Trailer Woes

We’ve always been a family that tends to buy garage-related things new, but will often wait for a sale, discount, or inventory clearance to get nice things at modest prices. Gone are days of dropping by Home Depot and sifting through their clearance inventory, or hitting up for stellar deal on a set of wrenches (it’s almost never a stellar deal after shipping to Alaska). Since we live in reality where money doesn’t grow on trees, that means we’re buying more items used. Our two most recent purchases just also happen to be purchases you really don’t want to be lemons: expensive items.

First, we purchased The Beast. We haven’t taken it out for a spin yet, but all signs point to a good purchase there. Next, I needed a means of moving that sucker around. We’re also in the middle of our real estate hunt, looking for a piece of land on which to build our next home, and plan on doing as much of the work ourselves as we are able. If I learned anything from renovating our last home, it’s that a 6.5′ pickup truck bed is nice, but a 16′ trailer is better. 12′ sheets of drywall, a pallet of tile or wood flooring, lumber, PVC, etc are all easier to transport with more space.

I set out to find myself a tandem axle flatbed trailer, at least 14′ long. We could use it to haul The Beast today, to haul construction materials tomorrow, and to haul whatever our hearts desire in the future. After a week or so of hunting, I found a few options on Craiglist and settled on a 16′ flatbed with 18″ side walls at an affordable price. The seller seemed to know the ins/outs of the trailer and had recently brought it up from North Carolina so it was road worthy. Unfortunately, it was in Soldotna (about 90 minutes away).

We agreed to meet north of Happy Valley, roughly 40 miles from our place in Homer, on the same day that I had to meet a soils engineer in the morning. After leaving the engineer, I spoke with the seller on the phone and realized that I didn’t have the right trailer hitch ball mount. I only had a 2″ ball.  The timing was tight, but I should’ve been able to hit up Ulmer’s (the local True Value Hardware) and get up to Happy Valley by our agreed upon time. I rushed back into town, into Ulmer’s, and then headed north on the Sterling Highway.

I arrived at our agreed upon time, and waited. And waited. Eventually he called, still in Soldotna. Apparently he was having electrical issues with the trailer (great, that’s encouraging) that were delaying him. Since I had him on the phone, I wanted to confirm that he had a title in hand and would be bringing it with. After waiting for him to hunt for the paperwork, he called back to say he didn’t have a title but would go to the DMV and get one. He agreed to meet me tomorrow at a location further my direction. I’m always annoyed when people waste my time, and this was no exception.

The next day rolled around and I got a text message saying he was running late, and wanted to know if I could meet at 2pm instead of noon. I said sure but only if it was no later, as I had an important phone call later in the day. Well, no surprise, he didn’t arrive until about 2:30 and was then in no hurry to get this transaction under way. He wanted to shoot the breeze and was not picking up on my not-so-subtle hints that I needed to wrap this up.

After I start looking over the trailer, he informed me that the wiring is still janky. Electrical work doesn’t scare me, and in fact I rather enjoy it so that didn’t detract me from buying the trailer. After a quick inspection: the treated wood deck was in decent shape, it already had brakes on 1 axle, the wiring issues didn’t bother me, the mount coupler (the piece that rests on the ball)  is a nice heavy duty unit in good shape, he had successfully acquired a title, and the price was right. On the other hand: one tire was completely the wrong size, the brake application was a bit severe/strong, and it was missing legally-required lights. I think Neale Donald Walsch said it best:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

So I agreed to exchange my money for this bit of mild discomfort. Just before he took off,  he gave me a spare wheel and tire (though not mounted). Before I took off, I tinkered with the wiring harness to make sure I had functioning brake lights and turn signals.

Parked at home
Massive 25,000lb Coupler
Massive 25,000lb Coupler

Back home, I bought everything to re-wire and re-light the trailer with a complete set of LED lighting that would meet the legal requirements. After inspecting the tires more closely at home, I noticed that not only did I have 2 different size tires on the trailer, but I also had 3 different tire makes/models. After hunting around for used tires locally, I decided to just buy a whole new set of 4 tires and be done with this. Best case, I’d be able to sell the pair of matching tires and recoup some of the cost.

20151017_114928 copy 20151017_114951 copy

After the tires arrived, I loaded everything into the truck and headed down to the local tire shop. The plan was to put the new tires on the existing wheels, and put one of the existing tires on the spare wheel the seller gave me.  About 20 minutes after I left the shop, I got a call. The spare wheel wasn’t a 15″ wheel like the rest – it was a 14.5″ wheel. {sigh} Another $50 later, I had all 4 of my new tires mounted, balanced, and ready to be put back on the trailer.

I’m thinking about buying another set of brakes for the 2nd of my two axles, so that I have additional stopping power and a bit of insurance in the event of a blow out on the current brake axle. I’ll probably do it, but first things first. Tomorrow I’m going to install my new lighting kit, junction box, electrical plug, and freshly mounted tires. Wish me luck.

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