Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer


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tom84std
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Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:02 am



I know this is the Goldwing Forum and I'm really not using the trailer with a Goldwing, but it's summer and a lot of you guys are planning trips and some of you are using a trailer. I built a trailer to use with my 79 GL1000 in 2001. Using the Thule Cartop Carrier and homebuilt chassis.

As you can see, I didn't make the distance between the axle and the hitch long enough. This made the trailer a little bit unstable to pull. A longer tongue would have eliminated this problem.
Still, I pulled the trailer about 15,000 miles with the 1000. I gave it to one of the guys on the forum. I thought I was done with motorcycle trailers.
On a camping trip last month, the new wife said "Sure would be nice to have more stuff."
I figured :Bigger bike. 100 lbs heavier. Almost twice the engine. More power. She's got her own bike. No passenger. Sure, why not.
I saw the Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer. Bought one. Built a hitch. Started working on the trailer.
It's got a much longer tongue than my first attempt. Much more stable.
Small tires. You can replace them with the Northern Tool 12" spoke tires/wheels if you choose.
The spindle nuts were TIGHT! You must set the preload properly.
The grease inside the hub is too little and low quality. Fill the hubs with good grease. There are zerk fittings installed.
I attached a steel cage onto the tongue for a cooler. Tongue weight. You don't have to pay as much attention to load distribution. Still needs to be around 15% of total weight.
I added 2 X 2's bolted to the floor to keep the load from slipping and shifting on the slippery trailer floor. Cargo nets to make sure.
Friction reducing material on the leaf spring sliding rears. I used Micarta. Teflon strips would be good. Just some grease if nothing else.
I added a rotating tongue hitch. Will rotate a full 360* if you lay the bike down and not destroy the hitch coupler. I know about this from experience. Hard lesson learned.
Put the incandescent lamps which come with the trailer on your shelf. Use LED lights and do the bike's charging system a favor. I went through a lot of trouble with my 1000's alternator trying in vain to keep up with the tail and marker lights on my first trailer.
I removed one leaf spring from each side and it's plenty stiff enough for the load.

The Harbor Freight Trailer is great, but it's not ready right out of the box. It needs a few things done to it before you can hitch it up and go on vacation with any confidence.



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HawkeyeGL1200
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby HawkeyeGL1200 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:43 am

I'd like to see a few detailed pictures of your trailer hitch, if you don't mind sharing how you built it. I've been thinking about buying one of those trailers for a while now and the first project I'd have to complete is the building or buying of a decent hitch. I've got no idea how sturdy to build the bracket for the bike. I'd also like to see some photos of the entire bike you have there :-)
I am wrong as often as I am right concerning what is wrong with someone else' motorcycle without having seen the machine in person. Guessing with limited information, as to the source of the trouble, is sketchy at best.

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tom84std
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:37 am

Hawkeye, the bike is a 2002 VTX. Not really intended much for the trailer type of crowd although you can find hitches for them. Like I said, with a hitch and tongue which will not rotate, you can really mangle the hitch if you lay the bike down. I did. Never again. My hitch swivels freely.
I chose not to install the standard 1 7/8" hitchball coupler which came with the trailer. I used a 3/4" Hiem Clevis and built a coupler to attach to the trailer's rectangular tube.

On my Goldwing hitch I used the rear shock bolts and two other bolts to attach the hitch to the frame. It was really good and strong but resembled a wheelie bar on a drag bike. The R model VTX had a big fat swoopy fender with lots of room inside to hide it. I attached the hitch to four bolts which hold the fender and replaced the fender subframe with the hitch itself. I used 7/16" grade eight bolts and rethreaded the forged frame fittings to match the SAE hardware.

I can remove the two 1/2" bolts holding the hitch to the hitch frame and it's truly invisible.

I cut the fender mounting points from the fender subframe which is now unused. Welded them to the hitch itself, which will stay with the bike.
The big fender hides everything. I can remove the farthest aft platform with two bolts and nothing at all is visible.

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HawkeyeGL1200
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby HawkeyeGL1200 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:42 am

Thank you very much for posting the photos (so quickly, too). I like what you built, especially the fact that it's hidden by the rear fender. I'm going to have to look at how I can attach a hitch to mine.

Nice looking rig you have there too...
I am wrong as often as I am right concerning what is wrong with someone else' motorcycle without having seen the machine in person. Guessing with limited information, as to the source of the trouble, is sketchy at best.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby Dogsled » Sun Jun 07, 2015 12:08 pm

I have a HF trailer with the 5 lug wheels.....I pull my canoe with it. I wouldn't go very far with it even though the canoe and mounting stuff weigh practically nothing. Here is my issues. The tires are not rated for high speed and not safe. I pulled a bearing and went to my local bearing ditributor and he said they were just......yard tractor quality. I bought high quality bearings and had a hard time finding 3 high speed rated tires in that size. Main thing, don't forget to get a spare tire....
Even the zerk fittings were junk on mine and caused me to worry. It blew the little bearing out of both zerks they were so cheap ang have to be replaced after grease comes squirting back out. My fear always was theose little bearings being in the grease and somehow getting in between two bearings and chewing them up......I just think of this stuff doing 60 mph.....and I was pulling with a van....lord if I was on a bike. So if you got any concerns, add the price of the tires and bearing to the initial cost and be safe.
"Fight until hell freezes over, then fight on the ice"

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tom84std
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 07, 2015 12:10 pm

No problem Hawkeye. You probably won't have much trouble finding something for your bike. More stuff was made for the Goldwing as they are the premiere touring bike and so there's a lot more demand. The VTX is a wonderful machine but for whatever reason they are a dead-end model. Hard to find aftermarket stuff for them.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby f1xrupr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:46 am

I I I I I I LIKE IT!!!
I seen a t-shirt once that read,"Redneck stretched Lemo", and it had a picture of an old pick-up truck pulling a homade trailer made from another old pick-up truck.....I can't think of a better idea for a good old motorcycle, than to make it a good old motorcycle pick-up!!!

.......sorry about that-I get carried away sometimes...
My exercise bike is a goldwing.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:43 am

heres a redneck motorhome for ya....



tom84, one question, from the front of the trailer frame to the end of the tounge where the ball goes, how long is the tounge on your trailer?

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 3:22 pm

or this one....



or this one....



or this one....



and if you need to go to the jon while your on the road, maybe this would work....



now back to my main question....tom84, one question, from the front of the trailer frame to the end of the tounge where the ball goes, how long is the tounge on your trailer?

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby f1xrupr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 3:47 pm

roadwanderer2 wrote:
roadwanderer2 wrote:heres a redneck motorhome for ya....http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=red ... ajaxhist=0

or this one....http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=JN.6YzFJj ... 9&rs=0&p=0

or this one....http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=JN.%2bqni ... 9&rs=0&p=0

or this one....http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=JN.KbKOZ2 ... 9&rs=0&p=0

and if you need to go to the jon while your on the road, maybe this would work....http://ts4.mm.bing.net/th?id=JN.If10QvK ... =4&pid=1.1

now back to my main question....tom84, one question, from the front of the trailer frame to the end of the tounge where the ball goes, how long is the tounge on your trailer?

stuart.
Man...that stuff looks dangerous!!
My exercise bike is a goldwing.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:12 pm

thought you'd get a kick out of seeing those. Tom84, i still need an answer to my question to you about the length of the tounge on your trailer.

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Fri Jun 12, 2015 6:51 am

Roadwanderer, I built the last one from scratch. Having no experience at the time in pulling trailers with motorcycles, I made the tongue too short and axle too far forward. The Harbor Freight trailer has the axle located very close to the rear of the trailer. It also has a fairly long tongue. This makes for a very stable arrangement. When I added the swivel coupler to this trailer, I added about a foot to the overall length of the tongue just to be sure. Reduces tongue weight by adding leverage and the leverage adds stability by isolating the bike's feedback from the trailer side-to-side forces. There's an overall side view in the post.
This whole train of thought began in the parking lot of Royal Gorge Colorado in 2005. A guy had a trailer attached to a big Yamaha. The axle was way back and the tongue was long. I looked at it, compared it to mine. I knew right there that the next one I build will have a much longer tongue and farther aft axle.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:01 am

now see, there's where my problem is, since i bought this H.F. trailer used from someone else, the trailer tounge was cut down to make it shorter, so i don't know what the original length is supposed to be. if worse comes to worse, i'll have to go get a piece of square box iron and either bolt or weld it to the existing tounge to make it longer.

maybe i can give harbor freight or the manufacture a call and find out from them the measurement of the trailer tounge.

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby f1xrupr » Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:49 am

Hey Roadwanderer, maybe you could find a piece of steel that fits the ID or the OD of your existing tongue, and drill a series of holes to form an adjustable tongue, to allow you to find compatibility for your particular application(s).
I believe it is a safe assumption to assume that, the trailer manufacture will not be able to give you any information relative to a motorcycle application, unless they are a motorcycle trailer manufacturer, and even then, would only be able to render "helpful" information in relation to a trailer manufactured for a motorcycle.....don't you think?
I can see how a long wheel baced trailer would give stability on the highway, but, I would caution excessive "tongue weight", for reasons of instability at low speeds, front wheel braking power, and, hitch tongue weight limitations.
It seems to me, that you might fair better, to study " motorcycle" trailer construction, rather than ...."other".....?
My exercise bike is a goldwing.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:59 am

hey f1xr.

i have the owners manual for the trailer, but it doesn't show me the length of the tow bar itself, so im gonna call the manufacture and find out from them what the measurements are and then i'll go and get another piece that's the correct length bolt it onto the frame and take it from there one step at a time. once i get the new tow bar and coupler on it, i can connect it to my bike and see how it handles.

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:12 am

Roadwanderer it's been a couple of days since I've been on the forum. Trailer axle-to-trailer coupling is 6'.......That trailer coupling pivot point-to motorcycle rear axle is 2' .
I have no way to measure my previous trailer since the bike and trailer are long gone, but I can guess from memory: Motorcycle rear axle-to-trailer coupler was about 3'. Trailer coupler-to-trailer axle was about 4.5'
On a long straight road across a valley floor in Colorado, there was a 90* crosswind. No problem at all...except for the trucks.
A truck headed the other direction would cause a buffet effect which yanked the hinged bike/trailer causing a fishtail effect. "Unnerving" is a nice word to use on the forum, although at the time I was using much more colorful language.
The setup I'm running now places the hinge point much closer to the towing axle. Much farther from the towed axle. Should be much more stable. I could run that road now with this setup and probably have much lower blood pressure.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:30 am

'morning tom84:

i like the idea of lower blood pressure while towing a trailer, trust em. last time i towed my trailer up at highway speed,(approx. 60mph) it started fishtailing so bad i thought i was gonna loose it. luckily i was able to slow down quick enough to get everything back under control. the tow bar on my trailer is no where near 6'. i'll have to measure it then get it replaced.

thanks for the info on this. i appreciate it.

stuart.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:53 am

Stuart I've fishtailed a trailer twice in my lifetime. I mean uncontrollably fishtailed. The first time it resulted in a jackknife and was with a Suburban pulling an improperly loaded utility trailer. The second time was with my Goldwing when I first built the trailer we've been talking about. Also loaded improperly. I've heard 15% is a good rule of thumb. Tongue weight at least 15% of total trailer weight.
Given the measurements I quoted earlier, you can see that the axle on the last trailer was pretty close to center. This new one has the axle much farther to the rear. This will make it almost impossible to load incorrectly, and keep tongue weight where it should be. Add to that the tongue distance is much farther and that alone adds a lot of stability. I paraphrase, Albert Einstein said only an idiot doesn't learn from past mistakes. Both of my fishtailing episodes were caused by the trailer tongue being too light.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:50 am

the last time i had my trailer on my bike it was totally empty, and when i got up to around 65mph, it started swingin back and forth, but i managed to get it back under control, so now when i have it hooked to the bike, i don't ride over 50mph loaded or empty. im gonna get another tow bar that's at LEAST 6' long and attach it to the trailer and see how it reacts. i think your right, this tow bar is way to short to keep it stable.

below is an old pic, but you can see how short the distance between the bike and the trailer is.

stuart.
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby tom84std » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:15 pm

The time it swayed with me was early one morning the first time I towed it on the highway. I had bolted the spare under the back. When I got to work I moved the spare to inside the trailer and in front. I always made sure I had most of the weight in front and never had another problem. I learned a valuable lesson though. Keep that tongue heavier than the rear. I also learned a lesson about where to put the axle in relation to trailer center but mainly that my trailer tongue was too short. This Harbor Freight trailer has the axle very close to the rear of the trailer and the tongue is much longer. We hopefully learn from our mistakes.
Your trailer looks to be very similar to my first one but better. Add some tongue length and I think it would be ideal. I added a cooler rack to the tongue of mine. It's more than a convenience there, it's stability insurance.

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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby AZgl1800 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:37 pm

Dogsled wrote:I have a HF trailer with the 5 lug wheels.....I pull my canoe with it. I wouldn't go very far with it even though the canoe and mounting stuff weigh practically nothing. Here is my issues. The tires are not rated for high speed and not safe. I pulled a bearing and went to my local bearing ditributor and he said they were just......yard tractor quality. I bought high quality bearings and had a hard time finding 3 high speed rated tires in that size. Main thing, don't forget to get a spare tire....
Even the zerk fittings were junk on mine and caused me to worry. It blew the little bearing out of both zerks they were so cheap ang have to be replaced after grease comes squirting back out. My fear always was theose little bearings being in the grease and somehow getting in between two bearings and chewing them up......I just think of this stuff doing 60 mph.....and I was pulling with a van....lord if I was on a bike. So if you got any concerns, add the price of the tires and bearing to the initial cost and be safe.



To go along with the above, I found a source for High Speed tires that are available in both 4.80 and 5.70 width sizes for 8 inch wheels.
Set the wheel size you want and select ALL... some of them are 6 and 8 ply.

They offer up several types of tread designs, so just choose your poison as to what you want.

http://www.boattrailertires.com/
John
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daughter named her Big Bird :lol:
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Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:39 pm

tom84std wrote:The time it swayed with me was early one morning the first time I towed it on the highway. I had bolted the spare under the back. When I got to work I moved the spare to inside the trailer and in front. I always made sure I had most of the weight in front and never had another problem. I learned a valuable lesson though. Keep that tongue heavier than the rear. I also learned a lesson about where to put the axle in relation to trailer center but mainly that my trailer tongue was too short. This Harbor Freight trailer has the axle very close to the rear of the trailer and the tongue is much longer. We hopefully learn from our mistakes.
Your trailer looks to be very similar to my first one but better. Add some tongue length and I think it would be ideal. I added a cooler rack to the tongue of mine. It's more than a convenience there, it's stability insurance.


when i bolted this cargo pod onto the trailer, the trailer was about a foot longer than the pod in the front, so i cut that one foot off the trailer and rebolted the front rail so the trailer would match the length of the pod. im gonna replace the tow bar and see how it reacts once i get it back on the road.

stuart.

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roadwanderer2
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Motorcycle: 83 GL1100A aspencade, previously owned, 1981 honda GL500i silverwing interstate, 1974 yamaha xs400, 1974 Honda cb450 twin cam, 1983 honda vt30, 1982 honda 700 shadow, 1972 cb750four, and my first bike, a brand new 1982 honda CM400e. and a new to me 1986 GL1200 aspencade SEi
Contact:

Re: Harbor Freight Tag-Along Trailer

Postby roadwanderer2 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:41 pm

AZgl1500 wrote:
Dogsled wrote:I have a HF trailer with the 5 lug wheels.....I pull my canoe with it. I wouldn't go very far with it even though the canoe and mounting stuff weigh practically nothing. Here is my issues. The tires are not rated for high speed and not safe. I pulled a bearing and went to my local bearing ditributor and he said they were just......yard tractor quality. I bought high quality bearings and had a hard time finding 3 high speed rated tires in that size. Main thing, don't forget to get a spare tire....
Even the zerk fittings were junk on mine and caused me to worry. It blew the little bearing out of both zerks they were so cheap ang have to be replaced after grease comes squirting back out. My fear always was theose little bearings being in the grease and somehow getting in between two bearings and chewing them up......I just think of this stuff doing 60 mph.....and I was pulling with a van....lord if I was on a bike. So if you got any concerns, add the price of the tires and bearing to the initial cost and be safe.



To go along with the above, I found a source for High Speed tires that are available in both 4.80 and 5.70 width sizes for 8 inch wheels.
Set the wheel size you want and select ALL... some of them are 6 and 8 ply.

They offer up several types of tread designs, so just choose your poison as to what you want.

http://www.boattrailertires.com/


thanks for the tip on the tires AZ, i'll take a look at them on the link you gave me.

stuart.




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