I like small trailers and opted for Carry-On Trailer’s 3.5x5LSHS, a 3.5×5-foot trailer with 16-inch tall mesh sides. My wife quickly labelled it the “baby trailer.” The 3.5x5LSHS is usually available at Lowe’s Home Improvement. It’s great for taking stuff to the dump or transporting dirty items that I don’t want inside my car. It’s like having a part-time pickup truck that gets >30 mpg. It’s also very popular among Jeep owners who are looking for a trailer to convert for off-road use. It’s a good trailer right off the lot, but I made substantial changes to make it even better. First mods included Yakima TopLoaders so I could mount my Yakima rack, a set of lighted guide posts to help when backing, and a ½” wooden floor since I knew the steel mesh floor would warp under load without support.
I had been nervous about carrying my bikes because the trailer would bounce violently over small bumps. The factory 1000-lb leaf springs and skinny 90-psi tires give very little road compliance for a trailer that weighs less than 500 lbs most of the time. I replaced the leaf springs with 500-lb replacements. They worked well when my loads were strictly light. However, I eventually had to remove the springs after one slipped out of place due to a combination of overloading and my oversized wheels/tires, shown below. I still need to occasionally carry heavier loads. I switched back to a 1000-lb spring, but chose one with four leafs that rides smoother with light loads and still supports heavy loads. This photo shows the difference between a 500-lb spring, the factory 1000-lb spring, and my new 4-leaf spring.
Next, I replaced the factory steel fenders with large plastic fenders to make room for larger wheels and tires. I had custom adapters made so I could mount a set of 15-inch Volkswagen wheels with 195/65R15 passenger tires. They ride really well, especially at just 25 psi. Best of all, I don’t need to carry a spare trailer tire since the GTI’s spare tire fits, if needed. Not only have I added speed-rated tires, but the larger tire circumference also means that the wheel’s rotation rate is lower than the factory trailer wheels, which gives me a huge safety margin at my usual towing speeds of ~70 mph. It should also reduce wear to the wheel bearings, which I upgraded to XTP Ultra-Packs when the trailer was two years old. Annual hub maintenance is a breeze!
In my opinion, a trailer on the road with malfunctioning lights depicts owner as either lazy or inept. I don’t want to be “that guy.” I like my trailer lighting bright and functioning perfectly. Knowing that the factory lighting is cheap and subject to failure from vibration, I quickly upgraded to submersible LED lighting. Also, the stock license plate bracket held the license plate low enough to take a beating, especially if I back up to a curb. My state allows motorcycle plates on trailers, so I inverted the bracket and provided the plate with its own LED lighting. I think the package looks sharp! 🙂
I’ve always wanted weatherproof cargo hauling without committing to a large cargo trailer. Adding ¾” plywood sides and a lid accomplished several things: 1) weatherproofing for the cargo (“rain-resistant,” but not watertight); 2) durable protection for the mesh siding; 3) mounting options for more tie down rings; and 4) more stability since the plywood adds about 180 lbs to the ride. With nearly every part of the trailer now being heavier, there’s less vibration or rattling; plus, the suspension is pre-loaded for a better empty ride. The only possible drawback is the need for extra paint each spring. Two coats of Herculiner bed liner in 2018 may have made the bed and fenders much more durable.
The only possible negative I can think of about my trailer is its tendency to rust. Many Carry-On trailers have rust on them before they even leave the store. Nearly any steel trailer at this price will see rust in its future. The paint on the front of the trailer and fenders is especially prone to chipping/rusting due to debris being kicked up by the tow vehicle. To combat rust, I started by choosing the specimen with the least amount of visible rust. I immediately spot-sprayed with a rust-converting spray paint and then a topcoat of gloss black enamel. The plastic replacement fenders eliminate a usual home for rust, too. Routine spray paint touch-ups are cheap insurance against rust. Additionally, I’m hoping to see the super-thick Herculiner finish hold up to plenty of abuse and perhaps reduce my need for regular repainting.
That’s it, the details of my “baby trailer.” Most of the functional items have been upgraded to suit my wants. It carries bikes and cargo without the wind noise, mounting hassles, overhead lifting, head knocking, or marred paint of a roof rack while providing much of the versatility and positives of owning a small pickup truck. It’s perfect for vacations, dump runs, or as a mini-workhorse (a pony? ) for a stubborn guy who won’t buy a pickup truck. See more photos below. Oh, it’s also pretty versatile in parking situations, especially with my employment of “stunt parking.” See this entry for more details about my trailer-witchcraft. 😉
Who Needs a Truck?