The Rebirth Of A Trailer

Story And Photos By Cliff Steele

He bought his current trailer 33 years ago, but never gave its appearance much thought ... until now.

Photo of the trailer in its original condition

A trip to your local launch ramp will show you many trailers have peeling paint, dangling electrical wiring, and missing or inoperative safety lighting. I once was one of those guilty trailer boaters who kept our 24-foot pocket cruiser in Bristol condition, but did little more than simple maintenance (tires, brakes, bearings, and an occasional taillight bulb) on our 10,000-pound-capacity trailer. But recently I undertook an ambitious project to restore our older boat trailer to better-than-new appearance and increased its utility at the same time. A word of warning, this project is for the very capable and skilled DIYer.

Photo of the boat or the original trailer

The Facelift

The first step was to investigate the best paint products, which had to be easily applied, give outstanding gloss, and last the remainder of my boating years. A tall order! Among several good companies, I chose Interlux because their products seemed easy to apply and their extensive website guided me throughout the project. Next, I found a great sandblasting outfit not far from our home. For a pittance, our rusted old trailer was disassembled and prepped by wiping down the entire unit using Interlux 2316N to remove waxes and such before sandblasting. Next the entire trailer was sandblasted, making it ready for undercoating primer.

Photo of removing the rollers and hardware from the trailerBringing a trailer back to its former glory is a multistep process, beginning with the removal of rollers and hardware.

Photo of the author spray-painting the trailer

After sandblasting, one must start the undercoating process within a few hours, as freshly sandblasted metal allows corrosion to start immediately. The first coats on bare metal were Interlux's Vinyl Lux zinc chromate primer within six hours of sandblasting, followed by two coats of epoxy Primekote. Lastly, I sprayed two finish coats of Perfection color. All products are two-part mixes (find further info on Interlux's website or requested data sheets).

I have my own spray guns and the shop offered me their paint booth, a deal I just couldn't pass up! But outside painting is permissible due to the coatings' speedy drying (chemical curing). A good paint sprayer will set you back about $80 to $100; this method will give even a first-time user fantastic results. Remember, the "pot life," or useful working time, on two-part mixes is short (average five hours) so time is against you. Upon completion of the painting, I was impressed with the deep brilliance and extreme hardness of the finish. It took about two hours to spray each of the three products onto the once very tired and aged 28-foot trailer.

Photo of new rollers

Next step was to dress up the new trailer finish with pinstriping. If you can hold a pencil, you can pinstripe. Beugler still sells a striping kit (Deluxe #471) similar to one I used 60 years ago on my bicycle fenders! Fill the tool with your color choice and guide the nifty tool along any edge for professional results.

Photo of the pinstripped fendersSandblasting, priming, painting, and pinstriping finish the look.

The Improvements

After years of replacing filament light bulbs and repairing frayed wires along the side of dark highways, I decided to install the best possible lighting and matching waterproof custom harness on the market. I went with an LED trailer-lighting kit from Grote. The Ultima kit harness is custom crafted and designed to be waterproof, not just water resistant.

Our trailer has four-sided box beams so it took a little fishing to route the new harness. I also added a set of their rear-facing, high-intensity five-inch white LEDs that brilliantly light the ramp or dark storage lot for those nighttime backings of the rig.

Photo of installing a new electric winch

Photo of author with his new electric winch and remoteA new electric winch with remote makes it more functional.

The original electric retrieving winch had not served me well lately. Grinding gears, metal shavings, and motor smoke told me one of these days would be its last. Researching heavy-duty retrieving winches, one company caught my interest — Dutton-Lainson, which started making products in 1886! One model, SA 12015 DC, has a neat remote-control feature and enough power to retrieve 30,000 pounds up a five-percent grade, single line! In other words, this winch can pull BIG stumps! You could say it really "pulled" this restoration project together. It was easy to mount using the 1/4-inch-thick mounting plate. The 10-foot remote controller can be unplugged and stored to prevent loss or theft. Also included is an emergency crank that really works as intended.

To power the winch and the backup LEDs, I added a battery and holder to the trailer, which I had welded up and mounted directly onto the trailer tongue. This resulted in a shorter cable run to the winch, giving it more power. The winch now can draw a full 70 amps while retrieving our heavy boat.

Final Touches

To finish the look, I added a coat of flat varnish to the faux-teak trailer step board. I also bought a set of metal hub trim rings for the wheel rims that can be found at most auto-supply stores, and added a vinyl cover for the spare tire to protect it from the sun. I won't be around when my restored trailer starts to show some wear. It's comforting to know that someday a pocket cruiser in the year 2038 will still be enjoying my DIY project. 

— Published: Fall 2013


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