Easy Track Car Trailer Setup

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been towing for many  years with many different trailers (trust me I’ve had 5 trailers in 8 years). Not always my fault that I’ve gone through them as I’ve had people buy them from me with the actual car that was being hauled on it b/c they loved the setup I had. Currently I’m using a 14×7 all aluminum enclosed v nose trailer (trailer weight empty is 1,900 lbs) but can haul a total of 7k lbs. It fits a Miata perfectly inside (have to fold in the mirrors) but the trailer is short, narrow (no tow mirrors needed), lightweight so you can put in more cargo, and very easy to pull. In fact I pull it with a midsize SUV with a diesel engine (WK2 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel).

I don’t really enjoy towing and would opt if I could find an affordable way to have someone else do it (but arrive and drive programs are anything but). With towing it adds more stress to the trip to the racetrack. I don’t like getting there tired and stressed, race for the weekend then have to have more tiredness and stress to tow back home. So I’ve been really working to find a way to make it much easier. One of the biggest issues when towing is loading up the trailer. Getting the vehicle in/on the trailer and secured can be quite breath taking (and not in a good way). Especially when out in the elements (rain / cold). Accessing and lifting the ramps can also be a big job as well (most of them are heavy gauge cheap steel) and often really bulky as they are made to load 5k plus trucks and tractors. Then they usually weren’t long enough for a lowered track / racecar so I’d have wood planks in all sorts of configurations so the car could make it up and not get stuck or damaged.

So years ago I decided I wanted a way to load my car on the trailer in just a couple of minutes and make it really easy. Thus, I found the best solution to be the following:

Understand the Car You Are Loading: The lower the car the harder it is to drive up ramps. This is because of a common Off Road term called the Approach & Departure Angles (the lower the front of the car the longer the ramp has to be to offset the distance to the actual wheels before they start to go up actual ramp). So for those with really low cars and splitters – you’ll want to find a way to make quick releases to speed up the process and remove the bumper / splitter so you can use a shorter ramp (also reduces possibility of damage). If you don’t then you’ll need really long ramps (normally only custom made) or you’ll have to use some flat wood boards that can fit under the car and long enough to tip the splitter up so it can start going up the ramp without hitting it.

Understand the Basic Dimensions of the Trailer: You need to know the height of the trailer (i.e the height from the ground of trailer – dovetails help here as they lower this height), the wheelbase of the car and the height of the car at it’s lowest point forward the front wheels (the main reason why low bumpers / splitters can cause issues). I had some ramps made for an open trailer to haul a Spec Miata and used this ramp dimension calculator to figure out ramp lengths (worked brilliantly). I would suggest aluminum ramps to reduce the weight, for an open trailer using a hook end (secure and won’t move) or for an enclosed trailer one with a ramp door with a flap at the bottom. Ramp storage should be at the rear of the trailer with a quick clip in (or lock to secure them better). If you are buying a trailer – try to find a trailer that is made specifically for hauling cars (and not heavy duty like Tractors / Bobcats – which use heavy steel ramps that are usually shorter and the trailer height is usually higher as well). Car trailers (such as open center) are usually built lower and lighter making it easy to load and tow.

Getting out of the Car once on Trailer: This is another pain in the butt if you have fenders (on open trailers) that don’t allow you to open the door. Get removable trailer fenders and hinge one side so you can quickly lift it up / down and lock and secure. If you have an enclosed trailer and room is really tight to get out then consider a driver escape door (also a nice way to get air through the trailer to cool it down).

Securing the Car to the Trailer: Here is where I’ve come up with a great way of securing the car to the trailer without crawling underneath, looping axle-straps etc. It also does not load the suspension or loop through the wheels causing damage or breaking a valve stem. Buy two planks of 5′ e-track from the local trailer store or Harbor Freight. They cost $20 each normally. Cut each in half creating an ~ 2.5′ section of e-track. Pull the car on the trailer and park where you want it (and the loaded evenly). If you plan on moving the car forward back / several feet for varying loads then don’t cut the e-track and instead get 4 sections of it (you’ll want more loading location options). Once you know where you want to load the car permanently install each section of the e-track (using long bolts with large diameter fender washers on the underside for security – the more the merrier). The tire contact patch should be right in the middle of the section of e-track – and the key is the weight of the car will help secure itself. Now to secure the car – buy these really cool and cheap e-track straps (8′ section is all that’s needed and you can cut them shorter and melt the end). Hook the straps to the e-track near the tire contact patch and tighten them down. The strap goes over the tire and holds as if it’s a wheel strap (but without all the fighting to get the wheel strap on. Put on 4 of these and the car won’t move.

Pics of my setup (though I’ve done this with a regular racing Miata and it was easy to get the straps over the tires – though with the Exocet it is super, super easy to do this):

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Comments
  1. linuxd00d says:

    Thank you for another excellent post. I’m starting to shop for my very first trailer for the exo, so I have a lot to learn in this area.
    Which model H&H do you have? I’m seeing their alu trailers in the 1100-1200lb range.
    http://www.hhtrailer.com/products/aluminum-enclosed/al-series/tandem-axle/tal-aluminum-tandem-axle-cargo-trailer/
    At 1900lb, is yours steel?
    Do you have an R/C winch?

    • I have a 2013 model H&H trailer – not sure which model but it’s a 14×7. They have it listed at 1,900 lbs but it’s all aluminum construction and has 1/4 plywood interior walls.

      I do not have a winch but used to have one on my old steel open center trailer. They are easy to install and I had my Jeep and the trailer wired for a high amp winch kit. This one I’m not putting in a winch as I’ll drive it in (that is until I can finish the car).

      The great news is that my move from KS to NJ is almost complete and settling in – but need to get the barn in a condition that I can work inside – no power and dirt floor.

  2. linuxd00d says:

    Regarding trailer door side clearance, do you have 8 inches on each side, or 8 inches total (4 inches on each side)?
    And with that clearance, how hard is it to drive a car in? I’ve never driven a car onto a trailer, so I’m trying to figure out how much clearance is enough. Does 4 inches per side as you go through the door qualify as a nightmare or a walk in the park?
    With your enclosed trailer, do you have a dovetail? I’m mostly seeing those on car-specific 8.5-wide trailers.
    Do you load using ramps through barn doors, or do you have a ramp door? If it’s a ramp door, is the angle ok for the exo to drive up without high-centering?
    Thanks!

    • I have 4″ on each side with stock wheels on na6 miata. I will extend the track eventually if I stay in ST3 as I will want to build the car to max of the rules but I have another idea and will keep the car pretty much stock for quite a while. In fact a stock Miata with the mirrors folded will fit in the 7′ wide.

      Driving the car in is really easy (at least to me as I’ve done it a bunch of times) and I don’t have a front splitter so aperture angle is not an issue right now. When I pushed it into the trailer it didn’t high center but when pushing it out loaded with parts and boxes from the move it did. Car is not set up yet as to racing Spec so can’t confirm I’ll have to add some assist ramps to counter high center issues. My trailer has a ramp door but no beavertail. If you are looking at a street car then you should be able to load / unload easier than a lowered racecar. I would definitely recommend my e-track ratchet strap idea on either an open or closed trailer – it makes hooking up and securing the car a complete cinch and it’s really cheap too (< $100).

      As for trailer size (bigger is not always better "that's what she said". I had an 8.5 wide enclosed and did like the room but hated towing it as the sail area was really bad and the gas pickup I was pulling it with got me 11 mpg max at lower speed limit. I also didn't need all the room as well. When I got rid of the gas hog and discovered the diesel grand cherokee ('07 then an '14) I wanted an open or 7' wide v nose style which work really well with this platform (don't need extended mirrors). So far I'm really happy with my choice. I also made sure my closed trailer was all aluminum as they hold their value better and last longer (less corrosion issues). Plus it's lighter which also helps mpg.

      Hit me up with any more ?s as I'm happy to help.

  3. linuxd00d says:

    Thanks for your previous answer. Really appreciate all the info you’re sharing.
    Do you think the etrack tie-downs you’re using are as safe as these wheel-specific ones? http://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Cargo-Control/Erickson/77314.html
    These do cost more. I’m guessing their goal is to prevent lateral wheel movement off of the etrack.

    • I used those before I switched to the over the tire style like in the post. It took a while to rope the extra straps around the tire but makes sense when you are only securing two wheels only. My idea is to secure all 4 tires quick and easy. In addition it is much cheaper as well.

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