Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Converting Cargo Trailers into TTTs

Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:04 pm

Hello,

I'm a longtime lurker and have been on the fence about a cargo trailer purchase for a long time. I've pulled utility trailers with my VWs for nearly 20 years. Early yesterday morning, I was taking a leisurely drive down a quiet highway and saw a silver 4x6 with a "For Sale" sign on it. Brand new, these list for more than I prefer to pay for such a small trailer. But this one was too good to pass. So I contacted the owner, made a deal, and pulled it home after finding a 2-inch ball:

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The owner had only had it for a year and was using it to haul around products for a clothing business. So it's very clean inside; she even left me the carpet, which will soon have a layer of foam padding beneath it:

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Now that I've made the plunge, I can see myself pulling a few overnighters in it from time to time, particularly in pursuit of some nighttime and wildlife photos. The floor is 75" long at the center; I'm 72" tall. I'm brainstorming ways to add ventilation and a window, most likely via fold-down panel at the back of the trailer. I'm not in a rush for electricity. That can wait. But I have one question for now...

There's a sticker in the back which reads, "WARNING: Do not sleep in this area. Failure to comply may result in death or serious injury." Is there really a problem with oxygen deprivation in cargo trailers? I suspect teardrop campers seal-up just as well... do they have this concern? Or is this just a blanket warning to avoid the potential of someone sleeping with a propane heater inside? The wood doesn't stink, so I don't think it's a chemical warning. Please share your thoughts.

I have more photos and a brief write-up at https://stealthgti.com/2016-homesteader ... o-trailer/.

Thanks!

Scott
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby tac422 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:59 pm

It is a real concern, please read here:

www.tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=40667
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby flboy » Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:20 pm

I suspect that is on there because there are no vents or secondary exit. Put a nice window in it and a vent that stays open always and you will be fine at least from an oxygen perspective. It is such a small space. Maybe use a window that is also an emergency exit. The key is to not be air tight with fixed ventilation and good egress.

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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:07 pm

Thanks for the notes, guys! I will certainly put a set of passive vents on the sides and add a Fantastic Fan to the panel I plan to build. Progress will be slow since it's not a high priority... or fast since I'm not doing much to the trailer. :lol:
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:54 pm

Hello,

I can't believe it's been a year already. I'm a slow planner, but I think I'm ready to do some work. I've used the trailer to transport a few bulky items that needed protection from the weather. Other than that, the trailer usually sits at home. Sometime during the course of having work done on my home, one of the (many) contractors working on my property decided that the trailer's aluminum fenders make great seats. It's both bent in the middle and pulled away at the front edge where there's no attachment due to lack of a structural member...

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Apparently, the label "NO STEP" does not mean "NO SEAT." I discovered the bent fenders weeks after the work had been done. So I only have a vague idea of who might've done it. The recent weather compelled me to do some trailer maintenance, starting with lubing the hubs and repainting the frame/suspension...

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Then replacing the fenders...

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These fenders have a splash guard which happens to make them quite sturdy. I don't consider them sturdy enough to sit on, but they're much stronger than the original aluminum. Regardless, I don't want anyone sitting on them and I don't think larger "NO STEP/NO SEAT" signs will fix stupid. I think these bird deterrents may persuade all but the truly impaired to sit somewhere else (this is my utility trailer)...
:twisted:
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I'm going to wait until I've refinished the cargo trailer's exterior before adding these gems to the fenders. ;) Now that I have a mod-bug for my trailer and motivated to do some work, much of which needs to happen before I can refinish the exterior, I've purchased some supplies and started toward the goal of creating a stealthy sleeper of sorts.

My first action was to strip off the excessive branding on the walls. In the process, I discovered that the finish is very fragile. So I will have the trailer wrapped to match my tow vehicle after my other work is done. For now, I've only managed to paint the upper and lower trim pieces in gloss black to sort of tie-in the gloss black fenders. I think it has improved the looks a hair...

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I still need to do some wet sanding to smooth the surface so the wrap sticks better. But I have to let the rain pass first. Next, I will remove the interior walls to prepare for some very light electrical work.

Being only a 4x6' trailer, I don't need to run power along an entire wall. I plan to drill a hole in the rear third of the driver's side for a 115V power inlet. I have a NOCO GCP1 that I will tie to a single GFCI outlet on the interior wall. I suspect the only time I'll use 115V is on a rare occasion when I might want to run a small heater. I don't think I will camp during "AC weather." But I may surprise myself. I will also tie the 115V circuit to a 5A battery tender so that I can top-off the battery before trips.

I have a tentative plan to put a 100-Ah AGM deep cycle battery under the floor near the rear driver's side corner (or closer to the axle for better balance). I'm still brainstorming how I want to mount it. I don't expect to have a high 12V demand... just a roof fan, a light or two, and USB powered items. I'm leaving myself open to the idea of adding solar inputs, too.

I hope to be able to provide more frequent updates now that I'm more committed to getting this done. For now, I have two questions about the electrical stuff that I didn't find during a search:

1) Some of the prominent schematics I've seen here seem to show that many are running dedicated negative (black) wires for each 12V circuit back to the battery. I suspect that's because most TDs are made from wood. In our cargo trailers with metal structures, can't we just ground each circuit to a steel member?

2) Having the NOCO GCP1 tied directly to a GFCI outlet would seem to behave a bit like an extension cord. My first thought was to just connect the bare wires of the GCP1 to the outlet. However, since I'm planning to tie the circuit to a battery tender, and the 12V as a result, should the green screw in the outlet also be tied to the trailer's metal structure?

I'm very familiar with 12V circuits in my car and 115V circuits in my house, but dealing with both in a mobile environment has me scratching my head just a little. :thinking:

Thanks!

Scott
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby flboy » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:26 pm

Glad you are back at it.

On #1, you can use the chassis for the DC return if your chassis is continuous meaning welded together (assuming it is) and you are tying your battery negative to the chassis also. Regardless, on a 4*6 with only a few circuits, not much advantage with wire savings, so may as well home run the grounds to a common bus bar.

On #2, I am not following you completely, but get an opinion from a liscensed electrician.. Grounding for AC earth ground and a properly functioning GFCI breaker isn't something you want to get wrong.

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YouTube Video of Finished 7*18 with 2ft V-nose Trailer:

https://youtu.be/MUcMM86LA2g
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:09 pm

Thanks for your input. I'll draw a schematic to share here and with an electrician.
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:29 pm

I forgot to share some minor progress.

The trailer came with carpet that just sets in place. I decided to add E-Tracks to the floor. Walls will happen after electric and insulation. I added foam flooring to keep the carpet flat. That should make life a tad easier on the knees. ;) Here are some photos:

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The carpet is in two sections. I need only rotate the two pieces 90 degrees to expose and use the E-Track. I'm not sure if the carpet is very practical in my application, but I'll keep it for a while since it came with the trailer. I suppose it and foam provide some level of insulation.
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby aggie79 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:36 pm

Nice trailer find and start of construction!
Tom (& Linda)
For more on our Silver Beatle teardrop:
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:43 pm

Thanks!

The rain has let up for a few hours. So I was able to get some work done after work today. My first move was to sand the exterior to 600-grit, which should be plenty smooth for a wrap, especially if I hit it with a polisher first....

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Next, I decided to remove an interior wall so I could assess installing my GCP1. I did not enjoy ANY of this job. HAHA! There was a strange mix of Phillips head screws and double-square screws. It was annoying, especially since I can't see the heads so well. The rear flashing came out first. Here's the electrical stuff I'm looking to improve:

GIANT hole where the lighting enters... it's not even round, so I'll have to get creative with a grommet...

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Here's where the wiring almost immediately splits into separate paths...

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I'll find a way to tidy that wiring, especially the wires next to the screws. I don't like some of the routing for lights. I have some terminal blocks that should do the the trick. I think the most annoying feature, although it looks nice enough, is that the walls are trimmed with the soft wood (not sure what it is), all of which covers some of the screws on the wall. The trim pieces are stapled into place with tiny brads of some sort. The trim is fragile and I wound up breaking a piece. :x

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I'm not sure if I'll put the trim back in place. I want to be able to access those wall screws anytime.

When I finally got the wall off (after fighting with the RTV bead on the floor), I was fairly disappointed to discover that the steel structure is not painted at all... bare metal and RUST...

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Then I put my GCP1 against the outer skin to check its clearance for the wall. This was discouraging...

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BUT - I think it can gain some clearance by putting the GCP1 in the rear corner where the flashing curves and provides extra clearance. Imagine the flashing following the path of the carpet...

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Then I could snake the wire behind the wall where my slim wall outlet would reside. BTW, this close-up view of the wiring hole has me wondering if this allows moisture inside to promote rust. I'm not sure if the wall vents do the same (humidity). I also wonder about that horizontal crossmember near the top of the photo. How far off the floor do most mount their outlets? Perhaps I should put my GCP1 and outlet ABOVE that member. The crossmember isn't even a foot from the floor.

That's all of the photos I took and my only progress today. It's supposed to rain all weekend. So I'm not sure if I'll accomplish anything else until Monday. I need to do some thinking and scheming. :D

Take Care!

Scott
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:33 pm

Hello,

I had an hour of clear weather when I got home and managed to remove the other walls. I wasn't worried about being delicate with the trim pieces since I knew they'd break anyway. As a result, my progress was faster. With everything out, I was able to get a better look at the electrical. Oddly enough, the lighting harness comes in on the driver's side (shown above), immediately splits for the left tail light and left rear marker light. Then it all comes together to route over the door and to the passenger side.

Once on the passenger side, it splits again for the rear tail light. Much to my surprise, the white ground wire splits off and (after a color change) is attached to the chassis. That seems like a strange place. But the perfectly round and unused open hole on the passenger side is even more strange...

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From the tail light, the lighting circuit continues to the right rear marker light, a dome light on the wall (which had to come out to remove the wall), up to the right front marker light (which is where I would have ended the circuit), and then around the front of the trailer to the left front marker light. I knew there was some weird stuff going on with the wire routing since there were parts where the wires were run in the open as they went around frame members.

I didn't get many photos because it started to rain and I had to suddenly close the trailer. I have some ideas of what I want to do next. I think I'm going to use this bolt as a grounding point:

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This is one of the bolts for the cam bar lock. Being threaded into the structure should get a solid point. But I will also scrape some paint from the area and put a wire lug under a nut. Then I'll start working on a wiring plan. Before that, I will vacuum the debris from all the crevasses and get a better look at the floor in the daylight (after the rain).

Something else I noticed was the "workmanship" around the front edge of the floor. It looks like it was cut with a very dull blade and is splintered all over. There's even daylight shining through in some edges. I'm not sure if it's worth replacing the floor. With the walls out, now is when it would be easiest, I guess. But the ugly parts are covered by the front wall and flashing. The slits of light can be filled with RTV. The part of the floor that is not under trim panels is in perfect shape, as is the underside of the floor. So is it really necessary?

I hope to share more photos soon.

Scott
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Pmullen503 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:07 pm

What are you going to do about a door?
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:54 pm

I've considered two options for the rear door:

1) I wanted to install an RV door latch in addition to the cam bar lock. But I'm not sure I want to cut a hole in the frame for the latch bolt. I also don't know if the door is thick enough to house the latch properly. I've also read about a lot of the aftermarket latches failing. It seems that they usually fail at the key lock, which then locks owners OUT. I don't think I've read about anyone having been locked IN. If I go this route, I'd probably never use the keys, but I'd lock the dead bolt while inside.

2) I have an idea for a swing-down rear wall with a tear drop door. My rear door opening is 38x45. I think a 26x36" teardrop door will fit perfectly on a 38x45 swing-down wall. I'd slap a padlock on the cam bar lock to disable it and then latch the trailer door in the open position against the fender. IF the teardrop latch fails, I'd be able to simply swing the rear wall up to exit.

My primary reason for this path is that the trailer is a cargo trailer first and foremost. I need it to be functional for moving cargo. I don't expect to install permanent furniture or cabinets. I also want it to LOOK like a cargo trailer. I'm a fan of a stealth approach. I don't plan to "stealth camp" in my trailer. But I want it to be stealth in that it looks like a simple cargo trailer when I'm not camping.

This "stealth" approach is why I probably won't install windows and why I'm leaning more toward the swingdown wall with teardrop door. The teardrop door will easily act as a window and its screens will allow plenty of airflow, especially if I install a roof fan.
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Pmullen503 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 1:25 pm

I like option #2. I think I would make it swing up, hinged at the floor. That way it could lay on the floor while traveling.

But for option #1, I once built a new rear door for a friend's CT with a box on it for extra long stuff he wanted to carry. We copied the door so it would use the stock hinges and latch. Made from plywood and covered with PMF. You could do the same but with an RV door.
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Re: Another Tiny Cargo Trailer Sleeper...

Postby Stealth TDI » Sat Feb 23, 2019 2:52 pm

I managed to take a few photos this morning.

Here is the splintered front edge of the floor I mentioned last night...

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The carpet is still sitting where the bottom of the wall used to run. So there's plenty of room for insulation. I was suspicious of a leak when I saw the wrinkling of the cardboard at the top of the front wall. So I used today's rain as an opportunity to inspect for leaks. I found evidence of an old leak, perhaps during construction. But it's all dry now...

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I did manage to spot this leak near the left front marker light...

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Water pools on the roof above the light. So it may be a roof leak instead of a leak at the light. I will need to do some sealing when I install a roof fan. So that'll be a good time to strip the roof and just reseal the whole thing.

Oh - I mentioned the slits of light at the floor. Here's what I meant...

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Looking at it in better light, I can see why the wood is cut the way it is. It's faster to cut and easier to install. If I replace the floor, I would cut the replacement this way myself. But I will probably squirt some sealant in there to close off the opening (same on both sides). I happen to have a photo of the underside. I found this surprise when I was knocking out rust on the frame...

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Comparing the inside to the outside, I understand how this oversight happened. RTV to to the rescue! :R But nothing more can happen until the rain stops. I think Monday will be good.
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