Trailers FAQ

Trailers FAQ

Would you look forward to a trip to ride your ATV or trust that it would not get damaged in a trailer like the one in the post picture? Neither would I, may be time to look for a new trailer.

Next to your ATVs the single biggest investment you make to participate in the ATV sport will be your trailer. In response to our reader’s questions on trailers I have provided the following information for everyone’s benefit.

What should one look for in a trailer?

If you think the decision on an ATV can be confusing, the decision on a trailer can be even more challenging. The simple reason? There are no more than a dozen ATV manufacturers, and there are literally hundreds of trailer manufacturers, when you consider the fact that anyone with a welding torch is a potential trailer maker.

Capacity

The primary feature you would be looking for in a trailer is the ability to pull your ATV(s) Since there are a wide variety of ATV sizes and shapes, it is impossible to recommend exactly the right trailer for the plethora of permutations of possibilities.

You can find light weight utility all-purpose trailers at the garden center that some brave souls will use for hauling their ATV. These work, but I’m not certain I would feel comfortable with such light weight frame hauling a 400 to 800 pound payload.

Some people will want the ability to carry both snowmobiles and ATVs. This is a nice idea, but the needs of the two types of vehicles. are significantly different, and thus you will find that a trailer configured for one type vehicle may not have the features to secure the other type of vehicle to the trailer. In such cases a little customization may be in order.

There are two common types of frame styles on a trailer. Other styles are probably out there. The most basic frame is a “T” style. This is where the tongue is directly attached to the axle. The “Y” style frame broadens out the area for the bed to rest on the trailer. The top of the “Y” is attached to the axle at two locations. I discovered that the advantage the T style frame offered was price. The advantage the Y style frame offers is improved stability and durability.

Axle Weight Rating

When you talk to a trailer dealer they will immediately start talking about the axle weight rating. The axle weight rating is really important. If you have two ATVs you could be talking a payload of at least 800 on up to 1700 pounds of payload, and that is just the ATVs, that doesn’t include any of the other things you might pile in the trailer, such as gas and coolers, kids, dogs. Well, perhaps not the dogs. You should also consider your own weight in the payload, after all, you climb up on the trailer to move the machines down. You wouldn’t want the axle to buckle under your weight. Now that would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Just do a bit of math and estimate what you are likely to be carrying on the trailer and then you will have some idea. You can’t be too conservative about the axle weight rating. You may recall seeing trailers with the bottom of their tires toed out “/–\” This is the result of a bent axle. This will cause only a portion of the tire’s tread to be against the surface of the road and increase the instability of the vehicle as well as shorten the life of the tire.

Tie Downs

The tie down is the adjustable strap that hooks your ATV to your trailer. An ATV trailer should have tie-down locations in at least twice as many locations as the number of machines you plan on carrying. It is better if these are in a spot where you don’t have to pull the strap over a metal edge to get to the tie down. The friction of the metal against on the strap can cause it to break while in transit. It is best if the tie down eyes are on the bed of the trailer.

The tie down straps don’t usually come with the trailer. You have to buy them separately. There are ratchet style and simple crimp latch tie downs. The ratchet style tie downs allow you to really tightly secure the payload. The ones I’ve used in the past take a little longer to set up than the crimp latch tie down. Unfortunately, the ratchet tie downs seem to wear out and get jammed and broken rather easily. If you can find a heavy duty ratchet tie down you may have a real gem. I have come to prefer the crimp latch tie down, personally. They are fast and if done correctly, can offer a great protection to your machine. See the page on transporting for more information on how to secure your ATV to your Trailer.

Ramps

Some trailers have ramps that you store at the bottom of the trailer and pull out when you need them. Others have ramps that you can let down from the side or the rear. Still others offer a joint that permits the trailer to tilt so you can obtain access that way.

I’ve used the tilt style trailer on occasion and I don’t find them to be the solution for me. While I am not familiar with any situations where serious injuries have occurred, I have seen the tilt style trailer release its payload with less than favorable results. The most serious challenge to this loading and unloading feature is that there is no control of the speed that the back of the trailer goes down. Even in a good scenario, they will bang to the ground like you just dropped a wrecking ball. I don’t care for that solution. This offers just too many opportunities that someone may be caught either underneath the rear of the trailer or above the front of the trailer. Loading has a similar bang once the fulcrum of the joint is reached.

Most people with the tilt style trailer soon forget about the tilt feature and use either wooden or metal ramps to solve the uncontrolled ascent and decent.

Wheel Wells

Many trailers, particularly those with large wheels, have wheel wells. This is the area on the surface of the trailer that is raised to accommodate for clearance over the tires. Initially these may seem like a reasonable accommodation. However, if you are hauling an ATV you will constantly be finding the wheel wells in the way. A completely flat bed for the ATV will serve you well.

Tire Options

Many manufacturers will offer you the choice of width of the tires you use on your trailer. A common trailer tire for an ATV trailer will be about 4 inches wide. More recently super wide tires are offered on ATV trailers. I personally prefer the 8 inch wide tires. I’ve found that the wide tires offer a very stable ride. While you want your ATV to have the ability to slide in a turn, this is not a feature when it comes to your trailer. It will cost you a little more for the wider tires, but you won’t regret the investment. If your trailer already has the narrow tires, it is probably possible to change them for the wider rim and tires.

Are there advantages for rear loading over side loading?

There is a lot of personal opinion involved with the answer to this question. If you don’t mind backing your ATV off your trailer then a rear loading trailer is the one for you. Not many rear loaders offer the ability to exit off the front. Some snowmobile trailers have that feature. If you like the option to pull up on one side of the trailer and off on the other, then you will enjoy the side loaders. Personally, I enjoy the side loading trailer for its flexibility. The rear loaders usually cost a little less money, generally speaking.

Should the lights be recessed inside the side walls so they don’t get broken while backing?

Any time you can offer some protection to your lights you will be better off. Keep in mind that you don’t really need to have your lights encased in titanium or stored in Fort Knox. What you are looking for is the ability to protect the light lens against damaged in a minor scrape. Major damage will never protect the rear lights, you just have to accept that. Some makers use the encased lights as a selling feature. This may be found to be a disadvantage when a minor bump over the rear light requires replacement of the light casing. It is likely to be more difficult to replace.

Should the wiring be protected inside the metal structure of the trailer?

Any time you can protect the wiring you are eliminating the possibilities that something may be damaged in transit. Consider the fact that you are planning to be hauling ATVs and this will likely be over some rather rough terrain. Most parking/staging areas are unimproved and you will likely encounter all types of potential snags from beneath. If you would consider it a good idea to protect the wiring of your trailer, then certainly you would also consider it a good idea to wear a helmet. Protection is protection. (Sorry, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to preach for helmets)

What size should one get for one, two, three, or four machines, taking into consideration the additional items like fuel and other things normally taken on a trip?

I’m not going to offer the specifications of the trailers for the various numbers of machines. I will permit the sales staff at your local trailer or ATV dealer to provide you with that information. However, I would like to remind you that you are paying anywhere from $3500 to $10,000 for your ATV. Does that inspire you to get something to transport it that will offer some protection and safety to it? I would hope so.

Trailers longer than 16′ are required to be licensed by the State of Utah. Trailers less than 16′ have no such requirement.
Any trailer longer than 8′ will likely have dual axles.

What are the advantages of aluminum, steel, and enclosed trailers?

Aluminum trailers are light weight and will provide improved gas mileage over a steel trailer, simply because you will be dragging less weight. The disadvantage of aluminum is that it is not as strong as steel. Aluminum tends to bend and break at lower tolerances. You will be throwing around a 4,800 pound ATV and there would be some advantages to having some real resistance when needed. On one occasion while boarding the trailer, the machine jumped into the opposing rail. Had it been an aluminum rail it may not have remained in place. If you were carrying mountain bicycles an aluminum trailer may be just the ticket. In my opinion, an ATV is just too much payload for an all-aluminum trailer.

Steel trailers have the disadvantage of rust. They will require some ongoing maintenance and reasonable attention. However, when it comes to hauling ATVs this is the best solution in my opinion.

Enclosed trailers are the real luxury solution. If you can afford an enclosed trailer to haul your ATV, then I’d say go for it. The price of the trailer is likely to start at a similar price that you paid for your ATV.

The real advantage an enclosed trailer offers is that you have security protection while your machine is parked at home. You can load ’em up and haul ’em home and not have to worry about unloading your machines and locking them in the garage.

There are a whole raft of solutions available up to and including motor homes that have an ATV garage in the back of the motor home. Ooooh, now that would be nice.

What does one need to know when pulling an ATV trailer behind a fifth wheel or travel trailer?

Well, the first thing I can think of when considering daisy chaining the ATVs behind the trailer is that you had better be sure that you never get into a situation where you have to back up your rig. Frankly, I would discourage anyone from using the trailer behind the trailer approach. I’d have to do some research to find out if this is even legal. I think it is, because I’ve seen it done a few times, but then what do I know about it? Not much.

At any rate, the suggestion I would offer is if you need to tow two trailers you need two (2) towing vehicles (tractors). We’ll leave the motor chaining to the professionals. It would just be a lot safer to keep one trailer behind one vehicle. Last summer I wanted to take both my boat and my ATVs to Island Park, Idaho. We took both the Motor Home and the SUV to haul all the gear. We were not sorry we did this. Cruising through Yellowstone National Park was a lot nicer in the SUV than it would have been in the Motor Home. We maintained radio contact between the units and it was just as though we were in the same vehicle. It was a rather nice way to go.

What about home built trailers?

A friend of mine told me that they once pulled a home-made ATV trailer that had the axles too close to the front. As a result the trailer was back heavy and swayed violently above 55 mph. Not all homemade trailers will offer this experience. However, it is good to realize that the driver of a vehicle assumes full responsibility and liability for any trailer attached to their car or truck. If you build it yourself, you may have the confidence you’ve done the right thing. If not…. well then there is that element of risk. It is your gamble. Home built trailers can offer some nice features if they are well planned, but they are also a serious consideration when it comes to engineering quality and safety. “Buyer beware” would be the only suggestion I would offer. You would want to make every reasonable assurance that the trailer is built sturdy and trails safely before you put your money on the table. There are a lot of variables that need to be considered, many of which have been mentioned here. This page offers no more than common sense with regard to trailers. For expert advice, do your homework and talk to several dealers and get their opinions. Balance that information with your checkbook and the needs that you can validate and then you can make your own decision. As long as you protect yourself and your machines, you are likely to be pleased with your decision.

I have a Vanguard Side load 2 place ATV trailer with super wide tires and I’m very pleased with it. You can get them in 4 and six place configurations. Vanguard Trailers are sold by ATV Dealers throughout out the mountain west area. Vanguard Trailers are built in Ogden Utah.

Categories: ATV Info

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