Self Lifting Trailer Tailgate 7


Check out how to build a spring assisted trailer tailgate made from an old leaf spring and some scrap steel.

My FIL has been working on rebuilding this old trailer. He built a nice fold down gate on it, but it ended up being too heavy for anybody other than him or myself to lift.

We looked at some coil springs like they put on gooseneck ramps, but I remembered seeing a setup like below on the old little flatbed U-haul trailers (I haven’t seen one in years)

So we drew some pictures and dug through my random offroad parts bin. He put it all together himself and when he first finished, the gate didn’t even touch the ground. With the washers above the spring, it just lightly comes to a rest on the ground when you let go.

Up position

Up position

Underneath. You can see where there was a crossmember added then what used to be two u-bolt plates used to capture the leaf spring. The washers between the spring in the plate were used to adjust the tension on the gate, because at first the gate wouldn't lower all the way to the ground on its own.

Underneath. You can see where there was a crossmember added then what used to be two u-bolt plates used to capture the leaf spring. The washers between the spring in the plate were used to adjust the tension on the gate, because at first the gate wouldn’t lower all the way to the ground on its own.

View from the rear. The spring assembly really doesn't take up very much room on its own.

View from the rear. The spring assembly really doesn’t take up very much room on its own.

With tailgate in down position. This is my favorite part of this design because unlike the rail mounted springs, there are no wires attached to the tailgate to trip over.

With tailgate in down position. This is my favorite part of this design because unlike the rail mounted springs, there are no wires attached to the tailgate to trip over.

A little ingenuity, some scrap parts, and some hard work made a very useful end product. Between all of our family and friends this trailer gets used almost weekly. Best of all, it is small enough to tow behind my “Honda Hauler”!

For those of you that think obtaining these supplies and welding them together is too hard, there are off the shelf solutions that you can purchase but in DIY fashion install them yourself without a welder. It is called the Gorilla-Lift 2-Sided Tailgate Lift Assist.


7 thoughts on “Self Lifting Trailer Tailgate

  • sam

    I’m glad to see this design. It is really awesome. To your point, the other methods do the job, but I don’t like the wiring and certainly don’t like the rattling noise the springs make either during operation or when you’re driving on the road. Your approach is much simpler in design (certainly not easy to do) and looks safer in case of malfunction. If the spring leaf would to snap, then the most likely path would be contained underneath the trailer, while the spring method, the cable could easily swap someone across the face.
    I’m curious as to any drawbacks you have experienced since installing it. For instance, have you had issues with ground clearance? is there a weak point or angle where the spring is not effective either up or down? b

    • Paul Post author

      My family just uses this trailer around the house hauling the garden tractor or whatever else we need to haul at that time. I haven’t really hit any issues with ground clearance yet. When the gate is down the shackle and spring extends approximately 8 to 10″ below the bottom of the trailer which could be a problem for some. The design of this spring system is so robust with automotive parts that I think even if you bottomed out on it from time to time, it wouldn’t hurt it.

      The spring gets less effective as the gate travels up and the spring unloads. I am working off memory here, but don’t remember really encountering any ‘dead’ spots in the springs travel. When we first built it before we adjusted the spring, it was so effective the ramp didn’t even hit the ground.

      This is not necessarily an easy project but does present a good alternative to the two most common methodsof trailer tailgate assist (garage door spring and cable or coil spring on the ramp hinge).

  • Dillon

    I like it! I’m putting together an off road adventure trailer with a flip down tailgate with a spare mounted on it. Looks like this should work for the up assist I’m looking for. Any idea what the weight of your gate is? Do you have a video of it in operation?
    Thanks.

  • Josh

    Do you think this could work for fold up stairs on a pool deck? If so can you give me some more detail on parts used and what mods I might need for stairs and deck? Thanks!

    • Paul Post author

      Hmm, that is a good one. I am not sure how well this solution would work for your problem. My tailgate lifting solution uses a single leaf spring from the rear of a pickup/older suv (before they went to independent suspension or linked suspension). Because it is from an automotive application, you would be surprised how much spring tension is packed into a single leaf spring even after it is removed from a pack of leaf springs (most packs have 3-4 springs in them held together with a center pin).

      One idea that might work for you would be the gorilla spring system shown above. That way the spring is contained where it is less likely to pinch/hurt anybody playing around the pool. As long as you had somewhere solid to mount it, you could then attach the lifting cable to the part of the stairs that will be folding up/moving. You could even add some pulleys if you needed to mount it at an angle.

      Hope that helps, good luck!

  • Jonathan Halsey

    Is both ends of the shackles on the back of the trailer freely turn or is the lower one bolted solid?

    • Paul Post author

      Not sure exactly what you mean here, but I will try to explain. The leaf spring ends that we are using do have rubber bushings in them but they aren’t necessarily designed for this much rotation. The bolts through the shackle into the bushings should not be so tight that they try to twist the bushings. There needs to be a little bit of slippage when using factory leaf spring bushings. If they were aftermarket polyurethane bushings then you could tighten the shackle bolts tighter because the sleeve in the bushing can rotate.

      Hope that helps, if not add another comment with some more details and I will try again!

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