There are number of elements that make motorcycle touring difficult for the 9-to-5’ing downtown motorcyclist. Time off work, storage capacity, financial constraints, being at the mercy of Mother Nature. All of these can make a would-be traveling motorcyclist a little hesitant to get out of Dodge.
Last year I bought a 2012 Jeep Patriot Limited 4×4. The seats fold flat, even the front passenger, and I can easily fit a twin size air mattress in there. While I appreciate a vehicle that I can sleep in and live out of comfortably for a few days at a time, it’s still not a motorcycle. But what if I could have my cake, and eat it too?
The idea of a trailer for bringing the bike along for the adventure just seemed fitting.
Despite finding a house fit for motorcycling, and buying it when I was 25, I still had two problems: Space, and money. Harbor Freight’s 1200 lb capacity folding trailer answered both of those. When it went on sale for $259.99 USD, I drove south from Toronto, Canada, to Niagara Falls, NY, to buy it.
The concept is wonderful, but in practice, this is a flawed trailer. Luckily, with a few modifications you can make it the kick ass motorcycle hauling trailer you need. Here is Part 1 of the tips and tricks and secrets that the instruction manual didn’t want you to know.
Squaring the frame
Having everything square will help your trailer ride straight, meaning less uneven wear on your tires and less likelihood of other potential issues down the road.
There are a few things to do to make squaring the frame easier while you work:
- Don’t tighten any one corner fully until you’ve gently tightened all corners
- Hand tighten rather than tighten with a drill or an impact wrench until you’re ready
- Start with one corner, and then work on the opposite corner next, and so on
And some tips to help you find / get it square:
- Measure the distance from one set of opposite corners to the other, they should be equal
- Smash the corners with a rubber mallet and then measure again
- Once you’ve gotten squared up, begin slowly tightening up your bolts one final time and rechecking
- Buying an actual speed square tool from the hardware store or from Amazon can be helpful as well
Protect and weatherproof the ground wire
If you follow the instructions, your ground wire is simply wrapped around a “self-tapping” screw. In all honesty, the screw can’t chew through the aluminum frame to save its life, and I don’t like exposed wiring, so take out a power drill and a soldering iron.
- Drill the hole in the frame slightly larger so the screw will actually chew into the frame nice and snug
- Take the end of the ground wire and solder it to an o-ring ground wire
- Wrap the whole thing with shrink wrap for protection and weatherproofing
Avoid pinched turn signal wires
The manual also calls for wiring to run between the plywood trailer deck, and the Harbor Freight folding trailer’s frame. Years of motorcycling teaches that a pinched wire will always cause headaches at the most inopportune time, so I’ve decided to avoid it whenever possible.
- Grab your power drill and drill a hole in the side of the trailer by the turn signal and using a narrow bit, widen the hole just a bit.
- Run your turn signal wires through there, and then match light colors (brown wire to brown wire, yellow wire to yellow wire).
- Do this on both sides.
Getting an even plywood deck, despite the corner bolts
The corners of the Harbor Freight folding trailer are held together by thick, obnoxious bolts. Because of this, if you simply lay down your plywood, it would curl up in the corners and look cheap. We can fix that.
- If you’re using 3/4″ plywood for your Harbor Freight Folding Trailer build use a handsaw to cut two corners out of each 4′ by 4′ piece of plywood
- Make both notches about 3/8″ deep to account for the bolt head so that your plywood has the appearance of being whole and sitting flush
Towing Tuesdays! is a weekly column for anyone who’s ever even thought about getting their motorcycle from Point A to Point B without riding it. Whether you’re taking it to the shop downtown, or hauling ass outta town, this weekly column is guaranteed to put tongues to balls. Trailer tongues. Hitch balls. Come back next week for even more bad trailer puns.
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