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How I Restored a rusty, weather-beaten Utility Trailer

Article by, James Frampton

Webmaster of E.M.

Here is how I restored to new like condition a 5 x 10 utility trailer.
My utility trailer has the standard black angle iron frame that gets surface rust after a few years out in the weather. Pine wood floors that rot if it's not treated wood. And a steel mesh let down back tailgate. These tailgates tend to rust quickly if its used a lot.

I believe that most all new utility trailers are dipped in paint, at the place of manufacture. What leads me to believe this is by simply looking at these trailers at stores that sell new utility trailers.If you notice all of them have drip looking paint on the bottom side of the frame rails.

Also, I noticed fish eyes on the top side of the frame rails. Most people will never even notice this because the trailer is new and, therefore, will never be closely inspected like a used trailer would be.I inspected my trailer before starting any work on it. Write down on paper a checklist of parts that need to be restored or replaced on the utility trailer.

As can be expected, the frame rails and fenders needed a fresh coat of primer & paint. After looking over the complete trailer, only then I was able to determine what I needed to replace and restore.

Inspecting utility trailer before any work is performed

One reason to make a checklist is so that you will be able to determine what needs to be done first. For example, let's say you have de-rusted the tailgate on your utility trailer. After applying a rust neutralizer on the gate, you now apply primer, and then paint.Then you notice several places the steel mesh tailgate has come loose from the rail bracing. Any welding now will ruin your new paint job from the spatter of MIG welding & will now force you do start over. A BIG waste of time & big waste of money.

Here is a list of things you need to do before restoring your utility trailer
  1. Make a complete inspection of the trailer, bottom side & top side.
  2. write down any missing parts (tail-lights, safety chain,etc..)
  3. Does any part of your trailer need welding? (steel mesh coming loose, fender loose from rails, etc.)
  4. Tongue Jack may need repairing(This I had to do with my utility trailer-see video)
  5. Frame rail welds came loose?  Do Any welds need to be repaired?
  6. Missing bolts or nuts
  7. Light work on both sides, tail lights, turn signals

Eastwood PRE Painting Prep

Pre-painting prep from the Eastwood company is a great way to remove grease, dirt and debris. And will really give a clean metal surface to lay your first coat of primer.Make sure you clean the frame rails before sanding.

You do not want to sand the frame rails with dirt or other debris on the metal.
After cleaning and sanding use the PRE painting prep.
You will then have good clean metal for your primer or paint.

I can't stress enough to clean the metal first by washing & then use a metal cleaner such as Eastwood's Pre.

Rust-Oleum paint 2x Ultra coverage

Rust-Oleum flat black paint,2 x ultra cover is what I used to paint the frame rails on my Utility Trailer.
This was the first time I used the 2x ultra cover. The paint can as you can see, says one can of 2x equals 2 regular cans of paint.
I was really impressed with this paint.
It never spit on me once. As you may know. 
If the spray can "spits" while painting it really messes up your paint job.
 Great product I will definitely use again.

Make sure to clean the metal

If you start sanding the metal before getting it clean, you will be sanding grease and dirt into the metal and this will cause your paint and primer to wrinkle and cause other problems as well.

I have seen people scratch their head wondering why the primer or paint wrinkled up on them after spraying. The majority of the time is poor metal cleaning.Make metal prep your #1 priority before even thinking about spraying primer or paint.

If you prep the metal correctly you will have a nicely restored painted utility trailer.

Decide to apply paint by brush, rattle can or spray gun

There is a couple of ways to lay down some paint on your utility trailer. You may decide to use a spray gun or brush it on. In my case, I decided to use the Rust-Oleum spray can (rattle Can).One reason I did not use a brush is, first you will need to purchase a decent brush, then buy the paint & also some cleaner (Paint thinner or mineral spirits). Also, you will have to fight the brush marks you will leave when
painting steel. More expense and clean up.

Or you can use a spray gun. Most of the time using this method you can make the paint go a lot further than using a rattle can paint. But there will be more work involved and expense.You will now have to get paint thinner and whatever type of paint you buy, will determine what kind of spray gun cleaner to clean the gun after spraying.

But, since it was just a utility trailer, the spray can would be faster and have virtually no clean-up.
As long as the spray can doesn't "spit" you can do a nice paint job.
Just shake and spray. 
Rust Oleum paint, Rust repair

How to get rid of rust on your utility trailer

More than likely you will have the same problem as most do with aging utility trailers. Rust due to the dead paint that's on the frame rails and fenders.
If you're lucky, most will be surface rust, as was on my trailer. If the rust has created holes or other problems (Fenders) it might be best just to purchase you one from Tractor Supply company.

In my youtube video, I show you a couple of good rust removing and rust preventative products to use.
There are several anti-rust preventatives on the market today.
Also, some primers and paints have rust preventatives in them.

Two well-known products are POR15 and Eastwood rust encapsulator. These products allow you to paint over rust. They also help rust prevention as time goes by.
But, if you have access to the rusted area, you will need to at least use sandpaper and scuff up the area for good adhesion.