Bringing an old trailer back to life - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 10-06-2014, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2009
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Bringing an old trailer back to life

Thought I'd share for all those looking at old trailers and are not fully aware of what you may be getting into. This is a bit of a long read but will give you an idea what you can potentially be looking at buying used.

I had been looking on and off for about a year and a half for the "right" trailer to come along. I was open to anything from a 3 horse slant to a 6-8 horse monster, but something in the 4-6 horse range was ideal, and I wanted a gooseneck since I already have a big dually diesel pickup truck that we used to use to pull a large 5th wheel travel trailer. Most importantly, my budget was $5K or less, so knew I wasn't going to get something new, or even close.

I looked at a LOT of turds. There's lots of old horse trailers out there, but even the ones that look reasonable on the top side often turned out to be complete duds when you started looking at the bottom side...which is the most important side of all. Rotted frames, bent axles, rotten tires, gutted wiring, missing brakes, rotten flooring..the stories just go on. Cosmetic rust on the topside is another issue - up here in the rust belt steel horse trailers soon turn into rustbuckets if they've ever been pulled in the winter and seen road salt - I looked at a lot that were disgustingly rotten on the top side.

Hence why I looked for so long...the right trailer didn't present itself and I was in no rush. I passed on all the turds.

But then I caught wind of this critter through a friend who was helping me search and has a knack for finding good deals online. It was about 20 minutes west of me at an auction facility. It had went up for auction with a $5K reserve and didn't sell, so it was sitting, and the seller was reportedly anxious to move it. The pictures looked pretty good.

IMG_3202 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

It's a 1991 Crown, manufactured here in Canada, and they were known to be great well built trailers. I went to check it out.

So I get there and open it up. I immediately shake my head as it's still full of manure from when it was last used, and the manure appeared that it had been some time ago. One might think that when taking a trailer to auction you'd clean it out beforehand...?

IMG_3162 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3161 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

I was still reasonably impressed. It had rubber stall matting throughout and looked pretty decent overall structurally. That said, I walked in and soon got the "diving board" effect under my feet as the floor sagged. I lifted back some of the rubber matting and soon found this:

IMG_3163 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

The tires were marginal. The electrical, when connected, was clearly problematic - no clearance lights, only left and right stop and turn signals, and no brakes.

But structurally and cosmetically, it was good for a 25 year old steelie trailer. not perfect, but good..more on that in a bit.

IMG_3158 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3164 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3155 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

It needed some work, and it needed a good cleaning and polish, but I saw potential.

I called the owner and discussed. She was willing to deal, but I had a price in my mind that I figured made it worth my while to take on the risk of what I might find (Would the tires pass safety...and the brakes were a HUGE question). I offered $2000 as is. She took it. I towed it home the next weekend. I didn't dare put horses in it, however.

The work began with the brakes:

IMG_3246 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3249 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3250 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

As I suspected I might find (hence the gamble and my low offer), the brakes were a mess. Magnets shorted out and shoes with no backings. It looks like the brakes on the one axle hadn't worked in a decade or more and the other axle had broken wiring everywhere and despite possibly being functional, were quite seized and the shoes were about done as well.

My friend just happened to have a set of used shoes and magnets (!) from a previous brake job that were still perfectly along with a bearing repack and general servicing, we were soon putting things back together! This saved me hundreds - I would probably have just replaced the entire backing plate with all new hardware had he not had the used parts kicking around.

So, putting things back together.

IMG_3252 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3253 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

In the above pic you may see a tool that will (if you recognize it) quickly make you realize how nice of a shop my buddy has - a drum brake measurement caliper is something not a lot of people have, but is sure nice to have when you need it!

IMG_3251 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3254 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

And with the brakes done, we moved on to the floor. I decided only about 50% of the boards were salvageable, and a few crossmembers were suspect as well, so I decided to err on the side of caution and ripped out the entire floor.

IMG_3263 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

The crossmember right at the very tail of the trailer was the most suspect as the groove where the floorboards fit into was fairly rotten. It was OK, but I knew that within a year or so, it wouldn't be, and with a lot of weight from the rear legs resting in this area (not to mention bouncing and such while loading from the rear) it was silly to not fix it now.

I found a HUGE piece of 2x8 square tube on a local buy/sell website for $40, and so we got busy installing it. Or rather, I should say my buddy did most of it - he's the welder, not me. As with a lot of other projects I couldn't have done this without him and his most excellent shop. ;)
Chasin Ponies and CASugar like this.

-- In the great white north - Canada!
Every ride is a lesson, for you AND your horse - Newbies read this thread!
Thinking of buying an older trailer? Go in eyes wide open!
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post #2 of 18 Old 10-06-2014, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
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Part 2 (I couldn't post all the images in one single post)


And away we went.

IMG_3260 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3261 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3262 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3265 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3288 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

There was only one other even slightly concerning crossmember in the front right side of the trailer, so having some matching tube for that as well it was prudent to fix it as well while the floor was out.

IMG_3267 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

IMG_3266 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

So, I slowed down on the photos at that point. The new floor went in a few days later. I was able to re-use exactly 50% of the floor boards, replacing the rest with pressure treated pine.

The electrical was reworked. A large junction point under the trailer was the root of many of the trailers electrical problems - someone had made what appeared to be hasty repairs at one point and it had mostly rotted or fell apart. Amazingly enough every single clearance light sprang to life when the wiring was reconnected. One signal light was wonky but I replaced the tail lights with LED's and new plugs, solving that issue completely. Even the interior lighting all works.

I ended up replacing the tires when I stumbled into tires at 50% off on an end of model-line clearance. I hadn't planned on doing so until next year but it was a no brainer given the deal to be had. I had a heck of a time getting the tire retailer to sell me LT tires for a trailer, but that's another story that was had on another forum.

I spent quite a bit of time on the cosmetics. A lot of the rust streaks came right out with a buffer and some rubbing compound and the paint regained some shine. It still has a few issues here and there but I'm going to address them as time permits. I'd like to add some checkerplate in some areas as well.

Nearing ready for her first load:

IMG_3379 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

And here it stands today:

IMG_3548 by oshawapilot, on Flickr

Moral of the story...there can be deals to be had, no doubt, but go in eyes wide open. I was able to do most of the repairs to this trailer myself and have perhaps $500 invested all together, but several DAYS of labor, which is where the costs come in. No doubt with the trailer in the condition it's in now it would have easily fetched it's $5K reserve at auction (I'm confident I could sell it for at least that up here now), but the costs of the previous owner to pay someone to do all that work didn't make financial sense for her.

So basically, if you can do the work yourself and aren't afraid of the project..there's deals to be had. If you can't or are not comfortable doing this sort of project, then be prepared to pay a higher price, but still go in eyes wide open - like I said, I looked at more than a few trailers that looked purdy on top but were a mess underneath. Some people forget that it's the underneath that supports the horses. ;)

-- In the great white north - Canada!
Every ride is a lesson, for you AND your horse - Newbies read this thread!
Thinking of buying an older trailer? Go in eyes wide open!
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post #3 of 18 Old 10-06-2014, 11:08 PM
Green Broke
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Thanks for this great post.
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post #4 of 18 Old 10-06-2014, 11:36 PM
Green Broke
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Nice welding.
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post #5 of 18 Old 10-07-2014, 12:00 AM
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Wonderful post!! Thanks for the great progression.
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post #6 of 18 Old 10-09-2014, 12:13 PM
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Thanks for the great post! Like you, here in the Midwest I usually only see used trailers that shouldn't even be on the road. I've seen brand new Bison brands rust out after one winter thanks to the way we salt our roads.

A lot of these pictures were really scary! Suspecting one thing and then seeing it stripped down is a real education!
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post #7 of 18 Old 10-09-2014, 12:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everybody, it's important to remember that the framing and flooring are the most important part of any horse trailer, however sadly they are also the part that a lot of people don't pay attention to or neglect. Our BO who has been around horses her entire life shared a few stories with me about having attended accident scenes where horses had gone through the floors of rotten trailers, and suffice to say they weren't pleasant. It reinforced to me while I was not only shopping for trailers, however actually doing the refurbishment on this one, that framing and flooring needed to be at the top of the priority list.

Without doubt I could have got away without doing any of the framing repairs whatsoever, just replacing the rotten floorboards instead...and I may have even been able to salvage some of those by shoring up some Band-Aid Mickey mouse crossmembers under the trailer, but from a safety perspective it just wasn't worth the risk.

Cosmetically the trailer still has some issues elsewhere that are more noticeable when you get close and start to look carefully, however in the grand scheme of things I put safety way ahead of cosmetics....and it ain't bad.

What concerns me most is when I see people shopping for old horse trailers is that often they're only looking at what you see from the top side – a fresh coat of paint or wax is sometimes disguising a nightmare underneath. Not always (there's lots of good older trailers out there that are in far better shape than even this one was!) but you have to tread carefully and know what to look for.
Chasin Ponies and CASugar like this.

-- In the great white north - Canada!
Every ride is a lesson, for you AND your horse - Newbies read this thread!
Thinking of buying an older trailer? Go in eyes wide open!
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post #8 of 18 Old 10-11-2014, 05:15 PM
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Pilot thanks for takeing time and shareing post n pic's ! " Awesome thread "

Enjoyed it .
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post #9 of 18 Old 10-11-2014, 09:29 PM
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This thread reminds me of how lucky I was with my trailer! It's a '74 I believe, so quite old now, but I was fortunate enough to buy from someone who fixed up old trailers as a hobby. Mine was the last one they fixed up before deciding to buy a brand new one.

It had new tires, new floorboards, and all new electrical including a plug. Axels were good, I had to make sure because this was the number one thing my dad was absolutely freaking out about!

Ironically enough, the paint job was the WORST thing about the trailer. It was redone before the previous owners got it, and these people used horrible paint that left drip marks... AND they painted over all of the decals! Some people's kids...

Very nice thread, this keeps my motivated for when I buy a bigger stock trailer in the future!
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post #10 of 18 Old 10-11-2014, 11:40 PM
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Great find. Great Job of fixing it. Enjoy your new toy!!!

Never Ride Faster than your guardian angel can fly

Mingiz is offline  

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