I own a 2002 Saturn SL. It’s a nice little four-door that has plenty of room. The main reason I’m doing my best to keep it is simple. It gets 40mpg on the highway! Now, that’s with just me driving and not a lot of “stuff” in the car. Still, even when I load her down, she’s getting close to 38mpg. In today’s economy, that’s nothing to sneeze at! I know motorcycles that don’t do that well!
Last year I got a burr under my saddle (insert your own metaphoric euphemism, if you like) and wanted to have a trailer. Why? I don’t know, it just seemed like it might be helpful. The first thing I had to figure out was could I even get a trailer hitch for it and if so, how much could I haul? Turned out that, yes, a hitch could be installed, and the towing capacity of my little five-speed is 2000 pounds. Woohoo!
When my wife got the job as the Store Manager of the local Tractor Supply Company (TSC), a few opportunities became apparent. First, TSC carries small trailers. They also carry a wide assortment of accessories for them. (Had I known just how many, I wouldn’t have gotten some of the basic necessities with the hitch.) Second, there’s that employee discount benefit. We had taken great advantage of her discount while she worked for Walmart, for almost ten years. It didn’t seem likely, to me, that TSC would be of as much benefit. However, when you can save 15% on a $700 trailer, that adds up!
In the transition from Walmart to TSC, we decided to cash out her 401k. That provided for quite a bit of our preps. In addition, it made some car repairs possible. Her car had been vandalized 5 times in Fresno, mine got hit 3 times. We were able to get her air conditioner fixed (very helpful in our 90+ summers), got her drivers door handle and lock fixed, got my air conditioner fixed, got my trailer hitch and the trailer. We actually had a pretty good reason for the trailer once she got out of training and took over her store. The local County Fair was coming up and she wanted to set up a booth for TSC. She needed to let the community know that TSC was now back on the right track and ready to help the local farmers and ranchers.
Together, we developed a plan for the booth and the items that would be needed. Our biggest challenge was going to be getting everything there. Between us, we have my Saturn and her 2003 Malibu. Not exactly cargo vehicles. Well, since I had the hitch, and could get the trailer, it seemed we would have a solution! Sure enough, I was able to pull into the store parking lot, load up all the essentials for the Fair and off we went!
Since then, the trailer has only seen use for an occasional trip to the Deming store to move parts and supplies between the two. Otherwise, it’s been sitting in the front yard. It’s not horrible and not all that unusual for this part of New Mexico. I just didn’t feel comfortable with it out there. Since the back yard is now a disaster filled with goatheads, I haven’t put any of the vehicles back there. I took a look at the driveway, which runs from the street to the back of the house and thought, “I could probably set the trailer at the back of the driveway!” So, last Saturday, I decided to move the trailer.
In the process, the rear tires got hung up on the edge of the driveway, as expected. The unexpected part was me losing my balance and toppling over. Rather than drop the tongue of the trailer onto the driveway, I tried to set it down. Big mistake. My hand was still underneath it. While lowering my body to the ground, i.e., falling, I supported my right hand on the tongue of the trailer, adding my weight to the crushed finger. Not to worry, crushed is a grand overstatement. It’s five days later and the finger is fine, just a little tender.
Suffice to say, I got up and wrestled the trailer into the desired location. That’s about the time I decided some “help” moving the beastie. (The empty weight is about 535 pounds.) I opted, at the time of purchase, for the wood deck trailer rather than the mesh steel. I’d seen many reviews of the mesh deforming under the weight of certain items, like ride-on lawnmowers and ATVs. This didn’t surprise me, but it certainly seemed to be a revelation to the reviewers.
Knowing that TSC had a bolt-on jack for the trailer, I headed over to the store. I picked up the jack and thought a wheel under it would be useful. Reading through the instructions, the project looked like a simple mechanical exercise. The reality was a little different.
The jack consists of a cylinder with a crank handle, a mounting plate upon which the jack can rotate, four bolts with nuts, and two support brackets. Mechanically, this was a no-brainer. Place jack, place bracket, thread bolt, tighten, repeat x 3.
Minor detail number 1: Get the tongue of the trailer off the ground. I have leftover bricks in the back yard! Ok, move bricks to driveway. Place chocks behind trailer wheels. Lift tongue onto brick. Fail. Not high enough to place the jack. Move tongue off brick. Add another brick. Lift tongue onto brick. Fail again. Still not high enough. Add one more brick. Good!
Minor detail number 2: The jack is heavy. It doesn’t support itself until it’s attached to the trailer. What now? Ah! Lower the piston of the jack and have it help! Ok, jack raised to the appropriate height. Oh, it isn’t exactly balanced so it wants to fall away from the tongue. I have to say at this point that my bricks aren’t the most stable platform. However, past experience has taught me to keep my feet, legs and all other body parts out from underneath the potentially falling trailer. I then reason that if I can get one bolt through the jack plate and one of the brackets, the assembly can again help. (I know, brilliant!) That’s when I learn that this jack is probably intended for a somewhat larger trailer. The tongue is two inch square steel. The bolts are five inches long! With capture nuts (nylon inserts on one side that make it very snug) and ridiculously long bolts, it takes several minutes to get the brackets close enough to the tongue to be of any help!
Minor detail number 3: The mounting plate of the jack doesn’t leave enough space next to the bolt head for the socket driver. It binds a bit. The result is when approaching tight, the socket tilts and wants off the bolt, which rounds it. Grrr. However, perseverance is a gift. I don’t give up because I want this to work. And it does. Eventually, I get all four bolts tightened, after moving the mounting plate forward as far as possible. I have the jack mounted and supporting the weight of the trailer. Success!
Minor detail number 4: The wheel mounts to the bottom of the jack. Which is resting on the ground. Now just how am I to get the wheel on the jack! Back up onto the bricks with the tongue, retract the jack. YES! Now there’s room to mount the wheel! The wheel has a lock pin and holes that align with the jack post. Pull the pin, slide the wheel on the jack, replace the pin!
Lower the jack post, remove the bricks. Voila! Lower the jack to put the tongue on the hitch ball, … and it’s about four inches too high. This is the point where I start asking myself, “Did you really think you could do this?!?”
I’ve learned over the years and years of trying new stuff, that there’s a way out. Almost everything can be worked around. There had to be a way with this! Then I remembered, I’m part gorilla! At least that’s what my wife says. Ok, gorilla, take a look at the mechanics. Pull the rotation lock pin. Support the tongue with one hand. Kick the wheel back, not necessarily into the raised and locked position. Lower the tongue onto the ball. Well, whaddaya know?!? It worked! I could even rotate the jack into the lock position with the wheel still attached! That’s not the solution I really want because the wheel could be remove by an unscrupulous person. Hmmm, what to do? Release the rotation pin. Lower the wheel. Remove the wheel. Put it in the trailer trunk. Rotate the jack post back into the stowed position. Yep, that’ll do!
I’m now thinking of getting one more accessory. If it’s not sitting on the wheel, which means I need the chocks in place, I sure can’t have it sitting on the end of the jack tube. Might as well get the jack base plate so it can sit at least a little more securely.
I have to admit at this point that my little car isn’t terribly happy dragging that thing around. Even when it’s empty, just cruising down the highway to Deming, the performance requires me to actually use the transmission and the mileage drops down to around 30mpg. I know, I could have some oil-industry-preferred gas-guzzler instead of my little sipper. So, I’ll keep dragging that beastie behind me.
There’s also the challenge of my driveway. While it’s long enough to get the trailer and both our cars on, the getting there is insane.
Ours is the only driveway on the street that isn’t level with the street. There’s an incline. A steep incline. If I don’t angle the car just right, pulling in or out, I can scrape front and rear. My wife does so on a regular basis. Add the trailer, and it’s unavoidable. There just isn’t enough room to get the car AND the trailer angled safely. If I angle the car, the trailer will take out part of the fence. Oh well, eventually I’ll drag a groove into the asphalt and it won’t be a problem.
So my challenges are what they are, and I wouldn’t trade them for a “simpler” life. I enjoy challenges. I enjoy overcoming them. Most of all, I love being where and who I am at this stage of my life.