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Building a Jeep Trailer Kit

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on November 14, 2017
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A lightweight and compact trailer is a perfect match for the Jeep lifestyle. There are dozens of brands, ranging from classic-style basic teardrops to multipurpose trail units loaded with features that unfold like a Swiss Army knife. Some are for the campground, while others are for the outback. One of the new off-road–ready little trailers to come onto the market, the Smittybilt SCOUT, leans far toward the off-road side, and that intrigued us. We were able to get one of the SCOUT Trailer Kits into our shop so we could take a close look at it and assemble it ourselves.

The Smittybilt SCOUT does not come assembled. It’s a kit. We did it with a complete standard and metric wrench and socket set. We did use power drivers in some stages to save time, but all nuts and bolts were hand-torqued to final specifications. Feature-packed is an accurate description of the SCOUT. It provides a 1,763-pound rating and uses a heavy-duty trailing-arm suspension with coil springs, dual shock absorbers, limit straps, and alignment cams. Electric brakes and 5x5-inch bolt pattern hubs can be tipped standard with LT265/70R17 Pro Comp A/T Sport tires on 17x9-inch Pro Comp Series 51 steel wheels.

Storage is the key word here. Two cabin drawers can be accessed through the rear door; a generator drawer and a kitchen with sink drawer are gained through opposing sides of the trailer; and a large tongue box offers generous sealed, weatherproof space. Side compartments feature heavy-duty sliders and stainless steel locks. The large open rear compartment offers dual locking sliding drawers (one flat, one recessed), 200-pound storage capacity, and an overall dimension of 47 inches wide, 26 inches long, and 27 inches high. Also on board are an adjustable height tent/awning rack, spare tire rack, two stabilizers and a dolly jack, a 2-inch receiver on the rear for accessories, and a 2-inch ball hitch receiver up front. There are rear-end dual shackle mounts with a 600-pound capacity. A 7-pin RV-style electric plug is standard and pre-wired. Optional accessory (such as a fuel can) mounting solutions and toppers such as an integrated awning and a tent designed for the 800-pound static load capacity tent/cargo rack system are available.

With a 3,000-pound GVWR the cargo capacities are not shy, despite the compact nature of the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer. With an overall size of 75 inches wide, 54 inches high, and 120 inches long, this trailer, with its 1,543-pound (dry curb weight) and 65-inch wheel track, is quite maneuverable. Its independent trailing arm suspension allowed for generous axle articulation, and when hooked up to our JK with its articulating hitch, the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer was almost forgotten as we hauled it behind us over miles and miles of southeastern Utah trails. Follow along as we give you the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit assembly highlights.

The Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer can open up like a Swiss Army knife, providing a tent, awning, drawers for a kitchen and generator, and dual rear sliders for massive amounts of gear storage.
This is how the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit arrived. It was shipped bolted into a steel tube frame. Ours came with three Pro Comp tires and wheels attached. You can order the SCOUT Trailer Kit without tires and wheels to save money if you already have rims and rubber for it. The hubs are a 5x5 wheel pattern to fit ’07-and-up Jeep JK Wranglers, so it will be easier to get trailer wheels to match your Jeep’s wheels.
It took a good hour to unwrap; unbolt; jack up the steel trailer box using floor jacks and long 4x4s; pull the steel frame out from under from the trailer box bit by bit replacing the jacks with stands as we went; and unload all the parts stowed in drawers for shipping. Only then could the assembly of the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit really begin.
The trailer box is heavy and caution should be used at all times during unpacking and assembly, especially until you get the dolly jack attached to the tongue and the tires and wheels bolted on to the hubs.
Stowed inside drawers or slung underneath the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit was the trailer tongue; the storage box and spare tire rack that mount on top of the tongue; and the fenders.
When we said kit, we meant kit. Also stashed for shipping in the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit drawers were all the accessory parts and hardware needed to assemble the trailer. The only other things needed to completely assemble the SCOUT are you, a buddy to help, and a full roster of wrenches and sockets.
The trailer tongue was loosely attached with bolts to the front side of the trailing arm brackets, just tight enough to be secure, but still loose enough so the front of the tongue could be swung up after attaching the adjustable-height jockey wheel. Using a floor jack to help support the trailer tongue, the final tongue mounting brackets were aligned and bolted up to their matching holes in the trailer body.
With the trailer tongue installed, we moved underneath the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit. A pair of coil-spring, dual-shock trailing arms with limiting straps create the suspension system for the trailer. Once the bumpstops were bolted into the upper cups, we used a floor jack to raise the trailing arms to carefully compress and seat the coil springs into their upper and lower rubber isolators (rings) that were placed inside the upper and lower spring cups. At that point, it’s easy to use the floor jack to raise or lower the trailing arm to the right locations to install the limit straps, and then install shocks last. Be sure to lube the shock bushings and their receptacles with lithium-based grease prior to assembly.
The brake hubs come ready to bolt up to the trailing arms, but there is a left and a right hub. The hubs should be oriented for assembly so that the brake lever pulls upward and toward the front of the trailer. Once the hubs are attached to the trailing arms, the brake wire plug was connected to the socket on the trailing arm side. A dab of dielectric grease was used on the pins before connecting pins in the socket.
It’s easier to cycle the suspension during assembly without the tires installed. We installed the tires and wheels to the brake hubs next, tightening in a star pattern. Only then did we fully torque any suspension system mounting bolts so that the full weight of the trailer could rest on the suspension. If the shock bolts are fully torqued beforehand, the suspension can bind the bushings, causing premature wear and squeaking.
Next came the fenders. Those made for the Smittybilt SCOUT are tube-style, steel, and come with integrated taillights. Now with the tires and wheels on the suspension, we used a jack stand to fully compress each trailing arm to its full upward travel one at a time. Then we held the fenders up to their pre-drilled mounting holes on the sides of the trailer box. Since we were using the Pro Comp tires and wheels matched to the kit, we could mount the fenders in their “stock” locations. If we had brought in larger tires, we would have known just how much higher on the trailer box to drill a set of matching fender mount holes to clear the larger tires.
The Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer kit comes with a spare tire holder that can accommodate up to a 37x12.50 tire. The carrier was bolted to the tongue, directly in front of the trailer box. Per the kit’s instructions, the carrier was positioned with the opening to the passenger side. Two tie-downs were used to secure the spare tire in the rack; one over the top of the tire’s circumference, the other strap can run from the rack’s front tab to the rack’s rear tab or to the eyelet on top of the trailer box.
The last large object to be attached was the tongue storage box. It takes two to do this job easily, as the mounting holes go through the bottom of the box and the tongue cover plate, so a nut must be held below while the bolt is tightened from deep inside the box. This is one of the many times during the SCOUT trailer kit assembly that a second set of hands came in handy.
This was the best time to install the electric breakaway brake system. The breakaway controller and battery box was mounted to the trailer tongue using kit-supplied brackets and hardware. The pins and connectors were assembled to the unfinished ends of the wiring harnesses at this time. One side of the wiring was pre-strung from the tongue to the brakes, and the other is the side of what came with the breakaway kit. The breakaway cable was strung at this time, too. When all parts of the electric breakaway brake system were assembled and mounted properly, the two completed wiring harnesses were connected.
Now was also a good time to string up the parking brake system. First, we routed the parking brake cable through the brake lever pulley to the halfway mark we made on the cable.
Next, each end of the parking brake cable was strung through the guides on the side of the tongue and frame, through the brake drum actuator arms, and then looped back on itself; the loop secured using kit-supplied U-bolts. Adjustments here are critical, and we suggest making sure the cable is strung and adjusted tightly and properly before the U-bolts are completely torqued down on the cable loops.
Once the trailer coupler was assembled it could be attached to the trailer tongue. We then strung the safety chain on the trailer tongue near the coupler. Adjustment of the coupler is important, and can be done through the nut at the bottom of the coupler latch. The easiest way to make this adjustment is to use a hitch ball inserted into the coupler. When the coupler’s handle is locked down on the ball, the ball should be tight enough to still pivot, but not bind in the coupler. The coupler and ball should be lightly greased. We recommend wheel-bearing grease.
Two adjustable-height stabilizer jacks come in the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer Kit. The kit-supplied stabilizer-mounting brackets were attached to a rail along the rear lower edge of the SCOUT box, using cotter pins and jam bolts. A pull pin locks and unlocks the rotating lower stabilizer bracket mount, allowing the swing-up stabilizer jacks to be locked vertically for camping and storage or horizontally for travel. The jam bolts must be fully tightened when using the jacks vertically to stabilize the trailer.
The tent mounting bars were next on the list. Using cotter pins, the tent mounting bars are easily installed in the mount channels that run vertically on both sides of the trailer box. Height adjustment is a simple task of removing and reinserting the cotter pins as the tent mounting bars are raised or lowered. Assessing your tent’s open and closed height, and the desired rack height, prior to installation of the tent is ideal, since rack height adjustments after tent installation can be difficult.
Two L-shaped awning mounts were the last things to be installed. Fully adjustable and secured with cotter pins, as well as threaded knobs to take up any slack, the awning mounts jut upward. The adjustable horizontal top bar can be set outward and the vertical bar adjusted upward to accommodate an open tent for camping with the awning pulled out, or the horizontal bar can be turned inward and the vertical bar adjusted downward to help secure the tent in its closed position for travel with the awning closed up.
All bolted up and torqued down, the Smittybilt SCOUT Trailer kit assembly was finished in a good day’s work. We can’t emphasize enough that without a buddy to assist in the assembly, the job is near impossible. For convenience and safety’s sake, find a friend! You will need a full complement of standard and metric wrenches and sockets, and lunch standing by would be a good idea, too.

Sources

Smittybilt
Compton, CA 90220
888-717-5797
www.smittybilt.com

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