Believe it or not we do like to drive our off-road vehicles on the street. The trip to the trail and back home are both part of the adventure. We won't shy from a day or two (maybe three) of driving to get our trail rig round-trip. That is assuming we have the time to spare and can afford the fuel and wear-and-tear on our 4x4s.
Still, there comes a time when loading a 4x4 on a trailer just makes sense. When that time comes, we like to be ready to hit the road to reach the trail. That sensibility is compounded when more than one person and more than one rig are headed to the same off-road event and it starts thousands of miles away. This perfect storm of off-road road trip to a wheeling destination is now upon us.
Once a year the staff, readers, and sponsors make their way somewhere for our Ultimate Adventure. Both this year and last, the UA has started about as far as possible from where I live in the desert Southwest. Freelance writer and our pal Trent McGee has been on every UA trip since the very first one 20 years ago, and he just happens to live a short way down the road from yours truly. So it makes sense for us two UA-heads to pair up, load down, and peel out on yet another road trip.
We are becoming experts at how best to do this. Here are some of the improvements we made to our two-car trailer to make our towing experience safer, easier, and stress-free.
Having a place to store tie-down straps, other ratchet straps, a copy of the trailer registration, handtools, and more is an upgrade we've talked about adding to our two-car trailer since we bought it. Finding a lockable box that isn't too big or too small isn't easy. Since we've been using Tuffy Security boxes in trail rigs for years, the company popped to mind as a possible source. Part No. 025 is intended to provide storage in a Jeep Wrangler YJ but worked perfectly for us as a secure trailer tongue box.
We set the Tuffy Security box on the tongue of the trailer to get a feel for what would be the best placement. We then secured it to the tongue and the rub rail using some 3/8-inch Grade 8 bolts. Inside the box are some large fender washers to distribute the load. We positioned the bolts with the head outside the box and an all-metal staked locknuts on the inside. Our thought is that if anyone tries to steal the locked box, these nuts will simply spin with the bolt shank without loosening.
Our two-car trailer came from the builder with a total of eight welded-on D-ring tie-down mounts. While eight may seem like enough, we quickly realized another pair would be just about perfect. Lucky for us, Mac's Custom Tie Downs sells them. Adding another pair was as easy as getting our welder near the middle of the 32-foot trailer.
Mac's also sells these smaller Slimline Anchor Plate Assembly tie-downs. These are perfect for securing lighter loads to the deck of the trailer for those times when spare parts or an extra tire or two need to travel on the trailer. The stainless steel hardware ties the machined aluminum mount to the wood deck or other surface with the round backing plate with nuts welded in place. The ring is spring-loaded so it can be removed from the mount when not in use.
The Slimline Anchor Plates are perfect for smaller ratchet straps and are built to a minimum breaking strength of 3,000 lbs in vertical pull. The removable rings are also usable with Mac's VersaTie track (available in strips up to 10 feet) in which the ring mounts can be moved to fine tune mounting points.
Good trailer tires are worth their weight in gold when you're hauling two rigs down the interstate. We've had bad luck with trailer tires from no-name tire companies. Milestar Tires may be a relatively new name in the U.S. tire game, but the company has come in like a lion with the super-beefy Professional Series trailer tires, the SteelPro AST. These tires are rated to hold 4,400 pounds at 110 psi. That's way higher than the dubious trailer tires our trailer came with, and you can literally feel the difference while handling these heavy-duty trailer tires with their 14-ply rating sidewalls. This is a major upgrade.
We have also found out the hard way that when you are towing with a trailer over a long distance, carrying a second spare tire is a good idea. Usually you won't know that you have a tire with low pressure until said tire explodes and shreds into metal, rubber, and vapor. To that end, we built this second spare tire mount for the trailer out of some spare 2x4-inch rectangular, 0188-wall tubing. The mount will bolt to the tongue next to the Tuffy Security box and will hold a spare eight-lug wheel with one of six SteelPro ASTs.
Here is the new home for our second spare on the tongue of the trailer. We'll need to get another tire cover to shield this spare from the sun like the one covering the primary spare, especially since this one is lying prone. Are we obsessed with trailer tires? You bet! And there's more to come.
Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) have been a part of modern vehicles for what seems like dozens of years. In fact, they've been mandatory in the U.S. on new cars since 2007. And while the information they give the driver is great in general, for trailer tire pressure it makes even more sense because, as we said, usually the first sign of trailer tire leakage comes in the form of a shredded tire carcass. TireMindner Smart TPMS aims to avoid this by providing pressure and temperature info via small sensors mounted on the valve stem cap. They communicate via Bluetooth with your smartphone. We got one of these systems with a signal booster for six tires (so we can monitor the "health" of all six tires, including the two spares).
These small sensors house a replaceable battery and screw onto the valve stem of each tire. With the TireMinder Bluetooth Adapter charged and the TireMinder app downloaded on our phone, the system learns the signal for each assigned trailer tire. You can then set the baseline low pressure below which the system will send an alert to your phone and the Bluetooth Adapter. The system also collects data on tire temperature and will send an alert if the tires get too hot or the tire pressure climbs too high.
BOLT locks use your vehicle's own key for one-key simple security. Each new BOLT product comes blank but matching the make and model of your vehicle. Once a BOLT lock is in hand, you insert your vehicle's key and turn it to the right. The BOLT lock learns the profile of your existing key. In our case we are matching the key of our tow rig. BOLT sent us many of its available products, ranging from cable locks and traditional padlocks to receiver hitch locks and an off-vehicle coupler lock.
The BOLT padlocks are just like every other padlock you've used. The locking and unlocking action is smooth and positive, only you don't have to keep track of a pound of various keys on a ring, fumbling to find which of the seemingly identical keys unlock the lock you want. Ours help keep our loading ramps with the trailer despite nefarious hands.
Two BOLT cable locks secure the spare tires to the tongue and rub rail of the trailer. These locks will keep our minds on the trail and off the security of our trailer when it's not in use, or parked in front of a hotel while we're on the trail.
Mac's Custom Tie Downs is more than just a catchy name for a company. Mac is an actual person who saw a need for high-quality vehicle tie-downs. We have used Mac's tie-downs for decades with nothing but the best performance. Since we are hauling these two rigs for a long time and far away, we thought it prudent to ask Mac for two sets of Ultra Pack Tie Down Strap Kits with detachable axle straps. The heavy-duty steel ratchets work flawlessly, just like our old straps. The bright blue color is easy to check even in the rearview mirror, and all eight straps have Velcro-equipped Strap Wrap storage straps. Each strap is rated to 10,000 pounds, and the "Direct Hook" moves the ratchet mechanism out from under the rig, easily accessible to check tightness.