rack spread??

I am in the process of building a trailer to haul my kayaks and was wondering if any one out there has any suggestions as to how far apart to put the bars for the boats to lay on. Was planning on about 6 or 7 ft which will leave a 4-5 ft overhang at each end for my 16’ and 14’ boats. Am thinking on a 6" wide pad to sit them on. I imagine there is a wide acceptable range, but just in case someone has had a bad experience

If you start with a clean slate,
you could size the spread to correspond with the distance from bulkhead to bulkhead. For my QCC it is around six feet. YMMV.



– Last Updated: Dec-22-05 1:02 PM EST –

I built mine several years ago, (back in the early '80's)with canoes in mind. I have a spread of 6 feet on my bars. Some of it will be determined by the kind of axel you use. I used a K car rear axel, and mounted full fenders and shocks. I carry the spare on a spare hub (K car) under the back of the trailor. so I have a set of spare bearings and hub if I need too. The tounge is 12 feet long from the center of the axel to the hitch. the width will also be somewhat determined by your axel. I kept the standard K car axel width and didn't do any modification. I was driving alot of trips back then (drove for high adventure camps for several years)(15 to 18,000 miles per summer with a trailor and a 15 pass van) A trailor designed for canoes is what most outfitters and outdoor camps use. so the measurements usually run the same no matter what you are going to carry. The bulkhead to bulkhead measurement is only a guideline, since unless you always only plan on carring the one boat that that measurement came from, you will find that there are differances depending on boat and manufacture as to what that measurement is. This is where it's ok to copy....find a trailor you like the looks of and take some measurements...

Best of luck

ask manufactrureer
Span is good and may I suggest 4in diam plastic pipe on verically at back of trailer to reduce chance of someone hitting trailer?

Here I am risking giving advice again…

We had a trailer built for us by shiprights after having problems with whimpy kayak specific trailers. It did a flawless job for years in demanding conditions. I think 6’ would be a good compromise on the bar spread. I also believe that larger tire/wheels, and good springs are essential. Also a long enough tongue to allow for easy backing, and boat clearance. If I had to do it today, I’d start with a galvanized boat trailer and build a box and rack system on top. Best of luck. BTW, we serviced our bearings every year!

thanks for the advice
the trailer I am using is an old tent trailer that I have been using for a utility trailer for years. I extended the tongue for my canoes a few years ago with 2 1/2 inch square tubing, but want to make it adjustable by getting another to slide into it and drilling a couple of holes so it will be a few feet longer if I want. I find now that when the boats are on the trailer, it is balanced too well and there is no weight on the ball. As well, they are too close to the car for turning in tight spots.

Roy, do you find that the 12’ from axle to ball is good?

Also,I hadn’t thought of using the bulkheads for determining the bar distance.

The plastic pipe ‘bumpers’ sound like a must too, will also help see the back of the trailer when no boats are on it.

Glad I put the question up, making some decisions quite a bit easier.

Thanks for the advice, and keep 'em coming.

Can walk on the rivers up here now, so have until end of April to get it ready.


12 foot is the length I made mine after measuring about a dozen trailors. That is 12 foot from the axel to the hitch. it gives enough room for 17 to 18 foot boats. and you need some angle supports to go from the frame to the tongue. These angle supports need to end about 3 feet before the hitch so that when you want to jacknife the trailor, they don’t hit the bumper. A 12 foot tongue makes backing very easy, short tongues kink too abruptly. I just went out and measured the tongue and it’s the heaviest wall 2.5 inch square tube I could buy. 3 inch would work too, make sure that you can get a 2 inch ball hitch to fit your tongue before you build. I can get hitches that fit eather 2.5 or 3 but the 2.5 is more common. The tongue is almost the most important piece of steel on the whole trailor…stronger the better…if possiable make it one piece, no welds and no two piece sliding rigs. They work, but if you want a trailor to last,(and take abuse) I’ve seen more tounges fail than any other part (not counting the little wheelbarrow tires with the small bearings) If the tongue fails the whole trailor fails. I built two trailors like this and made them as dedicated canoe/kayak trailors so mine have only one job to ever do, so I could construct them to do it as best I know how. Not like a reported on/off road bike, that does neither as well as something designed for eather on road or off road. (hope that makes sence) My fram is made fro 4 inch construction chanel. If one of my kids come over with their digital camera I’ll try to take some pictures, might be a few days.

hope some of this wind helps

Best Wishes


Sounds very
much like our beast! Good comments… Make sure you have a spare tire.







fadedred, Our trailer was similar, but bigger, and the box was covered with doors on top and in the rear. Your suspension looks great, as does the tongue. We were on hell BC logging roads a lot, so the trailer got pelted with rocks from the van tires. The shipwrights sand blasted it and epoxy coated the steel prior to some really tough paint. We used big / long leaf springs, but I bet your trailer will ride very smoothly with that set up.

great photos

Part of my dilema was solved Christmas Eve when Santa landed with a new factory built fancy schmancy (as the Dairy Queen commercial puts it) utility trailer. Now I don’t have to worry about making the boat trailer convertible from a boat to utility. I can cut and hack and rebuild to my hearts content. Mine won’t be as rugged as Fadedred’s but I will use some ideas. I like the long brace from the rack to the tongue. Haven’t seen that before and was wondering how they could stand all the stopping and going with a load on and not get metal fatigue or cracking.

I think Santa was hoping that with the new trailer no one would have to look at the old converted travel/utility/boat trailer again. Boy will she - I mean he - be surprised!!

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.

Pretty good snowstorm going on now, first major one of the year. Not bad for almost New Years.

Thanks for the info from everyone again.


light weight
Part of what I wanted when I designed this trailor was for it to balance with about 40 pounds on the tongue when empty so that it wouldn’t bounce too much on the hitch. I also wanted it as short as possiable for when it was empty for manurvering and light enough to be pushed around like a wheelbarrow when unhooked.(one reason for the 40 # tongue weight instead of more) as it is the length of the tongue allows a very nice controlled back-up (no sudden kinking)it is very much able to be handled by just one person for moving it without being hooked to a car or truck and I can add a little more to the tongue weight by just having the boats 6 inches or so farther ahead on the rack and still have turning clearance. Properly loaded it can be un hooked and moved by hand when fully loaded…I aimed for a light-heavyweight. I have been very pleased with this trailor and have another without the box…I added that as a afterthought for carrying packs etc…probably going to put in a locking box from out of a pick-up (aka tool box) instead eventually. The K car rear end I used makes it travel very smooth on the gravel and potholed roads that it gets used on (the shocks help tremendous) the K car rear end was something that I wanted to use because of it’s very effeciant roling charistics, it however presented many problems in design, that I would not have encountered had I gone with leaf springs…for ease I would definately go with the leafs…but this trailor (and it’s twin) ride very sweet

Best Wishes


If in doubt…buy a new piece of tube for the tongue…it is really the main component

Good luck

Best Wishes