Going Bush
  |  First Published: October 2005

The holidays have arrived and you’re getting ready to head off on that trip you have been dreaming about for the last three months.

You’re travelling to the tip of Australia to catch the biggest fish ever and to relax and enjoy the beauty of our great country. But have you considered the trailer?

Most people think their trailer will get them there and back without a problem. “I’ve serviced the bearings and packed it correctly” are famous last words. The truth of the matter is that almost any trailer will go bush and back as long as you drive to the capability of the trailer; if you have a light duty trailer then you will need to drive much more slowly than someone who has heavier duty model.

The biggest killer for trailers is corrugations and in particular long periods of corrugated roads. You can go and build a heavy duty trailer and it can still be destroyed if you hit the roads hard enough. The most common comment from people is that “I paid for a heavy duty trailer and it still broke,” or “Why is it that my 4WD will handle the roads but my trailer won’t?”

The main difference is that the chassis of the 4WD is normally made from two pieces of C channel welded together. The channel is normally 5-6mm thick. This means that on the top and bottom of the joined chassis you have 10-12mm wall sections. Most heavy duty or off road trailers are built from 4-5mm RHS(Rectangle Hollow Section steel),so straight away you don’t have the strength that you get from your vehicle. The problem with making the trailers from heavier material is that you would need a Mack truck to tow it.

The biggest considerations for trips to remote parts of Australia are the wheels, tyres, bearings and suspension. All these parts are equally important and you can spend a fortune on them if you get carried away.

Consider how often you’ll be using the unit in difficult and remote conditions before you decide how far to take the build of the trailer. Some companies build three different levels of trailers for rougher conditions – medium duty, heavy duty and full off road trailers.

Which model is right for you depends on how often you’re likely to be using the trailer to the design standards that it was built to handle.

Wheels and tyres

Start is with your wheels and tyres. Go for 15” or 16” wheels to match the tow vehicle. However, there are issues that you need to be aware of. Most importantly, consider how high the boat will sit from the water once the large wheels are on. This will implications for launching and the way the rig balances behind the towing vehicle. On the upside though, I have taken a trailer on over 18,000km of touring through some rough country using 14” light truck tyres and never even had a flat tyre.

The benefits of using smaller wheels are that there is a lot less stress on your bearings and therefore less chance of a bearing failure. Bigger wheels lead to more lateral movement in the wheel and tyre, which in turn results in more stress being placed on the bearing. If you are going for a bigger wheel you need to consider looking at bigger bearings.


If you are going to stay with the 14” wheels then you should definitely be using a slimline axle. These axles are rated at 1,500kg and when combined with a good quality bearing will give you thousands of kilometres of trouble-free use.

If you are really looking at the 15” or 16” wheels then you should consider upgrading your bearings, which means your axle, to at least parallel bearings. If you are going to spend the money to upgrade your bearings to parallel, then I think you should spend the extra again and go to TF9 axles (this is the size of axle/model). These axles are rated at 2.9 tonne and if you break them then you have real problems. The big benefit you get from them is that the bearings are three times the size of the slimline bearings and therefore handle the lateral movement of the bigger wheels. They do come at a cost though. If you have a trailer that does not have brakes, a TF9 upgrade will set you back about $700 to $800. If you have a trailer that requires brakes, you had better budget for $1,300 to $1,500. Parallel bearing upgrade would cost you $500 to $600 without brakes.


Suspension is really a matter of personal preference. You should start with a minimum standard of shackle suspension and then work your way up to full independent suspension if you want.

Standard shackle suspension is a good option for someone who is only likely to be using the trailer in harsher conditions a couple of times a year. These springs are normally 710mm eye to eye (bolting eye to bolting eye)and made from 8mm thick steel that is 45mm wide. The next step is to go to long travel springs. These springs work the same as the shackle springs but are usually 140mm longer and 15mm wider. They are also thinner and have more leaves.

Finally, you can go to an independent suspension system. These range from leaf spring-style to coil springs or the more modern option of air bag suspension. These types of systems will range in price from $2,000 to as high as $6,000, depending on the brand and set-up options you take.

I have had good success using long travel springs and the larger TF9 axles. If you combine the two with a well gusseted trailer and some basic common sense while towing, you should be able to travel just about anywhere you want in Australia.

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