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Harbor Freight Sunfish Trailer

Alan Glos

Active Member
Next spring I was thinking about buying a Harbor Freight utility trailer frame and using it for a Sunfish trailer. I was at the Syracuse, NY HF store yesterday and saw one assembled, and was fairly impressed with how sturdy and well made they are. I also like the 12" wheels that come stock with the kits.

Question: I assume that you need to retrofit a longer trailer tongue to make a Sunfish sit on it properly. Has anybody out there done such a retrofit and if so, how did it work? Also, any general reviews on how the HF trailers hold up and ride?

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
 

Webfoot

New Member
The tongue is fine as-is, trailer is for a 12'-14' boat. I got the 8" wheels, 12" wheels would help reduce the bounce. Anyway, the trailer is sort of a add you own hardware kit as in add a winch, better safety chains etc. Mine works fine but if I were to sell one of my trailers it would be the HF, I'd keep the one with the shocks and coil springs I got used for $150 bones.

One mod needed to carry a SF. Get rid of the roller that comes as a bow snubber and use a rubber V-Block. And a couple of Eye-Bolts replacing the fender bolts to fasten a strap over the hull.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
. . . you might also consider moving the bunks out where they carry the hull closer to a point where its strongest, less flexible, and least susceptible to fatigue..., and shift the whole carrying load a little forward.

A "V" bunk near the bow, in combination with longer, wider main bunks might also help distribute the weight over a broader area.

. . . or use the gate-side utility model trailer. Remove the gate-sides, drop in your bunk frame, and slide on the boat. I used that method for a few years..., kept the boat hoisted to the garage ceiling when it wasn't being used.
 

Attachments

This is how I modified the trailer for my sunfish. I used 2x12's with the contour of the bottom of the hull cut into the top. My neighbor had just recarpeted so I got to go nuts padding it up :).
 

Attachments

SmoothSailing

Pirateer, Sunfish & Sailfish Owner
Very interesting, Sailandsurf_89. I'd always wondered how those incredibly inexpensive, new HF trailers would hold up. Apparently they don't.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
I'm not surprised at the criticism. :rolleyes: You don't have to Google very far to find descriptions like "crap" for Chinese-made steel. :(

I first noticed it many years ago when I was using coat hangers for oxy-acetylene welding. The old ones were American-made and worked fine for welding, but there's so many impurities in the new foreign-made coat hangers, you really have to buy dedicated welding materials. :oops: When it comes to tools, most new tools are made in China, including Snap-on, Stanley, Husky and Craftsman. You're better off buying used American-made tools.

That said, I don't know where American trailers get their steel. A neighbor gave me a Continental trailer, about six years old—routinely immersed in salt water. The ocean had rusted it badly, and he couldn't trust it—although it was galvanized from the factory. I sold it to a boater who needed to move his boat from the water to his back yard—a distance of about 300 feet! (A good use of that trailer, I'd say... :) ).

Since I car-top, I probably shouldn't be offering trailer advice; however, I believe it is better to really cinch-down the Sunfish to the padded bunks. While traveling, a loose Sunfish can head south, while the trailer bunks are heading north. The hammer-effect would shake the structural foam loose, and not do the trailer any good. :confused:

Has anyone tried using no bunks at all on the trailer, by instead using a sling, trampoline- or net- material?
 
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CW Spook

New Member
...Has anyone tried using no bunks at all on the trailer, by instead using a sling, trampoline- or net- material?
Along that line, has anyone used the Right On trailer that holds the Sunfish on its dolly? I've been thinking that might be a nice way to go.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

DavidF

New Member
Up
Here is web site that is dedicated to just that, and they even use a harbor freight trailer. Also of note is that harbor Freight sells a boat trailer, but with 8" wheels for 320. I have heard that it does not require any mods to carry a sunfish.
http://www.sunfishclass.org/frequent/SchwobelsCradle.htm

Here is a link to that trailer.
Harbor Freight Tools – Quality Tools at Discount Prices Since 1977
That link to the Corpus Christi Sailing Center "Guidelines for Building a Cradle for a Sunfish Sailboat on a Trailer" seems broken, as well as the link to the same place on the Sunfish FAQ page, but you can still find the info in the Internet Archive's wayback machine:

Guidelines for Building a Cradle for a Sunfish Sailboat on a Trailer
 

lckeffer

Member
I have a harbor trailer with many thousands of miles on it. I have used it for hauling many different things over the years. It has motorcycle racks on it and a storage box in the front from tractor supply. I recently needed a spare trailer for my boats so I built a set of bunks from 1x6s and 2x4s. These attach to the stake bed slots. It now carries my laser upside down. This trailer has served me well. It's been to both coasts several times. It's gone so far it now needs new tires (12 inch). It sits outside in the weather year around. Every now and then I slap some more rustolem paint on it.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
At least one tire company has recommended storing tires off the ground. Tire tread seldom has a chance to "wear-through". Trailer tires fail in the sidewall: most often, the side that gets the sun.

Since most of our trailers rarely see the daily use--which is good for the rubber in ALL tires--when the sailing season ends, put two supports under the axle.

If your trailer has tires of 13-inch size or greater, look through the used tire racks. Oftentimes, newish automobile tires are replaced for comfort or noise issues. Auto tires are made to much higher standards than tires marked "Trailer", will last longer, and save money--starting at purchase. Ironically, foreign-made tires are better than many cheaper US brands--like "Cooper". (Which are produced in the same crappy factories).

Check the country of origin. (I don't have any experience with the better Chinese tires).

 

Seaotter5

Active Member
My kayak trailer is great for transporting my two sailboats, but at times, as I grow older, it would be nice to have something that would make launching a bit easier, so I had planned on getting a Harbor Freight trailer. While researching the matter, I discovered that PennDot considers kit trailers to be homemade, and therefore require expensive inspections and up to 6 months to be approved. Not really a viable option for me. Unfortunately, as their boat trailer looks like it would fit my needs quite well.
 

Weston

Active Member
Here is web site that is dedicated to just that, and they even use a harbor freight trailer. Also of note is that harbor Freight sells a boat trailer, but with 8" wheels for 320. I have heard that it does not require any mods to carry a sunfish.
http://www.sunfishclass.org/frequent/SchwobelsCradle.htm

Here is a link to that trailer.
Harbor Freight Tools – Quality Tools at Discount Prices Since 1977
that link didn’t work for me. It simply takes me to the harbor freight homepage. I searched on trailers and wondered if this is the one you are recommending:1195 lb. Capacity 48 in. x 96 in. Heavy Duty Folding Trailer
 

Weston

Active Member
At least one tire company has recommended storing tires off the ground. Tire tread seldom has a chance to "wear-through". Trailer tires fail in the sidewall: most often, the side that gets the sun.

Since most of our trailers rarely see the daily use--which is good for the rubber in ALL tires--when the sailing season ends, put two supports under the axle.
I’ve read that UV light quickly damages trailer tires, as well. For that reason I bought some cheap tire covers made of reflective cloth that I put on the tires when not using the trailer. I thought they would wear out pretty quickly, but I have a set that is two years old that look as good as new.
 

lckeffer

Member
I have a harbor trailer with many thousands of miles on it. I have used it for hauling many different things over the years. It has motorcycle racks on it and a storage box in the front from tractor supply. I recently needed a spare trailer for my boats so I built a set of bunks from 1x6s and 2x4s. These attach to the stake bed slots. It now carries my laser upside down. This trailer has served me well. It's been to both coasts several times. It's gone so far it now needs new tires (12 inch). It sits outside in the weather year around. Every now and then I slap some more rustolem paint on it.
Here are some pics of my multi use harbor freight trailer.IMG_20200801_184259.jpgIMG_20200801_184241.jpg
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Nice trailer. Check the WWYY (Week Year) manufacture date code on the side of the tires, time to replace them around 6 years regardless of how they look.
 

lckeffer

Member
Nice trailer. Check the WWYY (Week Year) manufacture date code on the side of the tires, time to replace them around 6 years regardless of how they look.
good point. The tires are shot as they are nearly bald but also they are 10 years old so it is time to replace them. It's easy to overlook things like trailer tires. Also the Sun has destroyed the rubber on the spare so it also needs to be replaced. Gonna have to put that on my to do list.

On another note. The harbor freight trailer has two leaf spring packs. It has a payload capacity of 900 pounds. That's way too stiff for carrying a lone sunfish. If I was to use this trailer for just the Sunfish I would remove the second leaf in the spring pack. I have done this to all my dedicated sunfish/laser boat trailers. It greatly improved the ride and reduces the wear on the boat. I also trailer with the boat upside down on 1x6 bunks. These flex just enough to give the boat a nice cushy ride.
 

walnut

New Member
Along that line, has anyone used the Right On trailer that holds the Sunfish on its dolly? I've been thinking that might be a nice way to go.
I would like to know what has been said about this. Can I put rollers on the trailers and not use bunks? Does this cause damage to the boat?
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
so I had planned on getting a Harbor Freight trailer. While researching the matter, I discovered that PennDot considers kit trailers to be homemade, and therefore require expensive inspections and up to 6 months to be approved. Not really a viable option for me. Unfortunately, as their boat trailer looks like it would fit my needs quite well.
Northern Tool has a small aluminum trailer--$399.


Massachusetts won't allow you to have a homemade trailer; however, there's a guy in Eastern MA who will look for a trailer for you. His name is Jay, and perhaps you can look him up at Craigslist or the Web.
 

danpal

Active Member
I live in Massachusetts and I've got a homemade trailer. It's registered with a license plate and everything. I've been pulling my 2 Sunfishes with it for the last 10 years. I even pay excise tax on it.
 

Helme1el

New Member
you can usually find Galvanized boat trailers on Facebook market place for around $500-$700 with a title, and way less if you are willing to try to get a title. I got one out of my neighbors back yard for 100 bucks put on new tires and repacked the wheel bearings, and light kit, good to go! just took it on a 750 mile trip back from MI to MD. pulled like a dream! even got 19.5 MPG's though Ohio because its so flat lol Truck and trailer.JPG
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
I live in Massachusetts and I've got a homemade trailer. It's registered with a license plate and everything. I've been pulling my 2 Sunfishes with it for the last 10 years. I even pay excise tax on it!
Massachusetts RMV has been in the news A LOT in the past 16 months! :eek:

'Don't know the trailer details of MA RMV, (perhaps "homemades" from other states can be transfered into MA)...Would MA turn down a chance to collect taxes? ;)

Here's the email of the trailer-finder (Ray) whose specialty is actually utility trailers. (An in-law of my know-it-all sailing friend). He's constantly checking all sources, and may "flip" a Harbor Freight trailer taking up room in somebody's MA garage!

jc4wheeler@hotmail.com
 

DoctorCAD

New Member
Here's my two cents that some might find helpful. My neighborhood has a HOA that restricts parking trailers outside so I got a folding trailer from Harbor Frieght and use a dolly I made from PVC pipe to launch my Sunfish. In the winter, the Sunfish is stored in the shed and the HF trailer folds up and stores in front of my car in the garage. In the summer, the Sunfish sits on the trailer in the garage.

Here's the dolly which is made of PVC pipe, pool noodle and some wheels from Harbor Freight. I use it to launch the Sunfish and load it on my trailer. It is easily disassembled and stores in the car while sailing...
dollySM.jpg

Here's the Harbor Freight trailer with boat bunks I made from thick pool noodle and PVC pipes. The pool noodles make a softer ride for the Sunfish. The bunks and 2x4 frame work lift out easily for storage in the car when sailing. I highly recommend the flags on these trailers so that no one backs into your trailer - this happened to me 1 week after I built the trailer but has not happened since the addition of the flags. It also makes backing the trailer easier since you can see where the trailer is in the rear view mirror.
trailer1SM.jpg

Loading and unloading the trailer with the dolly is a one person operation. Begin with the Sunfish on the dolly and resting the bow of the Sunfish on the end of the trailer...
trailer2.jpg

Drag the bow of the Sunfish toward the front of the trailer until the daggerboard trunk is past the rear of the trailer. This is a good time to run your ratchet straps through the daggerboard trunk to get ready to secure the Sunfish to the trailer.
trailer3SM.jpg

From the stern of the Sunfish, lift and shove the craft onto the trailer and secure with straps. I highly recommend tying a bright orange flag onto the stern of your Sunfish to alert drivers. Use ratchet straps to secure the Sunfish to the trailer - firm not tight as you don't want to crack the boat.
trailer4SM.jpg

A cradle for your sail, mast and spars can be made from PVC pipe that fits in the mast step. I like to wrap my sail and spars in a large tarp to protect them from the wind while driving (but some people use a large drain pipe to store these which I think is a better idea).
Strap this down to the trailer also but be careful not to ratchet down too tight.
trailer6SM.jpg

When you are ready to remove your Sunfish, just perform these steps in reverse and launch your Sunfish from the dolly. The dolly and bunks disassemble easily and are stored in the car while sailing.

I can't really take credit for any of this as these were all suggestions I got from various sources on the internet and compiled them here but I hope someone finds this info useful. I've learned plenty from helpful people on the internet and I hope this is a good way to pay you all back. Happy sailing!
 

rdemuro

New Member
Next spring I was thinking about buying a Harbor Freight utility trailer frame and using it for a Sunfish trailer. I was at the Syracuse, NY HF store yesterday and saw one assembled, and was fairly impressed with how sturdy and well made they are. I also like the 12" wheels that come stock with the kits.

Question: I assume that you need to retrofit a longer trailer tongue to make a Sunfish sit on it properly. Has anybody out there done such a retrofit and if so, how did it work? Also, any general reviews on how the HF trailers hold up and ride?

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
having purchased a hitch panel from HF, I would be very concerned with the rapid (overnight) rust development
 

shorefun

Active Member
I got the longer HF trailer as a general purpose trailer. I have an expedition but occasionally pick up pinball machines, jukeboxes and what not so I needed a simple way to carry them.

Then I got sunfish.

They are not heavy duty or able to be abused by loads. For a couple of sunfish no problem. I dont travel much, just to the yacht club so like 10 miles or so. I just made a couple of 2x4 arches so I can carry 2 boats at a time. I use some stiffer packing foam between the hull and the trailer and ratchet strap them down.

My take based on a lot of mechanical experience doing car restoration work and such. The metal is thin, but not bad. You have to route the wires well or they break when you fold the trailer for storage. Where you need to take some car is ensuring the wheels have bearings that are full of grease. They seemed ok on the one I got. At the end of this year I will likely pull them off and check them. The pockets for the 2x4's are designed smaller so you have to fit the wood so they are snug. I keep mine inside. I noticed those kept outside weather rapidly. Watch for rust.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
On another note. The harbor freight trailer has two leaf spring packs. It has a payload capacity of 900 pounds. That's way too stiff for carrying a lone sunfish. If I was to use this trailer for just the Sunfish I would remove the second leaf in the spring pack. I have done this to all my dedicated sunfish/laser boat trailers. It greatly improved the ride and reduces the wear on the boat. I also trailer with the boat upside down on 1x6 bunks. These flex just enough to give the boat a nice cushy ride.
Agree. We forget Sunfish have large amounts of foam "glue" inside, which can absorb water, making them especially vulnerable to "shock" loads. Those "shock" loads couldn't exist when those dry blocks left the factory--even on factory-approved trailers.

So what happens when a heavy foam block gets a "shock" load from its trailer? It gets loose--like one of my Sunfish. :(

Probably not a problem if your fish weighs close to the factory weight. :cool:
 

Poppi

New Member
Sunfish Trailer 1.jpgSunfish Trailer 1.jpgSunfish Trailer 2.jpgSunfish 4.jpg

Made my trailer for under $100. Used the old axle and tires. Mast is transported on the cross members and is awesome for setting up and taking down the mast. Bunks are 5/4 decking by 8' long. Launches and retrieves easily.
 
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L&VW

Well-Known Member
:cool: Clever use of a semi-elliptical spring: clamped in the middle to make a pair of quarter-elliptical springs. Just the ticket for a small sailboat! (Or the newest thing in a 1963 Corvette).

Nice $100 trailer...!
 

walnut

New Member
Here's my two cents that some might find helpful. My neighborhood has a HOA that restricts parking trailers outside so I got a folding trailer from Harbor Frieght and use a dolly I made from PVC pipe to launch my Sunfish. In the winter, the Sunfish is stored in the shed and the HF trailer folds up and stores in front of my car in the garage. In the summer, the Sunfish sits on the trailer in the garage.

Here's the dolly which is made of PVC pipe, pool noodle and some wheels from Harbor Freight. I use it to launch the Sunfish and load it on my trailer. It is easily disassembled and stores in the car while sailing...
View attachment 44288

Here's the Harbor Freight trailer with boat bunks I made from thick pool noodle and PVC pipes. The pool noodles make a softer ride for the Sunfish. The bunks and 2x4 frame work lift out easily for storage in the car when sailing. I highly recommend the flags on these trailers so that no one backs into your trailer - this happened to me 1 week after I built the trailer but has not happened since the addition of the flags. It also makes backing the trailer easier since you can see where the trailer is in the rear view mirror.
View attachment 44285

Loading and unloading the trailer with the dolly is a one person operation. Begin with the Sunfish on the dolly and resting the bow of the Sunfish on the end of the trailer...
View attachment 44286

Drag the bow of the Sunfish toward the front of the trailer until the daggerboard trunk is past the rear of the trailer. This is a good time to run your ratchet straps through the daggerboard trunk to get ready to secure the Sunfish to the trailer.
View attachment 44289

From the stern of the Sunfish, lift and shove the craft onto the trailer and secure with straps. I highly recommend tying a bright orange flag onto the stern of your Sunfish to alert drivers. Use ratchet straps to secure the Sunfish to the trailer - firm not tight as you don't want to crack the boat.
View attachment 44290

A cradle for your sail, mast and spars can be made from PVC pipe that fits in the mast step. I like to wrap my sail and spars in a large tarp to protect them from the wind while driving (but some people use a large drain pipe to store these which I think is a better idea).
Strap this down to the trailer also but be careful not to ratchet down too tight.
View attachment 44291

When you are ready to remove your Sunfish, just perform these steps in reverse and launch your Sunfish from the dolly. The dolly and bunks disassemble easily and are stored in the car while sailing.

I can't really take credit for any of this as these were all suggestions I got from various sources on the internet and compiled them here but I hope someone finds this info useful. I've learned plenty from helpful people on the internet and I hope this is a good way to pay you all back. Happy sailing!
It appears that you have solved all the problems I tried to, but I didn't think about PVC. The sound you may hear is me slapping my forehead! Could you send me pipe sizes and lengths, etc. if this info is in an easily sent file? I am particularly interested in the axle details. It looks like your SF may be a larger one like I have. Mine is 15' and heavier than I thought it would be.
Here's my two cents that some might find helpful. My neighborhood has a HOA that restricts parking trailers outside so I got a folding trailer from Harbor Frieght and use a dolly I made from PVC pipe to launch my Sunfish. In the winter, the Sunfish is stored in the shed and the HF trailer folds up and stores in front of my car in the garage. In the summer, the Sunfish sits on the trailer in the garage.

Here's the dolly which is made of PVC pipe, pool noodle and some wheels from Harbor Freight. I use it to launch the Sunfish and load it on my trailer. It is easily disassembled and stores in the car while sailing...
View attachment 44288

Here's the Harbor Freight trailer with boat bunks I made from thick pool noodle and PVC pipes. The pool noodles make a softer ride for the Sunfish. The bunks and 2x4 frame work lift out easily for storage in the car when sailing. I highly recommend the flags on these trailers so that no one backs into your trailer - this happened to me 1 week after I built the trailer but has not happened since the addition of the flags. It also makes backing the trailer easier since you can see where the trailer is in the rear view mirror.
View attachment 44285

Loading and unloading the trailer with the dolly is a one person operation. Begin with the Sunfish on the dolly and resting the bow of the Sunfish on the end of the trailer...
View attachment 44286

Drag the bow of the Sunfish toward the front of the trailer until the daggerboard trunk is past the rear of the trailer. This is a good time to run your ratchet straps through the daggerboard trunk to get ready to secure the Sunfish to the trailer.
View attachment 44289

From the stern of the Sunfish, lift and shove the craft onto the trailer and secure with straps. I highly recommend tying a bright orange flag onto the stern of your Sunfish to alert drivers. Use ratchet straps to secure the Sunfish to the trailer - firm not tight as you don't want to crack the boat.
View attachment 44290

A cradle for your sail, mast and spars can be made from PVC pipe that fits in the mast step. I like to wrap my sail and spars in a large tarp to protect them from the wind while driving (but some people use a large drain pipe to store these which I think is a better idea).
Strap this down to the trailer also but be careful not to ratchet down too tight.
View attachment 44291

When you are ready to remove your Sunfish, just perform these steps in reverse and launch your Sunfish from the dolly. The dolly and bunks disassemble easily and are stored in the car while sailing.

I can't really take credit for any of this as these were all suggestions I got from various sources on the internet and compiled them here but I hope someone finds this info useful. I've learned plenty from helpful people on the internet and I hope this is a good way to pay you all back. Happy sailing!
 

walnut

New Member
I like what you have done. It appears that you have solved all the problems I have encountered. I never thought of using PVC. The sound you may hear is my hand slapping my forehead while exclaiming DUH!! Could you send me some details like size of pipe and axle details, if this info is easily attainable.
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I like those Harbor Freight trailers, especially when they have the 12 inch wheels vs the 8 inch. Hit any rust spots with good old rattle can RustOleum ASAP.
 
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