fact only when the motor is running. Will the solinoid you suggest solve this problem? Can I just connect the wire to the cars 12volt plug on the dash, which on my car only works when the key is on?</p>
<p>I found your instructable around May or June of 2014 (along with a couple of other how to's) and used this instructable to convince my fiance (now wife) that we could build this and use it for our honeymoon! Thank you so much for posting this, this was definitely the most comprehensive build guide that we used for our trailer, and I don't think I would've gotten the green light to build it without this instructable! Thanks again!</p>
<p>you're amazing! bucket listed</p>
<p>As MarkH48 posted below, I also am not planning on building a teardrop camper (3 kids and wife wouldn't work). However, your approach and story were so compelling that I read the entire article. Congratulations on your build and I hope you have many years of enjoyment with it!</p>
<p>I don't plan on building a tear drop trailer but still couldn't stop reading about your build. Like a good book I wanted to see how it finished. Not only was the documentation good but the final product looks great! Keep up the good work and let us know how the kitchen turns out.</p>
<p>How do you, however, legalize it for street use. ? It needs some kind of permit, no ?</p>
<p>How thick is the aluminum that you used?</p>
<p>Can you provide the make/model of that stove? I'm having difficulty location it. </p>
I don't remember exactly the model, but the brand is SMEV. If you search on google &quot;smev stove&quot; or &quot;smev stove sink&quot; you'll find it.
<p>Can anyone clarify why 4x12 Al are nedded, rather than 4x8's? In Michigan, I am having problem getting 4x12's. ?? Thanks</p><p>Ioan, still interested in a cnc router? Thanks John - I am making one of these for a Prius...weight and wheel bearings have me concerned.</p>
Yeah, still interested in a CNC router.
<p>yet another reply to this. I have been looking at acme lead screws, and they are cheap. Nuts can be made by heating acetal plastic to thread. etc. It's a bit early, but I'm speculating it's possible to make a 4x8 cnc router for &lt;1000$, excluding PC and router body itself. I have been studying eliminating the PC, via manually inputing the derivative of the circle (gives tangent and therefore stepper ratio.) Certainly a lot of savings may be had by creating a 4 foot Y axis lead screw which is manually positioned on a steel frame to do cuts on a 4x8. Just a few thoughts. The 4-8 k$ expense is something I'd like to avoid. A 4 foot cut range makes things much easier, but an 8 foot range certainly possible also. Here in Michigan, I can pick up a 1/2 inch x 3 foot lead screw for about 15$. </p>
<p>Ioan</p><p>Perhaps diy the router? The kits look over-priced. (abt 8k) And if you want say 3 feet travel instead of 8 feet, that's a 8' table machine where you change the 'zero' manually. I bought a nema 34 plus driver board and had no trouble driving it with a Picaxe emitting pulses. I favor lead-screws and these can be diy'ed. Many ways to go, some low cost. </p><p>haiticare2011 aht geemale doht kom. </p>
<p>I sent you email, did you get? I think it was email adr on your website.</p><p>JB</p>
I used 4x8 on one side, 4x12 on the other side (48 inches were left unused). The other 4x12 went on top (front to the kitchen hatch). The 4' left from one side I used for the kitchen hatch which is just 47 inches.
<p>possible to use 4 foot on front, then 8 foot back towards kitchen. then 4 on hatch. Another seam, but the more visible 8 foot is all along the top. </p><p>I am going to just build a shell - no interior finish or insulation or kitchen. </p>
<p>Hi, Great job! Did you screw the walls into the side of the floor or did you sit the walls on top and screw them down to the floor?</p>
The walls are glued and screwed on the side of the floor.
<p>Hello I too live in Oregon, so I am building a teardrop as well and i screwed the walls into the side of the floor as you mentioned, it looks as if when you put the roof plywood on it covers to the outside edge of the plywood walls. could you elaborate on how you did this since the distance between the walls was 4ft...the floor was 4x8..attached 1/2 in to the side..you gain an inch over space..</p>
<p>I'll jump in on this one. I'm guessing Ioan &quot;leaned in&quot; the walls to get the fit to 4 feet. I calculated the angle he got - sin X abt = x for small angles. A 1/2 inch difference/ 48 abt = .01 angle or .01 x 360 = 3.6 degrees 'lean.'</p><p>OTOH, it's easy to just make the bottom frame 1 inch narrower, extra work.</p>
<p>Here is a concern I have about the bearings from Harbor Freight. Some have reported failures. BUT I know that Chinese bearings are often shipped dry, because they don't want the grease leaking out during transit. So you MUST re-pack the bearings in grease (clean before in kerosene or solvent.) I am generally paranoid about the bearings, tho, on a 2000 mile trip, say. </p>
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!
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 :-)
<p>In that case (5'), how would you handle wider plywood, Al ? I guess you'd join the plywood? And Al is available 5 feet wide?</p><p>jb</p>
Nice work! I can't believe that's your first build. You should quit your software programmer job and start building these for sale. LOL
If I ever get an offer for the teardrop that covers my cost + $3000, I'll sell it and with the profit I'll buy a 4'x8' CNC kit (like this: http://buildyourcnc.com/blackFoot48v40.aspx). Then I can make lots of them fast!
<p>So did you? curious, JB</p>
I have worked with many kinds of paint and roofing and concrete/cement materials. I tried all kinds of cleaners the one I have found the most effective and simplest is the following. <br>what ever is on my hands I rube in ordinary baby oil until the paint, tar, greasy dirt or cement until it is thoroughly loosened then wash with dish soap or simple green or something similar even laundry detergent works. The oil does not dissolve so much as lift the &quot;dirt&quot; it really works great on cement and concrete as it completely inactivates it . does not work very well with super glue or epoxy though thay just has to be sloughed off with the old skin cells
<p>uncured epoxy removed with ethanol. (HD, Lowe's etc)</p>
an aside: to remove uncured epoxy use white vinegar then soap &amp; water. <br>for superglue either acetone or a solvent based nail polish remover will take it off. Do NOT use solvents t otry &amp; remove epoxy - they will carry the nasties in the epoxy through the skin!!
Where did you get the large aluminum sheets?
I called around all the sheet metal places that I found in my area until I got the right price for 4'/8' sheets. I got mine from http://www.ircalum.com , they are from Portland Oregon.
<p>I note you sped'ed 4x12 sheets of Aluminum. Can this be done with all 4x8's? I can see you might want to avoid a seam on the roof, but why are you using 2 4x12's to do the side panels when those panels are only 8 feet long? What am I missing here? Can you specify where the sheets go?</p>
<p>where did you get the doors; were do you think I can find them?</p>
I got the doors from http://www.dnmteardroptrailers.com Call Duane (get the number from the website) for details.
<p>Great work. I was wondering about the 5' hatch hinge. We are also using a 4x8 trailer. Did you need to cut the hinge to 4.5' or did you leave it as is? </p><p>Thanks!</p>
I cut the hinge to leave about an inch on each side (to act as a gutter). See step 29 (http://www.instructables.com/id/Teardrop-Trailer/step29/Day-29-April-18th-2012/)
<p>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. </p>
<p>you can now get roll up solar panels, surely they would be light enough? Failing that you can get free standing solar panels which could travel in the car as opposed to on the trailer if you're worried about you gross tow weight</p>
Great job on the build and documenting the build. My wife and I are considering building one ourself now. Do you still use the trailer very much? Is there anything that you've discovered now that you wish you had done differently in the original build or anything you wish you had included?
<p>Do you have to order a specific thickness of door?</p>
<p>How thick is the aluminum sheet that you are using? </p>
The aluminum I used is .032-5052
<p>Amazing job documenting everything, very well done. This reminds me of my old Airstream so much that we are starting our build here in Ecuador!</p><p>One question... in the materials list you have the foam insulation as 1/2&quot; 1 sheet and 3/4&quot; 3 sheets. It looks like in the pictures you are using 1/2&quot; birch on the outside walls and leftover material for the framing. Wouldn't this provide you with a 1/2&quot; gap for the foam? If you only have 1 sheet in 1/2&quot; that would not be enough to cover the project. I was wondering if maybe those numbers got switched? Only 1 3/4&quot; sheet for the flooring and the rest looks like it is 1/2&quot;? I was not able to see in there where you specify the thickness of the foam. The only reason I ask is because I want to double check before we buy these materials, especially since some of this might be hard to find here.</p>

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