If you’re like me you’ll be running a multitude of gadgets in your JK. Winches, gauges, lights galore, CB, Ham radios, you name it, I have it installed and hardwired. Now that’s all well and good but all of those accessories draw power and if you’re only running a single battery that can mean problems in the long run. The standard way to fix the problem is to install an auxiliary battery system. You run most of your accessories off of that, leaving the main battery to start the vehicle and your dual battery system of choice will take care of charging both batteries whilst on the move. Right then, let’s install a dual battery system, you say! You open the doors of your shiny 2 door diesel JK and.. you scratch your head.. Where the heck am I going to place the auxiliary battery? If you’re running a diesel CRD engine there’s simply zero space for it so you’re going to have to locate it elsewhere but where?
I’ve heard all kinds of solutions: behind one of the seats.. you lose a foot well. Under the seat? Yeah, good luck with that.. Above the wheel tubs? That’s going to get in the way, look incredibly clunky and if by any chance it comes loose under breaking then you have a head level scud missile heading someone’s way.. There is a company in the US that produces a deeper tool box extension that will allow you to drop a battery into. The problem with that system is firstly it costs $330 plus shipping, so by the time you get it to Europe you’re probably looking at nearer $600 USD. Then you need to cut out the existing tool well and weld/bolt the new one into place. Oh hang on a minute, you can’t actually do that as you may have notice the exhaust muffler is located directly under the tool well. OK, so re-locate the muffler, cut out the existing tool well, weld in the new one and pay $600 for the privilege. That might be reasonable to some but I personally thought there must be another solution that didn’t involve another idea from one of the forums of locating the aux battery beneath the chassis.. There is no way on earth I’m going to locate an explosive battery somewhere that’s likely to take a hammering from rocks and debris!
Above you’ll see my solution. I bought a T-Max Dual Battery System With Monitor for $80, a Numax Accubox for $60 and spent a further $10 on a length of 5mm thick steel rod. I already had an aluminium 25 litre jerry can plate in my garage from years back but to buy one is about another $15 if you go that route. The battery locks into the jerry can plate. When it’s seated there’s about 7mm of space between the battery and the plate itself. Having made 2 slits in either end of the Accubox at the bottom, I fed the two rods through the box and between the plate an the battery. I then put about a 45 degree bend in the end of each of the rods and drilled two 9mm holes. The same holes were drilled in the tool well and the whole thing bolted in place nicely, as rock solid as you could ever imagine.
From an old locking rod that I never used for my tool cabinet I fashioned a battery locking bracket that connect to two bolts either side of the jerry can plate. (I’m currently using spare Varta 95ah Blue calcium sealed battery but I will soon replace it with an Optima Yellow Top, which is what I run in as a main battery.
The Accubox is handy in that it has a built in meter on the outside as well a cigarette style charging port. So there ya have it! An entire dual battery system in a CRD 2 door JK for under a $150 all in and very little space lost to the aux battery. Oh.. and the back seat works as normal, too!
I installed this winch switch panel a while ago but didn’t get round to wiring it in until last night. Happy to say it works very well, allowing me now to control the winch from inside (via the switches) or outside (via the remote).
The panel was custom made by 12VoltGuy who does a very good job if you don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks.
I finally got round to wiring in the rear Dually last night. Because this one was at the back of the Jeep and high up on the roof rack the wiring harness needed extending and wasn’t the usual “plug and play”. Either way, all done now and it’s bright back there, especially with the added light of the switched KC reversing lights!
I don’t often get to do this but I have to give kudos where they’re due. A few years ago I bought one of the last sets of “titanium” 6″ KC Daylighters which I mounted either side of the windscreen of my JK. They’ve worked beautifully but began to rust inside quite quickly and eventually the rust came to an unacceptable level. I called Brad at KC’s customer service department and because my lights were discontinued he replaced them with a much upgraded LZR LED version that cost a fair bit more, all completely free of charge except the shipping. I know that KC lights have a 23 year warranty but you never really know until that warranty is tested. Well, KC do, indeed, honour their warranty, even to those of us who live far away on the distant shores of the UK. They’ve now got a customer for life in this house.
This rig includes a “Kenwood TM-D710A and a Yaesu FT857D, with a Diamond 2m/440 retractable antenna and a Yaesu ATAS-120A auto-tuning HF antenna. The radios are hooked up to a Panasonic Toughbook for APRS mapping / messaging and HF logging…along with with a Clearspeech DSP speaker and various other related items.”
Link to original forum post.
We often overlook books which are from a bygone age.
We really shouldn’t as these books still provide some wonderful tips and give us insights that our computer age often overlooks.
If you can find a copy you’ll enjoy this read. 😉 Interestingly, if you read the blurb on the back cover (third image), Peter was born in Beaconsfield, where I bought my Jeep and have it serviced. It’s about 20 mins up the road from me.
If you’re big on overlanding and want to be able to quickly access up-to-date, accurate travel information from fellow overlanders then you should take a good look at IOVERLANDER. Travellers on the road the world over upload tips constantly in real time via the IOVERLANDER website which you can then access via your laptop or any IOS device using the free app. Few would disagree that the most accurate and useful information will come from those currently out there and doing it. When I first began overlanding in 1986, long before mobile devices became a reality, the first thing I’d do upon arrival in a new country or city was to head to the local youth hostel where the travellers would meet up and exchange info. The message boards on the hostel walls and the bar in the evening were where we gleaned info about the local area and about the places along our intended routes. The IOVERLANDER app brings the hostel right to your pocket. Brilliant!
One of the things I love about overland travel is meeting new friends along the way. Today, a Dutch forum buddy from Overland Bound was touring close to where I’m based in the UK, so we decided to hook up in the afternoon and grab a coffee and a chin wag! Rob had his trusty Frontera with him.
I wanted a cargo net made of 1″ nylon webbing for the expedition trailer so the online search began in earnest! I have to say I struggled to find anything short of a custom made net which was estimated to cost £180 ($270 USD) which is more than 50% of the total cost of the trailer thus far.. After a couple of hours I finally stumbled on this one, which was, to the inch, the exact size I needed and only $28 (£20 GBP). It was located in the US but Amazon served me well, as usual, and got it to me in five days for a shipping cost of $7. Kudos where kudos are deserved!
For the price, this net is hard to beat! It’s good quality webbing, great stitching and after a can of Fabsil waterproofing spray it should last for years. I’ve secured it using the reliable bungee loops with plastic balls on one end (goodness knows what the correct name for those is..) and I’ll use bungee cords to those when loading items that are more than 3″ higher than the roof rack rails.
I have to say, this trailer build has been great fun. It’s easy to build anything you like if you simply get the cheque book out and buy everything off the shelf. Had I done that I’d already be way past $2k but as it is, I sold one of the original wheels from this trailer on the ‘Bay and that paid for this net! So we’re still pretty much at $500 all in. On many of the forums you see some incredible trailers pictured but most are outside the budget of many would-be overlanders. What I’m trying to do here with my DIY mods is show that you don’t need a seven figure salary (or even a six figure salary) in order to overland. You just need half a brain and a little imagination!
If you’re following the blog you’ll have seen the expedition trailer on a shoestring article. The last thing I wanted to do to the trailer was to add an on-board water tank. On the trail you need to carry at least a jerry can of water and even when you’re just on a camping trip and staying at sites, you still need to lug water to the tent. I also wanted to have ideally 25 litres of water with but didn’t want to lose 25 litres of space within the trailer, so the answer was fairly obvious.
I checked under the trailer and there was plenty of room either side of the chassis to mount a 25L can. I purchased one with the right kind of dimensions and with a tap in one corner. Now all I needed to do was to design and fabricate a bracket as none were available for this kind of can. You could conceivably use a jerry can instead and you’d then have a few bracket options already on the market but jerry cans don’t have taps and are not really designed to mount horizontally in this way.
My trailer, at the front, where I intend to mount the tank, has a 2 inch downward lip. My idea is to use this lip as the front stop, preventing the tank from moving forward. So the holder would need two “U” brackets from left to right and one “L” bracket from front to rear, the “L” at the back preventing backwards movement. I decided to go with flat aluminium (30mm x 3mm) as it’s strong, flexible, lightweight and doesn’t rust. Here’s what I came up with. This is the underside:
and these show the top side:
I’m going to use two sets of bolts to fasten it to the trailer bed: 2 x 25mm (M8) and 2 x 80mm (M8). These will be inserted down through the bed and bracket tabs and fastened with wing-nuts.
The 25mm bolts will support the rear of the bracket and the 80mm ones the front by the trailer lip. I’m going to use this product in order to “weld” the bolt heads to the trailer bed. When I’m loosening this bracket I can’t have one hand in the trailer holding the head and one underneath unfastening the wing-nut and because steel cannot be welded to aluminium, this was the next best solution. I’ve also reverse threaded the holes in the rear tabs for extra security.
The front bolts are 80mm to allow me to effectively drop the front of the tank below the two inch lip of the bed and then slide the tank out forward for refilling. I’ve used four 3mm thick steel plates to give extra strength to the mounting areas:
Again, I’ve used the extremely strong adhesive to “weld” each plate to the trailer bed. A washer was then stuck to the plate and the bolt heads stuck down to the washer.
The test mounting all looks good:
so let’s now mount everything properly and leave it clamped overnight so the adhesives can set.
A couple of useful perks with this tank: firstly, you can rotate the tap without removing the cap, meaning when in transit you can simply angle it upwards to prevent dirt entering it. Secondly, when the trailer is in it’s “tipped” position you can fill the tank about 3/4 full without needing to first remove it from the bracket. That could prove very handy at times.
So, there we have it. About $40 US for materials and we have a very decent onboard water tank!
Oh.. one last thing.. they’re not getting my trailer! Unless they take the house with it!
A fridge/freezer can be a real life saver on expedition or even on the family camping holiday. Far better than a standard cool box that tends to leave the contents half warm and rancid, the only problem with them is their cost. A new ARB or Waeco version will set you back £550 – £750 GBPs ($800 – $1100) here in Europe, a cost most will likely balk at. The solution seems fairly obvious: buy a good used one but these suckers are very sought after and hold their prices well, so solid, lightly used examples often still sell for 2/3s to 3/4s of their new price. When one was listed on eBay a couple of weeks back with no bids coming into the last 36 hours I decided to shoot the seller an email. He came back to me with a “Buy It Now” of £80 plus shipping and I cordially bit his hand off!
What arrived with me a few days later was a great condition Waeco CAB 40, which is a very sturdy and reliable 40 litre 3 way fridge/freezer. It’s called a “3 way” because it can run on standard electricity, 12v via a cigarette lighter cable or off butane gas, making it an exceptional travel unit. I tested mine immediately, placing a small ice tray and a fridge thermometer inside and within a few hours she was running at minus 4 degrees Celsius and the ice cubes were already made. An old 4WDX.COM expedition sticker from last year covered a small scratch on the front and she was as good as new. I’ll report back on this one when I get to test her during a few trips later this year.
This summer I’m planning to get out and about more and could do with the extra space afforded by an expedition trailer to back up the limited room of my 2 door Wrangler JK. I do have a full roof-rack mounted but sometimes it’s still a tad limiting. The problem I have is one which many will be familiar with: a wife. Now I’m not complaining ’cause she’s a good ‘un but justifying to her $5k to $30k on a trailer which realistically will be used four to six times a year for it’s intended purpose is definitely a bridge too far. That said, I’m fairly handy in my workshop so I pitched a $500 budget which was met with slightly more enthusiasm. This, however, was not going to be easy. A reasonable used base trailer often sells for nearly $500 by itself so I was going to have to play every card in the book to make this one happen.
I started by trawling eBay UK and eventually happened upon this one:
It was in good shape, made from alumnium and pretty much the size I wanted at 1.5m x 1.1m (5ft x 3.3ft). Everything looked decent and it was even a tipper. I put in a snipe bid of $200 but unfortunately someone outbid me so that was that. Three days later, however, the seller contacted me to say the high bidder had pulled out of the deal and did I still want it? I offered him $170 for it and lo and behold he accepted so the trailer was picked up that same day. OK, game on!! Keep following the blog here as I’ll be updating with new posts shortly. Can we turn this very basic little Erka trailer into a functional expedition trailer for another $330 bucks?
Well, I’m virtually done and we’ve just scraped inside the budget at a guesstimate. I’m going to start posting the updates and the costing over the next few days. Some will have varying definitions of what constitutes an “expedition trailer”. For me, I need a trailer big enough inside to accommodate all the camping kit including a large Waeco CAB 40 fridge/freezer. It should have a roof rack on top capable of carrying the same kind of contents as inside and also one that is capable of supporting a tent. I’ll not use mine with a roof-top tent as I have a large North Face base camp tent that we use for that, together with a good size awning which I made for the JK for $150 about a year back. It should also accommodate a good size jerry can for fuel. I’m currently searching for a used flat fresh water tank that I’ll bracket under the trailer but that may take time to locate as there aren’t many for sale locally. The hitch needs to be an upgraded one that will easily cope off-road. The wheels should be at least 10″ with good 4 ply tyres. I don’t need cupboards or shelves of sliding drawers as I already built that for the back of the JK here. There’s a thread here on that latter build somewhere. The top needs to be lockable and so does the hitch preferably. I don’t need a cooker in there as I use this tailgate table for cutting and cooking on. So there’s the brief. Fairly simple but very functional. Oh.. and it needs to look the part, too! I hate stuff that looks shabby or too DIY so the quality of the construction and finish need to be good.
The first thing I needed to do was source a roof-rack. This was easier said than done. I thought there’d be thousands on eBay and indeed there were: 3184 to be precise but no-one wanted to ship them so all were collection only and none were the size I was looking for or made from aluminium. All but one, that is.. With no bids and a starting price of $100 (£60) I sent the seller a PM offering him the starting bid if I could collect it the next day. He accepted and as he was working the next day just up the road from me he brought it with him to save me what would have been a 2 1/2 hour round trip with the associated diesel costs. It’s lightweight aluminium, exactly the dimensions I needed and very sturdy so for $100 I was quite chuffed. Here it is being dismantled ready for renovation.
It was actually in very good shape but there was some rust on the cross members and it was dirty. All the bolts were rusty, too, so I changed them all for new ones, sanded and resprayed the cross members and then re-assembled it.
Next was to figure out the top. I wanted the rack to be attached to the top but raised a couple of inches so I decided to go with 18mm marine grade ply wood and two outer sections of 2″ x 4″ outdoor treated wood. You can see them in the pic above. These were then carefully cut, sanded several times and drilled ready to be bolted together. On the underside I ran a 1″ x 1″ “lip” around the marine ply to hold the top in place on the trailer. The lip and the underside were then coated twice with waterproof clear-coat and the upper and outside surfaces coated with primer and two coats of Rustoleum hammered black paint, the last one applied as a spray for a better finish. Lashing cleats were then added all round the top as although they’re not needed for lashing down the top they’re useful to hook to from the roof-rack.
Next up came the wheels and tyres. The 10″ wheels were fine but the tyres were an odd-ball 4.50 – 10 4 ply and slightly lower profile than I wanted. I decided to replace them both with new wheels and 5.00 -10 4 plys. Here you can see the difference between the two:
The wheels are exactly the same size but you can see how much bigger the 5.00 – 10s are.
Now I wanted to do three things: firstly the old, faded decals that ran around the centre of the trailer sides were annoying me so I replaced them with a strip of matte black vinyl. Over that I applied some 4WDX.COM decals and front and back I put an old expedition sticker. Then I mounted a spare wheel bracket on the front right side which would carry one of the old wheels, which were perfectly serviceable and even with the odd size tyre it would work in a pinch to get me to the next stop. Finally, it was time to mount a 20L jerry carry which I’d previously purchased cheaply for my JK but had decided to go with a 10L version on there, instead. I also had a mounting bracket left over from the same purchase so no cost would be incurred by recycling those parts. I mounted the jerry can bracket at the front of the trailer using two existing bolts that held the trailer bed to the chassis. It made for a very neat and clean install. A ratcheting strap held it nicely in place and a bicycle lock made sure light fingers left it where it was.
OK, things were starting to come together!
On the rafter of my workshop a couple of years ago I’d stuck an old Mopar Trail Rated badge that came off something or other and was no longer used. To keep the costs down I pried it off the said rafter and recycled it using some instant gasket.
Now with things starting to look clean and tidy it was time to address the electrics.
On testing some of the lights worked, others didn’t. The hitch plug was a tad old and worn and there was probably a bad earth somewhere along the line. The main lights worked but only one indicator and that caused the main light to also blink. Not great. In my shed I had a spare light board that I knew worked perfectly so I decided to dismantle it and recycle the lights and leads from that. After a couple of hours of scratching around on my back the old light system was dismantled. I wanted the lights to be slightly further apart than they had been placed from stock so after measuring a drilling I carefully installed the new lights. Underneath the trailer all the wires have been carefully attached to the chassis and insulated with stretch tubing.
Next I wanted to protect the lights as they’re easily knocked and I’ve trashed a few lenses in the past. I ordered a pair of Land Rover Series rear light guards which were bomb-proof and a tight but good fit. One of the problems with running relatively small trailers behind a Jeep is visibility of the trailer when driving. I wasn’t sure how visible the top would be when the roof-rack was empty so to solve that problem I installed a Firestick CB antenna that I had in my garage but had never used.
OK, now we needed two things: to be able to lock the top onto the trailer and supports to hold it open. I decided to go with Masterlock latches and padlocks front and back. Because the latches are hinges they allow the top to be opened from either side and act as.. well.. hinges.. as well as locks. The only problem I had was the lip of the trailer top sat 30mm proud of the trailer itself so this gap would need closing if the latch was to work correctly. I solved this using two pieces of solid 30mm x 40mm x 100mm aluminium blocks. Drilling six holes in each one with a hand drill was a pain in the rear but worth the effort as the locking mechanism is now rock solid and looks stock.
For the supports I got a little creative. My wife had given me a broken coat rack made from aluminium about a month ago. I’d dutifully dismantled it and stored it in my workshop thinking the rods might come in handy for something in the future. They did! I purchased a couple of 25mm rubber chair feet for the ends, drilled through the other end, filled the end that would attach to the trailer with washers and mounted them in the base of the trailer. They couldn’t be mounted to the trailer top itself in the normal way as the top could not have slotted over the trailer with those in place. So I simply inverted the idea.
The telescopic pole bracketed to the tailgate in the picture above can also support the weight of the roof but it’s not really required with the two rod supports now in place as they hold the weight perfectly and would do even with a load on.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the supports and they were free of charge except 5 bucks for the two rubber feet. I also recycled a couple of spring clips to hold the ends firmly to the base when down and not in use.
Next on the list was the hitch. The stock hitch was cheap, nasty and dodgy and not to be trusted, especially off-road. The best hitches I know of for smaller trailers like this are the Bradley D201 locking hitches. They are super strong with great build quality and a mechanism that’s a pleasure to use. The usual price is £40 ($60) but I managed to find a new one of the ‘Bay for £25 shipped, so on it went!
So, there we have it. I think that’s everything and I’m really happy with the resulting little basic expedition trailer.
So did we stay within budget? Pretty much right to the last dollar but we just scraped it. Of course, a few of the parts I already had and other bits were recycled. Had I needed to buy these I’d have probably exceeded the budget by $100 or so. That said, parts and base trailers are much more expensive here than in, for instance, the States, so if you’re US based and trying this you shouldn’t have any problems doing this for under $500. But for me that’s by the by. I was handed $500 to spend and for that $500 I got exactly what I needed. Result!!
If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that first a foremost I like my Jeep to function well, so most of the mods I do are to that end. However, I do also like my JK to look good, so I spend a little (too much) time paying attention to the details. Some probably won’t even have noticed this but on the left rear corner of the your JKs (at least the first first year models) there’s a small plastic piece that covers a hole that I believe may be designed for a license plate light. Here in the UK and Europe, that hole is redundant since our plates are not mounted there. The little delete plate has always bugged me so one day, when I found a little Overland badge that was the perfect fit, I was a happy bunny. The only problem was that this plastic piece had a slight curve in it since it’s on the corner of the Jeep and the badge is.. flat.. I finally came up with the solution of using instant gasket putty to attach the badge. That allowed me to inject the putty under the left and right sides of the badge to compensate for the curvature. Looks pretty good, me thinks!