Harbor Freight Trailer Mods
by Chuck Leinweber

Last time we talked, I had just bought a Harbor Freight trailer for my then almost completed Ladybug. I wrote a review of the trailer in these pages. Since that time, I've finished the boat and modified the trailer to fit.

The first thing I had to do was to extend the tongue. As it comes this trailer is 8 feet on the deck with a short yoke on the front ending with a hitch. The boat itself is 14 feet, so more would have to be added on. Another problem was the hitch itself. It was for a 1-7/8" ball and mine are all 2", so I had to buy a new hitch.

I got a cheap one from Wal-Mart. They had two to choose from: heavy and light. I went with the light one. They were both stamped from sheet steel and zinc plated. It should last as long as the trailer.

I took the trailer to a buddy of mine who is a very good welder and has the right equipment. He wanted to just weld my new piece of 2-1/2" square tubing to the yoke on the trailer and cut it to length. I did not want to do that, though, as I didn't want to weld over the nice paint job that came on the trailer. Finally we hit on the idea of making a new plate that would bolt where the old hitch went, and weld that to the new tongue.

We found a piece of 2" angle iron to bolt in where a brace was before and took the square tubing back to that before going forward to the new plate. In the picture above, you can see how it all went together. I painted it with some left over silver paint (I didn't have any red)

With the jack I mentioned in the review, it looks like this.

To carry the boat on the trailer, I now needed to build some bunks or bolsters. Not being a welder, nor wanting to bother my friend with this, I elected to build in wood.

First I found the center of gravity of the boat, then measured the distance in each direction to the bulkheads. (On a boat like this, the bolsters need to bear right under the bulkheads rather than in the middle of an unsupported area of plywood.) Now I plotted to locations of the bunks by figuring that the center of gravity of the boat should end up about a foot ahead of the trailer axle to keep some weight on the tongue. After measuring the shape of the boat's bottom at the bulkheads, I built bolsters out of 2x4's and covered them with some Astroturf I got from cutting up a welcome mat.

(A word about Astroturf. This is stuff vastly superior to indoor/outdoor carpet for this purpose. It is not spongy so it does not hold water against your boat, and it is slippery, allowing much easier launching and retrieval.)

The big remaining job was to mount the winch. Back to my friend with the welder, and this time he was happy to simply weld a bit of the left over square tubing to the new tongue. Then we took another little piece of the stuff and made a holder for the little rubber bow roller and mount for the winch itself (both of which came from, you guessed it: Wal-Mart). The whole thing was done in an hour and made a neat job.

A spare tire bolted to the trailer finished the whole thing off for $25 (from my favorite store).