Riding Mower Trailer Conversion

jasoninbrlaNovember 9, 2009

Ok odd question.

I bought an old JD LT155 for scrap and robbed each and every usable part off it except for the wheels and frame. I cut the fenders off the fram last night and was going to take out the hydrostat and replace it with a straight shaft and convert the whole thing into a 4 wheeled trailer.

I was wondering, how do you guys think it would tow behind my mower with the existing steering system as opposed to a rotating front axle like on other wagons.

You guys know everything, how do you think it would work.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Unique question for sure. OK, the typical "wagon" or "full trailer" having a solid axle with rigid wheel ends, that steers by turning the entire axle assembly around a central, single pivot.......uses a system called "Fifth Wheel Steering". The type of steering system having a rigid or semi-rigid axle with movable axle ends (steering knuckles) is call "Ackerman Steering" (just so we know the names of each type). I doubt you would be pleased with the trailing characteristics of a wagon having Ackerman steering without some way of positively steering the two front wheels in the needed direction. If the steering system is simply "turned loose" by removing the drag link connection, the steering knuckles are free to move in reacation to every change of rolling resistance. This means that if one of the wheels encounters something that resists the wheel from rolling over, that wheel will try to turn away, which will move the opposite wheel to turn with it because the tie rod still connects both steering knuckles together. If you remove the tie rod, it gets even worse as then both wheels will simply "toe out" to the max as soon as you try to tow the wagon. There is a way to overcome the issues by constructing the tongue or drawbar of the wagon so that it pivots on a single, central point, but has an extension to the drawbar that continues beyond the pivot point (rearward) and has a means of attaching to the tie rod with a movable or flexible joint. In this set up, when the towing vehicle executes a turn, the drawbar pivots to follow the tractor and the extension portion of the drawbar then moves the tie rod in the correct direction to force the steering knuckles to turn and follow in towing vehicle instead of fighting the turn. I have seen "Tow bar kits" that clamp to the steering axle I-beam of cars and trucks so a vehicle can be towed with the steering axle "on the road" (instead of being raised or resting on a "tow dolly".) In fact, I believe some tow dollies use this type of steering system to make the towing managable. If you are skilled in fabrication and welding, and have the equipment, I believe you could make this work for you. Your drawbar or tongue must be able to swivel in the vertical plane as well, like on the kid's little red wagon too. I'll try to research this topic and post something later. Right now I gotta get back outside to a project I'm doing today.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 1:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I did not find a bunch of "ready made" illustrations of the drawbar that operates the tierod to steer the wagon to follow where the tractor leads, so I had to draw one. My apologies. One of the key components (the ring that attaches to the tierod) must have a lot of slack between the ring ID and the OD of the drawbar extension rod (what actually moves the tierod) to prevent binding and bending of the ring against the drawbar extension when the geometry of the parts changes with position changes during operation. Ideally, the ring would also pivot on a separate plate, with the plate being welded or clamped to the tierod instead of the rigidly welded ring in my illustration. Forget about my referrence to car tow dollies having steering configured this way. The car dollies I was able to view online don't seem to utilize a way to steer the axle ends. The tow bar kit that I have seen mounted to the I-beam front axle with plate type clamps and had a corresponding receiver for the drawbar extension to fit into. The receiver also clamped around the tie rod to hold the receiver firmly in place. I remember the one I saw did not use a circular ring but instead was a long rectangular slot and the drawbar extension was a flat piece of steel bar about 1/2" thick and maybe one and a half inches broad. I think the slot in the receiver had a tapered shape that allowed for changes of geometry when the drawbar moved the tierod. Been about 35 years since I last saw that one, so the details are a bit fuzzy now. I hope my illustration makes some sense.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 10:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was thinking about doing it like you suggested, however, I was unsure of how it would work. Youve given me confidence in tackling it. I have to make some modification to the knucles though b/c the tie-rod ends are directly over the steering axle but I can work around that.

Hey, I have a welding machine, cutting torch, scrap iron and all winter to work on it. I will post pictures when completed.

Thanks alot for the help.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've done some additional thinking on this and there is another way you can connect the steering knuckles to the drawbar extension piece, and it might be the easiest and most durable way. The example I saw long ago was used to tow brand new IHC pick-ups and Travelalls from the factory at Fort Wayne, to the dealership in Nashville. Most of the time, trucks in that weight class were just piggy backed (with all 4 wheels off the pavement) onto the frame of larger trucks that were also being delivered from the factory. Every now and then, for unknown (to me) reasons, the delivery service company would tow a pick-up or Travelall behind another truck with all 4 wheels on the ground. The tow bar was portable and mounted with plate clamps and bolts, same for the tierod piece. Because the trucks were new and unsold, no mods were allowed, so anything used to get the truck from factory to market had to be removable and do no damage to the vehicle.
I would say you don't need to be too concerned about damage to this chassis you have in mind. So, you can cut the tierod in half (dead center) and put a Heim joint on the two cut ends of the tierod. Having a Heim joint on the end makes it lots easier to do a direct connection to the drawbar extension and not have any slack. The Heim joints accommodate the changes of geometry that occur without the need for "built in" slack in the parts. I'll draw up an example of what I'm talking about and you can do whatever you have to do on your end of the project. It'll be later cause I'm still outside and hoping to dodge rain (or hope it dodges me).

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 1:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, here's a rough sketch of a way to use heim joints in the steering system for the wagon with Ackerman steering.
Heim joints are easy to find (TSC, hardware, home improv). If it were my project I would measure the diameter of the tierod to see what size threads could be applied to the rod using a die. Alternatively, you could carefully calculate how much of the tierod to cut off and weld a grade 8 bolt of the appropriate thread onto the tierod halves to accept the Heim joint of the same thread. I would also choose a Heim joint having a 3/8" "ball swivel" mounting hole to attach to the draw bar extension. Having threads on the tierod halves will make it easy to set the toe of the wheel ends/knuckles. Make sure you use a "jam nut" on the tierod threads to secure the Heim joint to the tierod threads. This should give you plenty of food for thought on your project.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heim joints

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 9:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here is an image showing a few examples of Heim joints. Note that the "threaded portion" of the examples shown feature "Male machine threads". The Heim joints needed for adapting to the tierod halves of this wagon project would need to feature "Female machine threads", and those too are easy to find (almost easier to find them than to find a picture of them :^) At least you can see what I a real live Heim joint looks look instead of my crude sketching.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 8:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I hope my illustration makes some sense"

Heck mownie,.....your sketches are "spot-on" !...I could not ask for any better...so much so that I have saved them on one of my files for future reference if I decide to tackle another homemade cart project!


I'm kinda wondering what kind of bed (or body) you plan on mounting on the old JD frame.....what with the rear wheels being of a much larger diameter than the front ones,..they must stick out from the top of the frame ,thus limiting you to building a very narrow bed?.....or maybe you will just fab yourself some sort of tall brackets so that the bed will clear the top of the rear tires?...

Regardless....please try to post some pictures!

BTW....when you take a picture of your cart,.......make sure.....that you hook it up to a brightly painted tractor that's any other color than JD green/yellow!!!! I think it would be an instant hit!
have fun with your project!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 10:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can't speak for Jasoninbrla, but this is how I would probably do it if it were my project. First off, if the expected loading would include heavy stuff like dirt, rock, sand, or gravel.......I would not extend the "cargo box" completely to the front end of the frame. I would "set it back" to a point about 3 to 6 inches BEHIND the centerline of the steering axle. This prevents you from putting too much load over the lighter capacity steer axle components. Another and more versatile design to accomplish that goal while still allowing for a bigger cube volume of "light stuff" (like leaves) would be to extend the box perimeter all the way to the front of the frame (or a bit further if you like) and then fabricate a "removable partition wall" that could be "dropped into place" at predetermined positions in the cargo box to limit both the load weight, as well as the placement of the weight, whenever the need to haul the really heavy material comes up.
As for "clearing" the rear tire, fronts too, remember, the steering axle pivots on a center trunnion. The "cargo box" has to be designed with enough clearance to avoid contact with the front tires when the axle tilts on uneven terrain. To accomplish that requirement, I would design the interior of the box with "wheel wells" adjacent to the tire positions, in similar fashion to how the interior of a pick-up truck bed is built. If you "jack up" (extension brackets) the entire cargo box enough to be above the tires in order to provide the needed clearance, you run the risk of "tip over accidents" because the center of gravity will be too far above the centerline of the wheels.
Another issue in this application is the need for the tongue or draw bar to be able to rotate around its own centerline. I guess anybody that has ever towed a car or trailer that has the simple "pin and clevis" type of hitch has seen what happens to the clevis after traveling over terrain where the tractor leans one way and the trailer leans the opposite way. After about the hundredth time of having to "straighten" the hitch clevis on my dad's Snapper yard cart, I fabricated a "rotating hitch" section to replace the removable end section of the tongue that came with the cart. (See photos below) Of course, a "ball hitch" or a pintle hitch will address that need, but wanted to build my "flex joint" in order to allow tipping the entire cart over sideways to dump material like leaves and limbs in addition to allowing for differences of geometry between the tractor and the cart. By the way, the side tipping works but it turns out to be pretty cumbersome, so I usually just "jack knife" the cart around to dump stuff if I need it in a certain spot. I'll come back later with a sketch of a design for the cargo box to illustrate some of my ideas.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 10:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gee whiz I sure wish this forum had the feature where you could edit or correct your post (like within 15 or 30 minutes after "click submit"). I always seem to find a mistake when it's too late.
***"I guess anybody that has ever towed a CAR or trailer that has the simple "pin and clevis" type of hitch"***
The word "car" in that line was supposed to be "cart".

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 11:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am going to build a flat bed out of 2" angle iron and treated 2x6. It will be lifted about 8" over the frame and clear the back tires and will hinge like a dump cart. Like Mownie said, I will have removable sides and rear gate. There will be storage space for stuff between the deck and the old mower frame.

Without a doubt, it will have lots of steel, be tall and be heavy. But heavy is good in that I can transfer items from the back of the truck to the trailer and deliver it to my porch on the house without tipping over. Plus, I live in South Louisiana where the whole country is FLAT. The big tires will make all the difference as far as not rutting up the yard and stability.

I have always wanted a nice 4 wheel cart to load up and take to where I am working and unhook if I need to. You can't unhook and hook up a 2 wheel cart loaded down with dirt. In the winter, I will load it up with firewood and just unhook the trailer at the back porch. I also plan to use it as a large leaf/grass catcher.

I plan on living at least another 40 years. If I build this right the first time, it should make 40 years too. My lawnmower is 15. I think I can get 15 more out of it also.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 1:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, I finished my cart this winter around Christmas and took some pictures but I don't know how to attach the pictures. How do I do that, if anybody wants to see them.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 1:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

try here:

Here is a link that might be useful: pix help

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 3:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, I learned how to post pictures today, maybe. If I post this and the pictures don't show up, then you will see that I failed.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 1:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Way cool. Ok thanks are in order for RCBE for showing the link and Mownie for the steering help which I used a variation of the Ackerman Steering system and it works great. I did weld some supports to lift the bed over the tall rear tires, I was afraid it would be too high but I really like it as I don't have to bend over to shovel dirt etc out of it which helps on the back.

I was going to have a tilt bed but the pivot would be at the tailgate and would have to have long extension hydraulics like a 2 feet long floor jack to dump anything of considerable weight, so I abandoned that idea.

I had to build a trailer hitch extension from the mower so I could hook up the trailer w/out removing the bagger. Its double and triple braced with the mower, so I can stand on the extension w/ no give. I didn't think about this when I started the project.

I am in the process of building an expanded metal cage to bolt onto the wood on the front to hold "stuff". As you can tell the front is kinda snub nose. So with this cage it will look more "balanced".

Anyway, this past weekend I filled it up 3/4 full of sand and according to my math (its 3' x 5'), it would weigh around 1,200 lbs. The cart handled the weight fine and I could have put more sand but didn't want to rut up the yard (which it didn't). The LT155 didn't have any trouble pulling it around the back yard either which is where I need it w/ over an acre.

At any rate, I thought the project turned out pretty well. My wife thinks Im crazy for doing stuff like this when I can just go buy a new cart at the store. She just doesn't get it.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 1:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well now there pilgrim, ya done good. Yeah, sometimes wives (and friends too) just don't "click" with the idea that much of the fun is in the building of tools and equipment (when feasible). Does it steer easily and track true without hunting or wandering?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 10:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Glad to see that you figured out how to post your pictures.....pix make a world of difference in a thread.

Sure looks like you did a heck of a good job on that cart,...I was not sure how the whole thing would actually look like, but, the dimensions of the bed and the sides that you you built make the whole thing look just right!

If your wife has a hard time understanding why you spent all those hours building this cart....then....just ask her to go out and price a store bought 4 wheeled cart with heavy axles and large flotation tires. I'm sure that she will understand after !!


    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 10:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It steers great and runs true. No problems at all. With the Ackerman steering setup, I can not get a turning radius like with my mower as the steering linkage isn't allowed to overlap. I am having to learn that its just not going to be as tight a turning radius as with a single axle cart. I have to make sweeping turns and the tongue / extension is so long I have hooked a tree or two. That long tongue and being 2 axle is also giving me fits learning how to back it up. I will get it sooner or later.

One thing I did was put a handle on the cart so I can pull it around without the mower and those big tires make a world of difference. Even loaded w/ a good bit of sand, it pushes and pulls around very easily.

Next project is building an extension for the top out of hardware cloth and use it for a grass / leaf catcher. Due to the sweeping turns, it may take 5 times longer to mow the yard. I will have to play with that idea.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 2:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i used all the parts from the lawn mower that i converted to a trailer. i switch the front axle around and beefed up the steering arm from a 3/4 pipe hammered down on the ends

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

before paint job, loaded up with oak trees and no problems

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:44PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
transmission clean and do not overwork
I have a Dumb question about that phrase. Exactly what...
Snapper Riding Lawn Mower Wiring Diagram
I'm trying to find a wiring diagram for a Snapper Rear...
old mtd lawnflite chain drive?
Hey I just bought and old riding mower and lo and bohold...
Briggs & Stratton OHV Intek Hard Starting
I am another of the seemingly many people fighting...
John Deere SRX75 Rider Issue
I have an old Deere SRX75 30" rider with a Kawasaki...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™