THE GIRLY GATE

 

After purchasing a new trailer to replace my favorite that was stolen I realized something quickly… this new one had a drop tail gate/ramp that my old trailer didn’t have.  Now, I’m no sissy… but this gate was rather heavy and my back has seen enough abuse over the years that I saw the need for some assistance lifting the gate.  Since someone isn’t always around to help me lift it, I looked for a mechanical solution. 

Searched the net and found several different solutions available.  From leaf springs to coil springs to hydraulics.  Some were simple, some rather complicated, some even scary.   But one thing they all had in common… they were all expensive.  After looking at several different models I decided on fabbing up one using garage door springs and some 2” x 2” square tubing I had on hand.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.  It easily resembles the outward appearance of a readily available patented commercial unit… I don’t know what their insides look like…but I built mine for about 1/2 the cost.

 

Introducing…     pretend you hear a drumroll here               THE GIRLY GATE. 

A friend with a lawn maintenance business uses the commercial model, his hired help dubbed it the ‘girlie gate’ since he added it after his wife came to work for him and the assist was a nice addition for her.  So I’m stealing his name for my tailgate lift assist contraption.

The basic unit is a length of 2x2 tubing on each top rail of the trailer, which encloses a set of garage door springs, some cable and some rollers to guide it evenly.  A list of material follows, so you can start gathering, scrounging, borrowing, appropriating or buying the stuff you need.

  

2 pcs

2” x 2” Square Steel Tubing – 72” (or so) long

wall thickness can be anything from 14 ga up to 1/8” or so …the only critical part is that the spring will slide inside the tubing without binding

2 ea

150# Garage Door Springs

These have a “RED” color code on each spring end loop.  You can find these at any big box home improvement store… Home Depot, Lowes, etc.

2 ea

7/16” 2.5” Stainless Steel bolts with nyloc nuts

Stainless will last longer and not rust. I like the nyloc nuts better than lock washers and standard nuts...

6 ea

3/8”  hex bolts and nyloc nuts

Anchor Bolts for tube to trailer.  Length depends on the thickness of your top rail. I have a 2.25” round top rail so I used 3.5” bolts.

2 ea

Roller kit

I used the roller kits available from Gorilla-lift; it contains two rollers, pins, washers and hairpins. They are already slotted for the cable.

http://www.gorilla-lift.com/parts.html

15 ft.

3/16” diameter Stainless steel cable

Your length might vary. I just bought enough so I wouldn’t have to make another trip to the box store.

8 ea

3/16” cable clamps and (4)thimbles (also called eyelets)

Again Stainless is better.

2 ea

Plastic caps for tubing

This is optional… but I had the caps to fit into the anchor end of the tube… keeps out the weather and looks neater.

2 -4 cans

Paint/Primer

Use a good quality enamel primer and paint on your tubes… your choice on color.  I painted mine to match the trailer… gloss black

12 ea

Large washers

See article for use in mounting tube to trailer

I started with two identical tubes 72” long, but after some trial and error blunders; it ended up being 70 inches long.  I measured incorrectly for my roller mounts; and had things too tight in the tube; the rollers would not turn.  The length isn’t that critical as the spring will never extend to the end of the tube anyway.

 The first thing I did was weld the  mounting bolts to the tube… I tried to figure out a way to put a 3.5” long bolt inside a 2” tube and slide it thru a hole… just won’t work, so I welded the heads of the hex bolts to the tube bottom. You super-fabricators and metal geniuses will have a better way to attach them… but for me it was quick and dirty and it worked.  My top rail is round tubing and I wondered how it would match up to the square tube especially with the bolt welded to the tube.  I fashioned some washers that would fit over the welded head with the sides trimmed to the width of the square tube to act as spacers. This should give a secure base for the tubes to mount to each other.  Once this is done on both tubes… we move on.  Note:  If you have square tube or angle iron rails on your trailer, this might not be necessary at all.

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 The easiest place to start is the dumb end… or the anchor point.  I drilled a hole to clear a 7/16” bolt thru the tube 1.5” from the end.  That end is now complete.  The reason it was recessed was to allow room for the plastic cap that will insert into the tube.  Again… this isn’t rocket science or clock building… just be consistent. 

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The measurements on other end need to be a little more precise to assure that the rollers will in fact turn and will not bind up in use.  The original rollers were just a bit too long to fit inside the tube.   (Gorilla-lift uses thinner wall tubing)   I held the ends of the rollers against a belt sander and shortened them about 1/8” (a 1/16 or so on each end to keep the slot in the middle).  Then I opened up the hole (thru the roller) for the pin slightly to allow a little easier rolling on the pin.   Look at the drawings below (SPRING HOOKUP DETAIL) to see the overall assembly of the assist and then the (CABLE END DETAIL) to see the cut dimensions for the roller end of the tube…  NOTE…the measurements in the “CABLE END DETAIL” work with 2” square tubing with a 1/6” or so….The tubing doesn’t HAVE to be 2x2… that’s what I had and it looked decent on top of my top rail.  If you use tubing with different dimensions or with a thicker or thinner wall… the dimensions in the drawing probably won’t work… your tube size and roller dimensions will determine the proper placement of the roller holes.

 

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 Cutting the tube… The diagonal cut on the business end of the tube is entirely dependent on the type of rollers you use… I opted to buy the rollers and pins from Gorilla-Lift and not reinvent the wheel…http://www.gorilla-lift.com/parts.html. With a little fabrication skill (and a lathe) you could easily turn these out of aluminum or steel… or  find some hard plastic or delren rod, (it’s cheap on e-bay) cut them to length   and file a slot in them.

 For the layout of the cut and for marking the holes I used a silver Sharpie pen and  ‘painted’ the ends of the tube for layout.  Then I scribed the cut lines on the tube with a fine tip red sharpie.  You can cut the tube several ways… portaband saw, hacksaw or a sawsall.  I used a 6” - .040 cutoff wheel in a Metabo grinder.  Then use a file or flap disc to clean up all the edges and makes things smooth and pretty.  This goes for all your cuts and holes. Don’t leave burrs and slivers anywhere or keep some band-aids handy.

After the cuts are made, layout your holes for drilling and drill them using a drill bit one size larger than the pin size (i.e. 9/32” for a ” hole).   A drill press will do a nicer job of keeping the holes aligned thru the tube. You can drill right through the second side easily while keeping holes straight.  It’s easy to get out of plumb with a hand drill when starting through the second side.  Take care with these holes, the rollers need to be parallel and the correct distance apart or they will bind.

 Be careful with drilling the holes for the rollers… it’s a pretty tight fit for both of them in the tube and still have them work…  This is what worked for my tube… if you use a different wall thickness… your hole dimensions will vary… so experiment a little sitting the rollers on end on the outside of the tube to see about clearances. That’s what I did initially to get the rollers in the right place.

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Once you have the holes drilled and have tested the rollers for free movement it’s time for assembly… (see??..it’s not rocket science) 

We need to assemble the spring/cable assembly before putting the spring inside the tube 

First we need to attach the cable to the spring.  Slide the thimble thru the spring eye, and then clamp the cable around the thimble as follows

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The easiest way to put the spring/cable assembly in the tube is to remove the rollers and thread the cable from the anchor end thru the tube until the anchor end of the spring lines up with the anchor bolt hole.  Then you can install the rollers threading the cable thru the slot in the rollers.   Install the anchor bolt at the tail end… put the hair pins in the roller shafts… and bada-bing… it’s done.

gorilla 001.jpg (98995 bytes)

I put on a pair of gloves, tightened my tube down in the vice and gave a test pull or two… nice smooth action and the springs ‘feel’ plenty strong to lift the gate…  that part comes next.

 Now, pretty it up.  I took mine all apart for paint… your choice on finish technique here.  Spray everything with a nice epoxy or self-etching primer and let it dry. Cover with your choice of color… give it several light coats instead of one heavy coat and get some paint and primer inside the roller end of the tube… it will be exposed to the elements and needs some protection

tubesa.jpg (89044 bytes) 

Mounting and adjusting. 

You can assemble the thing on the bench and install it that way… since mine was apart for paint I installed the tube then put all the pieces inside it..   your choice there…

 Mark the trailer top rail to match the mounting bolts on the tube, and drill the holes a little oversized unless you’re absolutely sure your bolts are welded perfectly straight and your holes are exact…mine weren’t… Mount the tube on the rails (with the extra washers if you need them or without if you don’t) .

Tighten the tubes down securely to the rail using nyloc nuts..

tubemountedb.jpg (116753 bytes)

 

If you’re doing it in pieces the next step is to insert the spring/cable assembly into the square end of the tube and secure the spring with the cross bolt.   The cable should be dangling out the roller end of the tube.. Put the plastic end cap on the square end if you have one

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cabledangle.jpg (53389 bytes)

 

Go to the other end of the tube and install the rollers with the cable sticking out between them… put the hairpins or locking pins thru the ends of the roller shafts… make sure the rollers turn easily.  A little light oil or grease on the innerds of the rollers/pins wouldn’t hurt, but I wouldn’t get carried away and make a mess that will get all over the cable and you… optimum word here is ‘light’

cableinrollers.jpg (39702 bytes)

 

The GIRLIE GATE  is now officially installed… now to connect it to the tailgate/ramp.

 The ability of the lift mechanism to raise and lower the gate with the most efficiency is totally dependent on where the connection point for cable falls.   Every gate is a different size and especially weight.  Some experimentation is needed here to bet the best results.  There are some guidelines available online and I’ll put what I found here for your experiments..

  

Tailgates/Ramps made from Angle Iron

Attachment point **

4 feet high

17-18 inches

5 feet high

26-27 inches

6 feet high

29-30 inches

 

 

Tailgates/Ramps made from square tubing

Attachment point **

4 feet high

22-23 inches

5 feet high

27-28 inches

6 feet high

29-30 inches

** this measurement is made from the top of your side rail

(where the tube is mounted) to the attachment point

Now if you’re like me, you don’t want to drill a bunch of holes in your ramp experimenting.  I tried to come up with a way to secure the cable without drilling the hole.  You could use a  c-clamp  (with the cable temporarily attached by a  cable clamp) SECURELY clamped to the angle iron.  Another way is to use a ‘beam-clamp’… the type they use to attach conduit to structural steel.  Measure from the top of your side rails to the appropriate place on the ramp side rail and make a mark.. of course do the same on the other side too. Pull your cable up to this point  and mark your cable make up your cable ends as you did on the spring end with a thimble and two cable clamps using that mark as the center of your thimble.  There should be no slack in the cable between the rollers and the attachment point on the ramp.  Do the same to the other side. I used some heat shrink tubing over the cable ends to keep the fraying down and cut down on punctures to my delicate skin.  I hate bleeding for no reason !  Attach your c-clamps and cables and give the ramp a try…   adjust as needed.  When  you’re happy with the action, drill holes where the c-clamp is attached.

I used two large I-bolts for the attaching point for the ramp.  Attach the cable with thimble through the eye of the I-bolts.

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That pretty much does it…  Some cautions and advise…   NEVER travel with only the Girley gate holding the gate closed…  ALWAYS use the appropriate pins/bolts/latches etc to secure the gate in the upright and locked position.  This device is intended to be used solely to raise and lower the gate when the trailer is stationary… not going down the freeway at 70+ mph.

 Occasionally check the tube/bolts/rollers/pins to make sure they are tight (if they should be tight) and free (if they should be free)  a little lube on the rollers every year or so is a good thing… and inspect the cable often for wear and fraying.  If the cable should ever break when under tension it should just fly back into the tube and scare the crap out of you… but it can do some damage in it’s flight… severing or opening body parts that are better left closed and attached.

 Use common sense when lowering/raising your ramp… don’t slam it down on your foot or hit yourself in the chin when being cool and flipping it up with a toe. It totally takes the cool factor down to zero in a hurry.  Like the alcohol commercials tell you… use it responsibly.

Boilerplate denial of liability statement… 

This device is something I came up with to prevent me from spending too many dollars on a commercial patented device,  it is not patented, engineered or even perfect… it is what it is, a home made contraption.  I’m sure there are alternatives to this design some even better/cheaper/easier, I just didn’t think of them or warrant them necessary... there are several similar units on the internet waiting behind Google for you to see/copy/build…(just like I did) This work was done by me and for me. I only ask that if you reproduce it give me credit for it and if you make money from it… give me my percentage.

 Since I have no way of knowing your level of competence, welding or cutting skills or mechanical ability, there are no guaranties or warranties either verbal, written or implied with this article. Along with this article I am giving you free of charge…the liability. It belongs to you AND you alone and I am in no way responsible for any damage, injury or embarrassment you may suffer from the use of this homemade device.  If it doesn’t look like something you’d be comfortable using… don’t build/use it.

 Pictures were made at different stages of construction and all assemblies in pictures may not be complete in each shot. I.e.. a picture showing ‘some parts’ only means that it was not finished, but I’ve tried to make the idea complete to the best of my ability. If you have questions or see mistakes or problems, let me know by e-mail and I’ll make the corrections if possible..

Use these ideas at your own risk. Modify them at your discretion and to suit your purpose. Your mileage may vary, batteries not included, much assembly required... wait one hour after building to enter the water, additional charges may apply. not all applicants will qualify for advertised A.P.R., for ages 10 to adult…side effects are comparable to placebos. Do not take drugs when building or operating machinery.  JUST SAY NO.

Copyright . 2011 John Niolon, All International Rights Reserved. This document may not be copied or published without prior written consent of the author- jniolon@bham.rr.com