In the world of trailer upgrades, there are functional choices, and there are flashy choices. Why not choose the best of both worlds, then, and go with improvements that help you tow and look great at the same time? Check out this list of three trailer upgrades that will up your hauler game without breaking the bank.
1. Winch It Up
There comes a time in almost every trailer owner’s life when they need to load something that simply can’t get up the ramps on its own. Whether you want to load a stalled or broken-down car, a heavy package on a pallet or a boat that you want to slide down gently into the water, a winch can work wonders at giving you control over your cargo. A hand powered winch is a common sight on most boat trailers, but they can be useful on other trailers as well. Electric winches come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s always better to overestimate your rating rather than end up with a winch that can’t handle the load you need it to. Most winches will bolt on to any trailer in about five minutes, making them an easy modification that will pay dividends for years. If you choose an electric winch option, remember it will need power from either from the tow vehicle or a battery. Make sure to grab an assortment of chains, hooks, and straps so you can tackle whatever needs to be loaded.
2. LED Lights All Around
Installing LED lights as one of your trailer upgrades means you’ll never have to deal with a burnt-out bulb ever again. Not only are LED lights longer lasting than their incandescent cousins, but they also draw less power, are brighter and are more compact, which makes them easier to mount on your trailer. LED lights also don’t suffer nearly as much from vibration issues like their socket retained bulb cousins. They run cooler, too, which means getting them wet at the boat launch or in the rain isn’t going to cause them to fail prematurely. It is also a great excuse the rewire your trailer (which is easier than you think). LED spotlights at the front of your trailer will help you see better when loading at night, while LED taillights and side marker lights keep your rig visible in bad weather.
If you own an open trailer, then you know the frustration of not being able to protect tools and other necessities from the elements or sticky fingers. Installing a pickup truck toolbox — just like the ones designed to fit into a cargo bed — is one of those trailer upgrades that meshes perfectly with your rig’s existing functionality. A truck toolbox allows you to store your winch and its battery inside, with only the need to cut a small hole at the bottom for the cable. Right beside it, you can put tools, tie-downs, straps and other trailer accessories. The ability to lock it up, plus its strong aluminum construction, means you don’t have to worry about theft. There are many types and sizes of truck toolboxes on the market, so don’t limit yourself to the ones that span an entire truck bed. Any sturdy lockable storage box can be bolted to a trailer with a little creative thinking. You can even attach toolboxes to the trailer tongue as long as it does not interfere with the tow vehicle while turning.
4. Cargo Management
If you have a utility trailer (open or enclosed) it never hurts to have plenty of options for securing your cargo. A simple cargo bar keeps things from sliding around and can be left in place until you need it. Adding a few D-ring tie downs is easy and only requires drilling a few holes for mounting hardware. You can add as many as you wish, but for proper cargo security we suggest installing a minimum of four D-rings. For more flexibility you may want to consider a load securing track system. These track systems are common on the big trailers and now you can have them for your own hauler. Depending on what you routinely haul you can install cargo tracks on the trailer floor or trailer side walls. Just make sure the cargo tracks are mounting securely to a sturdy part of the trailer frame. You can install a few cargo track sections or run them the length of the trailer. Once you have your tracks installed it is easy to snap in tie down straps anywhere you need them.
5. Emergency Brakes
If your trailer has electric brakes then you are likely already pulling some serious weight. Add another layer of protection with a trailer breakaway switch. These units have been in use for decades and operate like a dead man switch. In the event of trailer becoming detached from the tow vehicle the breakaway switch will activate its own onboard 12-volt battery to power the trailer brakes and bring the trailer to a stop. The breakaway switch battery stays charged via the tow vehicle’s 7-pin trailer connector. While you will hopefully never need it, this is more of a peace of mind upgrade than a flashy one.
6. Spare Tire
If you don’t have a spare tire for your trailer, you need one now. Getting stuck on the side of the road with a shredded trailer tire is no fun. Pick up a matching trailer tire and mount it with a spare tire carrier and a chain lock to keep it in place. Also make sure you have a jack that can lift your trailer and a lug wrench to match the trailer lug nuts. Make sure to rotate your spare tire with your trailer tires to keep them all wearing the same.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.