OUR FIRST OUTING
The trailer is about 80% complete but we took it for a test run anyway. For the most part everything was great. I’d still like to add a shelf in the back, finish the exterior with a nicer paint-job, and add all of the final trim.
ON THE ROAD
IN THE WILD
INSPECTION AND REGISTRATION
A brief bit of bureaucracy and we’re square with the fuzz.
WAITING FOR INSPECTION AT THE DMV
And, passed! We now have a registered 5’x8′ Ironton trailer. It was a pretty easy process, just a short drive and a bit of waiting in line. The drive to the DMV and back was also a good test run for the new trailer and hitch. Everything worked great. The lights do their blinky thing, the wheels go round and round, the trailer goes where the car goes, and we arrived with all the same parts we left with. Time to wrap up the teardrop body now that we have a legal rolling platform.
WHEEL AND TIRE UPGRADE
I swapped the provided 12″ steel wheels with bias ply tires for some 13″ aluminum wheels with radial tires. These should roll smoother and cooler. The provided wheels were only recommended up to 55mph, certainly not fast enough for today’s freeways.
If days were years and projects could drink this one is now ready for a beer!
I popped in the DMV today (only a brief 2 hour wait!) and am scheduled to bring in the trailer for inspection so I may register it tomorrow. Time to install the hitch on the car.
I’m using a square tube 2000lb rated hitch, which bolts directly to the VW frame. I’m going to lose some ground clearance in the back but I think I’ll clear speed bumps and gnarly SF hill crests. We’ll see…
RAISING THE HITCH INTO PLACE
After sliding the hitch under the car we raised it into position with these handy paper kindles I found in the garage.
A NICE WIRE TRICK
You have to put this bolt up inside a small hole in the frame and then put in the square bit it goes through BUT you can’t get behind them so they are gone and lost inside the frame. With the handy wire you jam the bolt up into the land of the lost, then the the square, then pull the wire bringing the bolt back and through the little hole in the square bit. Do it wrong and loose the bolt and your car will explode.
THE WASHER-NUT TRICK
It’s a PITA to hold two pieces in one hand blind and at an awkward angle which is unfortunately the only method to access most parts of a VW. If you tape the washer to the bolt you can reduce your juggling some. Remember to peel the tape off after everything is in place but before you torque the bolt tight.
I didn’t bother to jack up the car as there was just enough room to wiggle everything into place.
KAREN FITS THE PIN
Almost ready to tow.
And Karen approved.
OUT IN THE WILD
Took a short short trip to a local strip-mall and picked up a ball with a 3/4″ shank. Now we’re ready to tow.
FUN WITH ELECTRICITY
Today I took on wiring up the car for trailer lights. It’s a fairly simple job but I’m complicating it by not running power directly from the battery (I don’t want to snake a wire under the car). Instead I’m trying to wire into a 12v socket in the trunk. Without clearly marked wires or a voltmeter I got as far as I could today which was everything but power.
LATE NIGHT UPDATE
We have power! We’ll, we’ve had power all along, but… It turns out the trailer lights return to ground through their bolts and not the wires, I missed this and while testing the lights off of the trailer I had no such ground. Thanks to DrTune and his handy bag of tools we discovered the problem and came up with a grounding solution for testing purposes and I’m happy to report that the trailer lights work.
This is the power wire, backlit and over-exposed. Ooooh-Aahhhh.
Electricity hurts. Before I splice and twist all of these wires I cut the power at the battery.
NO JUNK IN THE TRUNK
I need a little room to work so everything in the trunk must go.
This handy box converts the signal my car passes (PMW) to the taillights to something I can pass to the trailer lights. I need to splice this into my left and right turn signals.
BRAKE LIGHT WIRES
Here are the three wires that control the driver’s side taillight. I’m going to splice into the yellow and black signal wire here.
Signal wire spliced (at the blue connector). The white wire is the ground.
I’m hoping to run the power through this plug into a 12v socket in the trunk. I need to borrow a voltmeter to work out the polarity of the wires on the plug. I’m using the plug because I’d rather not run a wire under the outside of the car to the battery, and since there is already a power source in the trunk…
ASSEMBLING THE IRONTON 5×8 TRAILER
A while back I ordered an Ironton Heavy-Duty 5Ft. x 8Ft Trailer Kit from Northern Tool. Karen helped me bolt together the trailer kit today which will serve as the platform for the teardrop and provide important details like DOT approved lighting and tires.
A thoughtful and careful approach is always prudent.
INSTRUCTIONS AND BEAR
After hacking the packaging apart with trusty ole’ Bear, we inspected the instructions which were reasonably good with occasionally humorous Engrish.
The trailer sits on a pair of leaf-springs, which should help this thing bounce over dips and bumps.
I’m curious how this handles once it’s on the road. I think I can add some shocks later if the ride is a bit too bouncy.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Shiny hardware everywhere!
It’s a trailer! Finally very nearly done with tons of help from Karen.
IT’S A MINI SUV, REALLY.
I plan to tow my mini-trailer with a 2008 VW GTI. This is also my lumber hauler/work truck, it fits dozens of 8 foot boards quite nicely. Handily, it has disk brakes all around and stops pretty well too.
My owners manual is missing (long story) but I have it on good authority that the US-spec JSW SEL (2.0T 6MT drive train) can tow up to 1650 lbs w/o trailer brakes or 2000 lbs with and up to 200 lbs tongue weight. My little trailer should come in well under 1,000 lbs, hopefully even lighter, I think this should work.
I’ve a few slight mods to the GTI, the most helpful for towing is probably the APR stage 1 tune which brings the car up to 252HP and 303TQ. Though geared better for the job I’ve had trucks with far less.
I also have a thicker rear sway bar, the APR pendulum mount, BSH engine and transmission mounts, a short-shifter and aluminum shift-link bushings, R8 coil-packs, a PCV revamp, and some other stuff.
I’m using a 1 ¼ inch 2000 lb Hidden Hitch. It’s a good light duty hitch that fits my car. I will lose a little clearance in the rear but my car isn’t lowered, I should still clear speed bumps okay. Well see…
WIRING THE TRAILER LIGHTS TO THE CAR
I could probably have pieced this all together but I went with the kit for ease and time. This will wire up the car lights to the trailer so people know when I’m turning or stopping. Communication is key to any good relationship.
REAR AXEL AIR HELPER SPRINGS
I decided to install some rear axel air helper springs. My car doesn’t have a lot of clearance (compared to a regular tow vehicle) and the trailer is bound to sag the butt.
And of course, before I take my first road-trip with a trailer in tow I plan to get a fresh set of tires and brakes, I’m going to need some soon anyway.
VF Pendulum Mount
A while back I installed an aftermarket VF pendulum mount and torque arm insert for my VW MKV Golf GTI. I have the 6 speed manual and from the factory there is an awful lot of flex in the drive train. The car was designed to be comfortable and quiet. To achieve this the stock mounts are very soft and I could feel the engine and transmission moving under even moderate load.
Since I’d gone through all of the trouble to put in a shifter bushing kit (see waay below) it seemed a waste to not address all the transmission and motor flex. After a bit of forum trolling I decided to give the VF Pendulum Mount a whirl. The pendulum mount and torque arm insert (the red thing) went on pretty easy but the instructions were a bit unclear about the placement of a washer, I used these photos I snapped while under the car to query the forums for answers. My hunch for placement was correct but it was nice to get some confirmation.
MKV GTI misc mods:
Next steps? As soon as I need them I’ll replace all my shocks with Koni Sport Yellows. I’ve hear very good things. But first, Methanol injection! I can run my 100 octane map on 91 pump gas if I set up a water-methanol injection kit. That should make the car good for about 270hp / 322lb-ft. That’s an additional 24hp / 40lb-ft. Very possibly worth any throttle body issues injection could cause. And as an added bonus, it give me a great opportunity to install a button to toggle ‘race’ and ‘commute’ modes. I think an old fashioned metal switch on the console would be perfect.