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DIY Teardrop Trailer
Ever thought of just living on the road and adventuring around the US? Well making your own custom teardrop trailer isn’t as farfetched as you might think! Perfect for summertime road trips, camping by the river, or just escaping the mundane work from home lifestyle. This retro inspired teardrop trailer is the quintessential summer accessory that can be used all year. We worked with Garrett Myhre (Winner of the 2017 Online Metals Ingenuity Awards) to craft step-by-step instructions to build your own aluminum teardrop trailer.
- Aluminum Sheet 5052 (0.032″)– Teardrop Trailer skin
- Aluminum Angle (0.75″ x 0.75″ x 0.125″) – External trailer trim
- Aluminum Rectangle Bar (0.75″ x 0.125″) – Counter trim
- Steel Angle (0.5″ x 0.5″ x 0.125″) – Fender mount
- Steel Square Tube A500 (2″ x 0.12″) – Trailer frame*
- Steel Rectangle Tube A513 (1″ x 2″ x 0.12″) –Spacers for the axle**
*Length may depend on your design or if you choose to refurbish an old trailer. To build a 4’ x 7’ trailer as illustrated below you will need: two 84” lengths, three 48” lengths and two 30” lengths.
**The spacers fit between the axle and the frame, and the length may depend on the trailer you start with.
Step by Step Instructions
First, you need a frame to design your trailer around. Your options are to find a previously owned utility trailer and use that as a starting point. Or you can build one from scratch.
Garrett found a 4×6 utility trailer on Craigslist for around $200. While the frame was badly bent, the axle, hubs, wheels, and fenders were all in pretty good condition. Plus, it came with a clean title. So, Garrett removed the axle from the original frame and built a new frame from scratch.
If you have a trailer already, proceed to Step 4. If you are building from scratch, begin here.
Original trailer purchased from Craigslist
Remove hubs & wheels and setup to prime & paint
Prepare for trailer floor install
Step 1: Weld Frame
Use the 2″ Steel Square Tube and cut the desired lengths based on your design. Also cut 45-degree angles at each end. The new trailer frame for this project kept the width of the original base, 4 feet, to allow for the use of the original axle. The length of the new frame is 7 feet to accommodate the design of the trailer (see step 4). Weld these pieces together to form the new frame. Test the fit and attach the axle to the frame using the 1″ x 2″ Steel Rectangle Tube to create the spacers between the frame and axle. Then weld them together.
Step 2: Paint Frame
Remove the hubs and set up your frame in a well-ventilated space. Wipe down the frame to ensure you are starting with a clean surface. First, apply a coat of primer and let dry. Then apply two coats of enamel paint in the color of your choosing (Garrett picked black). Be sure to allow each coat to dry fully before starting the next coat of paint.
Step 3: Install Floor Base
Cut a plywood sheet to fit the dimensions of your new trailer. In this case, the base was 4’ x 7’. This will be your floorboard. Be sure to coat the exposed underside of your floorboard with a protectant before fastening it to your frame. Garrett suggests 2 coats of marine epoxy and black enamel. Drill holes into the frame and use carriage bolts to fasten the floorboard onto the frame.
Tip from Garrett: “Use a rubber barrier to prevent any vibration between the frame and the floor base. This also compresses, ensuring a tight fit.”
Create two copies of template with flush bit router
Complete rib installation
Align back hatch ribs and build in place
Step 4: Design Trailer and Cut Templates
Garrett designed the shape and templates using CAD software – designing just enough to create the sides and ribs, and researched several trailer designs and was drawn to the 1950′s style lowered teardrop look. Use CAD software to design CNC machine files for the sides, supportive ribs, and floor of the trailer. After the design is finalized cut templates from plywood to your specifications using a CNC machine. Garrett used a 3 axis CNC machine.
If you do not have access to CNC software or a CNC machine, try a local machining house. They will be able to assist with the CAD design and cutting. Or, depending on your talents, you could draw and cut the templates by hand. Using a flush bit with a router, create two copies of your templates to use in the actual trailer build. Coat the areas that will be exposed with marine epoxy to protect them from the elements.
Step 5: Front and Interior Build
Once the templates are cut, coat the areas that will be exposed with marine epoxy to protect them from the elements. Assemble the plywood template pieces together starting with the sides then moving on to the back walls. The cutting of the back wall is the most crucial structure of your trailer, so be extra attentive to that area.
Create ten forward ribs that run parallel to the floor, securing each end with two bolts and install the upper wall. Install the back counter (if applicable to your design) and complete the installation of all forward ribs. Install 1/8″ birch plywood as the inside skin with adhesive. Compress the adhesive until dry to ensure a strong hold. Then install 1″ rigid foam between all the forward ribs. Build interior shelving and install lighting. Feed all electrical wires through the back.
Step 6: Back and Exterior Build
The back ribs follow a square pattern that is simple to assemble when done properly in CAD. After the ribs are secured, install 1/8″ birch ply inner skin. Lastly, use 1/8th inch plywood to bond an outer skin to the trial. Back hatch and locking mechanism. Install roof window hatch. Finish by sealing the outer plywood skin and preparing the hurricane hinge.
Tip from Garrett: “[The back wall] is the most critical cut as it determines how parallel your sides are relative to each other as well as how perpendicular the sides sit to the floor base. The back hatch ribs were aligned to be built in place. The ribs were routed from the template that was CNC machined. This made alignment simple.”
Bond outer aluminum (5052 sheet 0.032")
Install door, window, and door jam
Finish trim and hurricane hinge
Step 7: Bond Exterior Aluminum Sheet
Next, take the 5052 Aluminum Sheet. Then bond it as an aluminum outer skin to the plywood skin. Use a hurricane hinge to fasten the sheet together. Use the 5052 aluminum sheet to create an outer skin for the sides and doors of the trailer as well.
Step 8: Doors
Bond the Aluminum door cutouts to the plywood door cutouts. Rig both the right and left door to ensure a good fit. Cut out and install windows to the desired shape in each door. Garrett used prefabricated windows that slide open halfway and have screens to keep the bugs out. Attach each door with hinges. To create the door jam attach a 1/2″ routed piece of plywood to the inside of the door openings. Line the plywood with an edge seal and add a fillet seal to complete the door jam. Install door latch mechanism.
Step 9: Finishing Exterior
Complete the installation of the hurricane hinge for the back hatch. And secure the aluminum sheet with trim along the edges, spacing your screws evenly.
Mount newly painted fenders
Install electrical wiring
Install counter base, drawers, and cabinets
Step 10: Wheels and Fenders
Prime the original trailer wheels wrapped in new 205 65r15s and paint two coats of your desired color. Be sure to let each coat dry before starting the next. Fit the original fenders and weld new brackets. Paint fenders and mount them directly to the side of the trailer. Install hubcaps.
Tip from Garrett: “I chopped off the existing brackets and welded 3/4″ angle iron in 3 places. This allowed the fenders to mount discreetly to the side of the trailer.”
Step 11: Wiring and Taillights
Install and test taillights and side exterior lighting as well as interior lighting. If you are an electrical wiz, you can hook up the wiring for all electrical needs yourself. This electrical wiring was set up with help. The battery and wiring are housed in the back under the counter.
Step 12: Counter, Cabinets, and Drawers
Finish installing the back hatch counter, feeding the electrical wiring through the counter outlet, cabinets, and drawers. The back hatch countertop is the perfect opportunity to customize. Try a copper countertop using Copper Sheet. Or use Galvanized Steel Sheet.
Side view of finished teardrop trailer
Opened back hatch of finished teardrop trailer
Bed setup of finished teardrop trailer
Step 13: Pack Up and Go!
Pick a comfy mattress and stylish bedding. Stock the back hatch with some dishes, utensils, cookware, and tools. And make your camping/road trip list – you can fit it all in this oh-so-stylish teardrop trailer. Hooked up and ready to hit the road!
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