Build a Tow Behind a Motorcycle or Small Car Trailer

Introduction: Build a Tow Behind a Motorcycle or Small Car Trailer

This is my first 'ible so please let me know if everything works or you want info I forgot or did not cover!


We built this small pull behind 3 years ago so I don't have actual build pics but it is pretty straight forward to see what we did.

First: Acquire a small trailer frame. We used a Harbor Freight one; and cut the frame members and axles so they were not wider than the bikes turn signals so we knew it could go where ever the bike went. Then we welded them back together and re-inforced the axle cuts--if you don't have this skill any welding shop can do it for you easily. WE left off ONE leaf spring as we had been told it would be overly "bouncy" if we added it. This was good advice.

Second: We sanded off the paint--I am pretty sure the paint is almost pure lead so use proper breathing protection--and primed and painted it black. We have an un-repainted HF trailer and the paint has not weathered well so we wanted to avoid this.

Third: To make the cargo area we used a Sears "S'carGo" container--easy to find on Craigs etc--we paid $10 for ours from a neighbor. Using the spray paint for plastic we painted only the top (black). We bolted this to the sub-frame. The inner foam gasket was rotted so we scraped that off and installed a new one; gluing it down; and added a set of foam floor mats (the kind you use in a commercial kitchen etc) to the floor as it was too loud and damaged stuff with out them. The interior has two metal "braces" that are meant to keep the lid up-=-=they don't! So we use a piece of elec conduit pipe. I recently saw some one who used a large "trunk" type tote for a bicycle version of this; don't know how that would fare at road speeds but something to think about. The tote seemed much thicker and sturdier than the usual storage ones.

Fourth: On our "Maiden Voyage" from Upstate NY to the Boston area we underestimated how MUCH stuff would move in there. So we stopped and bought crates; this was fine but limiting. When we got home we built wooden cross pieces that fit nicely in the corrugated edges of the cargo box; these can be moved as needed for different loads. (These are in pics a few sections on)

Step 1: What ELSE We Did--

What ELSE we did:

We added DIFFERENT BRIGHTER LED lights in the rear--we WANT to be seen! We found these at PEP BOYS but we noticed that Walmart now has them too; these were maybe $30 but well worth it; the HF lights are dreadful--just toss 'em. These are found at WM in the boat section.

We added trim---the rear was a bit dull so I found a "Diamond Plate" sheet at Micheals Crafts and cut it to fit--this was maybe $10 and reflects head lights and catches your eye in daylight.

On the fender we added some rubber Diamond Plate (I can't remember where we got it) to keep it from getting scuffed and for looks; and we also added some "chrome" automotive door trim--Walmart auto section--for some bling.

Step 2:

One thing I am very proud of is our vintage tongue mounted COOLER.

I found the cooler on eBay and we welded up a frame for it and welded it to the trailer tongue. We have been thrilled with how cold it keeps things and that it has a drain built in. We just finished a weeks trip to the South and in 100+ weather this kept our stuff cold. On the inside of the lid I adhered two of the small clear "pencil pouches" you see at the dollar store or Wally World; I left one edge open so I could slide a carving knife in there in a leather sheath. To secure it we used nylon webbing and plastic push-buckles; we welded "D" rings on to keep the straps in place we have noticed that these tend to slip at hi way speeds on the top of the cooler so we will add a "keeper" strap to them. With a few sturdy plastic plates and some basic utensils we can pretty much have a picnic or eat take out or of course you could cook what you were carrying.

Step 3:

This is the interior showing the plywood seperators we made--see how they slot right in there? Keeps your stuff from shifting; makes it easier to find what you need. We also have a small crate with various road needs: Spare oil; rope; wipes; a battery lantern with a built in hook for night time.

Step 4: Things We Learned--GOOD and BAD

Things we learned: Good and Bad!

RE PACK THE AXLE BEARINGS! With GOOD grease! We did this but some one else we know did not and the thing blew the hub at around 60 miles. Almost ruined their vacation. This might not be in the Harbor Freight build instructions--but you NEED to do this! It also can cost more than the trailer cost (new) to repair at a shop but you can DIY for much less if you need to.

Don't leave your stuff loose in there--it WILL get ruined. We damaged a pair of full face helmets that we thought were OK in their carry bags. They were not! We now have a set of fluffy pillows packed in one of those large "vacuum seal" bags that has lost it's seal- these keep things from moving and can be adjusted as needed. These also make your post-bike sleep MUCH nicer!

You will need to do trial and error on loading. The best advice I can give--keep the weight forward of the axles. Otherwise she will try and waggle--you do NOT want this! We barely notice her back there now that we have used her for this length of time.

The paint: I don't know how much the paint job shows in these pics. But--it is not as great as it could be. It has tended to flake and scratch. I have heard that using the Matte version first is a way to get better adherence.

Keep an eye on the tire pressure AND the tread--we wore ours out in three summer of not heavy use. They can be replaced at Harbor Freight and Tractor Supply for about $45 a piece pre-mounted; just make sure you get the ROAD WORTHY ones vs the lawn and garden ones!

Keep an eye on your vehicles towing rating and tongue weight--I don't know what this weighs exactly but we are pulling it with a fully dressed Honda Valkyrie which weighs 850 lbs dry and two larger humans; saddle bags; a two or three compartment tail bag set is also on there most times. The Valkyries engine is a 1500 cc Flat Six so she has lots of power; but last week in West Virginia where their roads do NOT go around the mountains but go right OVER them we did have to downshift.

What can you pack in there? Well we generally have two to three personal carry bags--not that large think a large fabric beach bag size. We carry a home-made Knee Walker for night time use of the handicapped passenger--will post that one next. (You can see it in some of the pics) This trip we had the top part of the tail bag in there too; other trips we have used a fairly large folding "pop up" shelter that fits in there; and we can even get a good sized motorized handicap cart in there--altho I would not add too much luggage if you are lugging that! Check your car or bikes weight rating and weigh your stuff first! We also have two pillows in a large zipper bag that we take with us--these can be used where they are needed to pad and stabilize stuff. Very versatile.

You will have to decide how LONG you want that tongue to be--depending on what you are pulling her with. And don't for get to SAFETY CHAIN--and LOCK that hitch! We found hitches were much cheaper on line BTW. Most motorcycles of decent size have hitch parts avail but the one we got was home made and is basicaly a "three sided box" that uses the saddle bag mounts to bolt to. If we had the welder then we could have built this and tapped the holes; so it is not that hard and MUCH cheaper.

We used small keyed-alike locks to secure the side locks but you can use one actual lock and some biners if you don't have the right locks; don't try to drive with NOTHING securing the latches!

Step 5: What We Would Change


Not much!

One thing we would do differently is to replace the weak "brace" style hold-ups with something else--either lightweight hydraulic holders or--something! The conduit works but is prone to slip; considering adding a "foot rest" for it on both roof and floor to stop this!

Using the Pep Boys or whoever's LED lights the first time!

Caulk the inside of the cooler--this is 50+ years old and after this trip started it was leaking; so we caulked it up and now it is fine; caulk in advance might save you a headache or use a plastic one.

Practice BACKING UP!!!! This is harder than it might seem on the bike but gets easier--but practice is the only way to learn.

Step 6: And There You Have It!

And there you have it! We have logged a few thousand miles with this thru steep mountains and Interstates and we look forward to more. This can be towed by a motorcycle or a car; it can be improved upon or the top could be changed entirely to some other structure you have on hand or build. I have a vision of a tiny tear drop in my future here!

If I missed something--or if you want more info or pics--let me know!


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    5 years ago

    Oh the things we do to avoid having to travel In a cage...


    7 years ago

    you should put up a photo of the frame I would also add a place to hold a gas can and maby roof rack system