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Aluminium vs steel vs steel/aluminium trailers

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  • Aluminium vs steel vs steel/aluminium trailers

    So, I'm trailer shopping. Started off looking at steel (heavy), dreamed about aluminium (light), thinking about steel frame/aluminium skin (best of both worlds?). What are the pros and cons about any of the three options? Is straight aluminium including the frame strong enough to survive the abuse of 2 large drafts, draft crosses? Does steel frame aluminium skin have issues with the areas that the two metals meet? Thanks.

  • #2
    There is only one steel frame/aluminum skin I would ever recommend...especially for drafties: www.equispirit.com

    I know because I bought their stock-combo model, the EquiBreeze, and I have a full Percheron and a Clydesdale-cross. Believe me...Mr. C'Mare and I crawled through plenty of trailers over two years before we found the only one that totally met our needs, as well as the needs of our horses. Oh and the one we could afford!

    They're built like tanks and are designed/built 100% for the horse's safety and comfort above all else. Here are my pics. http://good-times.webshots.com/album/569863361yFLROR The first few show the welded steel frame. Ours is the XW/XT model at 7'6" tall and 6' 8" wide.

    The builders at EquiSpirit ensure that wherever aluminum goes over steel, there is a barrier to ensure none of the corrosion issues occur as seen in the Sundowners and Exiss trailers.

    The ramp is L=I=G=H=T....I can lower it with two fingers. The butt and chest bars are self-supporting--meaning, even when I pull up the pin, the bar stays in place in its snug bracket. Just a quick bump backwards, though, releases it. This way, should a horse get their leg over, you just lift the pin and ask them to back up.
    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

    Comment


    • #3
      The brand of trailer and the engineering that went into it is more important than the material it's made of.

      That said, steel is cheaper to build strongly. Aluminium is stronger by weight.
      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

      Comment


      • #4
        I went with a galvanized steel trailer when I bought new a few years ago. My 28 foot 4H slant with a 10 foot living quarters only weighs about 1000 lbs more than a comparable sized aluminum trailer but cost quite a bit less. Galvanizing adds much more resistance to rust without adding huge amounts of cost. Aluminum is not stronger than steel..it is weaker and trailers made of aluminum have to be built with heavier frames to be as strong as steel. They also cost a mint more.

        My trailer new cost about $30,000 less than a comparable upper end aluminum trailer and the quality is just as good. Yes, in 10 years, mine might need repainted but I will still be ahead after saving that much money. In two years there is not a speck of rust on it and it sits outside uncovered.

        I think the hybrid trailers can be an OK option but there have been a lot of troubles with several brands that were not built properly so that the steel and aluminum would not touch and corrode. You still have weak fragile aluminum skin also. I can't remember who it was that once posted a pic of a horse that put his head through the roof of an aluminum trailer...the skin of the trailer was light enough that he punched right through it!

        I personally don't think aluminum is as safe or as strong as steel in an accident. Steel is way more protection for the horse, much less likely to fracture and fail in the frame, and the skin is much less likely to rip and tear like aluminum.

        Comment


        • #5
          Aluminium IS stronger than steel by weight. That is why airplanes are made out of aluminum.

          Steel is stronger than aluminum by volume. Thus, a 1/16" sheet of steel is stronger than a 1/16" sheet of aluminum.

          Proper construction and treatment of the material is essential. The cheapest steel trailers will also have minimal rust protection; I've seen some of those rusting on the dealer's lot, still brand new. The steel/aluminum hybrids depend on good design and careful fabrication of the joints. Even an 'all aluminum' trailer will still have some steel components for the axles, so the joints have to be handled correctly.

          4-Star is all aluminum, and they make good solid trailers. Hawk, Equispirit, and Trail-et make steel frame and aluminum skin trailers, good solid trailers. There are other brands that will do well by you as well, but these are the ones I know. Do a search on any brand on this site and you'll find lots of opinions and information.
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

          Comment


          • #6
            Trails West

            I am very happy with my Trails West steel trailer that I bought in 2002. It has an aluminum roof and an automotive paint job.
            A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton

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            • #7
              Originally posted by poltroon View Post

              Steel is stronger than aluminum by volume. Thus, a 1/16" sheet of steel is stronger than a 1/16" sheet of aluminum.
              Yes, this is why aluminum trailers have to have more aluminum proportionately than a steel trailer frame wise in order to be strong enough to do the job safely....and why they really don't weigh that much less than steel. It is also why the hybrid trailers are popular. They can save money on the steel frame versus an all aluminum one. Lots of these cheaper hybrids like Sundowner and Exiss lately have had a lot of frame related problems. The better ones like Hawk and Trailet are decent trailers. The Trailet I owned though was no where near the quailty of my current galvanized steel trailer though IMO.

              Comment


              • #8
                Yeah, my all aluminum 4 horse head to head, sure wasnt light....lol
                we have a Hawk, a Trail-et, and and Equispirit on the farm now, and they are all good quality and do the job well.
                "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"
                carolprudm

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have had a steel Sundowner, a steel Kiefer, an aluminum Four-Star, and now a combo EquiSpirit.

                  I went to the aluminum Four-Star in the 90s when aluminum was all the range because word on the street was that it was lighter and that it wouldn't rust.

                  The day my horse got underneath a partition, bent and tore the brittle aluminum and tore the roof, I realised that I wanted steel around him. Steel will bend under forces that wear tear and sheer aluminum, leaving dangerous jagged edges. Poltroon is right that steel is stronger by volume. You need a much thicker chunk of aluminum to approach the strength of steel, and the overall savings on weight in a well-built trailer are not that significant. And I also found out that while aluminum won't rust, it will corrode. There are an aweful lot of scary, unsafe aluminum floors out there if you look under the mats. Galvaneal steel, the process used to treat good steel trailers, doesn't have the issues that old steel used to have. You don't see tons of rusting cars on the road these days like you did in the 70s...that's because the auto industry has turned to galvanealled steel, and so have horse trailers. Rusting isn't nearly the concern it used to be.

                  I wasn't happy with what happened to my aluminum trailer or horse when my horse went down in it. I looked around and saw some serious damage in a friend's aluminum Sooner and another friend's alum trailer (forget brand). And I was terribly impressed when another friend's steel stock trailer let both horses walk away from a major wreck when someone ran a stop-sign at 55 miles an hour and blasted onto a highway and hit my friend's trailer from the side, rolling both the truck and the trailer. The horses were basically fine...one needed some stitches, that is all. I think the driver of the car that hit them died. I strongly believe that an aluminum trailer in that wreck would not have protected the horses as well.

                  So when I shopped with the #1 priority being finding the safest trailer for my horses, I wanted steel in the horse area, I liked the idea of the aluminum skin, and the combo trailers (EquiSpirit, Hawk, and Trail-Et) do a good job of using the right material for the job and they do separate steel and aluminum so that the materials don't meet and react.

                  I ended up with an EquiSpirit safeload, and boy, am I glad I did. Last summer, I was driving down a narrow county road, hauling a 17h Hol/TB cross and a 17.1h Perch/TB cross. Out of nowhere from behind overgrown trees a pick-up pulled out of a blind farm road right into the side of my trailer. The trailer took the blow so well, my husband (the passenger) asked "Did it hit?"

                  It did. He smacked right into the side of the trailer, ripped the fender off, bent the axle, dented the side, and ripped the bed of the truck where the hitch was attached. Between truck and trailer it was about $17,000 damage (all paid by the other driver's insurance, as it was his fault). The front end of the pick-up that hit me was smashed in and the front axle completely ruined.

                  And the horses? FINE. The rubber floor mats were shoved up a bit out of place under their feet, but they were still standing. The draft-cross's hip had put about a one inch dent in the divider between the straightload stalls where the two horses were loaded. That's it. The outside of the trailer looked like hell, the inside looked slighly damaged but mostly dishelved, and both horses were 100% okay. I unloaded them, my beloved home-grown event horse looked at me with his big trusting brown eyes, and I just lost it, crying from such relief and appreciation that the trailer had protected them.

                  I am SO happy that I put my horses into the safest trailer I could find, with steel around them, big enough for their big size, not crammed into tight slant spaces made for QHs but something designed from ground up with the safety and needs of large horses in mind.

                  The EquiSpirit performed as I'd hoped it would, though I'd hoped it would never have to. It's a great trailer.
                  Hindsight bad, foresight good.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I bought a brand new Titan Avalanche all steel trailer in 2006 and have been very happy with it. I closely compared that trailer to the aluminum and combo trailers, and decided the steel was safer. Fortunately I haven't had to test it (and hope I never do!).

                    Rust has been minimal. A tiny bit around the door hinges, and of course the bottom from road spray from driving during rain. I just had the whole trailer inspected and the floor supports are still solid; the rust is just on the surface.

                    With the six windows and three ceiling vents, heat inside the trailer hasn't been a problem. That was one concern I had while shopping.

                    I had padding added to the dividers (the standard trailer has no padding on the dividers, only on the butt wall) and overall I'm very happy with the trailer.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have to chime in & say that everyone is making me want to order the Hawk I've had my eye on. Remember that the Equispirit was made by Hawk & now made by Trailet (I think). Not to knock their business but I think you can save $$$ if you have Hawk/Trailet design your trailer for you. I do like the extra lights, etc that Equispirit uses.
                      I know that the other post about Hawk trailers has 2 people on it that talk about their bad accidents when others ran into them & in both, the horses were okay.
                      Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
                      www.whitfieldfarm.shutterfly.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm currently in the process of starting to order a Hawk 2+1 and will either trade-in my 2h Hawk but am trying to sell it outright . I'm chosing to return to Hawk b/c it's one of the best bang for your buck trailers out there. I have a friend with an Equispirit. Aside from the graphics, her trailer is identical to mine as we looked at specs, etc, etc, but her's came with a higher price tag. Hawk doesn't skimp in putting out a well made trailer. THe accidents cited on this board are proof to that
                        "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I copied this post off another forum where the same discussion came up. The poster who made this post if a trailer engineer who works for a company (double d) that makes both galvanized steel and now aluminum trailers. I have a Double D and I can vouch for the quality and workmanship so what he has to say is worth listening to.

                          Regarding steel vs aluminum strength/weights:

                          General rule of thumb is that steel is 3 times as strong and weighs 3 times as much. So, for the same strength, you will have the same weight. Design also matters, for instance, Double D uses interlocking I beam floors and parts that 'fit' together rather than just welded together.
                          Concerning strength of steel vs aluminum trailers, I think the biggest difference is in the skin. A steel trailer will typically use the much stronger steel skin (16 gauge no-rust galvaneal) vs .040 or .050 aluminum skin.

                          Some common misconceptions are:
                          1. Steel trailers are rust buckets
                          That may have been true in the 70s-80s, but not with Galvaneal sheet metal, Gator shield tubing and today's sealants, primers and paint.

                          2. Aluminum trailers aren't as strong
                          This varies widely by brand, but a well designed aluminum trailer will be quite strong. Aluminum materials are much larger and thicker. The weak point is the sheet metal that can be easily dented and may rip or shear on impact from horse/accident. If you want to know the best brands, weigh them.

                          3. Aluminum trailers are sooo much lighter
                          Also not true! A well built aluminum trailer will weigh approx. 15% less than the same model in steel. On a typical 3H slant GN with dressing room, that calculates out to about 700 lbs. That difference comprises mostly of the weight difference in the outer skin. Its doubtful you will ever notice any material difference in towing or gas savings.

                          What kind of trailer should you buy?
                          Well, that depends on your budget, what type of truck you have, and mostly your individual preference. Another important aspect of trailer shopping is buy from someone that takes time to understand your needs and will also take care of you after the sale.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We have a 24ft Exiss aluminum trailer that we haul pretty near anything and the horses, one being a draft horse. Sturdy, cleans up well, has had calves in it, no dents, rides well, can't say enough good things about it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                              I copied this post off another forum where the same discussion came up. The poster who made this post if a trailer engineer who works for a company (double d) that makes both galvanized steel and now aluminum trailers. I have a Double D and I can vouch for the quality and workmanship so what he has to say is worth listening to.

                              Regarding steel vs aluminum strength/weights:

                              General rule of thumb is that steel is 3 times as strong and weighs 3 times as much. So, for the same strength, you will have the same weight. Design also matters, for instance, Double D uses interlocking I beam floors and parts that 'fit' together rather than just welded together.
                              Concerning strength of steel vs aluminum trailers, I think the biggest difference is in the skin. A steel trailer will typically use the much stronger steel skin (16 gauge no-rust galvaneal) vs .040 or .050 aluminum skin.

                              Some common misconceptions are:
                              1. Steel trailers are rust buckets
                              That may have been true in the 70s-80s, but not with Galvaneal sheet metal, Gator shield tubing and today's sealants, primers and paint.

                              2. Aluminum trailers aren't as strong
                              This varies widely by brand, but a well designed aluminum trailer will be quite strong. Aluminum materials are much larger and thicker. The weak point is the sheet metal that can be easily dented and may rip or shear on impact from horse/accident. If you want to know the best brands, weigh them.

                              3. Aluminum trailers are sooo much lighter
                              Also not true! A well built aluminum trailer will weigh approx. 15% less than the same model in steel. On a typical 3H slant GN with dressing room, that calculates out to about 700 lbs. That difference comprises mostly of the weight difference in the outer skin. Its doubtful you will ever notice any material difference in towing or gas savings.

                              What kind of trailer should you buy?
                              Well, that depends on your budget, what type of truck you have, and mostly your individual preference. Another important aspect of trailer shopping is buy from someone that takes time to understand your needs and will also take care of you after the sale.
                              Good Post!

                              I had a Hart all aluminum trailer. "Mr. Truck" that used to own/run the horse trailer world bb called the Hart a "Tank" in how well it was made and wanted to crash test one. Yeah, loved that trailer but sold it to build my barn. They come with a hefty price and one I just can't justify so went to Hawk. I've not been disappointed.
                              "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                There are enough bad - really bad - experiences with Exiss that it would be on the Avoid list.

                                The Galvaneal steel is good stuff, much better than mere galvanized steel. But, it's not a given that someone making steel trailers is using Galvaneal, nor is it a given that they're taking all the steps needed to preserve the corrosion resistance at each assembly step. Welds, for example, can compromise any kind of steel if done improperly. A cheaply made trailer will be a problem no matter what it is made of.
                                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                                Comment

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