TEARDROP TRAILER – BUILD DAY 21

TRAILER HITCH

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.

HiddenHitchHIDDEN HITCH
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…

DancingWithBooksRAISING 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.

WireTrick
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.

TwoBecomeOne2
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.

tight_fit
TIGHT FIT
I didn’t bother to jack up the car as there was just enough room to wiggle everything into place.

KarenFitsPinKAREN FITS THE PIN
Almost ready to tow.

KarenApproved SUCCESS!
And Karen approved.

hideaway_hitch_gti_mkvOUT 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.

TEARDROP TRAILER – BUILD DAY 20

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.

WiresArtsy ARTSY WIRES
This is the power wire, backlit and over-exposed. Ooooh-Aahhhh.

DisconnectBatteryDISCONNECT BATTERY
Electricity hurts. Before I splice and twist all of these wires I cut the power at the battery.

Trunk2NO JUNK IN THE TRUNK
I need a little room to work so everything in the trunk must go.

CurtCoverterSIGNAL CONVERTER
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.

BrakeLights2BRAKE 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.

SplicedSPLICED
Signal wire spliced (at the blue connector). The white wire is the ground.

plug12v 12V PLUG
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…

TEARDROP TRAILER – BUILD DAY 19

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.

MakeTrailer
DELICATE WORK
A thoughtful and careful approach is always prudent.

Directions
INSTRUCTIONS AND BEAR
After hacking the packaging apart with trusty ole’ Bear, we inspected the instructions which were reasonably good with occasionally humorous Engrish.

BoltTogether
SUSPENSION
The trailer sits on a pair of leaf-springs, which should help this thing bounce over dips and bumps.
 LeafsBOING!
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.

Reading
HMM
Hmm?

NutsBoltsNUTS AND BOLTS
Shiny hardware everywhere!

KarenTrailer3
TA-DA
It’s a trailer! Finally very nearly done with tons of help from Karen.

TEARDROP TRAILER – BUILD DAY 18

MORE HATCH AND DOOR PROGRESS

I picked up some parts to seal the hatch and door openings. I think I have a good seal for the hatch and am working on some ideas for the door.

GarageDoorLiner
RUBBER LINER
I found this rubber liner used on the bottom of garage doors which might be a good waterproof barrier for the door frame.

Trim01
DOOR TRIM
I found this door trim which is pretty bendy and looks reasonably water tight. I’m going to try it around the hatch.

UsingTrim
TRIM TEST LOCATION
The trim wont sit exactly here but it’ll be something like this.

CoveringHatchCOVERING THE HATCH
The luan ply bent easily over the hatch frame. Unfortunately I’m out of large bits of ply so I couldn’t finish the hatch today.

FrameInsideHATCH FRAME
Here you can see the hatch frame from the inside. I’m going to cover this with some luan as well.

DoorOutside1A DOOR ROUGHED OUT
Here is one of the doors roughly cut out.

C-Channel01DOOR FRAME CONCEPT
I’m hoping to source a custom door frame made of some extruded aluminum c-channel. This will clean up the look and protect the door opening from weather and use.

C-Channel03DOOR FRAME CUT-AWAY
The aluminum c-channel will cover the edge of the door as well as the door opening.

InsideDoorDOOR FROM THE INSIDE
The size seems about right, it’s pretty easy to get in and out.

DoorCornerFilled
DOOR CUT OUT
The wall separated from the frame a bit so I’m using wood glue and clamps to squeeze the layers back together.  When that’s done I’ll smooth out the opening with some wood-filler and a bunch of sanding.

itFits
SHORT TERM RELOCATION
I had to move the trailer out of my shop while some skylights were installed. I put the trailer up on a dolly I made of 2×4″s and some casters and we rolled it right out the door. I have to admit I was slightly concerned this would be a huge ordeal but the trailer is light enough right now a couple of people can still lift it.

TEARDROP TRAILER – BUILD DAY 17

FRAMING THE REAR HATCH

Another short work day. I put in just enough time to frame the rear hatch. I had to cut some curves to create parts of the hatch frame so I put my jigsaw to good use.

CuttingHatchFrame
CUTTING CURVES
I cut the curved bits of the hatch frame from these boards. You can see the first curve cut above. The curve is a very close match to the trailer, once ready I’ll sand everything to exact and add the skin.

RearHatchFRAMED HATCH
Here is the hatch framed and in place.

HatchOpen02OPEN HATCH
Hinge goes here. I plan to use a hurricane hinge, word on the internet is that they are nice and watertight.

RearHatchClosedSOME BRACES
I added a few horizontal braces to strengthen the hatch frame. They look a bit goofy offset like this but I wanted to drive screws through from both sides and these braces will be hidden by the outer skin anyway.

MoreHatchCLAMPED IN PLACE
I used a few clamps to hold the frame so I could square it up before I screwed all the pieces together.

RearHatchClosed
DONE FOR TODAY
It was a short work day and an unusually sunny day in San Francisco. I wrapped up  early to spend the rest of it people watching with Karen at Dolores Park.

Teardrop Trailer – Build Day 16

BENDING LUAN FOR THE ROOF

I only got in about three hours today but I started the roof and finished off insulating the front wall.

ropedDownUSING ROPE TO CURVE LUAN
I tied the rope off to some crossbeams in the back.

BendingLuan2
CURVING
At first I just used the rope but as I tightened it I realized I needed a better approach.

BendingLuanMORE CURVING
I added some boards to help distribute the pressure and to keep the ply from splitting. I’m going to leave this tied off for a couple of days to convince the roof to take this shape before I tighten it all the way and screw the laun into place.

FrontWallFRONT WALL
I also finished insulating and framing the front wall today.

Teardrop Trailer – Build Day 15

GLUING DOWN THE FLOOR

DroppingDownFloorFLOOR
I used some gorilla glue to attach a layer of 1/4″ luan to the floor. The 1/2″ CDX alone made for a rather thin floor, it also had a seam running through the middle which was sealed only by the sheathing tape.

HalfTheFloor
HALFWAY DONE
Here is the first floor piece in place. This will add a little more structure to the floor and give it a nicer surface. The CDX it’s covering is pretty rough.

MoreFloor  WEIGHING DOWN
Here I’m weighing down the luan to get it to glue in as flat as possible.

EvenMoreFloorMORE FLOOR
And now both halves of the floor are in place. More weight to hold things flat while the glue dries.

Teardrop Trailer – Build Day 14

BARN RAISING

I closed the walls up and began to assemble the trailer today. It was really exciting to finally sit inside it and get a sense of the space. It’s certainly a ‘sleeper’ but it’s also roomy enough for two.  I think I will leave the bed the entire trailer length, I like to stretch out. I’ll put the kitchen space on a floating shelf in the back about half way up the trailer.

Signed
AUTOGRAPHED
Before I closed the wall I signed my work. This was a lot of effort, it pleases me to leave my name on it somewhere.

Pirates
PIRATES
I paraphrased my favorite Jack Handey deep thought inside the wall. I wrote this from memory and missed a bit of it, the actual deep thought goes:

“It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.”

FinishingTheWallsREADY FOR THE SKIN
I put some gorilla glue on all the exposed wood and dropped down the inside wall skin.

InsideWallSkin
THE INSIDE WALL SKIN
The insulation is about 1/32 of an inch thicker than the framing so I’ve really had to squeeze everything together to get a nice flat wall.
I clamped the edges and then added many screws around the perimeter.

WallsComingUp
RAISING THE WALLS
Up, up, and well… Up.

Inside2
WALLS
I got the side walls up and then screwed in the front wall to hold everything together. The walls are also sitting on a heavy bead of gorilla glue.

WallsComingUp2
A TRAILER
It finally looks a bit like a little trailer.

Inside03BACK WALL AND ROOF
More bits going into place. I’m using L-brackets to hold the roof, front, and back wall in place. There are also some long drywall screws running through from the outside wall.

TopView
ROOF
Here is the flat portion of the roof in place.

InsideTrailerINSIDE
It feels nice and spacious inside. You can see the space for the front window here. I’ll add the actual windows towards the end of the build.

Teardrop Trailer – Parts and Cost

THE PARTS LIST

This list is very much a work in progress.  I’ve provided cost and links when available and I’ll add updates as I go.

TRAILER

Ironton Heavy-Duty Trailer Kit 5Ft. x 8Ft. $499.99
This is probably the most expensive component of the build. I chose this over the cheaper 4×8 option which I decided was too narrow to allow two people to sleep comfortably.

LUMBER

I got my lumber at Discount Builders in San Francisco. I used Task Rabbit to organize a ride, I don’t have a truck and didn’t want to bother a friend for theirs.

(7) 4×8′ 1/4″ Sheets of Luan
For skinning the walls and the roof. The laun in pretty thin and flexible which will be important when I’m skinning the curved roof. I’ll cover it with spar varnish, primer, and paint which I hope will provide enough protection. Luan is not terribly robust on it’s own.

(2) 4×8′ 1/2″ CDX Ply
For the floor I went with something a bit thicker and on the cheaper side. I will seal this up with spar varnish, primer, and probably a coat of tar on the bottom that will be exposed to the street.

(10) 2×2″s Furring
For framing. These are actually 1.5 x 1.5″ and the wall skins are 1/4″, I’ll end up with 2 inch thick walls.

(8) 2×3″s Furring
And more framing. I’m using the slightly bigger stuff for the bottom of the frame to provide a bit more rigidity.

FRAMING

Grip-Rite 3-Inch 8 Coarse Thread Exterior Screw $8.57
I went with an exterior screw in case they get exposed to any water. The big ones are nice for framing but are too long for attaching the wall skin, the walls are only 2″ thick.

Grip-Rite 1-5/8-Inch 6 Coarse Thread Exterior Screw $8.47
And some shorter screws.

36oz Original Gorilla Glue $29.25
Waterproof, strong,  and a bit messy. It foams while drying but it’s easy to clean up if you catch it before it dries. I used this to glue the wood in the framing.

3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack $16.99
If you’re sanding, particularly stuff with paint and varnish, you’ll need a mask. These work and are comfortable enough.

Foam Brushes, 24-Piece $7.58
I use this for applying sealers and stains. They are super handy but tend to wear out fast.

INSULATION

Solid Foam Insulation: R-Tech Insulfoam
I found this stuff at a local big box hardware store. I cut it with a utility knife which worked okay but was messy.  Later I discovered that a hacksaw blade cuts it a bit smoother and creates less mess.

Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant $5.20
This stuff is messy but works well. Wear gloves. I used this to fill the  gaps I had between the solid foam insulation and the frame.

2.36-Inch by 72.1-Yard Sheathing Tape  $16.95
I used this to seal the insulation in the frame and to cover seams. It’s all part of the effort to keep water out.

PAINTING AND SEALING THE OUTSIDE

Goldblatt 3-Pack Plastic Putty Knife Variety Set $4.24
For smearing about wood filler. I didn’t use the big one much.

Wooster Brush Yachtsman Paintbrush, 3-Inch (5) $10.96ea
Get at least a decent paintbrush, the cheap ones tend to leave behind bristles which really can be a PITA.

3M Sanding Sponge, Extra Fine, 3.75-Inch by 2.625-Inch by 1-Inch, 3-Pack $9.87
 You could just use sandpaper but I found these helpful and a little easier on the hands.

10 Pack Of 3M 9-Inch by 11-Inch Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper, Assorted  $33.88
Super handy, I cut these into quarters and use them with my power sander.

32-Ounce Low Voc Mineral Spirits $13.41
I used this to thin down the spar varnish which is thick and can be hard to apply.

Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish 1-Quart $21.52
I sealed the outside of the trailer with a few thinned out layers of this and then covered that with the marine primer and marine topside paint.

Rust-Oleum Marine Wood and Fiberglass Primer 1-Quart (2) $18.97ea
This stuff is a bit thick, it took some sanding to get a smooth surface.

Rust-Oleum Marine Topside Paint, White, 1-Quart (2) $11.97ea
The paint was pretty easy to work with, after the primer it seemed downright watery. It goes on okay, self-levels pretty well, and after a bit of sanding gave me a decent surface.

HARDWARE

Hatch Hinges (4)
$11.49ea
These are great, I used two per door and they worked out very well. Strong and nice to look at.

MISC

(I’ll provide more links and prices shortly.)

Wood Putty
Polyurethane Spray
Sanding Sealer
Razor Blades

Windows for Doors, Sliders (2)
Window Front, Sliders (1)
Hurricane Hinge for Rear Hatch

Teardrop Trailer – The Tow Vehicle

2008 VW GTI

2008mkvgtiIT’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.

Hitch
HITCH
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…

TrailerLights

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.

springhelpers
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.