Semi-off-road frame/suspension

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Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby bknowles86 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 12:18 am

Hey guys new to the forum. I am looking to build a custom teardrop to be pulled behind my Xterra. I don't do much serious offroading, and if I do, I plan to leave the trailer at camp. I'd like the option of pulling it along on some dirt roads and want it to look good behind my Xterra, so I'm thinking 31" wheels to match and a little bit of suspension, nothing serious. Anyone have any suggestions on frame/suspension?
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby titanpat57 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:03 am

If you want a proven frame, any military trailer like a M116A2 or a M101A2. Track width would be a great match for the Xterra.

You can install a new electric brake axle if you'd like, and cut off the hook/pintle hitch setup, and replace that with a multi axis hitch such as a Max Coupler or Lock and Roll.

I see lots of folks that build up and beef up these Harbour Freight frames, but after all the modifications and drama, they may as well bought a frame much more suited for rigorous use. If you watch Craigslist and a few assorted forms they're not hard to find.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby dales133 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:18 am

titanpat57 wrote:If you want a proven frame, any military trailer like a M116A2 or a M101A2. Track width would be a great match for the Xterra.

You can install a new electric brake axle if you'd like, and cut off the hook/pintle hitch setup, and replace that with a multi axis hitch such as a Max Coupler or Lock and Roll.

I see lots of folks that build up and beef up these Harbour Freight frames, but after all the modifications and drama, they may as well bought a frame much more suited for rigorous use. If you watch Craigslist and a few assorted forms they're not hard to find.

I'd be buying g a military trailer of building my own for what you want.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby tony.latham » Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:43 am

I build my frames out of 1/8" 2" square tubing and use #1500 Dexter's Torflex axles (22.5" downswing) wth 15" LT tires. They ride like a dream and have plenty of clearance for pulling off a two-rut road into a boondock campsite.

I've probably got more metal in this trailer than I need:

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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby KCStudly » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:42 am

Other than the track width being a little wider, I built my trailer with the same parameters, using a similar philosophy as Tony. Lots of details in my build thread linked below.

Matching 31 inch tires and wheels, over rated axle with big brakes, Jeep YJ rear leaf springs, Ruff Stuff hangers and spring plates, shock absorbers (should have gone with slightly longer shocks than the small RV type), bump stops, and a custom universal joint coupler.

I used 2x2x1/8 inch wall tubing for most of the main frame, 2x2 x 3/16 for the tongue and front xmbr, and L1-1/2 x 1/8 for the intermediate xmbers.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby KCStudly » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:55 am

Meant to add, IMO the military trailers are too over built (heavy), and not necessarily well configured for the typical TD designs (if you are going to scrap or modify most of it why bother?).
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby titanpat57 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:18 pm

KCStudly wrote:Meant to add, IMO the military trailers are too over built (heavy), and not necessarily well configured for the typical TD designs (if you are going to scrap or modify most of it why bother?).


The OP said he wanted to have the ability to go off road if need be....and I believe he wanted to match the Xterra wheels....maybe I misread it wrong.

When you see many of these frames designed for a lot of these tears around here, they will not stand up to a steady diet of any off road travel....maybe a gravel maintained fireroad at the very best.

The military frames are proven to withstand pretty much anything you throw at them. You mention they're too heavy...by what?....100 lbs.?....200l bs? Do you have any experience with using them? Have you ever personally modified one?

I'd much rather err on the side of my frame being able to withstand the forces being subjected on it ( if that's what I want it to be able to do), then find out it bent, or tore itself apart taking it over a trail. I realize not everyone wants to drag it through the woods or over the trails, but if they do, these frames are proven to withstand pretty much anything.

As far as not being fit for a teardrop, I don't think you have to look to far to see what companies like Adventure Trailers, or Socal Teardrops have done with heavy frames (the industry leaders for off road campers)....and I can guarantee they don't have one trailer frame built on 2x2 material.

You can find a M116A2 on CLmost times for $500 in nice shape...take off the surge brake, weld on a new tongue for a Max Coupler for around $350. Flip it over and weld a new 3" diameter Dexter electric brake axle, ordered to match the bolt pattern on the Xterra for another $350. So at the end of the day you have a flat bed trailer, a blank slate to build off of, for $1200 that you can drag anywhere and never,ever have to worry about overloading or breaking.

Peace of mind is tops in my list....that's why I have no fear dragging my trailer anywhere I feel it can fit.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby KCStudly » Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:10 am

Peace, brother.

Let's recap:
bknowles86 wrote:I don't do much serious offroading, and if I do, I plan to leave the trailer at camp. I'd like the option of pulling it along on some dirt roads ... nothing serious.


I stand by the advice I gave to the OP as being appropriate with regard to his request. IIRC I have about the same into my trailer and didn't have to deal with any crusty old parts thrown into the scrap bin, or design around as-built conditions. As a point of reference, my D35 with elec brakes, not assembled cost more like $450 all up.

If he had asked for the ultimate rock crushing go anywhere brute of a trailer with big fenders encroaching on the cabin space, then sure, a military trailer might have come into the mix.

I've seen a couple up close, but, nope, have never really gotten personal with one. Don't intend to, it's not how I wheel. I have seen other people post about them, including one gung-ho guy who, IIRC, jumped thru hoops to get one, paid more than he really wanted to, realized it was more work than he was up for, found that it forced too many restrictions on his cabin design, and didn't really like how heavy it was.

You pays your money you takes your choice. :thumbsup:
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby tony.latham » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:09 am

KCStudly wrote:Peace, brother.

Let's recap:
bknowles86 wrote:I don't do much serious offroading, and if I do, I plan to leave the trailer at camp. I'd like the option of pulling it along on some dirt roads ... nothing serious.


I stand by the advice I gave to the OP as being appropriate with regard to his request. IIRC I have about the same into my trailer and didn't have to deal with any crusty old parts thrown into the scrap bin, or design around as-built conditions. As a point of reference, my D35 with elec brakes, not assembled cost more like $450 all up.

If he had asked for the ultimate rock crushing go anywhere brute of a trailer with big fenders encroaching on the cabin space, then sure, a military trailer might have come into the mix.

I've seen a couple up close, but, nope, have never really gotten personal with one. Don't intend to, it's not how I wheel. I have seen other people post about them, including one gung-ho guy who, IIRC, jumped thru hoops to get one, paid more than he really wanted to, realized it was more work than he was up for, found that it forced too many restrictions on his cabin design, and didn't really like how heavy it was.

You pays your money you takes your choice. :thumbsup:


:thinking: :thumbsup:
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby glenpinpat » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:40 pm

I have a timbren "axle" on mine. I tow with a suzuki grand vitara and when ordered the "axles" I had my wheel hubs match my tow vehicle. They have several bolt patterns available. Though I have had limited use of the trailer(I am still building), it has performed extremely well and cost around 800.00. This included electric brakes. I have axle written in quotations as there is no axle, each side being independent with independent suspension. It was very easy to install and required no welding just drilling and bolting.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby angib » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:02 am

In addition to getting matching wheel bolt patterns, the wheel offset needs to be compatible and also the centre bore of the wheel. Relying on the trailer as a spare wheel source only works if the trailer wheels do actually fit the tow vehicle, and vice versa.

One major issue is the hub diameter of a trailer axle - it will generally be significantly bigger than the centre bore on a tow vehicle wheel, so interchangeability is likely to be one way only.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby bdosborn » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:46 am

M-116 Trailer, Cargo, 3/4 ton Specifications
Length, overall 147 in. (373.38 cm)
Width, overall 71.3 in. (181.1 cm)
Width, track 71.3 in. (181.1 cm)
Height, chassis 30 in. (76.2 cm)
Weight, empty 780 lb (354.12 kg)
Weight, maximum 3160 lb (1434.64 kg)

Spec Linky

Yup, it's a genuine boat anchor at 800 lbs and 6' wide. That's as much as some people's entire tear. I'd go the route Tony suggested and build a frame using an axle with a TV matching hub. Besides, the OP asked for a "Semi-off road frame", the M-116 is way overkill.

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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby Dave Nathanson » Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:39 pm

I've torn up my trailer frame on the way to/from camp. Wasn't doing any significant wheeling, just driving on the washboards roads of Saline Valley California. Yes, the frame actually tore, right where the leaf spring hangers were welded to the frame. After limping home, a friend & I repaired it with some angle iron welded all along the lower frame.
http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=32205#p728875
When I broke a leaf spring, I wasn't doing any especially scary off road either. But it was washboard again, this time in Baja Mexico.
viewtopic.php?f=39&t=10923&start=15#p414296

The tongue broke on a different Baja trip, again, nothing a 4 wheel drive magazine would consider "interesting" but it wasn't smooth asphalt either.
Anyway, my point is that just because you EXPECT to not break anything, that doesn't actually protect you against breaking stuff. Like my friend that didn't bring any camping gear, and no shoes "because it was only a 1 day trip"... Until he got 2 flat tires & had to spend the night.

Off road, even dirt roads, are way tougher on a trailer than smoooooth highways. So build for that. (Or you may find yourself repairing stuff on the trail, as I have). You just never know what you're going to be up against until you get there! :-)
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby Socal Tom » Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:24 pm

My TD frame is primaily 2x2 angle iron, with a 2x2 tongue . It uses leaf springs ( 1500Lb total capacity). I towed it accross the mojave road ( 110 miles of dirt road whoop de doos etc). It shouldn't take an over engineered frame to go down a dirt road now and then. One thing that is some what unique about mine, is that the four sides sit on top of the frame, so the bolts holding the body don't have to hold it up. To some extent the body doesn't seem all the stress of the road.
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Re: Semi-off-road frame/suspension

Postby KCStudly » Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:08 pm

Dave Nathanson wrote:I've torn up my trailer frame on the way to/from camp. Wasn't doing any significant wheeling, just driving on the washboards roads of Saline Valley California. Yes, the frame actually tore, right where the leaf spring hangers were welded to the frame.


In the pic of the spring hanger torn from the frame, I can't be sure but it looks like the hanger may have only been welded at the front and back of the hanger, and maybe not along the sides. If so, do you think that may have been a factor?

I'm curious about the driving conditions and typical rates of speed, too. Not especially scary vs. "dropping into 16 inch whoops" at what speed?

Not trying to be controversial, just trying to get a better feel for where the limits are. :thumbsup:
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