trailer construction advice

This weekend I picked up a nice used trailer, a 4’ x 16’ steel frame, lightweight with the smaller tires (12"?). I want to modify it for boat use:

.Removable rack

.4 kayak/canoe capacity

.crossbars with the same diameter as yakima bars so I might be able to place the bike attachments if possible

.rack spread as broad as possible (which may prohibit the bike attachment idea unless I build in a third bar).

Anyway, lots of objectives. Has anyone else retrofitted a trailer or have any experience or suggestions on the construction?

My Trailer…
I bought a boat trailer that has similar dimensions to yours. I ended up stripping it down and replacing every single piece of hardware on it. I then added a plywood/carpeted bed to it and painted the whole trailer. I bought a heavy duty steel pipe from Lowe’s and had a guy weld it to the uprights (which bolt to the trailer). So I can unbolt the front and rear racks if I needed to, and use it as a utility trailer.

Before Picture:

After Pictures:

I also added two long angle iron strips with holes in them, in case I have something that I need to strap down onto the bed of the trailer.

You will notice that in picture Kayak07.jpg there is a small hole that is by the amber light on the trailer. This is where I slip my cable lock through and lock the front of both boats to my trailer. I bought the lock at Lowe’s too. Here’s what it looks like:

I’ve been using the trailer for 5 months now and I absolutely love it. I paid $300 for the used trailer and I spent another $600 during the renovation. I could have gotten away with spending less… but I’m happy with the end result.

Good luck with your trailer.

thanks for the photos
Some good ideas there. Thanks.

Bike Carrier and Boat Cross Bars
Since you are looking at having the ability to carry four boats, I’m guessing that you will probably have two main supports (fore and aft) and two cross bars which will be unsupported at thier outer ends. If that’s your plan, you should go with something beefier than standard Yakima crossbars. If it were my trailer, I’d build new anchors for the Yakima cross bars which would clip directly to the upper set of boat supports, preferably with a no-tool attachement, such as using steel pins, but bolts would be okay too. That way the whole bike-carrier assembly can be installed or removed in seconds.

Another thing to consider is that with the trailer, you will likely opt for a rather wide front-to-back spacing between your cross bars (especially if you want to be able to carry canoes), so that the average bike carrier can’t attach to both bars (bike carriers usually can’t attach to bars that are more than three or four feet apart), so likely you will need some kind of adapter arrangement anyway. In that case, the adapter framework could serve the dual purpose of bridging the gap between the front and rear cross bars and permenantly carrying the bike carrier. Just plop the whole arrangement on top, install the pins to lock it down, and you’re done.

cool trailer
I have an old rowboat trailer that I have been looking to retrofit. I have 4 canoes, and would like to be able to fit 6 on the trailer. I may have to get my father to teach me how to weld.

One more note…
I also wanted to mention that when I bought the trailer it had a double leaf spring on each side of the axle. I ended up removing one leaf from each side, since the kayaks don’t weigh that much. The softer suspension now absorbs the bumps from the road, without putting additional strain on the boats.

Good Point!
You can also buy trailer springs (as well as axles, wheels, and the like) from outfits like Northern Tool, in case your springs are still too stiff. It’s definitely good to use soft springs for this kind of use.

boat trailer for kayaks
The “ideal kayak trailer”, in my opinion, is the RackAndRoll. It is expensive, so not everyone will chose to buy it or even can afford it.

Most boat trailers have suspension designed for heavy boats with heavy motors on them and therefore are too heavily sprung for a couple of kayaks. I have had a Cox boat trailer suspension reworked by removing the leaf springs and replacing them with coil motorcycle springs and shocks. Before the conversion, the trailer bounced at every small seam in the road. It now rides very well with a 140 lb wood sailing skiff (roughly the weight of four kayaks) on the trailer.

I am getting ready to convert a very old boat trailer that has a soft suspension into a kayak trailer. I will have the tongue replaced to get greater length, use the existing axle and suspension, add some cross members to attach the RackAnd Roll mounting blocks and use thule long bars (I think they are 82 inches). RackAndRoll will sell their mounting blocks that hold Thule or Yakama crossbars.

Converting boat trailers to kayak trailers is very doable, just try to get soft suspension, especially with wood or composite canoes and kayaks. Good luck with your conversion.