Picture of Teardrop Trailer

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
MarkH481 month ago

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.

ChaveliT2 months ago

How thick is the aluminum that you used?

ChaveliT2 months ago
Mike Benton3 months ago

Can you provide the make/model of that stove? I'm having difficulty location it.

e1ioan (author)  Mike Benton3 months ago
I don't remember exactly the model, but the brand is SMEV. If you search on google "smev stove" or "smev stove sink" you'll find it.
pepincat4 months ago

Can anyone clarify why 4x12 Al are nedded, rather than 4x8's? In Michigan, I am having problem getting 4x12's. ?? Thanks

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.

e1ioan (author)  pepincat4 months ago
Yeah, still interested in a CNC router.
pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

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 <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$.

pepincat e1ioan4 months ago


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.

haiticare2011 aht geemale doht kom.

pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

I sent you email, did you get? I think it was email adr on your website.


e1ioan (author)  pepincat4 months ago
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.
pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

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.

I am going to just build a shell - no interior finish or insulation or kitchen.

kld19587 months ago

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?

e1ioan (author)  kld19587 months ago
The walls are glued and screwed on the side of the floor.

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..

I'll jump in on this one. I'm guessing Ioan "leaned in" 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.'

OTOH, it's easy to just make the bottom frame 1 inch narrower, extra work.

pepincat4 months ago

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.

hveve2 years 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)  hveve2 years 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 :-)
pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

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?


kaway273 years ago
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
e1ioan (author)  kaway273 years ago
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!
pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

So did you? curious, JB

uncle frogy3 years ago
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.
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 "dirt" 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

uncured epoxy removed with ethanol. (HD, Lowe's etc)

an aside: to remove uncured epoxy use white vinegar then soap & water.
for superglue either acetone or a solvent based nail polish remover will take it off. Do NOT use solvents t otry & remove epoxy - they will carry the nasties in the epoxy through the skin!!
jwzumwalt3 years ago
Where did you get the large aluminum sheets?
e1ioan (author)  jwzumwalt3 years ago
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.
pepincat e1ioan4 months ago

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?

Rebcaj5 months ago

where did you get the doors; were do you think I can find them?

e1ioan (author)  Rebcaj5 months ago
I got the doors from http://www.dnmteardroptrailers.com Call Duane (get the number from the website) for details.
sydney.coish5 months ago

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?


e1ioan (author)  sydney.coish5 months ago
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/)
pattiemelt1 year 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.

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

thardigree7 months ago
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?
bobuman7 months ago

Do you have to order a specific thickness of door?

jdweb7 months ago

How thick is the aluminum sheet that you are using?

e1ioan (author)  jdweb7 months ago
The aluminum I used is .032-5052
jdweb7 months ago

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!

One question... in the materials list you have the foam insulation as 1/2" 1 sheet and 3/4" 3 sheets. It looks like in the pictures you are using 1/2" birch on the outside walls and leftover material for the framing. Wouldn't this provide you with a 1/2" gap for the foam? If you only have 1 sheet in 1/2" that would not be enough to cover the project. I was wondering if maybe those numbers got switched? Only 1 3/4" sheet for the flooring and the rest looks like it is 1/2"? 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.

e1ioan (author)  jdweb7 months ago
The wall framing is 3/4" so the foam used for the walls was 3/4". The 1/2" foam was used for the floor. Remember, you don't have to use exactly the same thickness like I did, you can get all of them 1/2" or 3/4" or whatever is available, just remember to make the framing the same thickness as the foam. Also, I've seen lots of people who didn't use insulation at all, just the plywood walls... and if you can believe it, some people make the whole trailer just from foam (harder foam though), look up foamies at http://www.tnttt.com/
ppeters05029 months ago

This is one of my favorite instructables to date! I'm currently working on building my own teardrop trailer out of my garage, using this and some resources on tnttt.com to follow along. I'm currently posting my progress on www.patpeters.org and will post a full instructable once I have it finished. Keep up the great work!

BobT629 months ago

Nice build for sure. Great pics and commentary on what you did that always helps us first time builders with ideas for sure. Just started mine 5x10 in a HF trailer. I find that i always have great ideas but some times they just dont work out the way iintended. We ill see what happens and once done i will come back and pist my build.

Thanks for sharing !!

AdrianM210 months ago

Great write-up! Starting my own build soon, have all my sketchup plans done up, mine is going to be an 8x4x5, with an alu skin also, still deciding how I'm going to skin the inside, whether with nice softwood battens for acoustic quality and snugness, or a Birch ply. I'm a bit of a tech geek and admire your electronic skill with the resistors on the fan, I think I will adopt the same method, as I hate noise in any form when I try to sleep, that's the whole reason for the teardrop in the first place, to get away from noise, though I'm still going to pimp my TD out with the latest camp gadgets and my entertainment system, which will comprise of my phone and my amazing Bluetooth speaker, my TV will probably be an android tablet of sorts which will also use the bluetooth speaker, I might run the whole teardrop on android now I've thought of it, I'll use tasker or some other automator and android apps to control lighting and heating,

mclancer3 years ago
What a great job building this trailer.
You did an even better job of documenting and presenting this build.
People would do well to learn from your work.
I have just 3 suggestion for you:
1 - a solar panel to help keep your battery charged.
2 - I would recommend some struts for your hatch
(the kind that minivans use for their hatches).
This way you don't have too lift the hatch up.
3 - I would have started the aluminum lower to cover the trailer.
It would just look nicer and prevent water from the sides getting
between the floor and trailer.
Great Job!
e1ioan (author)  mclancer3 years ago

1 - I have in plan to get a 30 watt monocrystalline solar panel
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
3 - the aluminum sheets I had were only 4' wide... there was no way to put them lower.
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...
e1ioan (author)  Madrigorne3 years ago
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).

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.

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.

What a wonderful thing you have done, and what a wonderful service you are providing your followers like me.

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?

capman9111 year 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.


Can you tell me where in the car you connect to get 12vt power? I am thinking not the basic wiring harness connection for tail lights etc (which I don't thing provides the nessisay "house" power), but the "extra" wire that brings power to the trailer. And can you tell me where I can get the diode and how to designate it? Thanks a bunch.

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)  tearworld53801 year 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.

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

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

thank you.

ardrhi1 year ago

Nice tutorial, good detail, and a wonderful ending.

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

like me

DeeRilee1 year 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.

Kinnishian1 year 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.steidl1 year ago

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

a.steidl1 year 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.

r_e_l_a_x1 year ago

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

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

Invention11 year 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.

abinc1 year 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.

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)  eneumueller1 year ago

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

insonh1 year 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.

bennelson1 year 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.

bennelson1 year 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!1 year 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/


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.

lastrom11 year 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!
bighaus1 year ago

awesome build looks great.

Outstanding! Thanks for putting this together.
enovoa1 year 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.
iclmb5101 year 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.Bill1 year 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.
aekent1 year 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.
hobbyman1 year 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)  outdooradventureman1 year 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)  outdooradventureman1 year ago
No, no leaks at all.
Fantastic instructable! Great Teardrop. Thanks for the inspiring build! I hope to do one based on your guide sometime in the next year.
It's awesome, thank you so much!
liatione2 years 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
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 Greg2 years 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 jr2 years ago
Is it possible to instal an ac and does the aluminum get to hot in the sun e1ioan
murphybedhq2 years 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...
fitzman1632 years 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)  MakeItWithJason2 years 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!
Hey 31ioan,

Did you buy the aluminum and trim at interstate RV Metal in Clackamas?
e1ioan (author)  MakeItWithJason2 years ago
I got it from those guys: http://www.ircalum.com/
Martynor2 years 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)  Martynor2 years ago
Thank you! Happy new year to you too!
beach man2 years 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.
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.

great job. just keep it that way.
coirby2 years 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. :)
e1ioan (author)  coirby2 years ago
I got my hitch from etrailer.com. Here are the hitches that fit your car:
Ben Mighall2 years ago
What was the final cost overall, both monetary-wise and time-wise?
e1ioan (author)  Ben Mighall2 years ago
The total cost, about $1900 (this doesn't include the tools that I bought, some people already have the tools). It took about 100 hours to make it.
Ben Mighall2 years ago
So the frame and floor are attached together now? In the next step, you just bolt the two to the trailer, or are they still separate? If separate, what are the crossbars on the floor-underside in the first pic? Also, is the insulation covered on the underside, or do you just leave it as-is?
e1ioan (author)  Ben Mighall2 years ago
On this page the frame and the floor are not bolted together. The tar and insulation goes on the underside. On the next step, I flip the floor over (with the insulation down) and bolt it to the trailer frame. I didn't cover the insulation. The cross bar you see (if I understood you question right) is the tongue of the trailer.
Nice trailer, you just gave me goosebumps because I LIVE in GP. Nice work, I plan on building one in the near future.
eilatmar3 years ago
thanks alot its great.
lhershey13 years ago
How awesome. Love the camper. It looks great and you did a great job on the write up too!
Well done, congratulations on being voted runner-up.
Again, let me agree too, "what a DIY job well done". Very well documented as an expert tech writer. Holding my breath about the sheet metal installation.

The last month I've been trolling the web for suggestions in converting my 4x8 riding lawn mower trailer into a tearDrop and your thread has been the most in getting me closer to the start build date.

The pics with mom and the kid are so sweet. As it goes, when mom is happy, everyone ARE.

Don't forget to strap those bottles down in the rear..

As one requested, keep updating and add the "wish I had" bullets.
Keep having fun. :) 071512. Allen.
Rebuttal; I would recommend NOT TO add sheet metal on the under side on the floor. It retains moisture by condensation and high humidity. Let that underside breath. I even question the tar covering that was installed and insulation. Remove the insulation. If you've got to install someinthg, install (in the proper direction) heavy construstion paper.

Silicone (caulk) the leading contact edges where the 2x meet the floor panel forward, to hold back puddle spash, water seal several coats and it will be good for a few years and the paint again.

Great job, buddy! And yes, your wife is pretty! ;-) Thanks so much for providing the pictures of the event and other teardrops. I know the maxim "no good deed goes unpunished" very well. I remodeled our entertainment room before we moved into the house (removing the wet bar and paneling, installing drywall, soundproofing, texturing, you name it) and my wife responds with: "Wow, that was easy, you should start on the guest bath now". Sigh. I finished the guest bath and she said, "Might as well go right into the master bath, it would be easier that way". I love how she finds ways to use the word "easy" as it pertains to months of my hard work. Haha. But, pretty wives are worth it, aren't they? Hope you have loads of fun with your teardrop, and thanks again.
oking3 years ago
I have a question and I am sure this is the wrong step to ask in, but I try to find the answers before asking.

About the insulation, I noticed that you used foam board insulation. Would there be anything wrong with using a spray foam to allow me to skip the taring and screwing on the underside? I know that it works great in homes and can not foresee any problems with using it on this project.

I am loving you design so far BTW. You've showing me that it's not as hard as I thought it would be.
oking - I wouldn't recommend using a spray in foam. you will be hard pressed to get it to fill the areas, even if it is the non-expanding type. You for sure don't want to use expanding foam, as it will easily "Blow out" your walls if you use too much.also, spray foam is messy, and nearly impossible to work around if you need to get into a wall to change/add wiring later.
The rigid foam 'e1ioan' used is great, and it can be purchased with a foil face on both sides I believe for even better insulation.
I know that on houses every thing you said except the wiring part and can be messy is false. The only time I know of it being messy is when the installer does not know what what they are doing.

The way the foam panels are being installed is proof of that.

The wiring part just needs a little more fore though eg run conduit.

I know for a fact that spray foam fills in areas better than stiff foam, when using the correct product can be installed between walls without "blowing them out" many of them have a set PSI during expansion.

It may be true that spray in foam "fills in areas better", but why work with that messy stuff for such a small amount of "fill"? Honesty? It's a huge pain. I work with the stuff all the time. This guy is going camping, not climbing Mount Everest where every BTU of body heat is critical and every crack needs to be filled.

This guy has created a very doable DIY trailer, with a minimum of mess and fuss. Why use spray foam and get that crap everywhere, when you can get just as good insulation using the boards? And why install conduit? Do automobiles have conduit installed (except for some plastic sheathing)? No, they don't, and they seem to deliver 12v to the entire vehicle without any problem. He's trying to keep the weight down and conduit is overkill.

I checked your comments, it's just one nitpicking thing after another, and you haven't made a single instructable. Why don't you make an instructable, to prove you can do something, before going around and giving advice to everyone and cutting down someone's installation ability (which you did here)?
e1ioan (author)  oking3 years ago
I'm not sure that insulation it's even necessary... I suppose that depends in what kind of weather you are going to use the trailer. I used insulation because it seemed to be a good idea. What you have to make sure, though, is that no water is going to get to any parts of the wood. The tar is good for that.
oking e1ioan3 years ago
I am in the state of Washington.

It would need insulation.
maintann oking3 years ago
I built a wooden trailersailer some 10 years agot The cabin roof is constructed of two layers of ply over beams. The outer layer is 1/4" the lining is 1/8". Overall thickness is just under 2". Between the beams I laid aluminium foil shiny side up. On one memorably frosty morning we woke to see the the beams picked out with lines of condensation on them; between the beams was dry. Apparently a 1.5" air space with a reflective surface is a better insulation than 2" of wood.
ps l agree once you get started it's not as hard to do as you feared.
dimdiode3 years ago
Fantastic workmanship and a great end-product. Congratulations on a really detailed ible with such good instructions I reckon most people could have a good go at making one this way. Really enjoyed reading the build, well done.

Now I have to get off my backside and make one - no more excuses!

Thank you.
Scumm73 years ago
Great instructable. You might think about replacing that linoleum with something harder (scrap aluminum or formica) for the counter top. My thoughts are that the linoleum may trap food particles and wear down with repeated scouring.
luchianni3 years ago
Bravo Ioane! Esti un adevarat meserias! Am citit pana la sfarsit cum ti-ai construit rulota. Felicitari!
e1ioan (author)  luchianni3 years ago
Multumesc. A iesit mai bine decat ma asteptam :-)
Jetpack53 years ago
A well deserved win! What a cool build!
HollyMann3 years ago
Congrats on winning!!! you deserve it!
e1ioan (author)  HollyMann3 years ago
Thank you!
I've also used Polyshades and swear to never use it again! It was the most frustrating experience I have ever had applying a finish. Might work OK for small pieces, but I had a large piece and I couldn't get keep a wet edge and it kept leaving brush marks. The other problem is if you try to go over a spot, you get a darker spot because you're putting down more stain. Do yourself a favor and avoid this product!
makermike3 years ago
Great Instructable! Lots of detail and clearly written. I've been dreaming of a teardrop trailer for a couple of years now and this is the best description of how to build one that I've seen.
Wow. I felt compelled to share how impressed I am by this instructable. Truly great work!
static3 years ago
A great instructable detailing a nice build with nice finished product. But I have to admit it rides a bit high for my states. Those who would duplicate it might consider adding storage trunks in the floor framing under the mattress. This should serve you well for years.
jooknon3 years ago
Great instructions!! I'm in the middle of rebuilding an old teardrop from the trailer up, and this has helped build up my courage to pick it up again. Thanks!!!
microdot3 years ago
Terrific indestructible. Can you tell me how much the finished trailer weighs?
e1ioan (author)  microdot3 years ago
I'm not sure what's the weight of the trailer now... I suppose somewhere around 650lbs. I'll have to find a place where to weight it to know for sure.
dissidence3 years ago
another good idea too would be to use sheet metal on the bottom too, it would keep any rodents out too.
i find it cool that people are doing these kinds of things for themselves. i seem to live in an area where people if given a wrench they will get confused by it. i see about 5 of these trailers a month and i assemble/weld them together (in and out in a hour). the people will ask me to make them box trailers, flatbeds with expanded metal floor and tail gate, and/or boat trailers. sir you just saved your self around $5000+ (in parts and labor if i did it for someone).  but i would recommend that you weld it even those nylon lock nuts will come loose after awhile.
joe3 years ago
Incredibly cool. You have mad skills. Great project.

buddylo3 years ago
wow outstanding!
Truffuls3 years ago
I am just amazed at your trailer! The instructable was so good I kept saying to myself, "I could do this!".

A few comments/concerns:
1. I thought that most trailers were welded together to withstand all the vibrations from the road. Aren't you concerned that the bolted-together-framing will get loose? I've seen what happens when a trailer comes apart on the Interstate at 80mph. It ain't pretty.

2. I don't know your locale, but most states require a trailer to be registered/insured & inspected once a year. I didn't see a license plate on yours. I'm curious how you would get this homemade trailer registered.

I'm absolutely in love with it! I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of it!
e1ioan (author)  Truffuls3 years ago
1. All the nuts used to build the trailer are Nylon Lock Nuts, they aren't affected by vibration. Of course, I'll check them from time to time.

2. Oregon doesn't require registration for a trailer that's 1,800 pounds or less. Anyway, the trailer comes from Harbor Freight with all the papers you need to register your trailer.

Thank you!
a41capt3 years ago
Very nicely detailed build! I read it all the way through, and can't think of anything that was left out, my congratulations on a great Instructable.

While I have a Dodge 3500 dual wheel diesel truck, the price of fuel makes it "uncomfortable" to travel any distance for camping. I have been wanting to build a similar trailer to pull behind my wife's Hyundai Santa Fe in order to still enjoy the outdoors, and do it cheaply!

Thanks for the plans, I'll give this a try!
This is a very doable project for anyone! I see a few things that I would change, but im sure you do too now that your finished. GREAT JOB! I may be inspired to do this after my 4 TEEN BOYS are off on their own! Thank you for posting the trailer!
Judith7563 years ago
I think for being your first "on the fly" build of a tear drop trailer you did a wonderful job!!! The pictures and explanations were great. Also, you can't think of everything when building something the first time, that is why there are "prototypes" or add ons. I am sure some of the suggestions here will help if you decide to go for another one.
I still love your build and ible.
thenickp3 years ago
I felt like I was reading a great book... the kind you can't put down!

Besides doing the best instructable I've seen on this site yet, you were kind and generous enough to share it with all of us.

I have been wanting to do something similar for so long and always found a reason not to. Your spectacular accomplishment has inspired me to get out the old tools and get to work.

Once again, thank you for a spectacular presentation, for your honesty and humility and for awakening a lot of dreams in those of us who may have needed a little shove to "get creating".... happy camping, and I pray your daughter really enjoys the fruits of Daddy's labor!!!
I just love Harbor Freight trailers! I pull a small one behind my motorcycle. While other bikers are paying upwards of $2500 for pull behind trailers, my total cost was $300 for the trailer and I spent another $40.00 for upgraded LED lights (highly recommended) which are so bright at night I get complaints at rest stops from drivers behind me....... don't be afraid to use Harbor Freight trailers,

They're made well and do the job. IMPORTANT: However do remember to check the grease in the wheels often. Especially when initially building. They axles/wheels are shipped with a thin film of petroleum jelly so it is imperative to clean and repack before assembly, and grease as needed, but check after every few thousand miles. Also, you have to use any kind of lock tight on the bolts; and check often for loosed hardware.
Ooops,,,, forgot to say: What a great job! Well done and kudos for posting this here.
kimnix3 years ago
Really well done. Voted. I hope you win.
valkgurl3 years ago
For the "plastic" car topper---we washed it and it was NOT new when we bought it--paid a whopping $10 for it---and any "shinyness" was long gone--we think these came with some sort of texture molded in to deflect chips etc. We are going to use some alum flashing to mod the front curved section and the flat back area for looks and protection from stones, debris etc.

We did not prime under this as the plastic coating spray paint can did not call for it but that also might be an idea. For the frame we sanded and primed and it is STILL chipping and we have made a total of two trips with it---one with just jackets inside and one with a moslty empty duffle type bag, a not full cloth tote overnight bag, a lunch box size fabric foam "cooler" an aluminum frame handicapped walker and-- ta da-- two full face motorcycle helmets. We padded the floor with some foam matting meant for standing at workbenches sinks etc which we ---since it was a NON SLIP product-----seemed to think would keep things in their places. HAHAHAHA!!!!

Nothing could be farther than the truth! We drove over some of the roads washed out in Vermont by Hurricane Irene and altho they have been repaired they are NOT good; then we went on to Boston--a whole nuther kinda not good roads! One "issue" was the edge foam padding strip which apparently just disintegrated and threw the small sticky black pieces EVERYWHERE inc on the helmets---and also somehow managed to scratch them deeply. So foam edging replacement is NEXT up on list of things to do.

Actually the reason I read THIS 'ible is to find out how to build a tear drop. We are not planning on camping but we have a very retro looking bike (Honda Valkyrie) and we ultimately would like to build a smaller mini version of the Tear on this same trailer base. Thus study of the Orvis Tear (we live near Orvis) and also other sites. One thing we will NEED to figure out is how to make compartments that can be re-arranged so things do NOT get destroyed.

As for the cooler---for right now I think we are going to look into mounting one on the tongue. We have seen many done like this and it will allow for a larger one (again not camping so we don't need a huge one) the problem to be solved there is what to make a frame for the cooler to sit in out of---we have seen many and some actually cost MORE than the trailer!!!! Absurd.

I did see some NEW teardrops being sold in Rutland Vt (can't remember brand) and they were priced a wee bit higher than comparable bike camper pop ups. And recently we were at an RV dealer and I saw one and the sales guy said: Oh yes completely IMPRACTICLE but the ladies love 'em.

Well this Biker Babe loved 'em! And I have looked at the bike pop ups and they are completely flimsy and look as if a stiff breeze would flip the bike and the trailer. No storage room and supported by struts that look like matchsticks---no way would I trust them to support two fully grown humans AND gear. And they cost something like $4000!!!!!

I have read of Tear Drop people using a "walled tent" (not ness with a "roof" but certainly a roof would make it more useful) that they attach to the side of the trailer and use as a dressing room and aux storage and living area. I thought of the "snap" fittings you use to attach boat canvas to the wood work---these come in either an actual snap or a twist fitting and can be found at marine supply houses. Dare say---and I have thought extensively on this as I am handicapped and IF we were to do a trailer of ANY variety for camping---this COULD serve as a bathroom area also with one of those "camper bucket toilets" that they use with the bags and fiber material in them. I saw canvas drop clothes today at Lowes for something like $25 for (I think) for 9'x12' or similar---a huge amount of fabric for a very cheap price---add grommets and you are good to go. Also have seen Tears with a "fly" going from the hatch to support poles for shade and rain cover.

A million things to do with these!
A very lovely job - good work! The side tent sounds like a great idea for future growth, as well.

Here's to many happy miles and nights and days camping with your family.

Phenomenal piece of work, both craftsmanship and instructable alike. Most things are a quick view but yours made me late for dinner! It is a huge challenge to take pictures as you go especially if you are not certain where you are going. It is especially awesome that you shared it with us. Thank you and best wishes with what will surely be a real conversation piece at the festival!!
OH MY! Now you've got me itching to go weld!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Excellent instructable 5 star and favourited! yes sketchy spelling when turning a noun/adjective into verbage
e1ioan (author)  iminthebathroom3 years ago
I usually translate what I want to say from Romanian, English is my 3rd language.
Your english is a lot better than some of the english used on this site, well done!
Lennox63 years ago
Really well done and excellent documentation.

Where did you get the 4x8, 4x12 aluminum sheets? I've been trying to find some for my own camper project and it's all been too pricey.
e1ioan (author)  Lennox63 years ago
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. I got 4'x12' two sheets and a 4'x8', all for $170. The aluminum is 0.032 - 5052.
Best instructable i' ve seen yet. Great job! Where did you find the aluminum sheets and hurricane hinges tho? You should do a few more instructables, you really have the knack for it. I throughly enjoyed it. kudo's
e1ioan (author)  OLDYANKEE19563 years ago
Thank you!

I got the hurricane hinge from ebay.com. Just search "hurricane hinge" and you'll have few options.

For the 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. I got 4'x12' two sheets and a 4'x8', all for $170. The aluminum is 0.032 - 5052.
jkellett3 years ago
Outstanding! Voted!
e1ioan (author)  jkellett3 years ago
Thank you!
Trottersgci3 years ago
Excellent Instructible! I couldn't stop reading! My first comment ever on Instructible! It was that good...coming from a certifitied building contractor with 25 years experience...I'm totally impressed and humbled by your precision.
You did a fantastic job, both with the tutorial and construction.
Thanks for the read!
e1ioan (author)  Trottersgci3 years ago
Thank you!
==JGN==3 years ago
It looks like you are a competent woodworker, but I suspect that you do not have much experience fabricating vehicles.

Anything used on- or off-road must take into account that there will be constant flexing and vibration.

Most folks who use those trailers weld the chassis together as the hardware provided is not high quality and will loosen over time. At the very least, you should have used red LocTite on those fasterners. If you can still get to them, I suggest you remove one fastener at a time and LocTite them all.

Your use of interior grade plywood might eventually cause problems. No matter how much tar you apply, the wood will see moisure and the panels could delaminate over time.

Corner angles with wood screws - even 'exterior' screws - will loosen over time. No structural pieces - and the bidy shell is structure - should use wood screws. I realize that you also used glue in some places, and that's good - but was it exterior glue?

While your finished product looks nice, let's see what it looks like after two years of road use, rain and snow, road salt and rough roads. Different design, materials, fasteners and expertise are needed if you are building somethng for the road. I would not want to be riding behind you on the highway at speed if your trailer started to come apart.
e1ioan (author)  ==JGN==3 years ago
All the nuts I used and are provided with the trailer kit are "Nylon Lock Nut". I pretty sure they are going to be fine with vibration.

Yes, I used exterior glue only.

Most of the materials I used were tested to work by other people with more experience. Go to the www.tnttt.com forum and you'll see that most trailers (even the big expensive ones you buy) are made in the same way. Last week, Friday, I went to a place that builds campers in Vancouver WA, and we talked about how I did it and they showed me their manufacturing process and they use same materials, same type of screws... of course, they do it better and faster, but basically the same way.

The teardrop trailer is not meant to be a RV replacement... It's just a step up from a tent.

I will look into the LocTite, that product looks interesting.

Thank you!
bulibasha3 years ago
By far, this is the best instructable I read on this website... Thank you and I hope you and your family enjoy it for a long time. Voted. I hope you win.
valkgurl3 years ago
You might be on to something as far as making and selling these! The ORVIS Flagship Store has one on the show room floor which is trimmed out in varnished plywood and wood trim and a few more "luxuries" like built in fridge and wood cabinets BUT it is just as functional, fun, and probably a whole lot heavier than this one---and they are asking something like $20,000.

Yep--Twenty Thousand. If I have not fried my brain today anyways--call 'em and see!

We just spent the winter (before we found Instructables---arrrgggghhh!---building a tow behind a motorcycle trailer from a Harbor Freight base.

A few things we noticed from that build and the HF larger trailer we already use:

The paint is (we suspect) pure lead. And it is easily scratched with a fingernail! We sanded off the "shine" for the bike trailer and I could not believe I could go THRU the paint with hand held sandpaper and even AFTER priming and spray painting the new paint is not holding that well. And the orig paint on our larger trailer is completely faded to---pink. If anyone knows more about paint than we obviously do maybe you could share HOW to avoid these probs.

We are going to use some metal diamond plate ot sheet metal to cover the HF fenders as they are already showing wear. For right this minute I used some cheap "door trim" from WallyWorld (looks like chrome) to cover the edges--actually adds a sporty look and is protecting the edges.

We used a used "S-Car-Go" car topper from Sears---the "old style" with a off white top and dark gray base. We used the "Plastic cover" spray paint on top in black and the paint immed started to chip just when breathed on! Sheesh.

But---the BIGGEST thing we noticed is---the lights from the HF kit suck. We replaced them on our larger trailer twice and we found that the NEW ones packed with the smaller trailer didn't work so we went to WallyWorld and for something like $50 we got a NICE EXTREMELY BRIGHT set. Cheap insurance since we really NEED to be SEEN on the bike.

The other thing we are going to add ---and something the OP might consider here---is some sort of PLUG IN COOLER. We took the trailer out on a maiden three day voyage and the small cooler we took just didn't cut it. And ice is---messy!

On the smaller trailer we also heard that removing one of the leaf springs would make it less "bouncy" We did--and it is STILL incredibly bouncy so we are brainstorming some way to restrain our load. Note---spring loaded heavy duty curtain rods do NOT work for this even with light loads. Next!

Amazing and encouraging project! Thanks for posting it!
Hello, instead of a "plug in cooler" if you have the space wally sells a Extra large cooler for right around 52 bucks and it will keep cold and keep ice mostly solid for a week in 90 plus heat in sunlight !! i know from expereance it does what it says :) hope that helps :) oh and great instructables
e1ioan (author)  valkgurl3 years ago
I replaced the lights from the HF trailer kit with the LED lights kit (... from HF).
I believe aluminum needs to 'primed' with zinc-chromate primer before it will hold paint (I'm NOT a painter), but worked with aircraft, and they are all painted with that before adding the color.
as far as plastic painting is concerned, I would suggest scrubbing &/or wiping the carrier with Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol before painting. That cleans the surface of a waxy by-product sometimes associated with plastics.
Hope this is helpful for you!
wpople3 years ago
Great job and I love the write up very thorough like I could use it to build my own. couple of things I was curious about:
1. Do you need to get license plates and if so would you mount them to the hatch or the trailer?
2. Are you just going to use the stop lights on the trailer or put an additional one above the hatch for while driving?
3. Have you considered adding a roof rack to the top of the tear or would you just throw everything inside?

Over all I enjoyed immensely, I know from wanting to do my own instructables how much of a pain it is to remember to take pictures all the time to put it together.
e1ioan (author)  wpople3 years ago
Thank you!
1. In Oregon I don't need a license plate. The trailer came with a frame for license plate that goes under the left turn signal light, but I didn't use it.

2. That would be a good idea

3. Yes, I was thinking about putting a roof rack, but I decided against it because I don't want to make the trailer any heavier. I have to pull it with a hyunday sonata sedan...
oompa3 years ago
Wow - great instructible with good pictures!! Quite a bit of work but you organized it pretty well. Hope you and your family have many great trips with it!
cajundood3 years ago
First of all..."GREAT INSTRUCTABLE!" I now have all sorts of ideas in my head now. I'm a IT guy myself (hardware only) so i'm not very good at carpentry. Soo...i am gonna start out with a new enclosed trailer with a drop gate and a side door. this will soon be by teardrop sized miniature toy-hauler camper. lol. will post a revers instructable about it and i welcome allll suggestions on how to go about it. thanks for the great info and once again...great instructable.
jerhpk3 years ago
Might I suggest some form of restraint for the propane tanks? You could use a set of metal straps and screws / bolts, or large pipe clamps (the ones with the keyed screw probably would work best... don't know how long they stand out, though). I'm mostly worried about them rattling around and knocking something loose during travel, more than connections coming loose. Nice job, and nice work detailing the instructions!
The propane bottle looked to be a 1 LB size (like for a propane torch), and can be easily carried in one of the supply boxes while in transit.
e1ioan (author)  jerhpk3 years ago
Yes, I plan to make everything in the kitchen area "vibration safe", I didn't decide yet how to do it. Probably your idea with some straps or clamps would work fine.
lkitts3 years ago
Awesome job. Great photos as well as well written. Makes me feel like together me and my husband could do this too. Thanks for sharing. I know your family will have wonderful adventures with this.
e1ioan (author)  lkitts3 years ago
Thank you! Yes, we are planing lots of adventures for this summer ;-)
tsmith363 years ago
BEST instructions I have found so far on building a Teardrop camper! I am going to rent me some storage space at one of them storage places so I can have some place to build. I live in a one room apartment and I don't think they would like me building a teardrop in my apartment on the second floor.
Beautiful job, something you can really be proud of, congratulations!

I LOVE Teardrop trailers, I have an original Benroy and no one gets that sweetheart until I die. I built a Garage to house/secure that puppy because I have, twice, caught someone trying to take it! I DID install a fan in my Benroy and ran into the fan speed noise as well. I went to the Wrecking yard and purchased an old Headlight switch, from a 60s or 70s car. I used the Dimmer to adjust the voltage to the fan after I installed a Voltage Drop, from 12 to 6 volts, as well. I included a switch that allows me to bypass the voltage drop, and the dimmer, so I can use it to quickly evacuate cooking smells and the heat it captures while traveling! I guess you could say I came-up with an 'Old School' way of controlling the fan noise!
e1ioan (author)  pddonovan20113 years ago
Thank you!
I am very impressed and also along with those who commented I must say this is the best Instructional I have Read. I enjoyed it and learned a great deal. Thank You.
lloydrmc3 years ago
Well done! No wonder this was featured. Excellent step-by-step overall, though I'm a little unclear as to how you actually fabricated the ribs for the hatch.

Nice job using a linear regulator for the fan speed control. I would like to see the schematic for the water pump timer as well.

The final product is beautiful, and shows what can be done without a lot of fancy tools.

e1ioan (author)  lloydrmc3 years ago
I uploaded the schematic for the 555 timer is up on last page.
slaitch3 years ago
Hate to tell you this, but my experience says the LED in that model of lamp dies sooner than it should. If it's only for occasional use in a camping trailer, you're probably OK.
jimbo693 years ago
A wonderful job, would like to see more details on your water and 12 volt systems. Jim
rncbme3 years ago
I just finished reading the entire project. This may be your first project but your workmanship is truly awesome, as well as your attention to detail. Thank you for a very inspiring article.
gkern3 years ago
Amazing documentation of the construction, as well as excellent instructions in the construction of the trailer. Ive wanted to make this type of trailer for years, but your instruction set gives me the confidence that I can do it.

rncbme3 years ago
Danzo, that is how you check wheel/axle tracking and trueness on a semi, you measure from the center of the kingpin hitch. E1ioan, I would be looking around for some type of small shock absorbers to dampen the unsprung load.
HollyMann3 years ago
Amazing! I voted for you to win the contest - you deserve it! I love this!
danzo3213 years ago
So this will be fine until your daughter grows bigger than 3'-8" ? Then what?
Build a bunk bed lengthways!
e1ioan (author)  danzo3213 years ago
By then, she and my wife are going to kick me out to sleep in a tent :-) I plan to get (make maybe?) a side tent, that can be attached to the trailer... as a side room.
Outstanding !
porkenstein3 years ago
Wow! What a fantastic job. I hope it works out in every way. Thanks for the instructable.
jmitch773 years ago
FANTASTIC Instructable!!! I am inspired! Great job!
bsvoight3 years ago
Did you work off a pre-fabricated plan for the basic fundamentals or is the entire project a product of your own design? You did an excellent presentation with your instructable.
danzo3213 years ago
Maybe you don't have room with the tires right there.
danzo3213 years ago
I would have bolted them to the sides of the steel frame I guess. Thinking about aerodynamics.. making trailer higher costs drag.
This is by far one of the best instructables I have ever seen. You certainly thought every step through. Nice.
NickGriffin3 years ago
A few solar panels on the top to keep the battery charged and you're good to go!
BEAUTIFUL trailer!
e1ioan (author)  NickGriffin3 years ago
I have in plan to get a 30 watt monocrystalline solar panel.

Thank you!
KingJaymz3 years ago
Fabulous build with excellent step-by-step instructions. This is one of the more complete and comprehensive Instructables I've seen on this site.

I would've liked a little more in depth on the wiring with a few more pictures, but I also don't know much about wiring, and I understand that the trailer was the point.

I would recommend that you get some larger tires for your trailer. Those 12" tires burn up your bearings fast. Even if you can land some 14 or 15" tires, you'll get a lot more life out of your tires and your bearings, on account that they spin more slowly and you get less revolutions for the distance traveled. I've had a few camping trips ruined by trailer bearings burning out in the middle of nowhere on account of 12" tires. There are a lot of used tire places where you could get a good set for a pretty cheap price.

Thanks for taking the time to document and share your experience.
e1ioan (author)  KingJaymz3 years ago
Thank you!

I created and added a wiring diagram to step 12.
DabeAltis3 years ago
Awesome ible! I've thought about building one of these for years, but have never taken the plunge. You are an inspiration. One point however; non-ferous metals, such as copper, brass, and alluminum, behave the opposite of ferous metals, such as iron and carbon steels. Alluminum gets softer when you cool it quickly. With that being said, allowing it to air cool is cooling it quickly as compared to the tempering process. A handy trick for determining when you have it hot enough to anneal is to use an acetylene torch with the oxygen turned down to produce a sooty flame. Coat the alluminum with the black soot from the acetylene torch, then use your propane torch to heat it until the soot just begins to disappear. Use care, because the alluminum is very close to the melting point at this point. A little too much heat and you ruin the piece you're trying to soften.
Kinnishian3 years ago
Quite a nice instructable! I hope you enjoy the car camping!
danzo3213 years ago
Looks good but why use a frame, why not glue/screw the plywood to the steel?
e1ioan (author)  danzo3213 years ago
You have to connect the walls to something... the plywood it's too thin for that...
danzo3213 years ago
Seems like wheels need to be precisely lined up but not seeing how this was done.
cfire danzo3213 years ago
That is probably included in the instructions that came with the trailer.
e1ioan (author)  cfire3 years ago
Yes, you are right.
e1ioan (author)  danzo3213 years ago
I uploaded a picture to show how I checked that the trailer is square.
zack2473 years ago
this is really cool!
i might end up trying this in the future, so long as my car can tow it :P
oking3 years ago
Beautiful job on this trailer!..


Well done, I might even buy a membership just to download your instructions.
Rufda Camen3 years ago
I really love your work!! you're my hero!!!
Bonzoix3 years ago
I've been looking into building a teardrop as well, for years... Sure looks like you've done it right. Did you weigh materials before assembly? What was your final weight?

In retrospect, do you think the 1/2 birch was overkill for the walls? Many plans I see are with Luan or 1/4" and 1x2s as "studs". Some even go with fiberglass sheet for exterior as the base for the Aluminium.

Overall, I like it... Sure wish Harbor Freight did a 5' wide base.

Good Job! You'll have a blast.
clazman Bonzoix3 years ago
Just let your project overhang the trailer. You'll just have to take into consideration the "hard point" concept I mentioned earlier as well as to design the floor panel to handle the bending moments created by the overhang.

My mention of "stressed skin" panels can be effectively utilized. to handle those stresses.

Good Luck!
e1ioan (author)  Bonzoix3 years ago
I think for a beginner, like me, using 1/2" plywood for the walls it's a lot easier. I needed an initial structure to build on.

I didn't get the trailer on a scale yet, but I suspect it's about 600lbs.

http://www.northerntool.com has a 5'x8' wide trailer (search "trailer" on the website). It's a little more expensive...
clazman3 years ago
I wonder how necessary the aluminum sheet are? Would a spar varnish for the exterior suffice, a birch plywood would a must. . It would take more maintenance but it would cut a few more pounds. Saving weight is important!!

Again, very nice job. I don't want to be critical, but then I would have been just as critical of myself if I were in your shoes!

Just food for thought!

CaptSyn3 years ago
Very impressive. Outstanding build, craftsmanship and attention to detail. Very creative. Excellent documentation as well. Very well done!
clazman3 years ago
I wonder how cost effective and effective that spray on material that has been advertised recently would be in replacing the messy application of that very appropriate older technology 'brush on" tar?.
clazman3 years ago
Very , very good job.

My comments are not to be construed as criticism, but rather suggestions

I would only like to submit that the 1/2 plywood may be overkill.

One might consider exterior side panel layup using 1/4 inch 5mm? plywood instead. Additionally the interior skin could be reduced to 1/8 plywood.

This would require a few filler strips in the core to support the thinner skin, but would still be lighter. Lighter woods such as bass wood or poplar, or possibly even balsa, could be used since the core is not in a high state of stress save for the compressive load to keep the skins apart. As you have done these interior strips need to be strategically located to create sufficient "hard points" to help carry the loading of adjacent panels, trailer frame and incidental components of the living space itself.

All this comes from my experience and knowledge of stress skinned panels pioneered by the aviation industry.

I don't know if you did, but I would also recommend that the insulation fit snugly between the interior and exterior skins to help with the compressive loads.

Again, I job very well done as the presentation of said job.

***** job!
cyber.kore3 years ago
from the uk....
this is sweet-
only wish i had shop to built on of these.

thank you for the inspiration

bty, what would you guess the weight limit on the internal shelf/bunk would be?

again thank you
e1ioan (author)  cyber.kore3 years ago
The frame for the bunk bed is made from 2x4, so I suppose could support few hundred pounds...

PrncssGeek3 years ago
Wow, this is by far the BEST documentation I have ever seen! Now, I want to build one for my kids!
wbrodyjr3 years ago
Awesome, fantastic job! Your attention to detail in your write-up is excellent. This is just the kind of thing that a DIYer could tackle. The only thing I saw on here that made me a little hesitant was when you were bending the aluminum channel with heat from a propane torch. Everything else seemed within my realm. Thank you for taking the time to document your build and sharing it with us!
e1ioan (author)  wbrodyjr3 years ago
Bending the molding was easier than it looks. Heat it up, let it cool down and then push it along the edge of the trailer with you hands. Don't let that stop you from building one.
childersr3 years ago
Awesome! One of the best instructables yet. Great writing and an enjoyable read. Hope you can add more and keep us informed of your adventures. Thanks.
danzo3213 years ago
Wonderful job! You are meticulous with the bending plywood and aluminum. Never knew about annealing. I might have tried white lexan to let in light. Have fun!
danzo3213 years ago
Elegant. Do the crossbars go into notches?
e1ioan (author)  danzo3213 years ago
No. It's in between the walls. At the edge the walls have the framing, so they are strong enough for the roof beams.
danzo3213 years ago
Is the long hinge already screwed down to the roof?
e1ioan (author)  danzo3213 years ago
The hinge comes apart in two pieces. If you loot at step 5, you can see how the hinge is made. The top piece (the one made for vinyl inset) is screwed down to the roof already at this point.
bitsy1133 years ago
That is so cool!! Adorable, If my husband were still with us he would've tried this in a heartbeat! I sure wish I could do something like this. I hope your family has many adventures and gets many years of enjoyment out it.:-)
danzo3213 years ago
Wood shops use nailguns to assemble while glue dries.
virtualight3 years ago
Incredible job on the build and the instructable! Now that I'm older, i don't want to sleep in a tent anymore and this teardrop trailer looks perfect.
This is a pretty well done instructible.

I'm really happy to see that you showed the actual vehicle you'll be using to pull the trailer. I have a Hyundai Accent and have been wanting to make a similar trailer for camping and Renn Faire vending and have been relunctant becuase of the weight and hauling capacity of my car and the cost of factory built trailers - you'l itemized bill of materials was incredibly helpful!
wjbean3 years ago
This has GOT to be ONE of the BEST instructables ever submitted to this site. I'm impressed with the detail, quality of workmanship, and the end product. I'm fully aware that the project likely took an additional two to four hours a day simply due to the pictures and the write up.

It is simply fantastically well done. Kudos to you and I hope you get decades of fun use out of it.
wjbean3 years ago
I'm going to write my impression of this "instructable" at the beginning of the article, but I did want to make mention of the MinWax product you used. Polyshades is amazing stuff. I had my doubts when I first used it; it's every thin and acts JUST like stain, so I had my doubts about it "setting" to a good finish. Now that I've used it I'm really impressed. Few "one-step" products are truly this one step.
pdub773 years ago
This is fantastic! Really good work and very well documented. This is something I have been wanting to try for years, now. I'm really impressed.
sapotmm3 years ago
don't use gas, bad idea, use some hand cleaner like fast orange, get it at auto parts stores, a lot better for your skin and works just a good.
pattyaitch3 years ago
I'd say this is my all time favorite instructable. Great job.
agis683 years ago
wow....what epic job! Very detailed professional concept...bravo
Fretka3 years ago
Thank you so much for the detail and information...

I have several Teardrop books, but I totally "got" your instructable and I am fairly confident I could do it on my own now.... what an amazing lil tear drop you have !! it is beautiful.... thank you again for sharing !!
londobali3 years ago
great ible.. I'm following you!!
Cant wait for the trip update you promised!
ultranewt3 years ago
i was told gasoline can help get that tar off.
e1ioan (author)  ultranewt3 years ago
Thanks for the tip!
roadnarrows3 years ago
Really great Instructable! I always wanted to build one of my own. Great job!
sewcurious3 years ago
This is AMAZING!
MacCupcake3 years ago
AMAZING! My son and I walked through this together and we are totally blown away by your attention to detail and ambition!

I told him that you are but another example of crazies like me that constantly have to challenge ourselves creatively. And it is always with something amazing (nothing small)!!

Kudos sir! Job well done. And a great job on documenting the steps and materials as well!
mailmam713 years ago
This is so fantastic!! Your complete instructions leave nothing to the imagination, I have no woodworking skills but want to go build one! Have lots of fun.
chrisdp3 years ago
Great job. Really neat little camper
Tom 73 years ago
Great Job!
e1ioan (author)  Tom 73 years ago
Thank you!
kenbob3 years ago
this is a beautiful and complete instructable, and yielded a gorgeous finished product.
This, and thanks!
A well written instructable!
What can I say? Best homebuild trailer & Instructable I've seen. GOOD SHOW!! Cheers!
solidfunk3 years ago
I am in love, Brilliant!
ldetrie3 years ago
Where did you purchase the sink/stove combo? I really like that idea.
e1ioan (author)  ldetrie3 years ago
I got it from http://panther-rvproducts.com . Very nice and helpful people there.
bigme3 years ago
Great job, don't forget a spare tire! What would you guess the tongue weight is with the trailer empty?
e1ioan (author)  bigme3 years ago
The trailer weight - I think - it's about 600lb. The tongue weight... that's a good question. I think I'll try to put the trailer jack on the bathroom scale (no joking). If the scale survives the experiment, I'll report back the wight (sometime tomorrow).
AWESOME!!!!! wow, great build. this is on my "to build list".
stormy03143 years ago
Great 'ible. Aluminum moves a lot with heat changes and I wonder if you could post if any problems occur when summer hot days/ cool nights have a chance to react with the trailer skin? I got a trailer last fall to build a teardrop on and will use your "ible as a guide. Really nice job.
I'm hoping to build one of these soon with a friend of mine. We're hoping to make one each and perhaps rent them out as a small business. We're both flat borke though, so are trying to source the components cheap of free.
He's a carpenter/plumber/artist so should be okay with the build. I'm not quite so useful, but I can cook and brew my own beer, so I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement.
I love some of the ideas of your teardrop and how clear the instructable is to follow. You've actually answered a lot of the questions I had about some of the final finishing of our vans.
We'll need to install a 240v inlet and a ZIG unit so ours can run on mains and 12v also install various lights and a place for the licence plate to go to meet UK regs.
Thanks for sharing your ideas so clearly, it's a great inspration.
miksim353 years ago
Very nice sir
Very cool !
noahw3 years ago
This is an amazing Instructable. Nice work!
ddsouza3 years ago
This is a really great Instructable. Amazing build. Very detailed. Got to build me one of these soon.
kminer49er3 years ago
Surpurb instructable. Estimating the weight of the materials I'd say you came in at right around 600-625# empty. The step by step is great and I especially want to commend you for the great photos. Because you paid attention to the focus, exposure and cropping, the instructions are easy to follow. A winner!
Nicely done,and lots of detail,which i like.
e1ioan (author)  bobby sissom3 years ago
Thank you! I still have 2-3 more steps today or tomorrow.
calskin3 years ago
Beautiful trailer! I hope I can get a shop like this one day.
DarkStarPDX3 years ago
What did the final weight end up being?
e1ioan (author)  DarkStarPDX3 years ago
I don't know. It's still light enough to pull it around by my self by the trailer tongue, but I'm not sure what's the weight.
l8nite3 years ago
gorgeous little camper ! the ible was a good read as well
bulibasha3 years ago
WOW! Very nice! I always wanted to get one of those!