Snapped an old leaf pack in half, bent an old axle...doing some expedition trailer diy/refresh! Need suggestions...

deanorino

New member
Long time no talk, I’ve been using my offroad trailer for about 4 years now, and it finally broke under pressure. I believe part of the issue was incorrect shackle hangar placement and old leaf springs that were not the correct weight for the loads I was placing on the trailer .

Either way, I want to incorporate a new drawer style or other storage solution to store all of my camping/overland equipment in the trailer and make for easy setup and tear down. I’m thinking a huge single slide out drawer to the rear with some support legs that makes it like a giant table, but open to ideas. I’m also open to refabbing existing box shape/adding doors, changing the tailgate etc. I want to make trailer 2.0 better than ever!

For starts I’m upgrading to a 3500 lb dexter axle and electric brakes with new hubs. I also purchased new leaf springs, although I think 2.5k lb springs may be too high (4 pack). I will also be adding shock mounts and shocks, most likely from a small passenger car that allows for cheap and easy replacement.

Here are some photos of what we are dealing with!

Photos of my sad axle, and the trailer in question!


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old_CWO

Active member
You should weigh the trailer "wet," that will help you pick the appropriate spring rate. If possible, switch from standard trailer springs to something longer and stronger. Front springs from an early flat fender Jeep is what's found under old fashioned quarter ton military trailers and those are pretty much the gold standard for off road trailers.

If you're set on using those trailer springs you already purchased it's totally fine to remove leafs to de-rate them. I add or remove leafs as needed on leaf spring junk all the time. My observation is that shocks aren't very effective with standard trailer springs as they are stiff and don't require dampening like a longer spring does so you may not need them.

Tip on trailer shocks: Speedway Motors sells private label front hod rod shocks that are inexpensive and very compact, probably the shortest you are going to find at around 12". They have regular old 5/8 eye mounts at both ends so super easy to fab mounts. I suspect they are made by Tenneco (Monroe) based on the look of them but I don't have any proof.
 

deanorino

New member
You should weigh the trailer "wet," that will help you pick the appropriate spring rate. If possible, switch from standard trailer springs to something longer and stronger. Front springs from an early flat fender Jeep is what's found under old fashioned quarter ton military trailers and those are pretty much the gold standard for off road trailers.

If you're set on using those trailer springs you already purchased it's totally fine to remove leafs to de-rate them. I add or remove leafs as needed on leaf spring junk all the time. My observation is that shocks aren't very effective with standard trailer springs as they are stiff and don't require dampening like a longer spring does so you may not need them.

Tip on trailer shocks: Speedway Motors sells private label front hod rod shocks that are inexpensive and very compact, probably the shortest you are going to find at around 12". They have regular old 5/8 eye mounts at both ends so super easy to fab mounts. I suspect they are made by Tenneco (Monroe) based on the look of them but I don't have any proof.
Great idea. I need to weigh it in both circumstances too, now that I have a different RTT setup than before. As far as the leafs, I can swap them/return them as needed. The ones I purchased are 26.5 ~ eye to eye, so longer would probably be better . The issue I thought I'd run into with using a vehicle leaf is that my trailer empty is probably around 800 lbs , full is probably around 2k. I thought most jeep/truck springs would be too harsh for the little trailer .

As far as shocks il look into some more options. What about using a short UTV shock from something like a smaller razr? No sure what the mounting is.

Pictures coming shortly.
 

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old_CWO

Active member
I have CJ7 rear springs and mounting hardware on my trailer with the aforementioned hot rod shocks and it performs well. It's about 600 lbs empty and usually less than 1500 loaded. It tracks excellent on the highway even with aggressive tires and doesn't bounce, foam the beer in the cooler or break eggs while travelling on any terrain so far (no Baja washboard!) You can buy replacement hangers, shackles and stuff right from the Jeep suppliers which is what I did using some home refurbished old leafs. In an attempt to keep it riding smooth I did lean the shackles back a little more than usually seen on a trailer. It seems to be working out well even though it looks a little odd.

I haven't done it, but I believe that if you use the early Jeep front springs you can hang them with standard trailer mounting hardware as they are the same width as trailer springs. That's a lot simpler and more affordable solution than what I did.

I don't know much about the UTV shocks, never fooled with them. I would guess they would be valved for something a bit lighter and with more expectation around high speed rebounding than a trailer. :unsure: Hot rod shocks are only $45 bucks or so for the pair and rated for approximately the right weight range.

There's more than one way to skin this cat, that's for sure.
 

deanorino

New member
I have CJ7 rear springs and mounting hardware on my trailer with the aforementioned hot rod shocks and it performs well. It's about 600 lbs empty and usually less than 1500 loaded. It tracks excellent on the highway even with aggressive tires and doesn't bounce, foam the beer in the cooler or break eggs while travelling on any terrain so far (no Baja washboard!) You can buy replacement hangers, shackles and stuff right from the Jeep suppliers which is what I did using some home refurbished old leafs. In an attempt to keep it riding smooth I did lean the shackles back a little more than usually seen on a trailer. It seems to be working out well even though it looks a little odd.

I haven't done it, but I believe that if you use the early Jeep front springs you can hang them with standard trailer mounting hardware as they are the same width as trailer springs. That's a lot simpler and more affordable solution than what I did.

I don't know much about the UTV shocks, never fooled with them. I would guess they would be valved for something a bit lighter and with more expectation around high speed rebounding than a trailer. :unsure: Hot rod shocks are only $45 bucks or so for the pair and rated for approximately the right weight range.

There's more than one way to skin this cat, that's for sure.
Il look into that. I have no problem cutting off and rewelding new hangers, so if need be, Im open to it! How much angle did you go with on the shackles when empty? One critical failure that i believe contributed to my problem was having the angle much too steep when empty, so the leaf springs essentially bottomed out on the frame under heavy hits which caused the failure.

45 for a pair is a steal! I like that idea.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Leaf pack, to me means banks of risky lithium batteries (not LiFePO4 type) recycled from Nissan Leaf EVs.

Relieved to know that's not what snapped!
 

deanorino

New member
Yeah at first I was thinking it might be a Canadian street gang or something. :)
HAHA....Very funny. I have always called them that, and here i learn that not everyone does..too funny. Id say i broke a leaf spring, but i broke 2/3 of them clean in half! Majority rules... All nissan leafs are safe now.
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
I’ve been using my offroad trailer for about 4 years now, and it finally broke under pressure.
Not quite enough info here but....
If you started with a trailer it was engineered to carry a specific weight. If you broke the spring pack due to overloading???? heavier springs will not address the trailer frame also engineered for the same weight.

Eventually, after upgrading everything which breaks, the hitch will break and someone might die.

I recommend scaling what you have fully loaded, selling the trailer you have out grown, and buying a trailer capable of towing what you expect. Until you scale it I feel you are throwing money into a pit.
 

deanorino

New member
Not quite enough info here but....
If you started with a trailer it was engineered to carry a specific weight. If you broke the spring pack due to overloading???? heavier springs will not address the trailer frame also engineered for the same weight.

Eventually, after upgrading everything which breaks, the hitch will break and someone might die.

I recommend scaling what you have fully loaded, selling the trailer you have out grown, and buying a trailer capable of towing what you expect. Until you scale it I feel you are throwing money into a pit.
Frame is more than capable for the loads imposed. The trailer is a utility trailer made with 4 inch c channel steel and boxed with 1.5x1.5 steel tube. In addition, i have welded a box on top which acts as additional support.

The leaf was old. About 25 years old. When I built this trailer I had to relocate the shackles and hangars. When I did so, I think the angle was somewhere around 44-60 degrees empty. This may have contributed to the springs over extending and breaking under hard offroad use. The tongue of the trailer (if thats what you meant by hitch) is brand new. All components are class 3 or stronger. The load in the trailer slightly exceeds that which it was designed for, which was 4 dirt bikes for a total of roughly 800-1k lbs.

I shortened the trailer by 3 feet, which further saved weight as far as the structure is concerned.

After 4 years of heavy offroad use, the frame is as it was when constructed. All welding done by myself has held up perfect with no cracks or warping.

I think that should give enough background to answer some of the questions addressed.

Either way, today I'm welding up the shackles at a 30 degree angle which should be a compromise in softness ride height and effective spring rate, as mentioned here. Dexter 3500 lb axle going on with 2k lb leafs either side. In addition I purchased electric brakes to assist with safety and stability on and off the trail.

To jump ahead and immediately comment that someone might die because of something like the tongue (or hitch?) Catastrophically failing is quite the leap.
 

deanorino

New member
30 degrees from vertical. Most factory trailers I see are more like 15 degrees. I was a little concerned it was too far and the spring would contact the frame but that hasn't happened.
I had mine probably closer to 50-60 when sitting flat. This, and evidence of frame contact, is probably what killed the leaf...
 

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billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
To jump ahead and immediately comment that someone might die because of something like the tongue (or hitch?) Catastrophically failing is quite the leap.
wow

So I take it you have scaled it, curious what it weighs all in ready to go.
If you live in CA you must have trailer brakes if you weigh 1500# so with 2000# springs I guess you are already there.
 
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CampStewart

Observer
OP pics suggest you are out there using your trailer hard, that is some good carnage on the axle. Are these new trailer springs just a crutch until you go to some longer vehicle springs? My .02 as many have mentioned would be going to long easy to source springs from a common lightweight vehicle. Before adding shocks I would experiment with airing the tires down.
 
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