Trailer Love. A Drift Boat Trailer Rebuild.

Trailer Love. A Drift Boat Trailer Rebuild.

I have a hard time getting rid things that are dear to me. Does that make me a hoarder? Possibly, or maybe it’s that I have a passion for refurbishing equipment. With the guiding season off to a slow start due to COVID-19, I decided to take on a project that has needed to be done for quite some time. I call it operation “trailer love”. The ultimate goal of this project was to restore my 12 year old drift boat trailer to the sparkling darling that it once was. 

A hard used trailer.

I have been guiding out of the same drift boat and trailer set up since 2009. I have pulled this setup from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains on several occasions. Over that time, I estimate that the trailer has pulled my drift boat over 60,000 miles! Other than the fact that it’s beat to hell aesthetically, I have had little to no problems with the trailer, barring trailer lights. Ultimately, it was time to fully refinish the trailer. 

Full commitment:

When I was a younger man, I was fond of the quick fix. I did small things to ensure my trailer was functional but ignored the underlying issues that caused the problems in the first place. The biggest problem being rust accumulation. I have a non galvanized metal trailer and like all things metal that are exposed to the elements there was serious oxidation. In the past, I would commit a few hours and wire brush the trailer down, then give it a coat or two of Rustoleum paint and call it good. NOT THE WAY. Now that I am older and wiser, I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to do something, it’s best to do it right. That means taking the time and effort to fully restore the trailer and all the parts associated. 

Safety First.

First and foremost, Safety first! During this project I was dead set on making sure that I wore a mask, safety glasses, and ear protection. With that said, I still managed to get a piece of shrapnel in my eye during the restoration process. That required a visit to a opthamologist. Turns out they know what they are doing. The doctor managed to remove the shrapnal from my iris without much of an issue and I was back to work on the trailer in no time. WEAR PRTOECTIVE EQUIPMENT. My eye injury could of been a lot worse if I didn’t have eye protection. 

The Process:

Step 1: Strip it down.

The first step was to strip all components off the trailer. This includes trailer lights, winch mounts, rollers, tongue latch, tires, and reflectors. These were all set aside to either clean up and repaint or replace with new shiny parts. 

The prepping process.

Step 2: Grind, Grind, and Grind some more.

Now to the hard part. Removing rust. To fully remove rust from a trailer you have two options.

1. You can rent a sand blaster from your local tool rental company. This is an expensive but efficient way to remove all rust.

2. You can grind the rust off with angle grinders, drills, and a wire brush. I choose this method to save a little money. Now, don’t expect to get grinding done quickly. It took me roughly 5 days of serious grinding to remove all the rust from the trailer. 

The angle grinder did the majority of the work and I incorporated several different metal grinding discs, pads, and sandpapers to be able to remove all the rust possible. I also used a cordless drill with a wire brush attachment to get into tight areas that the angle grinder could not reach. For those toughest to reach areas, I used an old fashioned wire brush to remove as much rust and paint possible with a little elbow grease. 

Step 3: Remove all contaminents.

Once all the rust was removed, I wiped the entire trailer down with rubbing alcohol to clean off any residual rust, contamnents, or dirt left on the trailer. You can use a variety of solvents to get this done but rubbing alcohol is cheap, and so am I. Continue wiping the trailer down with alcohol until the rags show no dirt or rust.

Step 4: Prime and Paint.

Once cleaned with rubbing alcohol, it’s time to apply primer to the trailer. Primer is used to to seal the metal and allow for good adhesion for the paint selected for your trailer. I applied 3 coats of Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer to the frame. I applied the first two coats back to back, waited 24 hours and then applied a third coat before laying down the paint.

For the paint, I chose to coat my trailer with Rustoleum’s Black Satin Protective Enamel. This paint is easy to use and has a long life expectancy. It’s also forgiving. Unless you are a professional automotive technician, you will appreciate that the paint is self leveling and doesn’t require the metal surface to be totally free of rust or old paint. I did the best I could to prep my trailer but the reality is, I don’t have everything needed to fully prep the trailer and there were a few hard to reach areas that had small amounts of rust and old paint. Take your time during this step. This is your finishing coats. By taking the time to smoothly apply the paint, you will coat all surfaces evenly and have a nice finished product. I applied three coats to the trailer in consecutive layers.

Step 5: Prepping and painting the miscellaneous parts.

Once the trailer was prepped, primed, and painted, I turned my attention to all the miscellaneous parts taken off my trailer at the beginning of the project. With each individual part, I mimicked what was done with the trailer. All parts had to be prepped, primed, and painted. This progression moved along quicker than the trailer itself but was still tedious. All rubber, stainless steel, or galvanized part were cleaned using only wire brush attachments to ensure that there was no damage to the parts. I applied the same Rostoleum primer and paint to the parts.

Step 6: Reassemble.

Once all components of the trailer were looking sharp, it was time to put it all back together. All bolts were replaced with new stainless steel components. There is no particular order to reassembling the trailer. I started with the rear of the trailer and worked my way forward. This is a very rewarding process so take your time, do it right, and admire all the hard work that you have put in as you piece it all back together. 

Finished Product:

It was a painstaking process with failures, injuries, and rewards but overall the trailer looks sharp and is fully functional. Now, it’s time to get on the water.

Finish product.
Refinished Drift Boat Trailer.