I like small trailers and opted for Carry-On’s 3.5x5LSHS, a 3.5×5-foot trailer with 16-inch tall mesh sides. It appears to be exclusive to Lowe’s Home Improvement. It has a 2000-lb axle and a carrying capacity of 1750 lbs, meaning the trailer itself weighs ~250 lbs in stock form. My wife immediately called it a “baby trailer.” 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 a good trailer right off the lot, but I made substantial modifications to make the trailer even better. 😉 First mods include a set of lighted guide posts to help when backing and a wooden floor since mesh floors tend to warp under load.
Next, I had to address the trailer’s ride. I had been nervous about carrying my bikes because the trailer would bounce violently over small bumps. A pair of 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 and mounted larger, low pressure tires. I cut-off the factory fenders and replaced them with larger plastic fenders to make room for the larger tires. This photo shows the difference between a 1000-lb spring and one rated for 500 lbs. The trailer’s weight capacity is reduced to 1000 lbs. That’s okay because I prefer to tow less than that, anyway. The ride quality is vastly improved. Does anyone else find it funny that I swapped springs on my trailer before my Volkswagen?
I had some custom adapters made so I could mount Volkswagen wheels. I knew I could get matching Nogaro wheels, but I wanted the function of more sidewall more than I wanted the form of low profile tires. I decided to mount a set of 15-inch VW steelies with 195/65R15 passenger radials. 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 will mount if needed. Tech Tip: Don’t disregard the 65 mph speed limit notice in the owner’s manual. Trailer tires are rated for just 65 mph. See the tire’s sidewall for proof. Not only have I added speed-rated tires, but the larger circumference also means that their spin at 80 mph at the same RPM as the factory tires at 65 mph. That gives me a huge safety margin at my usual towing speeds.
Seeing a trailer on the road with non-functioning lights really bothers me. In my opinion, it 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. Another pet peeve is that the license plate bracket holds 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! 🙂
My final mod was the addition of wooden siding. I’ve always wanted weatherproof cargo hauling without committing to a large cargo trailer. And, as petty as it seems, I also dislike picking fallen leaves out the crevices between the wood floor and mesh sides. Adding 3/4″ plywood sides accomplished several things: 1) weatherproofing for the cargo (rainproof, 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 100 lbs to the ride. With nearly every part of the trailer now being heavier, there’s less vibration or rattling and the suspension is pre-loaded for a better empty ride. I haven’t found a drawback to the wooden sides yet, with the possible exception of needing extra paint each spring.
The only possible negative I can think of about my trailer, a trait that I get asked about a lot, is its tendency to rust. It’s true that many Carry-On trailers have rust on them before they even leave the store. I think that 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 rocks 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 potential home for rust, too. My 4×6′ trailer got a new coat of spray paint every year or two and was still in great shape when I sold it after 13 years. I have no reason to believe that my “baby trailer” won’t last just as long, if not even longer, since it suits my needs even better than the 4×6.
That’s it, the details of my “baby trailer.” It carries bikes and cargo without the wind noise, mounting hassles, overhead lifting, head knocking, or marred paint of a roof top rack while providing much of the versatility and positives of owning a small pickup truck. My setup can carry five bikes AND still have room for 30 cubic feet of cargo. The vertical clearance of the tallest bicycle is less than seven feet, so the load will still fit under most low clearance obstacles. It seems perfect for a weekend getaway for a foursome of cyclists. If I can’t find three people who can tolerate being in the car with me for a weekend, then the baby trailer is still ideal as a SAG wagon and as a mini-workhorse (a pony? ) for a stubborn guy who won’t buy a truck. See more photos below.
Who Needs a Truck?