What do I need to know about building a trailer?

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by jcbigler, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Educate me on all the things I need to know about building a trailer to mount my smoker on.

    Pics of my intended design attached below. The trailer deck is a bit under 10 feet long and a little under 5 feet wide. Might end up widening it a bit. 

    Other than the total weight of the smoker and utility boxes, etc... What else do I need to know about?

    I intend to use 15" wheels so that I can easily take it on the highway. It will be towed by my 4WD Tacoma with the tow package. I assume that the whole smoker will be well below the max tow weight of 6,500lbs for my Tacoma. 

    Will a 3,500lbs. axle work for this design? Do you think I can get away with a single axle or will I need tandems for this? What kind of brakes are best? 

    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015
  2. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You need to calculate the weight of the steel you will be using.  That drives everything else.  If the smoker weighs 6,000 pounds, the trailer needs to handle that "plus" a reasonable safety margin.  You also have to take into account the storage boxes and the weight of everything that could be in them when full.  That's going to be a good bit of weight in total.  I suspect you will be using dual axles.  And in most states anything over 3,500 pounds requires trailer brakes.  Some states require brakes on both axles, but most only require a single axle have the brakes.  Size your tires for what's easy to find.  15" load range D or better. 

    And as to the Tacoma, if your max tow weight is 6,500, you also need to look at the max GCVW or gross combined vehicle weight.  That's the maximum weight of the trailer, the truck, and all the contents of each. Keep in mind that vehicle weights are calculated with a 150 driver and nothing else in the vehicle. It's not unusual to have a GCVW total of the trailer and vehicle that exceeds the tow vehicle rating.  That's why they make the 2500 and 3500 trucks. You may find the Tacoma under powered very quickly.  It may tow it, but if you have an accident, the lawyers will have a field day with you (especially with an overweight home made trailer).   Do the math to determine if this combination is workable.  I suspect your tow vehicle is a little light.


    I forgot to add that GCVW also includes the weight of the trailer and not just the items in the trailer (smoker, storage boxes), so even if you buy a commercial trailer pre-made and add the smoker & boxes, the same issues will exist.  Simplest way to think of GCVW is what the trailer and truck combo will weight with you, all the "stuff" you will transporting, and any passengers.  If you were to pull that whole lot up on a commercial scale, that would be your GCVW.

    Also be mindful of the hitch weights.  Most light trucks will not handle a lot of hitch weight at the tongue.  To much weight at the hitch will make your steering froggy.  On a 6,500 tow rating vehicle, I would use a weight distributing hitch if the completed trailer/smoker/contents weighed more than 3,500 pounds.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015
  3. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I've built a spread sheet to keep track of my build; parts, sizes, weights etc...

    Assuming my formulas are correct, which I think they are as I have triple checked them. 

    So far I'm looking at a total weight for the smoker, racks, firebox and wood and utility boxes of 1,711 lbs, not including the actual trailer yet.

    The cooker itself will weigh 942 lbs with the RF plate, and cooking grates. 6" ID SCH5 pipe 43" long is 27.2 lbs. 

    The firebox, which is a double hulled insulated firebox, made from 1/4" steel plate for both the inner and outer shells is 595 lbs. 

    And if I assume that I am carrying an 1/8 of a cord of hickory wood (which is how much I designed the wood box to carry), that's another 713 lbs. 

    That brings my total for everything except the trailer itself to just over 2,418 lbs. I haven't yet included the weights for the small things like handles, hinges, door latches and the actual firebox insulation and the weight of the paint and primer. But I don't see those being more than a few dozen pounds. 

    The size and shape of the structural steel for the trailer will affect the total weight, of course. So, what do I use for the trailer build? 2" angle steel? 2" square tube? 

    Better to weld the smoker to the trailer? or bolt it to the trailer? 

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