Harbor Freight Haul Master 4×8 Heavy-Duty Trailer Review and Kayak Carrier Mods

Assembled trailer, chicken looking on in approval

Assembled trailer, chicken looking on in approval

Over the years we transitioned from a single full-sized canoe to a pair of kayaks for our paddling fun and exercise, yet trying to get even the relatively light kayaks up on top of a full-size SUV (Ford Edge) with one fairly short person (my wife) can be a pain, not to mention the amount of time securing the whole thing once it’s up there on top of the fairly high vehicle.

So we decided to take a plunge and get a trailer so that we could more quickly just slide the kayaks on, secure them with a few straps, and then go.  Easy Peezy.

We looked around and the best deal seemed to be the 1720 pound capacity 48 inch by 96 inch  Super Duty Folding Trailer from Harbor Freight.  The reviews were good to great for the majority, with a few caveats.  And after consulting with my nephew for his opinion we decided to pick this up, though we originally considered the regular non-heavy-duty model.

This is a total do-it-yourself assembly and wow – it is indeed “do-it-yourself” as you do assemble EVERY single part of it yourself!

As mentioned above this one is the super-duty one – there is also a regular duty one which is the same size as well as a smaller model, which is very similar but smaller of course, and simpler to assemble I assume (relatively). 

This one has a tilting deck, so you can secure it to your vehicle with the hitch and pull two pins out and you can tilt the whole bed back.  But if you think this is something you can just drive your lawn tractor up on you might want to think again and consider ramps, otherwise the tilting works well for most other things.

The trailer once assembled also folds to fit 2 ft. x 5 ft. 3 in. of floor space.  In reality, it is quite heavy and to fold it may or may not be practical for everyone.  There are dolly wheels that are installed for when you fold up the rear section so you can roll it around.  Theoretically, I’d say.  These wheels are pretty small and I am doubtful about the amount of weight they can hold despite them being made for this purpose.

The trailer weighs in at over 330 lbs (150 kg).  Not heavy, but not super-light either.

It has a nice heavy-duty steel frame with some nice quality-looking red baked enamel finish, its really smooth and looks great.  And this baked enamel paint lines each bolt hole and crevice in the frame, the frame materials is absolutely coated.  Which is great and seems very durable.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well for when you need to ground the lights, more on this later.

There is a good reinforced A-frame tongue and a couple with lots of bolts holding it.

For the road there are fine durable-looking 5-inch x 12 inch tires with a three-leaf suspension.  The axle is enclosed in a heavy-duty steel framework running the length of the axle, this is a square cross-sectioned piece of metal and you can’t see the frame except where the ends protrude for putting the wheels on.  Is the axle extended the entire width inside this metal frame or not?  I am not sure but it feels fairly heavy as if it did.

All of the trailer parts come in two boxes, one quite heavy.  Things are packed pretty well, moderately securely, and padded okay.  But wow, that one is heavy.

Open boxOpen box

There are a ton of parts (okay not a ton, but figuratively…), and as I said before, and bears repeating; you have to assemble EVERYTHING, literally.  I’m not sure exactly how many parts but there are likely a few hundred if you count each nut and bolt.  And you might as well because you are going to be assembling every nut and bolt to each other and something else.

Our’s came with the tires already on the wheel and hub, though the dust cover still had to be taken off to attach the wheels, and then the bearings had to be lubed and repacked.

So, yes, I mean EVERYTHING.  Every single thing has to be attached, frame pieces, braces, nuts, bolts, screws, lights, wiring, coupler, hitch pieces, springs, axles, and wheels.

The manual is really in good English but is only okay and really so-so for the assembly itself, instruction-wise.  The illustrations are quite good.  Yet it’s easy to miss things, or to get confused on a few points here and there and have to go back, redo something or un-assemble something that looked like it needed to be done but wasn’t supposed to at a particular point.  Maybe I missed something, maybe the manual just sucked here and there, likely some of both, I’m not sure.

partially assembled

Parts are numbered in the text and in the diagram in the back of the book but the actual parts themselves are not, which makes it hard sometimes.  I referred to the parts list and illustration in the back quite often at first, and I used a metric ruler to get the correct sizes of bolts as needed initially.

And then after a lot of head-scratching and rechecking parts we found that we were at a major standstill and at a major setback.  They had packed two right-side pieces for the front frame section… 

Since our local Harbor Freight had no other of these trailers available to exchange parts for us, and since they said they had no idea what was coming on the next shipping trucks so that they didn’t know when they would have any more trailers in or which ones – I decided to just measure and drill out the proper holes in the duplicate frame piece section to match the missing side.

This amounted to about five bolt holes.  No big deal though it took a little extra time to make sure they were in the right places and to drill them out properly.

Once I had that done we could continue on.  Though at that point I was a bit skeptical – what other parts were the wrong ones?  Fortunately, I had no more issues of quite this type, except the happy accident of upgraded lights which I will get to later.

There are also side rail holders for adding a rail or stake rack, these too are bolted on with bolts and locking nuts just like the rest of the hardware.  These accept the end of a 2×4 (or whatever you are using, you could conceivably mount any upright piece of something else here) and have a stopper at the bottom, there is a matching bolt hole in the frame so you can put a bolt right through the whole thing.  Anyway, these are made of fairly thick steel, not as thick as the frame of course, but substantial.

These are made for 2×4’s but for some reason are about one sixteen of an inch too thin so that you have to trim a very tiny piece of the end of the 2×4 off where it slides down into the holder.  I tried pounding one down in but it was obvious it would not go and trimming it was the only option.

stake rack mountsAlso, they are about a six of an inch too deep so there is a little space when you put the 2×4 in on either the inner side or the outer side.  Not a big issue until you bolt the holder down and there is a little depression in the holder from the empty space between the holder and the 2×4.  Argh.  I put a few washers between the hole in the 2×4 and the outer part of the holder so that when I tightened it all down it wouldn’t be too much of a depression.  Puzzling, but a minor fix.

If you don’t plan on using side rails or anything you could just skip putting these on, there are two per side and two for the front and two for the back.  Perhaps, just maybe, if the trailer got bumped very very lightly from the rear these might provide a little extra protection.  Total guess here.  Or you could replace these with some sort of bumper I suppose.

All parts are metric, including the wheel bearings which I am told is kind of non-standard so be aware of this – you might have to get these at Harbor Freight if you need replacements or someplace that specifically has them.  

As I said the wheels were assembled but the dust covers had to be taken off, the wheels installed with the castle bolt and locking pin (I also later took the wheels off again and repacked the bearing and re-checked them after using the trailer for a bit), the dust cover filled with grease and I packed them with some extra grease in around the bearings as I did this, there’s a weird bluish lube already on them but nowhere enough.  I also greased the wheel via the grease fittings on the inside of each hub.

Later when I took the wheels off again I did check to make sure that the grease fittings worked fine and were filling the inside with grease.


For assembling the whole thing I used an air ratchet and metric sockets and wrenches, but it could easily be done by hand; it would just probably take a bit longer.  The air ratchet made it go quite a bit quicker, though there are a few places – especially once it is partially assembled – where you have to tighten things by hand as there is not much room for anything else.  I of course rechecked every single nut and bolt after assembling everything and tightened a few here and there.

The coupler for the trailer hitch is pretty nice, I think, really heavyweight and attached via two large bolts to a two-piece nose piece, an upper piece and a lower piece, which are in turn attached with ten bolts, six on top and four on the bottom piece. 

The coupler goes on a two-inch ball hitch and there is a safety pin to hold it closed, with a pin through that; a lock could be put through here instead of the pin if needed; holding the latch closed on the ball.  A secondary safety feature is a locking part on the back that must be released and lifted up to allow the connector for the ball to release or engage.

The safety chains are really beefy, the hooks that attach to the vehicle’s hitch receiver have safety springs on them too.

Putting it all together goes easier with two people, and once the front and rear sections are attached you definitely need a couple people to turn it over as it needs to be to finish the assembly with the wheels and a few miscellaneous other things.


So we got the front and rear section together and decided to take it into our garage to finish it as the day was cold and windy.

While this made it a bit warmer to continue the assembly we discovered that turning it back over was quite a task.  With it nearly fully assembled and with the wheels and axle on it it was now very heavy and kind of bulky, especially with it sitting beside my car and limited space; it may have been a mistake putting it in the garage.  The thing was pretty heavy to carry outside (upside down) we decided to pad it well with Styrofoam packing that I had stored for purposes similar to this, and we rolled it over onto its side carefully then moved it over so there would be enough room to set it on its wheels in the garage rather than trying to first move it outside to turn it over. 

A delicate task so as not to scratch anything, especially avoiding putting any weight on the somewhat flimsy fenders as we maneuvered it and rolled it over.  The fenders are fine I suppose but won’t support any weight (there is a warning sticker on each one to attest to this).  They do their job.

Even in an open space or outside this would have been tricky as you would either have to fully support the entire weight as you turn it over or pad the frame so that it didn’t roll and put the entire weight of the trailer onto the somewhat flimsy fenders, which could and would easily bend.  And we also didn’t want the full weight onto the hub’s grease seal protectors as it would probably scratch them at best, dent them at worse if the weight of the whole thing was against the concrete floor of the garage.

Outside it would be easier, but I think you’d still need to pad it so the whole weight wasn’t on the fenders or side of the wheel or have more than two people to turn it over and support the whole weight of it.

Once turned over – wow – it looked great!


Next, I started on the electrical.  

Where the general assembly manual was okay and just so-so but moderately accurate in assembling the structure of it; the electrical part of the manual was much worse.

Firstly, the sidelights described in the manual are different than what we got – instead of taking the lens off the sidelights and feeding the wire through the middle hole in the front side of the frame there is a slot for the wires to go out at the bottom, the wires are already pig-tailed so no need to take the lens off as described in the manual.  The back of the light is too protruding for the wire to pass through the hole in the frame and not make the light flush with the frame, so a little change there between the manual and reality, but no big deal.

Secondly, there is supposed to be a ground screw hole in the coupler and there is none, but there are plenty of bolts to connect to.  The problem is that all of the bolt holes on the entire frame are enamel-painted on the inside which makes for it to be impossible to get a ground, without filing off the nice enamel lining of any holes which you are going to ground to.

Thirdly, and maybe most puzzling; is that the way they describe the wiring path would compromise the ability to pull the pins out for the tongue and dump it back.  No matter how many times I read it I couldn’t see how running the wire from the right tongue piece and right up the front frame piece could in any way allow it to dump back without pulling the wires out or stretching them past their limits unless a lot of extra wire was left hanging.  If a person had no interest in the quasi-dumping ability it would be fine but geez – it’s one of the selling points of the trailer.

So I routed the wire totally differently, forking the left side wiring and right side wiring along the corresponding sides of the a-shaped tongue and leaving a little dip of wire for the hinging of the tongue from the frame.  I used zip ties and such as there is little to secure the wire to.  There are a few clips included, which work well, but there are not enough.  

Multiple zip-ties worked perfectly.  Also, where the trailer folds in the middle needs to have a loop of wire so it is not stretched or crimped if you do plan on having the ability to fold it.  If you don’t plan on it skip this loop.

Lighting wiringAll lights and the hitch plug are to be grounded to the frame of the trailer according to the directions, as I said above this does not work using the instructional method.

I ended up running a new ground wire along the whole inside of the trailer from the vehicle plug all the way back to each light.  More zip-ties to neaten everything up and make things secure, some soldering of wires and lots of wire nuts and electrical tape for semi-waterproofness. 

Adding the ground wire worked perfectly and just required a little extra work and securing the wiring, and disconnecting and reconnecting a few things that I had already done.

While installing the lights I did have a pleasant surprise as well as an ‘Ah-ha’ moment as to why the instructions did not match some of the lights – all of the lights are LEDs, sidelights as well as the rear ones and even the license plate light.  I know some reviewers mentioned upgrading their bulb lights with LEDs so it was a nice surprise that it already came with the LED light kit.  They’re nicely bright and of course durable, though it does mean there are electronics inside the light boxes but everything seems to be pretty water-proof.

Speaking of the license plate holder – the license plate attachment that hangs down from the left light is a bit flimsy.  It’s okay I guess, it doesn’t look like it is going to break or anything, but it is just is a bit floppy.  But easily augmented or changed if needed.

License plate holder and left light

The instructions tell you how much slack you should have for the plug that connects to the vehicle trailer light connector but I left a little bit more and tidied it up with zip-ties and some self-adhering pipe tape that I had.  I wrapped some around the wiring up near the plug and some at the base, then I bored a small hole in the frame and used a small clamp around the wiring as well as a zip-tie to keep the wiring from moving around or getting crimped.  

The wiring kit also comes with the part of the wiring harness that goes onto the car that you plug into to, if you need one.  We found out that our Ford Edge trailer hitch plug was a bit too large for the plug that came with this.  Weird.

We also found that the Edge plug was deteriorated from rust over the years as we had never used it and the cover had come off.

So it was good that we had this pig-tailed plug and after a bit of soldering, more waterproof taping, and a small amount of cutting of the existing plug mount on the Edge – I had the Harbor Freight trailer plug installed in its place, and retro-fitted the Edge water/dust cover to fit over the plug when the trailer isn’t attached.  

I’m not sure why the Harbor Freight plug was a different size as I assume the Ford Edge plug as standard, the hole pattern was correct as well as the wiring (as I saw when I cut the old plug off) but the sizes were slightly off.  I believe a few reviewers on the Harbor Freight site mentioned this.

Road Test and Final Thoughts on the Basic Trailer


On a smooth road it tows surprisingly well, tracks perfectly and you can barely notice it as being behind you.  But any significant bumps do cause a bit of hopping.  There are three-leaf springs per side and the three hundred plus pounds helps and it holds to the road okay, not great and but not terrible.  What can you expect as there is not a lot of weight with the basic trailer unless you start loading it.

And for us, our plans for it was to use it mostly as a kayak trailer, which would add very little travel weight to it, with the additional weight we added in the form of kayak mounts.

Our first real road test, outside of a short test drive, was picking up plywood, 2x4s, and some free pallets from Lowes.  This went great and the extra weight definitely made a difference in how it responded to bumps in the road versus the short ride we took it on initially. 

Is it worth actually adding some dead weight to it for longer trips?  I don’t know but it would certainly make it hold the road better, especially for bumpy or bad road conditions.

So it’s good for the road as it is, but there is some bounce.  Not as much as some light trailers I have seen – though I only see it from the driver’s viewpoint.

plug wiring

Including assembly time, modification time for the duplicate side piece that I had to re-manufacture, wiring everything up with lots of differences in the instructions between what they said and reality, having to go back and add more wiring for the ground, then having to wire in the part that goes onto the car – I spent quite a significant amount of time assembling this.  More than I should have I think, but things were done thoroughly and I had the issues to deal with.   

And I would say it was well worth it as the finished product is very nice; it looks great and seems generally well-manufactured.  I think it’s hard to tell that we assembled it ourselves as it really looks like we bought it all assembled professionally.

Many parts are nicely heavy-duty, made quite well, and I am very happy with the vast majority of it.  A few parts here and there not so much.

But for the money, as long as you don’t mind the aggravation of the assembly time and possibly figuring out some things on your own, it is well worth the amount of money paid and time spent.  There are also usually coupons and many Harbor Freight coupon sites, though this one is really good, as well as apps for getting coupons for most anything (thanks for my nephew for the coupon app suggestions).

There are also some accessories you can buy from Harbor Freight like a spare tire carrier, tie-down rails, tie-down anchors, wheel chocks, upgraded lights (if you get the one with bulbs instead of LED’s), trailer jack with wheels, and much more or you can buy trailer accessories from other places like Amazon.  You can buy your own wood to make a rail or stake rack (see about the rail/stack rack mounts above) or plywood to make it a flatbed as there are bolt holes for these additions (we just used treated plywood and we didn’t cut it in the middle to allow folding).

The only other thing I have done so far (outside of the kayak frame as described below) is to make a base or bumper for the bottom of the tongue/coupler.  This was made out of an old throw-away wrench from a DIY piece of furniture that I assembled, and an old joystick handle.  I drilled out the inside of the joystick handle and bent the old wrench into the shape I needed, jammed the wench into the handle, epoxied it together, and bolted the end of the old wrench into one of the bolts on the bottom of the tongue/coupler (the assembly bolts all across the trailer have a small number of extra threads).

sideviewrear view

Kayak Carrier Addition/Mod

After finishing the trailer assembly, checking it over, and taking a couple of test drives we started work on secure attachments for the kayaks.

We planned on attaching plywood to the top of the trailer so we could transport things, but with the width of our kayaks side-by-side, there wasn’t enough room because of the wheels/fenders.  We could attach mounts or something and angle them a bit and they would easily fit but we really didn’t want to do that.

I looked through the reviews on the Harbor Freight site and found many reviews with photos of people’s modifications and additions for carrying kayaks.  And there were many, these trailers seem like a favorite for people carrying kayaks, canoes, or making other trailer-mounted DIY additions.  Some of the kayak carriers were simple, some elaborate, some for specific kinds of kayaks, etc.  I also searched Google Images for ideas and a few kayaking forums.  All interesting stuff.

But I thought that the easiest and best solution for us was to make a simple frame above the level of the fenders for the kayaks to fit on, overlapping the fenders and giving enabling enough space underneath for other things at the same time as transporting kayaks, as well as space for transporting things without the kayaks on yet not having to detach the kayak frame.  It also let me see and monitor the kayaks for movement as I drove, and be able to see where the trailer was when backing up as the trailer itself is below the view of my back window and side mirrors, though the backup camera shows it fine.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge perspective with the backup cameras as the perspective is skewed and smaller, as I found with some backing up experiments with the trailer.  It is a great help, don’t get me wrong, but seems to be made for general help in backing up the vehicle securely and not for backing up a trailer specifically.

That is what we decided but you could easily minimize the materials you needed for a minimal kayak carrier by mounting angled pre-made kayak carriers that attach to a vehicle crossbar to the frame itself with little more materials needed, though you might need a crossbar of some sort or something to adapt the attachments to the frame, which is thicker than a regular car crossbar.  At the very least, you would need longer bolts for the J-bar carriers or other carriers.

There are 3-in-1’s like this one for two canoes, SUP’s, and kayaks to hold them on their sides vertically with their bottoms toward each other and opposite each other, J-bar ones that hold your kayaks at an angle – you’d need two of these and they could be mounted so there would be space for two kayaks side-by-side – or the Malone V-shaped Seawing kayak rack (which we have one of for the larger kayak); again you’d need two of these.

There is also this – a truck rack kayak carrier made for a truck bed, I am not sure if this would fit the trailer without some extra mods but this is basically what we created from wood and left-over materials.

That would be the bare minimal way.

We didn’t have very good luck with a J-bar carrier for my wife’s larger kayak when we tried it on the roof so we preferred to mount the kayaks simply side-by-side horizontally and flat.  We’d had good luck with that on the top of the vehicle and it minimized having to secure them just right as well as any cross-wind resistance for the light trailer.

Having them simply sliding onto the kayak frame would be the easiest for my wife, and I for that matter; and very quick and easiest to tie down I figured.

We decided to use the side rail mounts or stake rack mounts on the trailer to position the kayaks above the fenders and wheels so the kayaks would fit side-by-side, and also be more visible when driving and especially for backing up.  

I mention these mounts in the text above if you need more info, and about their sizing concerning putting a 2×4 into them, which is a little weird – so you want to read that if you skipped over it to get to this section.

I used the two side rail mounts on either side with four 2×4’s cut twenty-one and a half inches long, when slid into the side rail holders and bolted in this gives around eighteen and a half inches of clearance between the bottom of the kayak rail mounts and the top of the frame of the trailer, and around eighteen inches or so with the plywood deck on the frame. 

Where did I get this number?  Partly from the calculation and future necessity and partly from a bit of guessing and compromise.  

This number allows the possibility of a larger cooler fitting underneath and/or camping equipment, it also allows room for lots of plywood and drywall and construction wood and material to be slid under without taking the kayak rack off.  It also wasn’t so high that it was an obstruction out the back window of the vehicle yet it was also easy to see and monitor the kayaks while driving and backing up, though it also meant not being able to see behind the actual trailer itself quite as well when backing up versus having the kayaks lower or directly on the frame of the trailer. 

I believed that it also wasn’t high enough to cause any swap or messing with the low center of gravity (the kayaks added little or nothing to the center of gravity but the wood and metal I used did add a bit – again; a double-edged sword as there may be an increase in center of gravity but the extra weight was also good for helping to hold the trailer down a small bit, not that the wood and metal added that much overall).

There was also space for a canoe or another kayak underneath.  And with the 2×4 uprights, it also meant the possibility of angling a pair of kayaks and strapping them to the uprights in this angled attitude on either side to fit two more in.  I have not tried this but it should work fine.  It could also hold a canoe and maybe with enough angling three kayaks would fit?

Next, I added a pair of 2x4s to either side, mounted horizontally, and attached to the vertical 2x4s that are mounted in the rail mounts, this added stability as well as a place to strap the kayaks on of course.  I left them eight feet long to allow for more places to strap kayaks and other cargo on as well as to have the ends protruding past the uprights in case we wanted to make a stake rack or something on the front and back.  I bolted these to the vertical 2x4s with bolts and locking nuts and a few washers on either side to prevent the bolt and nut heads from sinking into the wood.

For the cross piece that the kayaks would actually sit on I could have used another pair of 2x4s, it would have worked just fine that way.  But laying around I had a couple of heavy-duty steel posts that I thought would add a little much-needed weight to the trailer and would be strong enough if we ever carried anything large across the top, especially across the middle.  But one of the big reasons was we already had a nice Malone V-shaped Seawing kayak rack which would attach easily to the steel post but would need some other attachment method if we had used a 2×4, so it would just bolt right on with no other mods or hardware.  Again; 2×4’s would have been fine for many kayaks, but with my wife’s kayak, the bottom of the kayak has a triple protruding part and would not sit level on just the steel posts.  Perhaps it could have been padded enough, or I could have cut a matching frame out of plywood and bolted it on to stabilize the bottom of the larger kayak, but we already have the Seawing holder anyway.

I have considered this for my kayak, an idea I saw when searching the Harbor Freight site reviews or somewhere.  Someone traced the contour of the bottom of their kayaks and cut out plywood to match this form and padded it, the bottom of the kayaks in the picture fit it perfectly.

For the steel posts, I screwed both of them directly into the 2×4’s as well as used a strap for each junction, made out of a piece of scrap metal (some muffler hanger works good for this – the heavier duty kind).

close-up of strap

close-up of strap

For my kayak, a ten and a half foot Sun Dolphin Sit-On Kayak (see my review here), I just wanted to be able to strap it directly to the rails as there are two protrusions along the bottom with a hollow in between unlike the larger kayak, so it was able to sit stably and level on the top rail.  For padding, I initially used some cut-to-size old bike tires zip-tied over the steel rail and then foam pipe insulation over that, also zip-tied.

Finished unpaintedLater I replaced the bike tire padding with heavier landscape edging and a nicer version of heavier-duty foam pipe insulation over that, all secured with zip-ties and heavy-duty velcro straps.  You can also use pool noodles but, like the earlier foam pipe insulation – I think there could be a durability issue, depending on how much sliding and moving around you do with putting the kayak on.  With mine, the material of the steel post was quite hard compared to, say, a 2×4 so I wanted a good bit of double-padding over it.  I also extended the landscape edging slightly past the end of the steel posts for safety (you can’t see this in the photos here as this latter padding was added later).

We also attached another 2×4 to the steel cross pieces parallax to the side ones at about the width of my kayak so that there would be a good place on that side for the straps to go around, matching the outer 2×4.  Where I positioned the 2×4 initially turned out to be too far toward the middle of the trailer and my kayak snugged over toward the middle as we drive, so I moved the 2×4 outward more so that it was just inward of the widest width of the kayak when the strap was cinched it didn’t tend to move after this tweak.

For my wife’s kayak, we already had a V-shaped Malone Seawing kayak holder that was made to go onto roof cross racks.  This fit the steel posts I used perfectly, screwing very securely onto them as they had a similar cross-section to a roof cross rack.

Finished unpaintedThis V-shaped kayak holder doesn’t fit my wife’s kayak – an Ozark Trail Pro Angler 12 foot – quite perfectly as two of the protruding sections on the bottom of the kayak fit in the middle of the “V” while one of the outer ones hangs over.  This didn’t seem to be a problem on top of the Ford Edge (or we just didn’t notice) but on the trailer, it occasionally seemed to want to jump out of the “V” on very bumpy, hole-filled gravel roads.

With the V-shaped kayak holder, the straps are supposed to be slipped through and around two slots on the outer part of the “wings” on either side.  Unfortunately with the shape of the Pro Angler’s bottom, as I mentioned above, it could never fully be seated into the “V” (at least securely) and it overhung on one side.  So the straps on one side; instead of coming around at a near-vertical angle, come up around from a low more inner point.  Which didn’t secure it that well when there was a big bounce, allowing it to bounce out in that direction.  It’s not a huge kayak or heavy but it is not small either.

After a bit of thought, this whole thing was solved by routing the strap through one of these slots but going down around the steel post cross piece and back up through the other slot and then over.  Using this method the straps now were more widely secured evenly thus not allowing any sideways movement, and as a bonus cinching them down also damped the springiness of the plastic V-shaped pieces that hold the kayak.

A trip down a washboard surface gravel road to a boat launch was much better than a previous short trip down another gravel road before using this new tie-down method.  Both kayaks were now very secure and the only bounce was from the trailer itself.  Maybe it was my imagination but it seemed like the trailer bounced less also because, perhaps, the heavier twelve-foot kayak wasn’t bouncing and passing this motion along to the trailer and its suspension.


For my kayak and in the interest of 100% peace of mind I did wrap a spare piece of pipe insulation around the steel post at right angles to the other wrap, creating a ‘bump’ on the inner side of the cross-piece to give the kayak a little protuberance to rest up against so it has even less of an ability to accidentally move over toward the middle and bump into the large kayak holder.  Probably not necessary. 

To finish everything off I used several coats of spare deck stain on the wooded part of the kayak frame we built (and also used it on the steel post even though I am not sure how well it will stick – so far so good).  This favorably matches the brighter red of the trailer, I think, and finishes it all off.

Likely I will pick up a trailer receiver hitch lock and a plain padlock for the hole where the safety bolt and pin go into the coupler.  Though from my observation very few people lock their trailers on their vehicles when boating.


When assembling the trailer there are a few things that are definitely cons; the assembly instructions are not the best, other assembly issues may as it did with us or not, and the assembly itself is fairly time-consuming.  There are other things like the fact that you may or may not be able to actually fold it up and move it around on the tiny dolly wheels if needed, because of the weight.

Despite these negatives the overall quality and hardiness of the trailer seems, so far, to be quite high and I believe that this Harbor Freight Haul Master Heavy-Duty Trailer is well worth the low price and the moderate to high aggravation faction of assembly (depending on your abilities and patience) and/or need to determine and work out some things on your own. 

It’s a good trailer I think, not as good as something much more expensive perhaps, but very good for the price and for what it is.

It’s a trade-off, but one that I think in the long run will balance the scales very well in favor of picking up one of these trailers for those looking for a trailer.  I suspect with good maintenance and vigilance for any issues that may crop up (as with any mechanical device) this trailer will be a good investment and useful for years to come.  We shall see as we use it more, and I may add some thoughts and any further facts to this post perhaps.

Looking past the assembly process, for versatility in its basic just-assembled condition I give it good marks, it’s ready to start hauling what you need to. 

And for the further versatility and ease of modifying and adding to the trailer, I have to give it high praise.  As you can see it is easily converted to a flatbed hauler and kayak trailer, as well just as easily able to be made into a camping trailer, enclosed trailer, dump box, stake rack, bike hauler, or any number of things.











Summer 2023. I added a spare tire and spare tire carrier to the trailer, mounting it angled inward instead of outward on the trailer tongue/drawbar. I did this with the idea that it would decrease wind resistance a tiny bit, probably immeasurable, and also if I ever was backing up and got super close or needed to get super close to jacknifing I’d have as much space as possible before anything touched. This would be worse case scenario of course, I would never normally get THAT close. Anyway, it’s good to have the spare in case of need. Next thing is to get a couple spare bearings to carry along.

Spare Holder

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Marc M

I am a web developer and fitness geek, but I have a heck of a lot of differing interests.  Biking, the Internet, technology, movies, fitness, running and walking and hiking, science fiction, photography, graphics, WordPress, flying and aircrafts, pets and animals, history, and much more.  I like to stay very fit but I don’t mind sitting at my computer for work and play either.  I live in upstate New York (that’s far from New York City) in a rural area, yet close to a small city, with my beautiful awesome wife, a bunch of beloved cats and dogs and chickens in a very old multi-century house.


  1. Would these tires fit this trailer for a better towing experience?

  2. Great article! What was the deck height before you added the plywood? Are the tires taller than the deck?

    • Thanks, and sorry it took awhile to get back to you.
      The deck height only increases less than a half inch with the plywood, it’s around 16 to 17 inches off the ground.
      The tires are slight taller than the deck, and the fender extend above the tires alos.

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