Getting started: my Harbor Freight folding trailer

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Blog entry by smozes posted 06-26-2016 05:58 PM 826 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m just getting started and setting up a woodworking shop in my one car garage. We plan on making our own kitchen cabinets, furniture and various construction projects.

The Harbor Freight trailer looks simple to assemble, but gotchas await at every step. I started with no power tools, and I still don’t have a workbench, and this thing took up all the space while being assembled. The catch is that you need tools, wood, a workbench and space to properly assemble the trailer, but you need the trailer assembled first to have all these things, so…here are a few head scratchers, solutions and observations:

This is a folding trailer, in principle, but not one you might use at the spur of the moment, and some modifications are needed if you mount a deck.

Note how the side (vertical) railings are slightly taller than the front, middle and back (horizontal) rails. The surface for mounting the deck is not consistent between the two types of rails. The manual suggests a 3/4” thick deck, but this assumes a measurement between the front and back rails when folded. When the deck sits on the taller side rails, the trailer won’t close completely. The solution is to rabbet the deck sides to 5/8”.

Actually folding/unfolding is a chore due to the difficult access to carriage bolts on both sides, that are there to prevent the trailer from folding while on the road. A short socket is too shallow for the length of the bolt, and a long one, which also requires a 3/8 ratchet will barely fit in, with some struggle. Wrenches won’t work. I don’t have a solution to this yet, but will be trying locking pins instead of the carriage bolts.

When you fold it and place it against the wall, the license plate holder will not let it stand flush against the wall. I have yet to mount the plate. This will need some modification.

When drilling bolt holes for the deck (I used counter sunk hex bolts), don’t rely on the measurements in the manual, they are misleading. Place the deck pieces on the trailer and mark the holes from the underside (I recommend getting an automotive mechanic sled). You will also want to chop the front and back corners to clear the frame bolt heads.

The trailer is nominally 4×8, but that is its entire bed size. The folding hinge bolt inconveniently protrudes into that area and will interfere with cargo that size. This is something you find out when you think you’re done assembling.

I reversed the bolt and added shims to push the hinge out by 1/4”, for the bolt head to clear the bed.

Continuing the same theme, the trailer manual suggests this fence design, where the rails again protrude into the bed area:

I decided to carve lap joints with a dado stack on my new table saw, but unfortunately I didn’t anticipate having to mill my stakes and rails pieces when I bought the lumber, and most were twisted, bowed and wet. I don’t even have milling equipment, but this trailer demanded all I have right away.

The stakes themselves are supposed to be 2×4s, but the stake pockets are 1/8” too narrow and required shaving the stake sides:

I searched for weeks for something like this, until the “interlocking hinge” key phrase occurred to me. They’re great, but do rattle a bit on the road.

Here again, I had to avoid having hardware protruding into the bed area, so I opted for Tee-nuts, which I never used before. 72 drillings with a pilot bit, a spade bit, and the final drill bit.

Here’s the clearance with 4×8 sheet of plywood. Every effort counts.

My first run to the lumber yard to stock up on plywood. I carried 7 sheets, probably total weight of trailer and cargo at 700lb. The trailer is bouncy when empty, but settles well when loaded. Not a problem for the little Elantra.

You can also see the two locking pins I’m using for the tail gate stakes to ease removing the tail gate. These and the interlocking hinges make loading a breeze.

And finally, the only way a trailer could plausibly fit in my garage workshop:

This trailer was a pain to put together, but is essential in my situation and I’m glad to have it.

3 comments so far

View Mike_D_S's profile


172 posts in 1633 days

#1 posted 06-26-2016 10:15 PM

Thanks for the post, I’ve been eyeballing that HF folding trailer for a while. I need a way to haul plywood and lumber that doesn’t involved borrowing the neighbor’s truck or waiting for him to need to be able to make a run. I hate to have to deal with a regular trailer and storing it for the one trip a month I would need it for.

But the folding trailer is a much more viable option as I rarely pick up more than 3 or 4 sheets of ply or maybe 100 BF of lumber in one go. With it folded I could get it all the way behind the shed, complying with the directive of it not being visible from the patio when SWMBO is sitting outside.

Good on the fly modifications to make sure you can fit a full sheet of ply.


-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View smozes's profile


6 posts in 118 days

#2 posted 06-27-2016 03:00 AM

Added a few more details.

WRT rolling it away, note that the casters are tiny, pretty rough and don’t inspire confidence beyond a few feet of rolling on smooth surface. They pretty much are only good for moving it into and out of storage position a few feet away.

Unfortunately upgrading the casters is not so simple. You might want larger ones, but that will require a modifications to a longer “leg” behind them that assists in standing the trailer up.

View JCinVA's profile


85 posts in 249 days

#3 posted 07-17-2016 05:13 PM

Great solutions to make the trailer work for your purposes.

To help with the locking carriage bolts, you could search for mid-length sockets that are between standard and deep well sockets, or find a socket that has a hex on the outside so you can turn it with a wrench.

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