Tag Archives: Jeep

Off Road (Overlander) Trailer Build

I was bitten by the overland trailer bug a couple of years ago.  After numerous visits to the surplus store to look at the surplus military trailers, and my absolute insistence that I would not pay for one of the overpriced trailers being sold on the Internet, I decided to just build one myself, for as little money as I possibly could, while meeting all of my expectations for use. (run-on sentence intentional)

I was able to obtain a large quantity of 2″x 2″ square steel tubing for free. This was a great start to my built. Also, the steel was plated in a rust resistant coating, so although I was going to paint the trailer, rust proofing it was the least of my worries.
I did a little mock-up with a Jerry can to see how much space I needed for the front platform.
Now it was time to cut the steel and tack it together. I didn’t want the trailer to be too big so I made it approximately the same size as a small bed pickup, like an S10. 
Once I got the box welded together I flipped it over and placed the pieces for the tongue. I did some calculations and placed the pieces so that they would fall right in front of where the suspension would be mounted.
Then I welded on the receiver adapter. I did it this way so that I could adapt the hitch to several different configurations.
At this point I needed to figure out exactly where to mount the tires to best distribute the load. I also wanted to ensure that the turn radius of the trailer was such that when pulling it with my Jeep, I could maneuver, but also would be far enough back to reduce any tendencies to bounce. I wanted a smooth ride.

 

I did a lot of research on different suspensions and even contemplated making my own. I ended up deciding on the Timbren axle-less suspension. It was pricey, but I am super happy with the decision. This product is fantastic and has performed better than expected. I bought it from etrailer.com. Timbren Axle-Less Suspension 3500lb.
I added some angle iron as recommended to strengthen the attachment point for the axle.
Here I have attached the other axle and am ready to mount the wheels and tires. I have a set of Jeep Rubicon wheels that I will use.
Hmmm, something doesn’t look right. Well shoot, the hub is gonna be too big for the wheel. Time to get creative.
After checking the hub size against the wheel, I decided a run to Lowes was necessary. Hope they have the right hole saw. Fortunately, they did. And it was on clearance! What a deal!

So here it is, not pretty but drilled out and ready to be mounted. I have to say, I was pretty happy that it all worked out. For a few minutes, I felt a little defeated. Not sure why I didn’t check that earlier on in the build?
OK, so now I need to beef up the receiver point. I expect to battle some fairly rough terrain on occasion and can’t afford for this to twist loose. After welding the plate to the center of the tongue, I used a torch to heat the steal plate so that I could bend it down on both sides to sit flush against the frame.
Then I ground off the rust and hooked it up to see how it would fit. As you can see here, I also added the safety chains.
Time for a little test drive to see how it handles and what sort of articulation I can get from the hitch. All went as expected. The trailer pulled straight and articulation was good. 
I drove over some hills and up some rock piles at a local oil well. 
BUT! I wasn’t happy with using a pintle hitch. I wanted something better. So it was time for a little research. 
I probably spent a week or so trying to figure out exactly what I wanted. I finally found this little gem, which is expensive, but just what I was looking for. It’s called Max Coupler and is manufactured by Kirby Enterprises and sold by Knight Offroad Trailers in Texas.
To be clear, I do not get anything for endorsing them here. If it were a piece of crap, I’d tell you and move on to something else. But it’s not, and I am happy as hell with it. It is smooth and articulates the way an off-road hitch is meant to articulate.
In this photo you can see that I prepped the frame with primer.
I decided to box in the trailer with diamond plate. And here’s a little $$$ saving tip… Do not buy new diamond plate unless you are looking to spend big $$$! Go to the scrap metal dealer and find old truck toolboxes. I paid pennies on the dollar and walked away with 3 truck toolboxes for under $60. This was enough diamond plate to cut up and use for the entire trailer.
I used pressure treated 1″x 6″ for the floor.
Here you can see me placing the fenders. I made these myself out of aluminum. It was too difficult (and expensive) to find aluminum fenders to accommodate the 32″ tires. 
After it was cut and bent, I welded the seems and then ground them flat. I used a random orbital sander to roughen up the surface and give it a nice sand blasted look.
I decided to build my own roof rack. I made it from Extruded aluminum t-slot and bolted it together with stainless steel bolts. 
The reason for using extruded framing is that I can customize it as needed to accommodate different setups.
The extruded is a little more expensive, but I am paying much less than if I bought a prefab roof rack. These extrusions are from 80/20. You can buy them online. Amazon and eBay also have them.
I purchased some compressed gas pistons to aid in lifting the roof rack under load. I will post pics once they are installed.

This is just a view of the tie-down points in the bed of the trailer.
Time for some stabilizers!
I decided to add these after testing out the support strength of the tailgate and having the trailer tip back on me. Since I am planning on mounting a roof top tent, I need the trailer to sit firmly on the ground.
I ordered these from Amazon. They support 2000lbs each and were easy to weld on. Took a little over an hour to weld on all 4 and paint them. It actually took me more time to figure out where I wanted to locate them!
And here is a finished view of the trailer. Finished for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeep YJ Rear Bumper Build

As with the front bumper, I wanted something beefy and simple. I am reusing photos from the Jeep YJ Front Bumper Build post as these steps were the same and I did the builds at the same time.

The Jeep came to me with no rear bumper. Unacceptable. So I set out to build my own.

Rear view of the Jeep with no bumper and a ball hitch.
Rear view of the Jeep with no bumper and a ball hitch.

The only good thing about this setup is that I had a clean slate to work with.

I started by cutting the main shape out of square tubing and then capping the ends.

 

Tack on the end covers. Skipping from side to side so that I don't overheat the metal.
Tack on the end covers. Skipping from side to side so that I don’t overheat the metal.

I find it better to tack the welds first all the way around to keep the steel from warping.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5236A 2″ receiver was created by, you guessed it, 2″ square tubing welded into through the entire bumper. This provides the best strength.

 

IMG_5239Here is the basic shape of the bumper with the ends capped and the 2″ receiver welded in.

 

 

 

IMG_5399Mounting brackets were made with the same 2″ steel tubing attaching the bumper to a piece of 1/4″ plate. This plate would be bolted to the Jeep in the stock frame holes.

 

IMG_5395My trusty keg was once again used to aid in the fitting.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5400The bumper is bolted on to check for fitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5419Here is the side view of the bumper showing the mounts. Notice the addition of a strap at the bottom. This gives it even more strength and again lines up with the stock holes in the bottom of the Jeep’s frame.

IMG_5439

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5417A little grinding, primer, and painting and the bumper is ready to install.

Notice that I wrapped a piece of 1/2″x1/4″ steel strap around the receiver opening. This will keep it from ever tearing open.

IMG_5441

 

 

IMG_5433Hmmm… Something’s missing.

 

Ahhh, D-Ring attachment points!

 

 

IMG_5490

 

Grind the paint off, weld them on, repaint.

 

 

 

IMG_5491Grinding, welding…

More grinding, more welding.

 

 

 

IMG_5495Almost there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5573After touching up the paint the D-Rings look very nice.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5539And finally the drop down hitch.

Jeep YJ Front Bumper Build

Last October I purchased a 1991 Jeep Wrangler YJ (2.5L) from my brother. Needless to say it was his “toy” and so it was in bad shape and only getting worse. I had previously owned my own 2.5L 1994 Wrangler so I was intimately familiar with it and appreciated its potential.

After I got it home I devised my plan for getting it back into working order. Many changes were coming, some mechanical, some cosmetic, all necessary. At least that’s what I told my wife.

This thing is looking rough.

Here is a picture of it after I got it home.

No fender flares, rusted front tube bumper, cracked “Cowboy Up” windshield (What the hell does that mean?), rusted windshield frame that leaked like a sieve, no rear bumper or tire carrier, no rear seat, and the paint was oxidized to a chalky white. These are just a few of the cosmetic things that I would be working on over the next few months. Later I will touch on the mechanical issues.

First thing I did was cut off the ends of the tube bumper. I have kids and did not want them getting cut. This was a temporary fix as I would soon be building my own bumpers.

New “Stubby” tube bumper after I sawed off the rusted ends. Better but still dated. I have never liked the look of the tube bumpers. You might also notice that I installed some Rugged Ridge fender flares.

In this photo I have also removed the glass to see if I could maybe weld up the windshield frame. I determined that it was too far gone and decided to purchase a new one and have it painted to match and install new glass. Since I would be replacing the windshield frame I might as well get rid of the stainless brackets and replace them with some black OEM brackets which would be heavier duty and would keep the Jeep themed “Black on White” with no bling.

Alright, now it’s time to get on with the bumper build. I called the local Iron and Metal supplier and order up 20′ of 3″ x 5″ rectangle tubing (.1875″ wall) to use as the main body of the bumpers and rock sliders.

Removed old bumper. It was pretty difficult since all of the bolts were rusted to the frame but I finally got it.

With the bumper off I decided to get started on the new bumper.

I wanted to get an idea of how I wanted it before I started fabricating so I drew it up in Solidworks.

Solidworks drawing of my vision.

 

 

 

 

With drawing in hand and plenty of steel I started the build. I cut out the mounting brackets first to make sure I knew how I would fit it up. I used 3/16 mild steel to ensure that the bumper would solidly be connected to the frame.

Top front bumper mounts.

 

 

 

Once the mounts were finished it was time to get to the meat of the project and start cutting the bumper shape.

I cut the front and rear bumpers at the same time to ensure that they matched. I would finish up the rear bumper later.

 

 

If you have access to a plasma cutter it will make any cutting job much easier. I used mine to cut the angles. I could have used an angle grinder too but I am not known for my patience so I opted against that.

With the bumper cut to shape I would need to plug up the ends. Of course I also went ahead and welded the mounting brackets on by this point. The best way to do this for me was to mount the brackets to the Jeep and then put the bumper in position exactly where I wanted it. When it’s perfectly placed, weld it to the brackets.

Notice the keg that I used as a stand to help me fit up the bumper to the brackets. Once you maneuver it into place, weld the bumper to the brackets to ensure the perfect fit.
A little nozzle spray on the parts to keep welding splatter to a minimum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut the end “caps” out of some scrap that I had laying around. For this I am just covering the end so it wasn’t necessary to match the bumpers thickness, although you don’t want to go too thin.

 

 

 

Tack on the end covers. Skipping from side to side so that I don’t overheat the metal.

I like to tack on the piece before I lay down any beads. Skipping from side to side helps to keep the metal from overheating and potentially warping. Be patient. It will make the piece turn out better.

After I get all the pieces welded on I used an angle grinder with an 80 grit flap wheel to smooth it all out.

80 grit flap wheel to smooth out the welded end cap.

Once I capped all the open holes I mounted the bumper up to check for fit. It sucks painting something only to find out you have to grind away welds and redo it.

Welding done and it’s time to mount the bumper to check for fit before I paint it.

Now it’s time to go paint this thing.

 

Hanging the bumper to paint it makes it much easier. 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of enamel.

I used a surface prep disc on an angle grinder to remove all the mill scale. Taking it down to bare metal and leaving the surface a little rough will make the primer and paint “lock” on to the piece. I also wiped it down with acetone or something similar to remove any oils. Oil and dirt on the piece will keep the paint from adhering properly and you will back painting it again after the paint starts flaking off. As my father has said to me several times, “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have time to do it over?”

Once the paint was good and dry it was time to get it mounted so I could get back on the road.

The bumper is finished. Well, I do plan on adding some clevis mounts later on so I’ll update when I do, but for now it’s on and it’s solid.

Well, that’s basically it. I chose to mount the bumper with 1/2″ grade-8 bolts.

Just one more thing. Something to cover the frame between the bumper and the grill. I found some diamond plate at the scrap yard. I recommend getting scrap metal as opposed to buying new when possible. At pennies per pound you can get it much cheaper and usually find something useful.

Here it is. My custom cover and a final view of my Jeep.

The plasma cutter makes quick work of the aluminum diamond plate. This cost me a few bucks since I got the plate from the recycling center.

 

This is looking pretty good. I have also finished the rear bumper which I will post photos and a write-up for in another post.