Sunday, December 21, 2014

Trailer Mover

Beyond plants in the garden we have a lot of structure- trellises, outbuildings (greenhouse, tool closet, chicken coop, grill shed) and even our camper.  The camper makes a delightful addition as a little "guest house" in our backyard when we are not in the mountains or prairies camping.  People often ask how we get our camper in the garden tongue-first (as opposed to backing it in, the conventional way).  

That is a good question. After some research, I purchased a "heavy duty" trailer dolly Like the one below (I don't have a picture of mine anymore, because I cut it up for scrap and reused some parts of it).
Not my photo, don't buy one of these.
Not surprisingly these are all made in China, and since I don't buy anything new from China,  (A little sidebar, this reminds me I need to update this buy nothing from China project, it has been almost two years since I began that endeavor, but I digress...) I was able to find one used.  I was a little dubious about the quality, but people swore by them.  The first time I used it I noticed a lot of flexing, so I strengthened it with some welds and bolstered it in a few places with some steel supports.  This seemed to help the rigidity and it seemed to transfer torque and force to the matter at hand.
Nevertheless, I wasn't really satisfied with it.   Those trailer dollies probably work really well on a level compacted surface (like a concrete driveway) but going from our alley into our garden was a two or three person job.

Unfortunately, it was usually me and my wife struggling to move it, which usually lead to the trailer going where it was supposed to, but also involved an argument (probably my fault). So I figured I could find a better way to do this and I could probably build something that would make it a one person job.  After some searching online for dolly plans, I found plans to make a battery powered trailer mover.  The plans came in either heavy duty or light duty plans.  I went with the heavy duty.

It turned out to be a really fun project and very enjoyable, and even a little challenging.  But best of all, it works!  And it looks cool.  And it was fun to build.  And it helped save our marriage.  
The skeleton of the mover.
The mover uses a 12V winch you modify to accept a sprocket. The winch turns a HUGE sprocket on the axle connected to the front wheels (those big lawn tractor tires). From a welding and fabrication standpoint, it was a really fun project.  Did I mention that already?
The completed mover.
It is slow, but it could probably move a house.  In retrospect, I could have probably gotten away with the gearing or the smaller front tires from the lighter duty model. But I would definitely recommend the rear tire configuration of the heavy duty model for traveling over uneven surfaces (the light duty model uses swiveling casters).
Hooked up the the trailer- a thing of beauty.
Here it is hooked up to my trailer before I bring it into the garden through the removable fence panel.
Easily making the 90 degree turn from the alley into our backyard.
Moving the trailer is now a one person job. It is really easy to maneuver over rough ground, and even in mud.  The motor (the winch) is controlled by a remote switch I mounted to the handle, so you can toggle forward and backward with your thumb.  Turning the mover (and trailer) is easily done with the long handle.
Now moving the camper is a one person job.
I was able to get a lot of the components for it from Home ReSource (some steel, wheels, and hardware), and used parts (like the winch) online, and even from cutting up the original dolly! I was able to get a pretty big used (made in the USA) gel battery for it from the Axman, for only $45.  On a single charge I was able to move the trailer back and forth from the garden to the alley all spring, summer and fall.  Since it is a gel battery, I don't have to worry about it in the winter, which is good, because I just wanted to leave it outside.

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