The "Other" Harbor Freight
By David "Shorty" Routh
Over the past couple of years, I seem to have
gone through one of each Harbor Freight Trailer that they carry.
The folding 4x8
one was the least favorite of mine because the folding mechanism
made it rather flimsy feeling, and I found that without adding
a deck or other structure, the whole frame would flex if you
stood on one corner of it.
I next tried their regular boat trailer. It was
very adequate, came with everything you "need" to
carry boats. Customer purchased the boat I had sitting on it,
so it promptly left my hands.
Being the minimal spirit kind of guy, I kept looking
at that really little one and gave it a try next. The tongue
that comes with it is ridiculously small, so I purchased a long
piece of square tube steel as a replacement tongue. Since everything
was bolt on, it was easy for me to make this change. I made
a very simple set of bunk boards that bolted on top of the frame
bed, and tried using it without a winch post. That didn't work
very well, so instead of spending $30 on a metal post, I made
a winch post from some 2x4 and plywood.
It worked very well. The only thing I didn't
like about it, was one day when I was backing it down the boat
ramp empty, it caught on a piling to the side of the ramp and
the whole frame twisted sideways. Wasn't really a problem to
fix, I just kicked it a few times and it was pretty much back
to normal. I was able to keep this trailer for several more
boat sales, but eventually a customer purchased it and I was
back to HF to try their next one.
Occasionally, they have their galvanized PWC trailer
on sale for $275, and I ordered one in. It took literally 6
months to arrive! When it finally did, I put it together and
tried a new approach. I made it with a flat plywood deck, several
cross beams below the deck for support, and replaced the tongue.
I made a couple of different box looking cradles for boats,
these would simply bolt onto the deck when I wanted to use them.
Also I installed a set of fence post stakes along the perimeter
and made the surrounding gate so that I could carry gravel.
That was a lot of work, and I should have just made a plywood
box that bolts onto the flat bed. I hauled several loads of
gravel and rock with the gates installed, and then swapped them
out for the the boat cradle. Then a customer came along, and
that trailer was gone.
I was getting tired of bolting together trailers,
so I resigned myself just to purchase trailers from now on,
I opened an account at a local trailer manufacturer and now
when a customer takes one of my trailers, I just go pickup another.
The one I have been sticking with is a small galvanized one
that has a very simple square angle iron bed. It has a couple
of bunk supports, and I can move around to use different shaped
bunks depending on what type of boat I am carrying.
One day at the lake, I saw a really neat trailer
that was custom welded up entirely of angle iron.
Also as many have suggested before, through all
of these trailers I have used a 2x4 "light bar". Mine
has a couple of improvements, I attached 2 of the "pull
thru jaw" cargo straps so I could quickly tighten it down,
and I put a couple of hooks vertically on top of the 2x4 so
I could put the straps across the top of the board to secure
them when the bar was not in use. Without a place to attach
the straps, I found that they tangled up very easily. Very useful
for hauling home newly purchased boats that do not have working
lights, but now that I am done selling used sailboats, I have
reverted back to just using the regular lights on the trailer
that have a good seal with a drain hole at the bottom.