Rebuilding a Trailer – An ‘How do I….’



Several years ago, I built a small trailer to haul my giant scale aircraft around to events and my local flying field. At the time, I built it as inexpensively as possible. The floor was a 4×8 foot sheet of 3/4″ plywood, and the steel frame was built from 2″ square tubing from the local steel yard. I used a modified axle from a trailer designed to be pulled behind a motorcycle – it had a 1000 pound weight limit, and that fit my size just fine. The enclosure’s frame was built from 2×3 inch pine and the covering was 1/4 inch Luan Plywood. Here’s a look at the original trailer – it had three doors to make loading and unloading easy, and had eyebolts inside for tie down points.

I thought that painting the enclosure with an oil-base paint would help the plywood survive longer, but I was wrong…. Fast forward a few years, and the plywood on the roof has separated and allowed water to leak inside. It was a MESS! I decided to rebuild the trailer. Some people would say that I should have bought another trailer and let this one go to waste, but that’s just not me! Knowing how I built it the first time, and having a different end product in mind, I set out to ‘upgrade’ my plane hauler. Here’s my story.

So, I tore off all the old ply, and cut out all the moldy and rotten pine. The existing side walls were cut down to 18″, as I had decided to do a ‘clam shell’ opening instead of doors.

Tools Used

Table saw

Circular saw

Cordless Drill

1/4″ Impact driver

Various drill bits and screwdriver tips

2″ paint brush, 12″ paint roller, and paint tray

Electric stapler

Supplies Used

2×3″ Pine lumber

4×8′ sheets of 1/8″ HDPE Plastic

One 50′ roll of house wrap

one roll of House wrap seam tape

#8 by 1-1/2″ Cabinet screws

One gallon of water repellent opaque deck stain

5/16″ staples

Stainless steel door hinges

One roll of aluminum foil tape

1-1/2 x 3/8″ adhesive backed foam rubber

1 x 1/8″ and 1-1/4 x 1/8″ Aluminum L-channel

1-1/2″ x 1/8″ flat aluminum

Stop, Turn, and Tail light LED strip

Optional Supply

Two Gas struts for lifting and holding the top half

Let the Rebuild Begin!

A few new 2×3’s later, I had the basic structure done, and this time I covered the entire wood structure with a water repelling ‘deck sealer’  opaque stain.

So here’s where I decided to do something a little different’. I figured that if the plastic ‘house wrap’ was good for keeping moisture and unwanted air out of my house, it would be good on a trailer as well. The Block-it brand I used was ‘felted’ on one side, and it was thicker than the normal Tyvek brand wrap. Several hundred staples later, the two halves were wrapped. I had also purchased the sealing tape of the same brand to cover all of the seams.

The covering material I finally decided on was High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE) plastic sheeting. It was sold through Menards (my local home improvement store) in 1/8″ and 1/4″ thicknesses, and in black and white. I chose the 1/8″ white sheeting to keep the weight to a minimum, and internal temperature of the trailer down. The HDPE was attached to the wood frame with cabinet screws – this type of screw has a washer built into the head. Each screw hole was marked, drilled, and countersunk to accept the cabinet screw. Sure, it was a lot of work, but I was happy with the result. I joined the top and bottom halves of the trailer with stainless steel door hinges (used for hanging exterior doors), and the hinge line was sealed with a strip of the house wrap.

All of the exposed corners were covered with 1″ and 1-1/4″ aluminum L-channel. It made for a great looking corner, and was easy to cut with a sharp blade in my 12″ miter saw. Each piece was drilled and countersunk before securing with cabinet screws. Using the miter saw made lining up the corners fairly easy. The 1-1/4″ L-channel was used on the vertical corners of the top half, and was installed right over the 1″ L-channel to create an overlap for the lower half corner.

To keep the trailer secure, I installed a pair of locking clasp latches – these two were keyed alike, so only one key was needed on my keychain. When the latches are closed, the attachment screws are covered by the latches, making it harder to break in to the trailer. I also added a stainless steel handle to make opening the top easier. The top half of the enclosure also received a 1-1/2″ aluminum strip to cover the gap when the trailer is closed.

A piece of aluminum pole was used as a prop rod to keep the top open for loading and unloading, and a 48″ LED stop, turn, and tail light strip was used for trailer lighting. This proved to be the best option, as it’s very low profile, but the LEDs are really bright!

At the time I built this trailer, I was driving a little KIA Soul. The trailer looked really nice behind my car!

A pair of 16′ white LED strips were added to the top and bottom halves of the enclosure to provide light. That way, I can load the trailer in the dark! The LED strips can be powered by a 12 Volt battery, or even a 3S LiPo! An inexpensive piece of indoor/outdoor carpet was stapled to the floor of the trailer as well. The exposed edges of the enclosure received a layer of aluminum tape – just to add a little shine! With the LEDs lit, the trailer really glows – even when it’s closed!

Here’s a couple of photos of my World Models 29% CAP 232 sitting in the trailer.  I think it’s safe to say that I could get two giant scale airplanes in this trailer, and any support gear I might need.

To secure airplanes inside, I added four 36″ long wall mounts for steel shelving brackets (see the above photo, without the shelf bracket). These work great, and allow numerous tie down positions for bungee hook straps!

Finally, a layer of 1-1/2 x 3/8″ adhesive backed foam rubber was applied to the bottom edge of the top half to help seal the gap and keep water out. To seal the trailer, I also removed each screw, applied a small amount of white silicone caulk to the screw hole, and and reinstalled the screw. With that, the trailer was done!


That’s going to wrap up this article – I spent about the same money rebuilding this trailer that I did building it, but the end result was well worth the cost. Total cost of the rebuild was approximately $800.00, but I now have a trailer that is waterproof, lockable, and looks pretty cool as well. The best part is that I built it, and there’s not another one like it! So, before you decide to just go out and buy a trailer, you might want to think about building (or rebuilding) one yourself. The possibilities are endless, and it’s a fairly easy project! Since the photos were taken, I have also added a pair of gas struts to assist in lifting and keeping the top of the trailer open – They were an awesome addition, and relatively inexpensive!

Hopefully, you gained a little knowledge from my article, or at least some inspiration to get out and build something. I hope you enjoyed this article as well! Leave me a question or comment if you have one, and I’ll get back to you.

From my shop to yours, happy landings! -GB



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