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Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Tips & Tricks | Towing Tuesdays!

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.

Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Build Tips

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

Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Ground Wire

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.

  1. Drill the hole in the frame slightly larger so the screw will actually chew into the frame nice and snug
  2. Take the end of the ground wire and solder it to an o-ring ground wire
  3. Wrap the whole thing with shrink wrap for protection and weatherproofing

Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Turn Signal Wire Relocation

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Run your turn signal wires through there, and then match light colors (brown wire to brown wire, yellow wire to yellow wire).
  3. Do this on both sides.

Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Corner Wedges

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.

  1. 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
  2. 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

Harbor Freight Folding Trailer *TOWING TUESDAYS!*

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.

Check out all of our Towing Tuesdays! articles right here!

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

10 comments

  1. RT @YouMotorcycle: TOWING TUESDAYS! Harbor Freight Folding Trailer Tips and Tricks https://t.co/Qtm2rW7YmS https://t.co/eebPhzSiIs

  2. Very nice post!

  3. John David Bellmore

    Rather than cutting the corners why not just drill them for the bolt head size? You could drill half way through, hiding the bolt, or all the way through giving access to the bolt to check tightness later. Even on a folding trailer you could use eye bolts for corner tie down points. When folded you could tie or link them together to secure the trailer in folded position by using a carabiner.

    • Great comment! Thought about it at the time and didn’t go that route because I had invested a lot of time in making sure the trailer was 100% square and didn’t want to risk throwing it off at all and having to resquare it again.

      • John David Bellmore

        Square the trailer and do one corner at a time. only remove the top bolt, not the side as well. I have had one of the HBF style trailer for 10 years. With care and paint they last a very long time for money invested.

  4. Re the ground wire, my experience with trailer wiring is to never use the frame as a primary conductor. Instead extend the ground wire all the way to each light, soldering each connection. You can also ground to the frame, but don’t count on it as a conductor.

    • Thanks Tom, I may take your suggestion on a warmer day. It’s still quite cold here in Toronto, Canada. I’d like to redo a lot of the wiring and upgrade the signals on this build. It’s not quite up to snuff from my perspective, and my ground cable has been ripped off from the frame and needs to be done back up again. *sigh* there’s always something, right? Thanks again for the tip!

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