Q. I'm thinking about building my own trailer. I have a 97 Ford Ranger and I just came across a parts Ranger that has a salvage title. The bed is in very good condition and I was contemplating chopping the frame rails behind the cab and making a trailer out of it. Has anyone done this before? Would the rear axle have to be replaced with a solid I-beam style axle? In addition, what do I do about getting a title for it as a trailer? I am in New Jersey and the salvage title is from out of state.
A. First, a warning. Although pick-up box trailers are cheap and easy to make, they are one poor trailer unless they are properly rigged. The biggest problem is the fact that the wheels are smack dab in the middle of the box. When you load the thing and go over a bump, the trailer tends to whip because of there being no weight or negative weight on the ball. You need to have the wheels behind the centerline of the box to about 60 percent in front and 40 percent in back for it to handle safely. If you use the original axle, you must keep the gears together so that the front seal can keep the gear oil in. Some have removed the gears and made a plate for the front opening to keep the oil in. Those bearings can't run dry. The truck axle will probably work fine, it will just be heavier than the lighter beam axle. You can always strip the brakes off to make it a little lighter.
Here is how a forum member built a trailer from a 72 Chevy Truck:
- First cut the frame rails under the cab, as far forward as possible.
- Weld in a 2 x 6 X 1/4 thick rectangular tubing, in between the frame rails directly under the front edge of the bed.
- Weld a piece of 2 x 4 X 1/4 thick rectangular tubing from the center of the first crossbeam welded in, making sure it was long enough so that when the trailer tongue was attached to the end, it would be long enough to keep the trailer from hitting the tow-vehicle in a sharp turn.
- After finding the best location for the trailer tongue latch, cut the center beam to the right length, then notch the frame rails right in front of the first crossbeam welded in.
- Then bend the frame rails into the center beam, and weld them in place with enough room to attach the tongue latch.
- After welding on the tongue latch, reinforce the tongue frame area by welding on a piece of 1/4 thick diamond plate over the entire tongue and frame rails. This also acts as a large, triangular storage area for your generator.
- To finish up, wire in your lights.
As for the title, go to the DMV and tell them you have a home-made trailer that you want to get plates for. They should then issue you a permit. However, laws may vary from state to state.
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