My growing family outgrew our car, so we bought an SUV, then while planning a recent camping vacation we realized that even the cavernous interior of our new car still couldn't hold everything required for toddlers and camping. I saw a Harbor Freight ad showing their version of a hitch basket and the price was right, when I went to look in the store, the quality was just not what I wanted. So, I went home and searched the interwebs, the prices were astronomical, three times what harbor freight wanted, and the few I see on the highway are still not the best quality (I witnessed one of the hinged ones dragging the ground and throwing sparks). I set to it and decided to build my own from a scrap aluminum sheet I was able to pick up from my old job and leftovers from old projects in my stock pile.
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Step 1: Materials:
1/8" Aluminum Sheet (the size will vary with how large or small you want your basket)
2-1/2" x 2-1/2" - 1/4" 6061 T-6 Aluminum Angle (required length will be 2X the length of your basket)
2"x2" Steel Tubing (approximately 18" longer than the width of your basket)
2" x 3" - 1/4" 6061 T-6 Aluminum Angle (4 pieces 2.5" long)
20 - 1/4"-20 x 3/4" Hex head bolts
20 - 1/4" Split-lock washers
20 - 1/4" Flat washers
20 - 1/4"-20 Hex nuts
8 - 5/16"-18 x 1" Hex head bolts
8 - 5/16" Flat Washers
8 - 5/16" Split-lock washers
8 - 5/16"-18 Hex Nuts
8 - 3/8"-16 x 3/4" Bolts (I used socket heads because I had them, but hexes will work as well)
8 - 3/8" Flat Washers
8 - 3/8"-16 Split-Lock Washers
Step 2: Tools:
Drill - Hand drill will work, but a drill press is most accurate
Hacksaw - Band saw or Chop (miter) Saw will be less work and more accurate
Drill bits (9/32", 11/32", 5/16", and 21/32")
Wrenches/sockets/ratchet (7/16", 1/2", 9/16")
Step 3: Cut Materials to Size and Drill Holes
My aluminum sheet determined the material sizes required.
The sheet is 54"x 19.5" with a 1.5" flange bent on each end. (The flange was already present on my sheet, this is necessary for strength, if you are unable to bend the metal, bolt a piece of angle in place to add strength)
See the attached drawings for dimensions and hole locations. The dimensions can be tweaked to increase or decrease the size of the basket.
It proved easiest to use the drill press to drill holes in the tube and angle sections and use a hand drill to match drill the holes in the sheet.
The attached PDF has all of the dimensions and hole locations used to build my rack.
Step 4: Assemble Components
a. Using 1/4"-20 hardware (green), bolt side rails to base plate. Assembly order should be Bolt, flat washer, base plate, side rail, flat washer, lock washer, and finally hex nut.
Pro Tip: It is best to install all hardware loosely then tighten all at once.
b. 5/16"-18 hardware (pink) is used to connect the base plate and side rails to the angle brackets. Hardware assembly order should be bolt, flat washer, base plate, side rail, angle bracket, flat washer, lock washer, and hex nut.
c. Add the draw bar using the 3/8"-16 hardware (orange). Assembly order should be bolt, lock washer, flat washer, angle bracket, into the threaded hole on the draw bar.
d. Once all hardware is installed, go over all and tighten.
Step 5: Enjoy
being able to haul excess cargo and oversize loads without the hassle of a trailer.
The basket as I built it has been perfect for our usage, the size fits 4 x 18 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck Totes, which happens to be the perfect amount of cargo to allow me to see out the back window when we are headed off for a week long vacation.
So far my carrier has hauled the air tank pictured, a 275 gallon IBC tote (without cage and pallet), and plenty of camping and vacation gear. If you look closely, I added two pieces of aluminum angle to the deck, These along with a U-bolt allow me to add a hitch mounted bike carrier to haul the kids bikes in addition to the extra gear.
You should also research your local laws regarding lights and reflectors, I tend to be overcautious and added white/red reflectors and a set of trailer lights to the back. I have also been told that I should move my rear tag (which would also mean a tag light) to the rear of the carrier when it is installed as well.