Harbor Freight 12" wheel folding trailer #90154
Summary - this is a very good occasional trailer for two Vespas plus any other use you might have for a utility trailer. Expect to pay around USD450 in extras above whatever you pay Harbor Freight (don't forget the coupons Mum) to get it on the road ready to tow two Vespas, and at least 24 hours of construction and fettling. If your time is more valuable than your cash, get a ready-made folding trailer for ~USD2,500 - it'll be more solid and have better resale value. However the HF one is just fine as long as you're happy with wrenching and wiring the lights. The trailer follows the tow vehicle impeccably when loaded up, no worries there, all for a total all-in cost inc registration of about USD640.
We had been considering a trailer for some time, but were put off by the cash cost of the ready-made ones. This year, HF had an extra 25% off coupon valid only for 1st Jan, which together with that month's 'special offer' price (whoever pays full price at HF?) brought the cost down to USD206 for the basic trailer, complete with wheels, lights etc. 'All' that would be needed on top were some extra wire, a floor and its waterproofing + fixings, a front jockey wheel, hitch lock, wheel chocks, ramps, canyon dancers and some extra straps.
The basic trailer construction was fine. Only one major 'gotcha' - be very careful with tightening up the front hitch bolt, you may need a stand-off washer between the hitch and the frame to prevent the hitch inner tongue from being squeezed immobile. The instructions suggest three coach-bolts each side are needed to hold it folded flat - one is quite sufficient (and its length needs to be cut down) as the locations for the others are buried behind wheel arches etc.
Wheels and hubs - The instructions say to clean and re-grease the bearings in the hubs. I looked at what was provided and all looked just fine. Assembled the hubs to the axles, adjusted the castle nuts for free-spinning wheels, filled with grease from a grease-gun, banged on the hub-caps and all was fine. The lug-nuts did need tightening up, watch out for that. The instructions also suggest the tyres should be inflated to 60psi (~4bar) which might be fine if the trailer is fully loaded. With two Vespas on, 50psi seemed a good compromise. If towing the trailer empty, I'd suggest 30psi or even a bit lower. You don't want the trailer bouncing up off the road.
Now for the wiring of the lights. HF seems to think that a painted folding trailer provides a good ground throughout its length and forever - never in a million years, you will need to buy at least 25' of 18 gauge (white) stranded wire to act as the ground connection, solder ground tails to the sidelights and crimp 1/4" dia. eyelets for the tail/brake/turn lights. If when you test the lights they don't work as expected (and you're confident with your wiring) suspect the towing vehicle's electrics. I had to buy a new tow harness for ours, the old one had a short somewhere inside its encapsulated guts. Did I mention I hate encapsulated electronics where you can't mend anything?
Don't use 3/4" ply for the floor as in the instructions, there's not enough hinge room to fold the trailer with that, use 1/2" instead. Home Depot will happily cut an 8'x4' sheet in half for free. I used just over a US quart of waterproofing stuff (a water-based one), so had to buy a gallon. Never mind, the rest will no doubt be used somewhere. I used countersunk self-tapping screws to hold the floor down, spaced at 8" intervals.
The HF wheel chocks were perfect for this application, and cheap enough at USD70. No need to used the supplied front bar - very useful though that is if the chocks are used for other maintenance purposes.
To fit two Vespas onto the bed, they have to be staggered. I arranged for the right-hand scooter wheel-chock upright to be right above the front of the floor, and the left-hand one about 10" further back. The existing fixing holes in the base of the chocks are staggered, so you'll have to drill at least one more hole in each to allow a couple of bolts to hold each one down to the centre frame member of the front part of the trailer. I arranged the front-back centre line of the chocks to be right over the 2"x4" slots provided at the front of the frame. Like this, two GTSes fit side by side quite happily. The tongue weight came out at around 40-50lb, which proved just fine.
Tie-down points - I bought the smaller HF ones, and bolted them to the frame with 1/4" bolts in suitable places. A couple of holes wouldn't sensibly be through the frame, I used 1" dia washers to stop the bolts pulling through the plywood floor.
When folded and upright, the trailer rear wants to start folding down to the floor - I made a 'U-bolt' with a gash bit of wood and the long bolts that were intended to hold the ramps together (which you don't need to do) to hold it all together.
When the trailer is empty you'll be lucky to see it when looking backwards from inside the tow vehicle - I made a 'flag-post' that can be slotted in at the centre rear of the trailer to allow for reversing in this condition. However, with a front jockey wheel (and probably even without one) it's a doddle to manually manouvre the trailer, so that's always an option if you are trailer-reversing challenged.
I bought the cheapest alumin(i)um ramps from HF. These have a gap between the 'treads' of about 6" - this might at first glance seem to make loading and unloading a problem with Vespa small wheels. Not so - it means that you can run up the scoots under engine power, and with the rear brake and the slots in the ramps you have perfect control, as the slots allow the wheels to 'rest' when you might want them to. So two ramps for the RH scoot, one for the LH scoot. Getting the LH scoot off single-handed will need the use of a stool or other support by the LH mudguard to get enough leverage to get the LH scoot back out of the chock.
Ivana Tinkle, although initially nervous about driving with the trailer loaded with our Vespas being towed behind her Subaru Outback, found she hardly noticed it. Even downhill at <cough> slightly more than the speed one is meant to keep to didn't induce any swaying or ill-behaviour. So (thank deity) a thumbs-up from her!
Last edited by jimc on Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:20 am; edited 1 time in total