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Choosing a Rivet-Free Horse Trailer Exterior

Last updated October 14, 2023 by Brad Heath

Do you remember that horse trailer your family used to own when you were young?  It was probably dimpled with many round rivets along the metal siding.  And, you probably thought nothing of it, because that’s just how trailers were built. Well, things are different today! 

Now, a rivet-free horse trailer exterior is the ticket to a smoother finish, quieter ride, and longer lasting horse trailer.  In this article, we’re going to share the top benefits of a rivet-free horse trailer. Plus, we’ll reveal why some horse trailer manufacturers refuse to leave their old ways behind.

Why Metal Rivets are a Bad Idea for Horse Trailers

horse trailerAt first glance, a simple rivet looks pretty innocent.  In fact, these metal fasteners can cause a lot of problems.  Some of the issues show up right away when building a trailer and others appear as the vehicle ages.

When rivets are used to fasten on the side metal sheets of a horse trailer, several problems occur…

Warped Metal Sidewalls Due to Heat

First off, you may notice a wavy effect on the outer skin of a riveted horse trailer -- especially when viewed at an angle.  This occurs because the sun’s heat causes the metal of the trailer to expand slightly. The trailer’s outer metal skin and metal frame expand at different rates due to their different thicknesses.

When metal rivets are bolted in every four inches, this prevents the outer metal skin from moving like it wants to. So, it buckles and warps causing the wavy look.

Fast forward to the 10-minute mark on this video to see Double D Trailer Brad Heath showing the warped outer skin on a competitor’s trailer.

Water Penetration Causes Rust

Overtime, this expanding and contracting from temperature changes causes the hole around the rivet to widen – allowing moisture to seep into the riveted trailer.  This is a recipe for rust, pure and simple.

Plus, the tiny gaps between the fasteners can let in a considerable amount of rain and piercingly cold wind.

Metal on Metal Noise

Finally, anytime rivets are used to secure the outer layer of trailer skin to its metal frame, you will have metal scraping against metal.  There’s really no way to attach a rivet without leaving a very slight gap between surfaces.

These gaps are fine for large buildings that need to expand and contract in the sun. But a horse trailer traveling 70 miles per hour down the highway becomes a loud, scary box with walls that may visibly shake when rivets are used.

Why Do Manufacturers Still Use Rivets?

If there’s a better solution, why do manufacturers keep using rivets? Well, rivets are faster to install and less expensive. So, companies will continue to roll out rivet-filled horse trailers because they want to create a cheap trailer that will appeal to buyers who don’t know better.

Another style of fastening you may see uses glue instead of rivets. Once again, this glue dries and hardens without any elasticity.  So, just like with the rivets, you’ll see sheet metal warpage and hear that “metal on metal” rattle because there’s no insulating membrane between layers.

Rivet-Free Horse Trailer Design is ‘Leaps and Bounds’ Ahead of Other Tech

custom horse trailerOkay, now the good stuff…

Here at Double D Trailers, we use a 3M adhesive product called VHB (short for very high bond) to bond the metal skin to the structure of our trailers. This results in a completely rivet-free, seamless exterior. 

We love how much a rivet-free exterior changes the dynamic of a horse trailer. Not only does it improve the look of graphics and paint, it also gives the horses inside a great ride. 

Our rivet-free construction isn’t limited to our high end horse trailers with living quarters. In fact, we use this superior bonding methods on all our trailers.

How Does 3M VHB Work?

It works much like the 3M ‘tape’ that you may be familiar with in your home. People use this tape to hang photos onto walls or secure hooks to hang their clothing. With a horse trailer, we use the same basic technology, but on a much larger scale. 

Once your trailer’s Z-Frame has been constructed, we’ll secure the 3M VHB product to the outside of the frame.  Then, we layer on the outer sheet of 0.040 aluminum. The inner skin of the trailer will use our 16 gauge Galvalite metal.

Now, this 3M VHB is seriously strong stuff. In testing, 3M VHB-bonded panels withstood three times as many dynamic strikes as a riveted panel, while still being able to support significant static loads. 

Check out this video from Double D Trailer owner Brad Heath.  You’ll get an up close look at the super strength of this 3M VHB.  It takes a fork lift to peal the metal layers apart!

Even though it’s super strong, the 3M VHB maintains its elasticity.  This means it will let that outer layer of metal expand and contract as temperatures change.  Without any rivets to anchor it down, the metal will move freely and smoothly without warping.

Here's an interesting note. The 3M VHB isn't very sticky when it comes to us. We unroll it and it has just enough stickiness to adhere to the structure and enough adhesive to adhere to the sheet.

The magic happens when the correct pressure is applied, the correct heat for curing, and proper amount of time. Once the curing process is complete -- and if it's done correctly -- you end up with a true chemical bond transformation that literally bonds the two metals together. 

Basically, it's the kewlest stuff since sliced bread!

The 3M VHB creates a cushioning layer between the outer layers of metal and the metal frame of your trailer.  The result is a much quieter ride without any metal-on-metal scraping noises.

Finally, the 3M VHB creates an air and water-tight seal within your trailer.  You won’t have to worry about moisture seeping into the layers of your trailer causing problems over time.

Pay Special Attention to Your Trailer’s Outer Skin

aluminum horse trailerThis is a good time to bring up a very important point.  The metal skin of your horse trailer is the only thing separating your horse from the outside world.  That’s why you should make sure your trailer is built from quality materials.

Some trailers will only use a single thin sheet of aluminum to encase the horse area.  This is an accident waiting to happen.  A horse could easily puncture this layer with a solid kick or rear through a single sheet aluminum ceiling.

(Just check out the red X marks on the photo here to see where this could happen on a single-layer aluminum trailer.)

And if you’ve ever crushed and twisted an aluminum can, you know how sharp and dangerous those edges can be!

Instead, our trailers are built with two layers -- a stronger layer of 16 gauge Galvalite for the trailer’s interior skin and 0.040 aluminum on the outer layer.  This double layer also helps insulate the trailer keeping the interior much cooler than a single-layer aluminum trailer.

Rivet-Free Horse Trailers with 3M VHB are Better Because…

Here are the top reasons why you should consider a rivet-free trailer:

Your trailer will look great.  You won’t see wavy outer layers of sheet metal with a warped metal appearance.

Quieter ride for your horses. Instead of listening to a screeching metal-on-metal noise from rivets, your horses will be able to enjoy a quiet ride to their destination – keeping them more calm and relaxed.

Air-and-water-tight seals. Not only will your trailer stay drier, less dust will fly around from all those tiny gaps created by rivet fasteners – which create breezes that stir up bedding inside the vehicle.

More durable seams. Individual rivets weaken over time, putting more pressure on the surrounding fasteners.  The 3M VHB works as a single piece, so you won’t get weak spots where the structure can fail.

Choosing a safe, comfortable trailer is the best way to keep your horses loading happily trip after trip.  Your horses will appreciate the low noise and more consistent environment a rivet-free horse exterior provides them. 

When you’re ready to update your horse trailer with a custom-built model using a rivet-free skin, take a look at the many options we have available on our website -- we’ve got a trailer for every horse.


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7719 Market St., Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, 28404

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