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THE STORY OF ONE MAN'S EFFORT
TO BUILD A TEARDROP TRAILER

 
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BUILDING TIPS

As you can see from this website, building a teardrop trailer is something almost anyone can do. Many people buy plans. I suggest you get free plans off the Internet instead of buying plans. (See “Links” section for sources of free plans.) The 1947 Mechanics Illustrated story gave me enough information to lay out a teardrop trailer. I did some simple drawings for myself, based on the sizes of the things I wanted in the trailer. Based on the dimensions of the air conditioner, battery, plastic storage boxes, porta-potty, propane bottle, and two suitcases – I figured out the measurements for closet, compartments, countertop, galley, shelves, and sleeping area. Everything fits, but man, is it tight!

CONSIDER WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU
When you look at a teardrop trailer, visualize yourself inside it or using the galley. Consider what works for you and what doesn’t.
Example 1: Closets in most homes have closet doors. There’s not much room for a 2-foot-wide closet door inside a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ interior! The solution, I think, is sliding doors. But sliding doors have to be put in before the second sidewall is installed.
Example 2: Many teardrop trailers have drawers and cupboards with doors. I want the most storage I can get. I chose to build shelves and put Rubbermaid plastic storage boxes on them. I can remove these boxes to pack them, and I carry only the boxes I need. I use bungee cords to keep the boxes on the shelves during travel.
Example 3: Little things count, like something to hold bungee cord hooks to the wall. I considered cup hooks and metal eyes. I finally used small hinges. One part of the hinge screws flat to the wall. I drilled a bigger hole in the center of the other part of the hinge for the bungee hook. When not being used, the hinge lies flat against the wall.
Example 4: There is unused space under the floor. I built under-floor boxes there. They attach to the metal frame to strengthen it. They attach to the floor. Small Masonite strips epoxied around the tops of the boxes hold up the lids, which are cut from the floor itself.
Example 5: My sidewalls are made with 3/8” interior plywood and wood bracing. I put the bracing where it would outline the doors and windows, and where the shelves would be. I added more bracing for shelves inside the trailer and attached the bracing by screwing through the wall into the outside bracing. Using outside bracing left room for insulation and wiring, too. The point of these examples is to decide exactly what you want before you start building!

USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS, LEARN MORE
You probably do not have all the knowledge and skills you need to build a teardrop trailer. That’s okay. Building a teardrop trailer is an educational experience, and you’ll learn a lot. If you don’t weld, you could buy a pre-built 4’ x 8’ steel trailer frame from Harbor Freight or a large hardware or farm store. If you don’t weld, you can build everything except the trailer frame out of wood. Remember a 2” x 4” is actually 1-7/8” x 3-7/8” and a 1” x 3” is actually 3/4” x 2-1/2” thickness. You have to use REAL dimensions in planning. I learned that real dimensions of wood shrink before you buy it! If your woodworking skills are not up to cabinetmaking standards, remember the only person you have to please is yourself. I learned that mistakes that don’t show, don’t count. If you don’t have much experience with electrical wiring, ask an electrician for tips. Learn to solder. For useful schematics, look at Joanne’s Desert Dawg website at www.asolidfoundation.com. I learned that if I had electrical schematic drawings for my electrical systems, follow them EXACTLY. If you don’t know much about batteries and 12-volt systems, go to www.ccis.com. I learned that the only battery for a teardrop trailer is a deep cycle battery. If you don’t know about DOT requirements for trailer lighting, go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov to learn about compliance. I learned about red and yellow clearance lights and where they go. If you don’t know about propane tank installation and use, go to www.teardropparts.com to learn more. I learned to isolate my propane compartment from the rest of the trailer, have a screened floor vent, and connect up my propane stove ONLY when I was ready to cook. If you have never worked with sheet metal before, you don’t have to skin your trailer with sheet metal. If you decide to, you can cut it with a jigsaw and metal-cutting blade, and a 50-grit sanding disk can grind sharp edges off. I used 26-gage pre-painted steel instead of aluminum. I learned that working with sheet metal is not difficult. If you don’t want to build a curved ceiling and a curved hatch and curved doors, no one says you have to. I have an almost-flat ceiling to get maximum interior height. My hatch is a piece of 3-foot by 4-foot flat plywood 3/4” thick. My door is a rectangle. I learned the only person I had to please was myself, not teardrop critics. If you want air conditioning, remember you can’t get it from a battery-powered system. It’s strictly plug-in-the-wall 120-volt AC shore power, meaning the power comes from the electrical grid at a campsite. For ideas on where to put the air conditioner, look at www.kuffelcreek.com. I learned that for my design, the best place was in the back below the galley countertop, with an internal baffle to separate incoming and outgoing air, a grommet and hose in the drip pan to get water out of the trailer, and an extension cord and adapter to plug in the unit. If you don’t know about trailer weight and balance, go to www.rversonline.org. I learned that the tongue weight of my trailer should be 9% to 12% of the gross vehicle weight. I learned to measure it with a bathroom scale and put heavy items into the under-floor boxes to get the balance right for travel. If you don’t know how to license your trailer, contact your state’s Department of Transportation and the office where you get license plates for you cars or trucks. In Texas, there are several forms to fill out, and it isn’t a simple process. I learned that because I was trying to follow the Texas laws, everyone from a Texas state trooper to the clerk in the County Assessor’s Office was willing to help me. The point is that building a teardrop trailer is an education, not just a building project!

TRAILER ACCESSORIES MAKE LIFE NICER
I wanted to get the most trailer I could get in the least possible space:
What I'd like is:     
room to stand up
fresh drinking water  
bathroom sink 
toilet that flushes
4 burner gas stove w/oven
one propane tank
hot food
refrigerator
kitchen cupboards
plenty of storage 
closet 
room for suitcases
120-volt AC electricity
12-volt DC electricity
onboard 12-volt battery 
hot water from pipes
hot showers
waste water tank
well insulated 
air conditioning
exhaust fan in roof   
roof vent 
propane furnace
beds to sleep 6
kitchen table
inoleum floor 
lcolor TV/VCR/DVD/CD
AM/FM/CB/Satellite radio

What I can get is:
room to sit up (47”)
fresh drinking water
outdoor galley sink
porta-potty that flushes
2-burner gas stove, no oven
one propane tank
hot food
ice chest 
storage for utensils/food
33 cu. ft. of storage
closet
shelf for 2 suitcases
130 watts of 120VAC electricity
12-volt DC electricity
onboard 12-volt battery
hot water from the stove
warm washcloths
empty milk jugs?
well insulated
air conditioning (campsite)
exhaust fan in roof
roof vent
200-watt AC heat (campsite)
floor to sleep 2
removable outdoor table
linoleum floor
B&W 5" TV
AM/FM/CB/weather radio
small, easy to tow
cheap to build and use

This list shows what I was able to pack into my Crocodile Tear. You’ll need to make your own list. What do you want in your teardrop trailer? The point is you can’t have everything in your teardrop trailer, but you can have a lot more than you might have guessed!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE - BIG OR TINY TRAILER?
Here are the limitations of the Crocodile Tear:
- You go outside for drinking water.
- You have to bring porta-potty inside.
- The outdoor galley is for nice weather.
- You go outside to use the sink.
- Hot water is heated on the stove.
- Taking baths and showers is impossible.
- There’s no generator, just one battery.
- The ice chest requires ice daily.
- Air conditioning requires shore power.
- Radiant heater requires shore power.
- No simple way to heat w/o fumes/flames.
- Radios and TV need external antennas.
- The spare tire is inside, for balance.

WHAT ELSE IS NEEDED?
The last question is what else I could do to make the Crocodile Tear into the most practical trailer. The only thing I cannot do is make it larger, and I like its size. I did not insulate under the floor, just put on an undercoating. I did cut plastic space-blanket type insulation that will fit on the floor, inside the cabin. When it is placed on the floor with the mattress over it, it’s warmer to sleep. If you’re bringing your sweetie along, better have a nice, soft mattress. When the weather turns cold, bring warm sleeping bags. Inside, I plugged a 12-volt reading light into the 12-volt outlet. I added a thermometer and a clock, which the tiny light lets me see. The clock and thermometer come in handy when days are short. I put a small A-B-C fire extinguisher inside the closet near the door, with a first aid kit. For cooling food, I was given a Coleman Thermoelectric cooler that uses Peltier-effect bismuth telluride elements for cooling. It can cool food 44 degrees F. below ambient temperature. When it’s 90 degrees out, it will cool to 46 degrees. When ambient temperature drops below 76 degrees, the food freezes. Since I cannot control the inside temperature of the teardrop, this cooler does not work for me. So, back to an ice chest with ice! I am experimenting this winter with heating the Crocodile Tear with a small kerosene lantern. The point is that nothing is perfect, though I think my Crocodile Tear surely comes close!

 


Copyright 2006 CrocodileTear.com All rights reserved. The information, photos, and graphics on this website may not be reproduced, republished, copied, or mirrored onto another website or forum, or offered on CD, DVD, or printed material without written permission of the owner of CrocodileTear.com. No commercial use allowed. Permission to print information and photos from this website for educational, noncommercial purposes is granted to any individual who wants to build his own teardrop trailer.

Website designed by Tim Civick

 


 

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

"When I hear people gripe about how much money they spend on a trailer, all I have is a crocodile tear!"

WHAT'S IN A PICTURE?

Look at Planning, and Construction Photos to see about 70 pictures taken during construction.

CONTACT THE BUILDER

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