Looking into converting a trailer for grooming? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-13-2013, 02:39 AM   #1
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Name: Kelly
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California
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Looking into converting a trailer for grooming?

Hello all! I am brand new here and know next to nothing about trailers, much less these adorable fiberglass 'eggs' I'm now learning about. I'm a groomer and have been looking into trailer options for going mobile...poking around and doing research. I ran across an older grooming forum where some ladies had posted about their success in converting some Boler's that were on hard times. I kinda fell in love a little...these things are adorable.

Usually, most grooming trailers are converted from cargo type trailers, and they are *heavy*. I'm attracted to a fiberglass trailer for two main reasons...one, they have a very unique look and I think one could be fixed up really cute! Also, I like the fact that they are so light weight. I have a Toyota Highlander that I was hoping to pull it with. I'm not a fan of trucks or those giant SUVs myself...and that is what I would have to buy to haul a cargo trailer. Hoping to avoid that bit.

So I'm looking into this possibility, still not sure if I'll be able to pull it off but...thats what research is for! So thats where I'm at right now, looking into some of the possible problems I might find and seeing if I can get around them. If I can find a trailer that is on harder times in the interior and redo it for a mobile grooming trailer...I have no handy skills myself, so I'd have to find a place to do the work for me. I do have some big ground work questions though!

#1
I'm a little worried about the weight it will have to carry. 50 gallon fresh water tank, with another 50 gallon tank for the grey water, some sort of smaller set-up for hot water. Grooming table(125lbs?) and a tub...not stainless steel, still looking at options but nothing too heavy. Also a generator....I figured I would need to beef up the tongue so it could be placed there, outside. From the little I've looked the safest way to deal with the weight worry would maybe be to just give it a new axle(plus brakes!)? Easy way to make sure the tongue is larger/hardy enough to hold the generator as well. Would that be possible? It'll need a fair amount of power and a fair sized gen, I live in So Cal so I need to be able to run my AC as well as a high velocity dryer at the same time. Any sort of ballpark on what it might cost? For the axle replacement.

I'm guessing...AC unit goes on top? Shouldn't be a problem? I figure its a tiny trailer, won't take too much to cool it.

#2
Weight distribution/sturdiness. Because this is going to be a working mobile trailer there are certain ways the inside will have to be arranged. The tub at one end with the water tanks underneath...the grooming table at the other. Ideally in a cargo trailer I'd but a cabinet along the end opposite the tub and the table in the center...but because the wheels space will be cutting into the trailer it will cut into space...so I don't think that will work. Do you think the trailer would be too terribly bouncy or unstable if I had say, a lab inside that was throwing itself around? Anyway to help make it more stable?
**Thinking about it now...depending on the measurements the tub might have to go in the back. Because of the door. I'd have to map it out with the actual numbers to know for sure.

#3
I figure if I'm dealing with a good shell of a trailer with a lacking interior...the insulation is going to need to be redone. I'll be bathing and drying dogs in this trailer so things can get wet. I'd need to install some sort of exhaust fan but...unfamiliar with the insulation best used in these guys. Would moisture/mold be a problem you think? I have to get an interior I can clean and wipe down...dogs shake!

#4
Dimensions! Where is the best place to find the actual length/width/height on the models I'm interested in? I'm having a bit of problems finding them for some...I'm 5'8, I need to be sure I can stand up! Also trying to see how everything would fit. I've looked around a bit...and I'm liking the look of the Uhaul CT13, Burro 13' and the Perris Pacer. I liked the looks of a few others like the Boler or Trillium...but they have 'steps' in their floors that would only trip me up. Sticking around the '13 length because I'm worried about keeping it as light weight as I can!

As I said before, I'm not handy or trailer savvy at all! If everything works out and I think this is the way I want to go, whats the best way to find someone to do the work for me? Would just going and asking an RV place for someone work? Buying a cargo grooming trailer can cost anywhere from $11,000 to $24,000 or more! I'm hoping to keep to the low end of that...and not need to buy a new car. But, still in research mode, hoping! Any help from you experts would be 1000x appreciated!
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:28 AM   #2
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Trailer: 1973 Hunter Compact II
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Wow... that's some project you are envisioning.

First, I don't think that most 13'ers can take the load you mention. Between the 50 gallons of clean/dirty water, there is 400 lbs, and a generator on the tongue, another 100+ lbs you are talking about some serious weight gains. I don't think that just a bigger axle and reinforcing the tongue would be enough for most of what you mentioned. And you didn't mention what you want to use to tow this with yet...

You will also have to deal with lots of new plumbing and electrical work in addition to a redo of the interior. If you have to have all of this farmed out I really doubt if you can stay even near your lower budget figure.

Although the following suggestion might get me kicked off the site, have you considered a 10 y.o. small Dodge or Chevy based Class "C" motorhome, they are cheap, usually have a generator already, can carry the weight you are talking about and have lots of room for building inside.

Just some quick thoughts.....
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:57 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
And you didn't mention what you want to use to tow this with yet...

.
Actually Bob they did say "I have a Toyota Highlander that I was hoping to pull it with."

As Bob mentioned I would be concerned with weight issues on the frame and moving tanks around that may result in a unbalanced trailer. Most of our little trailers have the freshwater storage tank inside the trailer and they are on the small sizes (my 16' Scamp only has a 12 Gallon tank & a 6 gallon hot water tank) and having washed a dirty lab a time or two I would suggested that you can go through that amount of water pretty fast. Grey water tank on mine is only about 30 gals and is under the trailer towards the rear but not far behind the axle. In order to avoid sway the more weight you carry over the axle or close to it the better - putting weight at the extreme ends of the trailer can result in a very unstable tow.

In regards to your stability question with a lab bouncing around. I am assuming you will be leaving the trailer connected to the tow when you are doing the washings which takes care of stabilizing the front of the trailer. Many of the trailers come with stabilizers built into the rear bumper on either side that you drop down to stabilize the trailers side to side movement. With those are down and set correctly my trailer didnt move when my rather large male lab or his much larger Golden friend who traveled with me hopped on and off of their sleeping area (front bunk) or bounced in and out of the trailer every time they heard something that sounded like a treat bag opened

There are a number of mobile doggy wash services in my area and they use what appear to be a cargo trailers or large vans. . Photos at Woof Wash Mobile and Ausse Pet Mobile
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:06 PM   #4
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Name: kootenai girl
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British Columbia
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There was a Scamp 16 for sale earlier this summer in Spokane area that someone had converted to a grooming trailer. It was only 3000 dollars and took quite a while to sell. Sorry can't find any pics etc.
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:25 PM   #5
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Yes, I saw the mention of a Highlander, but over the past few years alone that's not enough information to make a determination. Tow limits for Gas Highlanders range from 1500 to 2000 lbs depending on year, and that for Hybrid Highlanders range from 2000 to 3500 lbs, again depending on year.

Sooooo... with a spread from 1500 to 3500 lbs it's hard to make a suggestion except to only consider the low side.

FWIW: The Mobile Grooming Service in my neighborhood drives a 1992 Dolphin/Toyota mini-motorhome they converted.
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:54 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
Yes, I saw the mention of a Highlander, but over the past few years alone that's not enough information to make a determination. Tow limits for Gas Highlanders range from 1500 to 2000 lbs depending on year, and that for Hybrid Highlanders range from 2000 to 3500 lbs, again depending on year.

.
Actually the range is a bit bigger than that these days - the newer V6 gas Highlanders have a tow cap of 5000lbs.
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Old 10-13-2013, 05:00 PM   #7
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Name: Kelly
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My current vehicle is a 2001 Toyota Highlander, V6. Its got some miles on it and I don't expect it to last for too long having to pull a trailer 5 days a week...but a headstart would be nice. The combined financial blow of a new vehicle and a trailer would be a bit much for me. I'm not 100% what it can haul, but needed to take it in for an oil change and brake work this week and planned to ask the dealership. I bought it used and its already got a trailer hitch on the back of it. Even when it does go though, and I need a new one...I'd love to be able to avoid a giant monster SUV.

Now that I've done some research here and elsewhere on the web I'm going back and taking a closer look at those groomer threads on the conversions. I know people managed them successfully on a Boler and a Trillium that seemed to do alright from the little info I got. The Boler I know they got a better axle so they could carry more weight and 14" tires, they had to alter the wheel wells a bit so they could fit. The Trillium seemed to work well for her, 40-50 gal. water tank and a 5-7 gal. little water heater. All of them that put in roof ACs said they had to reinforce the roof. Someone tried with a Scamp...but ran into some problems with the overall build of the trailer. They said the benches couldn't be removed, that the shape of them was part of the overall structure or something? Poking around for more info on that.
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Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
Wow... that's some project you are envisioning.

Although the following suggestion might get me kicked off the site, have you considered a 10 y.o. small Dodge or Chevy based Class "C" motorhome, they are cheap, usually have a generator already, can carry the weight you are talking about and have lots of room for building inside.
Haha, yes....quite the big, but I figured thats why I'd look into it really well first, right now its just a possibility. Perhaps a pipe dream, but things can be learned from those too. The weight is probably my biggest worry...and why I'm really checking in - in the end it all comes down to weight! For my Highlander as well as for the trailer. As for the motorhome, thanks for the suggestion but not something I'm considering for the same reason I don't want a grooming van. Too many places for something to go wrong, if your van or motorhome is down, you're dead in the water until its fixed. With a trailer, if something goes wrong with the vehicle, I can still groom out of the trailer, or get a temp vehicle to tow it.
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Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
In regards to your stability question with a lab bouncing around. I am assuming you will be leaving the trailer connected to the tow when you are doing the washings which takes care of stabilizing the front of the trailer. Many of the trailers come with stabilizers built into the rear bumper on either side that you drop down to stabilize the trailers side to side movement.
Well that is good to know at least!
As for the water worries, around 50 is the norm...we use recirculating bather systems that help us save on water ALOT. With the weight...maybe with the tub/water tanks in the back...and then the generator/grooming table at the front? Arg, that is the stickler isn't it? I wish I could move things more towards the center and such...but it just isn't doable for being able to move around and such.
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Old 10-13-2013, 07:14 PM   #8
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Experience has shown that the dealership isn't a good place to ask questions about towing capacity. There are so many variables and models that, most likely, they will grab a figure out of the air.

I have found references for 2000 lbs with the V6 for that year with up to 3500 lbs IF the heavy duty towing package is installed. That is not just the hitch, it includes lots of extras like heavier springs, transmission cooler, larger alternators etc.

The best place to look is in the owners manual that came with your car. If you don't have one contact Toyota Corporate customer care and have them get you a weight number based on your VIN.

The good news is if you can pull that much weight a larger FGRV might be an option.

Of all you issues it looks like finding some place to hide two 50 gallon water tanks is the biggie and will take some very creative engineering to pull of and still be safe to tow.

Is there anyone in your profession that has done this with a small FGRV already? Might be a good place to start and/or stop...
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Old 10-13-2013, 07:18 PM   #9
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And yes, motorhomes do have more opportunities to have mechanical problems, but you might wish you had one the first time you have to back up your trailer to get into or out of a customers drive way.....LOL
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Old 10-13-2013, 10:47 PM   #10
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I have put over 100,000 towing miles on my '08 Highlander. They are pretty tough vehicles.

The Scamp and similar egg trailers need the cabinets and such to provide rigidity and strength. Without the interior support, the body wiggles and wobbles, and the roof can sag or even cave in.

One person made a cargo trailer out of a 16' Scamp. He made custom curved wood support spars that he attached to the interior, to provide the extra strength needed. He even cut the back and put in a ramp door.

For your application, you would have extensive (read: expensive) modifcations to get it ready for such a purpose. A heavier axle and some frame reinforcement might be needed. FG eggs are usually not bargain-priced to begin with... even the ones that need a lot of work (like a new floor). Figure maybe $700 for an axle. Removing interior components and building supports, maybe another $500-$1000. Frame work may require removal of the body so it isn't harmed by welding heat.

I bought a brand new 6x12 single axle cargo trailer with double rear doors, side entry door, and brakes for $2800. Such a trailer would need no extra work to prepare it for the weight and the interior components you need. The steel frame needs no reinforcement. No wheel wells intrude (in most of these). I think your Highlander would do ok with it, if you keep your speed 55 mph or under anyway.

BTW, my DD is a groomer, I bought her an electric lift table for her birthday a couple of years ago. I can picture what you need. My advice is to forget about the cuteness factor and go for the sturdy, economical practicality of a conventional cargo trailer. You may be able to find a decent used one for $1500. Whereas used Scamps, even old ones, tend to go for $3000-$4000 or more.
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Old 10-14-2013, 08:46 AM   #11
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I agree with Mike about needed modifications & costs, and with all of the work having to be farmed out, it will get much more expensive than even the wildest guess.
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