Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

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Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:57 am

Hello everyone! Happy Holidays and New Years to everyone!

First post here! I have been interested in building a teardrop camper for several years now, and have been something of a casual lurker at this forum off and on for most of that time. I believe I am now ready to start building a teardrop for me and my wife and our dog, I'm currently trying to solidify a plan, and I have no less than a million questions. I am posting today hoping some of you will be kind enough to help me with some questions and concerns about trailers, or offer some advice before purchasing one.

Here's a little background info that I think would help; any questions for me, please just ask. My wife is not a big fan of small, tight spaces, plus we will at times be camping with our rather rambunctious, 45 pound Boxer/Lab mix Stella Blue (and possibly a second dog in the future!). Therefore, I know I'd like to build a camper that's fairly large and roomy, at least as far as these teardrops go. For that reason, I am planning to accommodate a queen sized mattress, so our camper must be at least 5 feet wide, and maybe even a couple extra inches wider to accommodate the side walls. I have already done enough research to know that many have built a 5 foot wide camper on top of the trusted Harbor Freight 4x8 trailer kits. However, I'm concerned that such a build may prove a little "tippy" or unstable in tow. And though this is far from my biggest concern, I'd prefer it if the camper had some fenders and didn't have the wheels flush with the sidewalls the way I *believe* it would have to look if I used a 4 foot wide trailer kit. last, I am wondering how long of a camper can be built on an 8 foot long trailer kit. Can anyone comment on these concerns, or possibly recommended a trailer kit that would best suited for us based on what I'm hoping to achieve?

I so far have my choices narrowed down between two trailer kits, unless someone can suggest something different. I have heard tale of a Red Trailer 5'x8' kit, but don't see a 5'x8' on their website currently, so I think I'm down to:

The good old Harbor Freight 1720 lb. 4'x8' trailer kit. This trailer is currently priced at $499.00, but I have seen it on sale for $399.00. Plus, as I'm sure everyone knows, I can take at least 20% of the price with a Harbor Freight coupon, and sometimes I even get 25% off coupons. So the cost of this trailer as I see it would be $399.00 - $79.80 (20% off) = $319.20. I would have to pay 8% sales tax, so $319.20 + $25.54 = $344.74 total cost, plus I have to drive just over an hour round trip to get it. http://www.harborfreight.com/1720-lb-capacity-48-in-x-96-in-super-duty-trailer-62647.html

Or, I had previously dismissed the Ironton Heavy-Duty 5'x8' trailer kit as too expensive because through the Northern Tool website it's priced at $499.00 plus they estimated the shipping to my house to be about $127.00. However, I recently noticed that this very trailer kit is also sold from everyone's favorite online bookstore for $499.00 with free shipping and no tax. So that's $499.00 total, and it would be delivered to my door. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E5DW916?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_1&smid=AF8EGQ3KRZQB6

I like that the Ironton is wider and black in color, but my biggest question is do you think it's really worth the extra money for this trailer? Do I really need it to build a 5' wide camper? I am hoping to build my camper once and do it right so we can enjoy it for many years, but this build has to be at least somewhat budget-minded as I'm not made of the green stuff. The difference in the cost of the two trailers would pay for a good portion of a Fantastic Fan or possibly a nice RV window. Can anyone offer any advice or suggestions? I would be very, very, grateful for any help or insight that TNTTT community can provide.

I will add that I've pretty much disregarded the idea of having a trailer custom made as I have really no experience with welding or the equipment to do so, and unless I'm really mistaken, I don't see how a professional could custom weld me a trailer that would be on par with the price of these kits (though perhaps it could be made longer). If I'm wrong in that assumption, please let me know.

And if it helps, our tow vehicle will be a 2014 Ford Escape with the EcoTech V6 engine, which should pull up to about 3500 pounds.

Thank you in advance for your help, I really appreciate it!!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Graniterich » Sun Dec 27, 2015 11:05 am

I have used both, go with the Ironton. Right color, much nicer fenders plus stronger mounting, bearings pre-installed. You need a 5x8 size anyway!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Sun Dec 27, 2015 11:50 am

Hi, Graniterich! Thanks for your quick reply! I love your avatar, we named our dog Stella Blue ;-) And thank you for the vote for the Ironton; I'm kind of leaning that way. But I want to ask, strictly speaking to I *need* the 5' wide trailer, or could I use a 4' wide as others have done? Is that really safe?

Also, I want to ask; I know there are some modification needed on the Harbor Freight trailer, moving the axel and such. Are there any modifications needed for the Ironton trailer, and can they be done easily without welding? I'm not bad at woodworking, but I know next to nothing about metal and welding. And I want a safe camper for my family and others on the road.

Thanks again for your help!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Sun Dec 27, 2015 12:37 pm

Oh, and again I just want to ask, how long of a trailer can you build on either of these trailer kits? Can I get 9-10 feet long safely? And still have room for a tongue box?

Thanks again!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby DrewsBrews » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:20 pm

Teardrop trailers are fairly low so I doubt there is much tipping issue. I have towed 2 motorcycles at once on one of the harbor freight 4x8 folders for 2400mi. Totaled over 1000lb with a fairly high center of gravity. No issues.

The real issue would be the inboard wheels requiring either raising up the whole deck/floor to clear them or building inboard fenders that would not be nice to sleep on.

However it sounds like you want to go even wider than 5ft and that could create similar wheel clearance issues on a 5ft wide trailer.
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Sun Dec 27, 2015 5:08 pm

Hi, DrewsBrews! Thank you for your reply!

If I were to use a 4 foot wide trailer, I would definitely raise the camper floor up so it clears over the wheels of the trailer kit. I have seen others do this, so I know it can be done. But I'm pretty sure they wind up with the wheels of the trailer flush with the sides of the camper, and that's not exactly my favorite look, plus I still worry about stability. To be clear, I don't really want to go wider than 5 feet, I just want to accommodate a queen mattress that's typically 60 inches wide, plus the sides of the camper. That said, I recently found a queen sized memory foam mattress that measured 58 inches wide. I'm thinking if I use that I can accommodate the walls and still be at 60" overall camper width.

Graniterich pointed out some differences between these two trailers besides the dimensions above. Are there any other differences? Does anyone think I'd be able to build a camper that 9-10 feet long on either trailer?

Thank guys, I appreciate the help!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Nobody » Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:39 pm

I built our 60"X114" (outside cabin measure) in 2006 on the 1720# (then 1800#) HF trailer. Would have been no problem whatever building another 6" or so in length. You can see pix in my gallery of the entire build from assembling the trailer to final rollout, plus pix of numerous trips since. We use a 4" memory foam mattress from Wal Mart (bought queen size but trimmed to 57 1/2" wide, 76" long) plus an 'eggcrate' 1 1/2" memory foam topper. Sleeps wonderful even with 1" high wheel wells at the 'foot' end of the bed. My wheels extended just an inch or so past the side rails so I fabricated 'fenders' from an aluminum 'diamond tread jeep' fender from Northern Tool. We've towed the TD more'n 25K miles oiver every kind of toad/terrain since it was finished, with absolutely NO problems attributable to the trailer or wheels/tires. I've posted several times here on the forum regarding my thoughts on the HF trailers. You can find my posts by using the search feature & my user name. I'd not hesitate to use another HF trailer for building any TD or tiny travel trailer if I expected it to be under 2K#s... Oh yeah, the TD survived a rear end collision Labor Day Weekend 2010 with no damage that couldn't be repaired.

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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby DrewsBrews » Sun Dec 27, 2015 11:38 pm

Here are some links on extending the frames. Extending the tongue may be beneficial to get back some turning radius. Welding is not mandatory.

http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=43850
http://www.tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=62445
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:51 am

Hi, nobody! Thanks for all the info! I have indeed already seen some of your posts and build as I've been researching. Sounds like you're quite happy with your HF 4x8, and it would save me a good chunk of change I could use for a fan or window or something else. I also like your finished camper and the way you did your "fenders". Any problem with mud or water from the tires hitting the underside of the camper I tow? That's been another concern of mine I building the 5x9-10 foot camper on a 4x8 foot trailer kit. Thank you for your help!

DrewsBrews, thanks again for your help and input. I have seen where others have extended the trailer kit frame, but now I'm wondering if I even have to. I would like a camper that in the 9-10 foot long range, and still have enough room for a tongue box, so I will read those links you provided and see if I have to extend the trailer frame to accommodate the tongue box. Thanks again for your help!

And thanks to anyone who has read and considered my concerns, I've very much appreciative of everyone's time and help in getting me going!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:54 am

Oh, and any trouble towing either of these trailers and campers at highway speeds? I believe both list their maximum safe speed at about 45 mph, and I've already read where others exceed that, but I want to be sure that's safe. Do I need to upgrade the wheels or tires from the stock one provided with these kits? I'm a bit more reserved, but my wife drives like a rabid bat out of hell ;-)

Thanks again everyone!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:11 am

Maybe it's a sign.... I looked this morning, and the HB 4x8 is back on sale for $379.00 less the coupon....
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Nobody » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:21 am

Little Foot - Went out this morning & just sorta stuck the camera under the TD & snapped a few pix. Didn't select any particular location, just wanted to get some typical shots of the 'blue board' insulation foam that's been under there for more'n 9 years. As you can see, over the years the tires have 'thrown' up some small gravel/stones that have done minimal actual damage to the soft foam. Lotsa folks seem to worry 'bout thrown stones/gravel doing damage to the underside and/or wiring/copper tubing, etc. I personally think they shouldn't worry. We've towed our TD more'n 25K miles since completion in 2006, over every kind of road & terrain, with no more damage than you see in the pix. I normally drive in the neighborhood of 55-60 MPH, occasionally up to 70. On rough, or dirt/gravel roads I usually try to stay under 50 or so. On secondary roads we usually travel at or near the speed limit. I don't limit my speed in deference to the HF trailer... Oh yeah, I've never had to wash any mud off the underside ;)

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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby Little Foot » Mon Dec 28, 2015 1:23 pm

Thank you very much for doing that, nobody! I appreciate your help with this! So you isn't do anything to protect the bottom, just used the bare foam board? No sticky black stuff like others I've seen? And I wanted to ask you, I've looked at pics of your camper, and first of all great job! I was hoping you could tell me the length and width of the base of the camper? I'm asking about the dimensions of the floor before it starts curving out and up in the front?

Thank you very much for your help!!
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby DrewsBrews » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:37 pm

55mph seems to be the average "safe max" I've seen on trailers/equipment. It gives leeway for inexperienced folks loading the trailer improperly, using a poorly chosen tow vehicle to pull excessive weight, ect. I'd bet most feel this is "excessively safe" for a properly setup trailer/tow vehicle and an experienced driver.

I have towed a car dolly, with a car on it, that was squirrelly above 55mph, but that's a very different beast (extra bend point).
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Re: Harbor Freight 4x8 vs. Ironton 5x8 first build questions

Postby KennethW » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:53 pm

DrewsBrews wrote:55mph seems to be the average "safe max" I've seen on trailers/equipment. It gives leeway for inexperienced folks loading the trailer improperly, using a poorly setup tow vehicle for the weight, ect. I'd bet most feel this is "excessively safe" for a properly setup trailer/tow vehicle and an experienced driver.


I am with you when I have 2 weeks of vacation I am not going to spend it on the road at 55 miles per hour. I have a 5x10 on a HF trailer I travel at freeway speeds +4 (up to 84 mph in the west). No problem don't even feel it behind the ford freestyle. Of coarse that is on dry roads in the daytime. My TD is a foamy with no wood supports in the roof :thumbsup:
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