September 5, 2012

Trailer problems and handling

So many people have been asking about how the trailer is handling up to the conditions we have been putting it though on our journeys.  So far we’ve gone well over 5000 miles (and one oil change in Idaho) and amazingly have only had a few minor problems.

The first actually happened on our second day out and it was with our stove.  It worked amazingly cooking up dinner and breakfast, but come dinner time the flame went out.  We thought it was the propane, which was low, but when we hooked up a new canister – no go.  Unfortunately after some poking and prodding, we managed to break one of the connections and that was that.  Luckily our neighbors were nice enough to lend us their stove to finish our dinner, but we had to buy a new one the next day.  After a stop in Rome, NY at the local super crazy large Walmart, we had a new stove and it has been working great since!  Come to find out though, it probably wasn’t the stove that was the issue, but the connection hose we were using for the propane.

Our first stove from Bass Pro Shops

Our new Walmart Stove - big improvement!

Our first trailer problem happened on our way to the Niagara Falls area.  We hit some massive rain storms coming off the great lakes.  With this came the obvious problems that plague all home-built trailers – leaky doors.  We had tested everything before we left Rhode Island with the garden hose on full blast and we thought we got all the major areas, but we didn’t account for driving rain when we were doing 50 or faster down the highway (and wouldn’t you know all of the rain we have had to dive though on the trip has been on highways!)  It happened along the hinge side of the driver side door but only soaked the corner of one pillow and part of the mattress.  Since it appeared that the rain was coming in the top corner of the door and dripping down the inside edge, we added some of the weather-resistant weather stripping we had left over from sealing the doors (we brought a lot just in case) to the top and bottom corner of the door.

Drying out after our first rain storm

We encountered one other major rainstorm on the trip while driving up towards the upper peninsula of Michigan.  Unfortunately the rain was even worse this time and we had more leaks.  After an hour of driving, we stopped to check on things and the same corner of the mattress was soaked and it was coming in the windows a bit.  We noticed that there was a gap in the weather stripping along the hinge and that seemed to be the issue.  We quickly pulled up the mattresses, covered things with towels and added more weather stripping to the gap.  Since that trip, we fold up the mattresses and sheets up before every drive and we haven’t had wet mattresses and pillows since.

Drying out again, but for the last time!

The only other problem we have had happened in the same rain storm on the way to Niagara Falls – we lost one of the wheel bearing covers on the trailer.  I believe when I hit some bumps on the route, it simply fell off.  They are only pressure fit and apparently that well secured.  Unfortunately after it fell off, a good amount of grease came flinging out of the bearings.  Thankfully we noticed it had happened because with the grease flinging out, the bearings could have overheated or seize on us while we were driving.  We drove to a close-by NAPA dealer the next day, but unfortunately the Harbor Freight trailer required one of those weird sizes, 2” in diameter, and all NAPA had was 1.97” and 2.05” or something like that.  They recommended a nearby RV dealer who thankfully had one randomly in the back that came off some sort of moving dolly that he gave to us for free.  To prevent them falling off again, I used some aluminum tape to hold them on.  They look a bit funny, but they haven’t budged yet!  I also purchased a small grease gun and grease to re-fill all the wheel bearings.

Our campsite at Yosemite - you can see the aluminum tape here

Other than those minor issues, we haven’t had any problems since and the trailer pulls like a dream.  The concrete highways in the mid-west were a little challenging causing the trailer to bump along quite a bit at times.  The leaf springs that came with the Harbor Freight trailer don’t seem to absorb any bumps especially since the trailer is so light – which causes things to fall out of the cabinets frequently.  I’d love to change out the axle in the future to a torsion axle which would help things a lot.
Giving the trailer a bath in Wyoming

 Knock on wood we have also had no issues with the electrical.  The driving lights have turned on every time and the solar is working better than we had hoped!  We have been able charge the laptop, charge our phone, run the fan and have the lights on without even denting the battery.  And the weather this summer has been perfect for it – lots of sunny days.

Comfort wise it has also been great.  The mattresses are quite comfortable and even on cold nights, we have stayed warm under our down sleeping bag.  The kitchen is also wonderful without having to set everything up at each site.  We have had to re-learn how to organize our cooking by preparing as much as we can before pulling out the stove since it’s hard to reach around it when it’s on.  The food has also migrated to different locations as we go and we are finding out what foods last the best without any refrigeration.  Rebecca will do a longer post on cooking and living when we have some more time.

Grand Tetons National  Park

As we post this now we have begun our Eastward journey back to New England.  Tonight we are trying to stay cool in Zion National Park.  It wasn’t too hot today, but the sun is a killer!  Tomorrow we are going to attempt Angel’s Landing… yay!


  1. Thanks for the update. It's great fun to read about your adventures and I look forward to reading Rebecca's post on cooking and living on the road.

  2. Ah those infamous bearing caps! Consider automotive silicone applied to clean cap and then installed. Seal you won't see. Also,there are bearing caps available with grease fittings that you are able to pump grease in through caps without removing them. Of course you'll want to be sure you don't overgrease causing excessive leaking through seal or actually popping caps back off ! So my inner mechanic gets loose once in awhile ! Great Blog, great build, and all the info I need to start building my own teardrop.

  3. I've loved looking through all the photos on the it's time to go back and read all the text that goes with it, haha! I have a question regarding the trailer. We're considering building a teardrop as well and as far as I'm concerned, Harbor Freight products are mostly crap. But when I see so many people using the Harbor Freight trailer for their teardrop builds it makes me think I may be willing to make an exception. Then I see your problem with the bearing cap and was wondering if you thought that was just a random problem (bad luck) or do you think it had to do with the quality (or lack of) the Harbor Freight product? Have you had any other problems with the Harbor Freight trailer? Thanks so much!

  4. Thanks for reading!

    While I usually agree that harbor freight components are not the best, the trailer has worked beyond my expectations.

    A few things about the trailer itself.

    Main concerns on our trip: Corrosion and wheel bearings.
    Solution: Seal up all areas as much as possible (See the first few blog posts). Also purchase some extra wheel bearings (Auto parts stores usually carry these).

    If I were to do this all over again, which I might one day... I'd definitely build a custom trailer for the teardrop. But unfortunately I did not have the resources at my disposal. I do now but that is another story. The biggest proponent to the trailer was the cost. Harbor freight trailers are cheap, but remarkably decent for what they are. As my dad says "it did go probably further in one trip than any Harbor Freight trailer ever has!" and it is still holding together!

    I will end up eventually putting a new torsion type axle under the unit as the springs don't exactly work the best on bumpy roads, and I will end up painting some spots that are exposed, but that is all on the wish list.

    Any other questions please let us know!

    1. Awesome, thanks for the info! If you don't mind, I probably will have more questions over time. Are you planning on keeping this blog going for further trips? or are you all done with it now?

    2. That would be my fault... I have about 3 posts in the works but I have poor time management skills and life got in the way with new jobs and a puppy! I have hopes to keep this blog going and hopefully sometime soon we can get the ball rolling again!