Types of Metals for Trailers

by Nicholas Rossillo
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Trailers have many purposes. They carry our motorcycles, cars, horses and even our barbeque grills. Trailers are handy around the farm and for carrying furniture or other large items. Work trailers take a lot of abuse on the road and while being loaded and unloaded. It is important to have a strong material for the trailer, but less weight and good looks are also factors. The less the trailer weighs, the less you spend on fuel over the life of the trailer.

Aluminum Trailers

Aluminum is a very lightweight metal. It is also attractive, even when unfinished. It is not as strong as steel in pure form, however. Aluminum is more expensive than steel, but it resists rust and corrosion better. Aluminum that is powder coated or hot-dipped, galvanized and painted is most resistant to rust and corrosion. Since aluminum is softer than steel, it does not withstand abuse as well. It is much easier to bend, dent or even puncture aluminum than some other metals used to build trailers. Aluminum is harder to weld than steel, and re-welded aluminum is never as strong as the original weld.

Aluminum Alloy Trailers

Many aluminum trailers are made of aluminum alloy. A usual alloy has 95% aluminum, but is also combined with copper, titanium, chromium and zinc. However, there are literally hundreds of different aluminum alloys that are suitable for different purposes. Alloys are stronger, lighter and more rust resistant than steel. The type of aluminum alloy used for trailers depends on the price and availability of the materials used to make the alloy.

Steel Trailers

There are now ways to make steel trailers more resistant to rust, thanks to the automotive industry. Galvanized steel resists rust and corrosion much better than untreated steel. Painting steel with a rust-proof paint also helps. Steel is still heavier than aluminum and costs more in fuel to tow. However, steel is generally stronger than other metals used to build trailers. Galvanized steel is coated with a thin layer of zinc. Galvanized-steel trailers usually last longer than aluminum trailers, and since steel is easier to weld than aluminum, repairs to steel trailers are easier and stronger.

Aluminum Trailers with Steel Frames

Many trailer makers try to get the best of both worlds by building an aluminum trailer that is lightweight with a strong steel frame. Rust and corrosion does not show on the frame like it does on the body of the trailer. Some frames are made of steel bars and some trailer frames are made of tubular steel. If the aluminum is powder coated or galvanized, the trailer rusts more slowly than if the aluminum is untreated.

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