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Post Info TOPIC: Custom built 5th wheel - any input?


RV-Dreams Family Member

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Custom built 5th wheel - any input?


I have just started looking into full timing to plan for the future (hopefully sooner than later). Seeing the prices for a loaded 5th wheel that would be suitable for full time living and being a "jack of all trades" (welder/metalworker, woodworker, mechanic, etc) I want to see if having a trailer chassis custom built and then finishing the inside would be a cheaper route to go but also allow for a more durable trailer? What I am thinking is that any reputable trailer fabricator that makes large trailers such as cargo, horse, or RV could build whatever I design. I'm thinking an aluminum frame and framework to reduce weight, aluminum plate/sheet for the outside skin fir durability, and sprayed foam insulation for tight, seamless insulation is a good start.  
Has anyone had any experience or knowledge of custom built trailers like this and if so what are the details/websites? Thanks for any info.



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My opinion only but you would be better off in every way by going to someone like New Horizon. They custom build FOR A PRICE, and from what I hear employ master craftsman.Just do not think you could save any money by doing it yourself.



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Welcome Dgorila1 to the best forum about rv's on the net.
Since we have a MH and not a 5er we are not excatly sure of how you would want to customize a 5er.
If we were to get a 5er we would look very closely at "Spacecraft" , as from we see on their web site it surly looks like a quality unit.
Go to /www.spacecraftmfg.com/ and look around their site.


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I am not a "jack of all trades", so to speak, however if I were I would consider carefully before trying to build a fifth wheel. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, such as load and stress analysis on the structure that you decide to build... then again as I said, I am not a jack of all trades biggrin.gif

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I bought a three horse slant aluminum horse trailer with a good size unfinished dressing room which I built in a living quarters insulated ,panneled with bed, dinette, cabinets, refrigerator, microwave, sink and made it look as proffessional as possible. I had no problem selling it. I bought my 35' fifth wheel with 4 slides after doing much research on a trailer to fulltime in. I would not have tried building this trailer myself. There is a lot to consider : weight, balance, seals, proper suspesion, flexibility of componants to keep them from pulling apart as well as resale. I know they can be expensive but you can't beat buying from a quality rv manufacturer that has had years of experience. Beware of the cheaper built vacation trailers, they are only good for occasional camping.

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Building your own 5er is a sweet idea - until you start the design.  I did that about a year ago with the intent of using a 53' low-boy trailer.  The design becomes daunting when you start thinking about the placement of tanks and how their weight changes from empty to full.  Then there's the A/C and furnace loads, high and low voltage circuitry, structural integrity around windows and doors, appliance selection and placement, and then, only then, can you start thinking about your floorplan.  I never got to the walls.  I got way too bogged down with the systems.  You might be a great toolman, but unless you're a structural engineer with a minor in electrical and mechanical systems, I'd stay away from that dream.

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http://www.chadsprojects.com/Default.asp

The above website shows a 5th Wheel built by Chad. A very handy guy. He shows lots of other projects he's done. Very good work and resourceful.

He started out with a frame from an out of business RV manufacturer. His 5th wheel looks as good as any factory built.

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Roz


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A major aspect of such a project is the virtually unlimited liability the individual crafting such a vehicle is exposed to the moment it is placed on public roads.  Specific laws exist, both state and federal to which one must adhere that involve expensive testing and certification before such a vehicle can be placed in service.

I spent 28 years with a major semi-trailer manufacturer and worked closely with the engineering and certification process.  Product liability simply is huge!

Having viewed and read Chads Project, he took a trailer that was engineered and filled in the blanks.  His project was tremendous and he accomplishments were enormous.  In no way am I taking anything away from his project.

The original post stated his would be from ground zero to completion.  The liability issue serious.


-- Edited by Roz at 11:57, 2008-11-12

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I also ran across a site about a year ago where a couple had taken an older 40 foot 5th wheel and gutted it. Then remodelled the inside the way they wanted it setup, replacing any of the old parts they felt were outdated or worn out. They replaced the axles with heavier capacity axles with better brakes for safety. Plus he went through the frame and added strengthening pieces where he felt it needed it. He had a race car fabrication background.

They replace the aluminum skin with the smooth panels like Chad used.

Unfortunately I can't find their site. The end product looked good and the layout was nice.
Lots of storage cabinets.

I'm not sure how insurance companies would treat a homebuilt unit. As Roz stated liability must be a concern with a homebuilt unit.

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Larry
"Small House, Big Yard "
7 years to go to FT
Alfa See-Ya 5'er and 2007 Kodiak C4500 Monroe Pickup


RV-Dreams Family Member

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Thanks for all the feedback. Chad did a heck of a job on his trailer. I can't believe it cost less than $10,000. It came out nice though. I wonder how it would hold up being towed across the country? From the way it sounds it will stay parked in a campground all season. 
When I say "build from scratch" I mean start with a trailer chassis like Chad did and build up from there. I never thought about using a low boy trailer, but that would offer one heck of a sturdy chassis to build on. The end product would weigh a ton though, but its a thought smile.gif My plan is to tow with an HDT, so this wouldn't be an issue. 


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Another benefit of building a 5th on a low boy trailer chassis is the weight carrying ability. Instead of the hassles of pulling a TOAD you could easily design a garage into the rear to carry a small car. These trailers are built to carry construction equipment so carrying a small car would be nothing.
   The low boys also come with the larger rims/tires, which are much better for long distance travel. The only thing I might change is a softer riding suspension.

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http://www.noxudolusa.com/

Here's a great set of products.

I saw the sound dampening and fire protection products being demonstrated. They worked very well.

If I ever remove the skin from my 5th wheel I plan to spray both of these products on before I put in the new skin. It will help may the RV quieter and safer.

Easy to use, cleans up with water.

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Larry
"Small House, Big Yard "
7 years to go to FT
Alfa See-Ya 5'er and 2007 Kodiak C4500 Monroe Pickup
Roz


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If anyone tries this sound dampening product, I would be most interested to know the thickness of the application to produce the results demonstrated on their website.  Hopefully they will answer my question.  If they do, I will share it.

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Ethel & Charles Henry, Itasca Horizon DP/Honda Element Toad
Traveling with our furry-snouted, four-legged children.

"Each of us must take part in making this a better world for all people."


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I was checking out the Escapee's forum and there are many people that convert horse trailers into full sized 5ths. Their rationale is that the horse trailers are built much better and are more rugged than any RV yet are easy to convert the horse stall section into living quarters, most keeping the rear door so they can have a garage. The trailer weight is similar to a loaded 5th RV to boot, and you can buy a horse trailer for a fraction of the cost of a loaded 5th. Something to investigate. The outer structure would already be in place. Would just need to add all the extra's smile.gif And a few pine tree air fresheners to get rid of the manure smell smile.gif

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I visited the Tidewater RV Show Friday evening. I looked at all the rigs but especially focused on the 5vers and Class A's. They had all of the major manufacturers from dealers around the region. The most expensive rig was a Class A at approx $275,000. I was paying close attention to the quality and construction of the units and comparing differences. I found that, no matter what the cost range, all of the construction, especially on interior walls, seemed "weak" (thats the best term I can think of at the moment). This included the expensive units. The interior walls flexed when you pushed against them, the doors were cheap and the fit poor on all the units, and the countertops that looked like expensive marble were, upon closer inspection, cheap laminate that wasn't even as tough as the Lowe's laminate counters in my kitchen. Also didn't like the layout of the units for functionality for daily living. Conclusion: For the price they are asking on even a lower priced 5th wheel (approx $35,000) I can custom build a rugged, high end unit for the same price or less. Unless you are spending a million for one of the high end coaches you simply can't get a quality built rig from the average manufacturers. I have always been skilled mechanically (nuclear welder, carpenter, medical device development/repair, mechanic) so I have no doubt I can build a solid rig at a reasonable price that would rival a million dollar unit. The production line units just aren't built to handle full time living or long term life span. They might do for some, but if I'm going to put the money into a rig its going to be something built tough to my quality and functionality standards.

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well if you can not find what you want then build it. I started with the frame I bought for 2500.00 then I found A camper 600.00 then another for free then parts form a small motorhome 250.00. floor 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 foam insulation 1/4 plywood. walls, 2x2's, foam, wall board and sheet metal.2 sumers and it was done. yes it can be done for 10,000.00. I am an elertrician by trade. there is a web site where you can buy plans for a 5er  http://www.glen-l.com/campers/5wheels.html

Rainier a 17' 5th wheel travel trailer for compact trucks
Ponderosa a 25' 5th wheel travel trailer
Queensbury a 29' 5th wheel travel trailer

this web site has plans for campers and flat tows

the trailer that i built has been off the pavement many times even bounce it over a curb or two. If you can build a cabin you can build a trailer but the 5er is heavy I haul it will a 1ton dually. Also if you notice there is deck on the back it is 8x9 and it will haul 2 motorcycles or 2 snowmobiles there is a tent that goes over it for outdoor living space. this set up gets looks were ever we go. bonus to the deck no gas fumes in the trailer.


 

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-- Edited by Frigid River ventures on Tuesday 10th of July 2012 11:55:02 PM

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