Sunday, 10 July 2011

Trailer repair (Part 1)

This weekend I'm at my parents, working on the a trailer which belongs to a friend of mine from Cambridge. I need a trailer to transport a big (30" cut, ~300kg weight, 600cc engine) antique lawn-mower I'm rescuing from being scrapped, and a friend of mine kindly agreed to lend me his - with the caveat that I might have to reinforce the wooden trailer bed to support the load.

I towed the trailer up to Linconshire last night, leaving Cambridge quite nervously - as this is the first time I've ever towed anything (other than a broken-down car on the end of a tow-rope). Dad was with me, having visited the university open day I was working at during the day, which was nice. I don't think I would have liked doing this on my own the first time.

By the time we reached Eye, I was feeling a bit more confident with the car / trailer combination. We even stopped at the McDonalds' for food on the way (Finding somewhere to park the car + trailer there was interesting), and having eaten - came out to attempt my first tricky reversing / un-parking maneuverer with the trailer attached! I found the technique required reassuringly intuitive, although I did eventually wimp out and un-hitch the trailer, having run out of space to complete my reversing / turning though. (A stupid 4x4 was parked in my way!)

Anyway.. I suggested to my friend that I do some repair work on the trailer in return for borrowing it, perhaps give it a lick of paint, replace the rotten parts of its bed and grease / replace some suspension pivots. About 2 hours into the job, we have this:

Removing the suspension has to be the most awkward job I could ever have imagined. Wire-brushing, cleaning, lubricating the lock-nuts got me so far, but there was still a lot of work involving ritual swearing, jumping up and down on a socket wrench and gently persuading things with a large crowbar. We initially tried to move the nut with a large stilson wrench, but this only appeared to apply pressure into crushing and holding the nut in place. A quick trip to the excellent local hardware shop (E.J. Tong and Sons) yielded the correct 24mm socket to continue our rotational persuasion.

I finally got the leaf-spring bolt's nut off, but it turns out that was only the beginning of the next - more awkward part of the job - persuading the bolt to part company from its rusty companion - the leaf spring eye. New weapons came out now.. in addition to the penetrating oil and WD40 of the nut job, came a lump hammer and beach-wood whacking interface (used to avoid mushroom the end of the bolt). These were brought to bear on the stubborn bolt with limited avail.

Having thoroughly doused the area in flammable solvents, it was the turn of my much loved Rothenburger Superfire 2 plumbing torch to apply a little heat to the problem. (Ok - a lot of heat.. I put the MAP gas canister on rather than the boring propane one). In the end a combination of heat, whacking, wiggling and ritual swearing finally liberated the bolt. (And this was one of the EASY ones to remove ;)).

A blood sacrifice was offered for the last and most stubborn bolt holding the suspension in place. (Note to self - next time, DON'T drop the axle onto your finger). This didn't seem to appease trailer, so Mr. DeWalt eventually had to step in and confiscate half of the offending bolt. (I used an angle grinder with a slitting disk to cut the head off the bolt). The nut came off easily enough, but it was the spacer / bushing which had become fused with the bolt and did not wish to leave.

With the axle removed, I stripped the other parts of the trailer ready to give the metalwork a lick of Hammerite paint before we start adding new woodwork. Stripping the old woodwork yielded 4 (live) snails and small mountain of very deteriorated roofing screws. These aren't particularly keen to be undone using a screwdriver, so it was mole-wrench to the rescue here. As I wasn't planning to re-use these bolts anyway (we bought some zinc plated coach-bolts to replace them with) it would only have been necessary to wave the angle grinder at them - but that seemed an unnecessarily crude way of doing things.

We manged to free off the seized jockey wheel and started some work on the rather stubbornly stuck brake linkages.

Finally, Dad and I got a first coat of paint on the chassis. Hammerite is brilliant stuff ;)

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