Project West: Part 4 – Reassembly

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Intro

In 1976, Johnny Cash released the song “One Piece at a Time”, in it he describes putting together a Cadillac from different GM parts of different year models. His plan, as described in the song, was to take a part home each day from the GM factory, where he was working on the assembly line and then assemble everything once he had all the pieces to make a complete car. While I am not planning to start stealing car parts from a major car manufacturer, the song stuck a chord with me at this stage of the Easytrailer/Harbor Freight trailer build, putting everything back together, a line from the song summed it up perfectly – “I’d have it one piece at a time”

Having now completed the fixing of rust and repainting of many parts, and in other areas replacing parts with brand new items, it was time to make the assortment of random parts into a trailer once again, one piece at a time.

This was the point of the project where all those components would now come together and be the payoff for all the hard work put in. As each part joined with another and then joined parts formed sub-assemblies, there started to be something resembling a trailer. 

front and rear sections of harbor freight easy trailer joined together, shown without timber panels and in unfolded possition
front and rear sections of trailer joined together, shown without timber panels and in unfolded position

As you’d probably expect, reassembling the Easytrailer was the reverse of taking everything apart. As the trailer is not the most complex piece of machinery ever made, there wasn’t much to think about in terms of putting back together. There was no need for torque settings, tightening sequence, or specialist tools. All that was needed to be done was put the bolt back into the hole, chuck a washer and nut on the other end and tighten it up until the part wasn’t wobbling anymore. Repeat.

While there was not much technique used in the reassembly process, there was still something of a process to be followed. Having never had the original assembly instructions that came with the trailer kit or even seen a copy online, I was doing guided based purely on what I had learned from taking the trailer apart. Only this time, reversing that process. Not to mention, also installing the various new parts that were detailed in the previous post.

Everything needed to be put back together as soon as possible, in a matter of days it would need to be inspected and registered, and prior to this, there was a go kart club practise day at the track and the trailer needed to be ready to transport one of the karts for this day. Time was already tight on getting everything back together, in fact I was so pressed for time, that the final completion of the trailer was done early in the morning on the day of the club practise day, leaving only a hand full of hours to get some sleep and then hit the road to get to the track.

Front and rear flatbed frames

The first and foremost step in turning a pile of parts into a trailer, was to assemble the frames (front and rear) that make up the flatbeds, as a priority the front needed to be assembled first. This is because the front frame sub-assembly, as mentioned in part 2, is the main assembly that all the others are attached to. The suspension carriers and drawbar are mounted from underneath, the rear flatbed frame is mounted to back and then the wiring loom is pasted all the way through the chassis. The front section therefore is the main point of reference for all other componentry and because of this it was the first sub-assembly to be put back together.

Rear frame section of the folding harbor freight easy trailer being reassembled after being painted
Rear frame section being reassembled after being painted.

Essential both the front and rear flatbed frame sub-assemblies are the same by design. As they share common parts and as such are fixed together in the same way. Each steel ‘C’ section is slotted into place, with the transverse, east/west lengths fitting inside the longitudinal, north/south lengths. The positioning of the east/west lengths are determined by means of prefabricated bolt holes which line up and go through each part. There are a number of these prefabricated holes at each joint, at a minimum there are at least two sets of holes lining up for a nut and bolt to be installed. While some joints have only two fixings (bottom and side) at each point, most have three (top, side and bottom). There are even some locations which have previsions for accommodate four fixings, these locations being in the corners at the front and rear of the trailer. While the previsions are there to utilise four fixings in reality, as these locations are perfect for anchoring points for straps and other rigging, the fourth bolt hole is intended to be used with an eye bolt which is used for tying down and securing loads on the trailer.  

As mentioned in the previous post, all original 3/8 nuts and bolts were replaced by the equivalent M10 with flat washers and nyloc nuts. Upon completion of the reassembly of the front and rear frames, there were no longer any imperial fixings on either of these sub-assemblies.  In total fourteen sets of bolts, washers and nyloc nuts were used on each of the flatbed frames in getting the structure assembled. 

All auxiliary items were then attached to the sides while the frame was still on the stand, positioned also by set bolt hole locations. These smaller components included the hinge brackets and side stake brackets. The same items were also installed on the rear frame, only difference being with the addition of the taillight brackets. Regardless of their physical size, these additional smaller parts were attached to the frame using the same M10 fixings as used throughout each of the frames.

As there was only a small number of components on each of the frames, the process of reassembling didn’t take long at all. With all existing components having been extensively cleaned or alternatively being brand new, everything came together easily and quickly with no unexpected hurdles or obstacles getting in the way of progress.

Once the front frame had been fully assembled, all other sub-assemblies could then be attached to it, forming the trailer around it. For this process the frame was left on the stand, progressively being built upon with each additional part added.  

This procedure was then repeated for the rear frame which, as mentioned prior, had the same layout and configuration of all the various steel ‘C’ section components, taking approximately the same amount of time and using the same amount for fixing hardware.

The rear frame was attached with two M10 fixings in the hinge plates centred on the flatbed of the trailer. When in the unfolded position, there are an additional two bolts which hold this frame in a securely in the open and unfolded position. While reassembly of the rear was finished shortly after the completion of the front, attaching the rear frame to the main body did not happen until later on during the assembly process as there were other items needing to be installed prior the rear frame.

Mid-section/suspension carriers

front frame assembly with auxiliary components fitted.
front frame assembly with auxiliary components fitted.

In order to give some mobility and improved access to some of the trickier areas on the trailer, there needed to be a means for moving the structure upon its own wheels. For this, the next parts to be bolted into place were the mid-section suspension carriers, not only did this have the mounting points for the leaf spring suspension but also the mounting brackets for the 360-degree castor wheels. Being able to move the trailer frame around on these castor wheels was going to be the key to a quick and efficient reassembly.

The suspension carriers are positioned on either side of the front flatbed frame, towards the back of the structure. Three fixings are required to securely hold the parts in position, two from the bottom and one from the side. This part extends past the end of the frame and in doing so creates a supporting channel for the rear flatbed frame to rest upon on when in the folded-out position. At the end of these extensions is a perpendicularly mounted, length of steel angle, to which the 360-degree castor wheels are attached. Two castors are on each side for a total of four on the whole trailer. As mentioned in the previous post, as part of the build the original castors were replaced due to being old and worn out.  

Front frame of folding trailer partially assembled with caster wheels on having also been repainted.
Front frame assembled with caster wheels on having been repainted.

By having the castor wheels installed, this allowed for the structure to be stood up in the vertical orientation meaning greater access to all areas on the trailer and no longer requiring it to be on the stand to complete the remainder of the build. Along with this, it gave the trailer perfect manoeuvrability on the flat surface of the workshop floor, being easily pushed in any direction and orientated in anyway required. This ability to move it around proved to be invaluable in a workshop with such limited space available. If there wasn’t enough space for mounting the larger items, such as the rear flatbed frame or drawbar, then the whole thing could be easily moved around, into an area to allow for more space and room to work with.

fenders fitted to front section of frame
mud guards fitted to front section of frame

Once these suspension carriers where installed, the mud guards were mounted. These guards are fixed to the suspension carriers by means of two M10 nuts and bolts. The fenders needed to be mounted prior to the suspension and axle being installed as access to the nuts on the inside of the suspension mount channel would otherwise be impeded by the leaf springs. By installing now, it would save a lot of time and stuffing around later on due to the poor accessibility.

Suspension, Axle and Wheels

Axle, hubs and leaf spring assembly fitted to suspension mounting points of trailer
Axle, hubs and leaf spring assembly fitted to suspension mounting points

Next logical step for the reassembly was to get suspension and wheels onto the trailer, once these were on it could be dropped onto the 14-inch trailer wheels should the need arise. With the half-assembled trailer standing vertically on its castor wheels, installing the suspension and axle componentry was an easy and straight forward task. The leaf springs, axles and hubs were installed as one complete assembly. As the leaf springs that came on the trailer are a slipper style spring, this meant the spring itself only had one eyebolt holding it onto the trailer, with the other being open ended and not directly attached in anyway, instead the open end is placed under another bolt, its purpose being to hold the spring in an approximate position while still allowing for the spring to move semi freely or slip. 

While still a tad awkward to hold in place and get bolts lined up to go through the spring, it was still easier than the alternative of having the trailer upside down and then trying to flip over. With the wheels and tyres off, there was not much weight to wrestle with while attaching it to the mounting bracket. As soon as there was a bolt going through the eye of the spring, it was secured to the trailer, once the secondary fixings where also installed, the leaf springs and axle were not going anywhere. 

Axle and wheels of harbor freight easy trailer fitted to the front section assembly
Axle and wheels fitted to the front section assembly

Having the suspension and axle installed onto the trailer, the wheels were then mounted onto the hubs and lightly torqued on the lugs. It was now possible for the Easytrailer to once again roll its own wheels. 

Drawbar

The reassembled frame assemblies on the Easy Harbor Freight trailer put back together and shown in the folding position.
The reassembled frame assemblies put back together and shown in the folding position.

The drawbar was the first component to come off the trailer at the start of the project, installing it at this stage of the reassembly made it one of the last to go back on. 

There is a total of five parts on the assembly, left and right drawbar length, top and bottom gusset, and a single brace mounted in the centre which is home for the trailers spare tyre. Fourteen M10 fixings hold everything together, with the whole assembly then held onto the trailer by larger M14 bolts. The attachment points are underneath the trailer, with two brackets on either side of the front frame section for the drawbar to be attached to. These brackets also form the pivoting point for the drawbar, the point at which it folds in on itself. While in the fully extended position, the drawbar is held in place with a further two pins at the front of the flatbed frame. These pins are not threaded bolts, rather a simple piece of round bar steel with a bend, secured in place with use of a R clip. These pins are easily removed for the purpose of allowing the drawbar to be freed and folded, but while in the folded out flat configuration, the pins remain in place holding the drawbar securely to the frame for the trailer.   

Timber Floor Panels

The original timber top platform are put back onto the folding easy/harbor freight trailer.
The original timber top platform are put back onto the trailer.

A flatbed trailer wouldn’t be much use without flooring panels. The original timber panels where reinstalled back onto the frame despite the rough condition they were in. The flooring panels are fixed into place using the same, common, M10 bolts that everything else uses on the trailer. Difference in this case being, there is no need for washer or nyloc nuts. This is because the securing nuts had been welded onto the trailers frame, from underneath, by a previous owner. This simple little addition makes the assembly process much less painful. To try and install the two huge 1200mm x 1200mm flooring panels while also trying to hold nuts into place would be a difficult task to say the least. It’s obvious, in this case, that a previous owns had come across this issue while trying to tighten up the floor panel bolts, instead of accepting this as being just part of the design, he obviously made this smart and thoughtful modification, meaning less headaches when it came time to install the floor panels. It was a well thought out addition and one that saved much time. With the nuts being captive and held in place, the process of mounting the panels was straight forward with few exceptions, simply lining up the holes and then fixing them into place.

As I had mentioned briefly in part 1 of the build, the existing timber floor panels were not in the best condition. Even once secured into position on the frames, they still couldn’t hold their shape. The timber had warped and was no longer flat but rather bowed. This probably did add some resistance to fixing the panels in place, more so than it should have been. However, at the time, the need to have these panels installed and have a functioning trailer was greater than the need to replace them.

Finalising the assembly

Easy Harbor Freight folding trailer is almost a perfect size for a full sized go kart
Trailer is almost a perfect size for a full sized go kart

With all major sub-assemblies now in their rightful places and secured together to form a trailer, there was little more to do after this except the minor parts which could now be installed. All these parts would be required for roadworthiness and would be looked for in the upcoming inspection. Some of these additional items included the wiring loom, taillights, side indicators lights, number plate mounting bracket, jockey wheel, coupler, and not to forget the spare tyre.

Upon completion, it was once again a trailer. While this was the trailer that I brought back from Bendigo all those weeks ago, it looked nothing like what it did when it first arrived in the driveway. With everything put back together and having either new or repainted parts, it looked great. Now that the build was done and dusted, it was time to go get registered and make it nice and legal for using on the road.

Inspection and registration

Easytrailer/Harbor freight folding Trailer reassembled and about to go for registration inspection.
Trailer reassembled and about to go for rego inspection.

Cast your mind back to part 1 of the Project West series and the motivating factor that pushed me to repair this little rust bucket trailer, fix all the crappy paint and then make it look the part. All this was done to ensure this run-about was going to pass the all-important, dreaded, road authorities safety inspection.

With the trailer now completed, an inspection date and time booked and all the associated paperwork for registration filled out as required, what was expected was a walk around with an approved inspector, thoroughly studying in every little detail thing on the trailer, preparing to fail its roadworthiness at a moments notice. To be honest, I was a little nervous as previously have had cars fail roadworthy by these types of authoritarian inspectors.  

In the biggest anti-climax to end this journey, it turns out there is no such inspection done by the roads authority. No going over the vehicle with a fine-toothed comb, no scrutineering of the finer details on the trailer. None of this happened at the local Vicroads office. To my surprise, the inspection had already been completed and checked off. By me.

As part of transferring registration of a trailer, a self-assessed inspection must be performed. This self-assessment asks the normal kind of vehicle safety questions: Are the tyres in good condition with plenty of tread? Are the taillights functioning correctly? Is there a manufactures plate present on the trailer? Etc etc… This is the inspection for assessing roadworthiness, based on a policy of honesty and carried out by those actually registering the trailer, in this case myself. I had done the inspection, ticked all the boxes and given all the relevant specifications as required. Therefore it had passed the road worthy inspection. 

I handed in all the filled-out paperwork, along with the self-assessed inspection, paid the $60 registration fee for the year plus an additional $200 for new number plates and that was that. The trailer was, from the moment of payment, finally registered.

Victorian plates on the easytrailer/harborfreight folding trailer after successfully transferring the rego from South Australia to Victoria
Vic plates on the trailer after successfully transferring the rego from South Australia to Victoria

Walking out of the registration office there was mixed feelings. Obviously happy that the trailer, after all the work and effort put in, was finally registered and legit. But then upset at myself also, if I had of known this critical piece of information, that there was no actual inspection rather a self-inspection, it could have saved a huge amount of time, effort and money by not bothering to fix all the rust and rebuilding the trailer. As it’s impossible to undo what has already been done, including all the work that was carried out, there no point in even entertaining hypothetical what ifs. All I can say is while in the end the effort was somewhat in vain, there were still many valuable lessons learnt which will carry forward to future projects. And most importantly, the Easytrailer/Harbor freight folding trailer is looking good, will last at least another decade and, above all, is safe and road worthy.

If you are enjoying the project so far please share on social media, while you’re there don’t forget to follow me, RB42, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates and new releases.

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