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New Wheels

March 18, 2014

Winter is typically a slow time around B.A.B. for big projects, because we don’t heat anyplace outside of our apartment and it’s too cold for doing anything outside of emergency work. And this winter in particular, not only has it been über-cold (see the indoor icicles post), but I have also been on the DL after some thumb joint surgery back in January. A couple weeks ago my surgeon “ok’d” me to use my hand as needed, as long as it didn’t hurt. So I thought some “wheel upgrades” would be an easy and light-duty project.

With a building the size of B.A.B., we need wheeled transports for moving stuff from one end or floor to another. We have a fancy big brass luggage cart which we load up in the apartment when leaving on vacation so there’s only one trip to the front door; various dollies and carts for projects; and an official grocery cart found in the alley that we use as intended, but to move groceries from the front door to the apartment, at least once a week.

First up was the grocery cart.

Our shopping cart with some sorry wheels

Our shopping cart with some sorry wheels

Sad front wheels

Sad front wheels; particularly that left front one. (at center of photo)

Its wheels are in pretty bad shape – and that left front wheel has been getting stuck a lot – it’s smaller, and lost all of its tread to boot. We have not not invested more than a dime in this thing since Sue brought it home, and I was hoping I could fix up the wheels for less than twenty bucks. I had a good start because I had two 5″  polyurethane wheels that a contractor gave to me for free. (We love free stuff!) And I hoped they would be suitable replacements for the back wheels. With the free wheels, the budget was looking good already.

The back wheels were pretty worn down; basically flat.

Back wheels are worn flat.

Back wheels are worn flat.

The wheel on the right side came apart easily – it had a bolt and an axle with a nut. (Suddenly I remembered that I removed an anti-theft bracket from this wheel a couple years ago to modify into a heavy duty robe hook.)

I tested the replacement wheels between the “yoke” (or “legs”) and it fit the width perfectly.

The yoke ready for a new wheel.

The yoke ready for a new wheel.

I planned ahead and already bought new axle bolts & nuts for the replacement wheels; unfortunately, the holes in yoke were too small. But that’s much better than being too big!

Drilling bigger holes for the new axle bolt.

Drilling bigger holes for the new axle bolt.

Two minutes of bolt assembly & tightening and the first wheel replacement is done.

Just a bolt, some washers and a nut and it's done.

Just a bolt, some washers and a nut and it’s done.

On to the left back wheel…

This sucker had a nasty wad of HAIR entwined around the axle. Not likely Sue’s hair, probably not from the alley where we found it, so surely from its grocery store days.

Hairy wheel.

Hairy wheel.

Another difference, besides the hair, was that this wheel had a riveted axle. Which simply meant I’d need a little more time to drill the end off. No big deal. It only took a couple minutes, and then a couple more for enlarging the holes in the yoke, and both back wheels were complete. Cost so far: a buck ten for bolts & nuts.

Back wheels completed.

Back wheels completed.

The front wheels are “swivel casters” as most of you have used grocery carts before. The old front casters didn’t even match, so a wheel-only replacement was not only impractical, it would probably cost more. New casters only cost me $6.39 each.

Disassembly and reassembly only involved one bolt each (called the “kingpin”) so I don’t have any in-progress photos.

New swivel casters installed.

New swivel casters installed.

It didn’t take much time at all, and even better, the whole thing came in WELL under my $20 budget.

Ahhhh... new wheels means no more rumbly rides.

Ahhhh… new wheels means no more rumbly rides.

NOW for another cart story.

As I mentioned in the beginning, we often have a need to move large quantities of heavy things for our projects. Like after part of the roof was replaced last fall, the cleanup on the second floor involved shoveling up LOTS of fallen plaster. In fact so much that it filled over THIRTY 5-gallon buckets. I could move 8 buckets at a time using this handy little wooden cart, graciously donated to BAB by Stefanie & Mike Barnes:

Awesome little wooden cart.

Awesome little wooden cart.

I just realized there’s nothing for scale in that last photograph – the wooden bed is about 20″ wide and 3′ long. So there are times when it’s not quite big enough.

Along comes a notice of a local online auction, and I saw a big 30″x60″ flatbed cart up for bidding. I don’t have the original posting but here’s the photo when I got it home…

Big flatbed cart...

Big flatbed cart…

But look a little closer at the front, um, “wheels”…

Wheels on the back, and non-rolling legs on the front... Wuh???

Wheels on the back, and non-rolling legs on the front… Wuh???

Now for those of you that are saying “Tom, that two-legged flatbed cart is as useful as that dead-guy gurney you bought at the old funeral home auction…”, don’t call me a moron just yet. Lemme explain.

I did some research before I bid on this thing. First, it’s a Rubbermaid Commercial Product, which tend to last forever. I expect it to be at BAB for decades longer than me. Its flat deck is made of what Rubbermaid calls “structural foam”, which makes it super lightweight, resists stains and degradation, and won’t splinter like wood. And this particularly bed can hold over 2000 pounds.

But what’s up with the legs?

What this thing is is some sort of hybrid. The legs & wheels go along with a product called a “Semi-Live Skid”…

A Rubbermaid "Semi-Live Skid"

A Rubbermaid “Semi-Live Skid”

It’s meant for short term storage of heavy stuff, moved around with a special kind of two-wheeled dolly that lifts the legs slightly so that it can roll on the two straight casters.

What I can’t explain is how the structural beams (attached to the underside) and the cart handle came to be bolted to this skid. While it looked brand new, it’s fairly useless as-is, so my best guess is that someone that had a lot of Rubbermaid parts on-hand, assembled this from a bunch of leftover pieces. So of course, I bought it. For a hundred bucks.

Hold on hold on, before you start laughing your head off, just do a quick internet search yourself and see what a “30×60 Rubbermaid Commercial Cart” goes for. (Actually just click this link, I’ve set it all up for you…) If it’s still the year 2014 when you look, I bet you can’t find one that can hold 2000 pounds for less than $500. Plus you’ll be lucky if it’s a seller you trust. Add some shipping cost too…

Yes, I knew all this before I bought it. AND, I searched online what two 8″ replacement swivel casters would cost me: about $25 each.

When I got it home, all I had to do was measure the bolt layout so that the new casters I ordered would fit the existing bolt pattern.

Measuring the existing bolt pattern...

Measuring the existing bolt pattern…

The caster company had lots of detail online, so I could make sure all of the dimensions were just what I needed. I was surprised that the new swivel casters arrived in just three days. (I talked myself into adding the lockable option for just a few bucks each.)

New 8" swivel casters!

New 8″ locking swivel casters!

Then it was simply a matter of swapping the straight casters with the new swivel casters (because unlike a shopping cart, you want heavy loads steerable from the back) and then swap the “legs” out for the straight casters. (I saw these legs go for ten bucks each on ebay!)

No need for photos of all that, so here they are all after-the-fact-swapped:

Wheels swapped and ready!

Wheels swapped and ready!


Last step is to flip it over and install the handle, which slips in with some “catches” that keeps it from pulling out, except when you really want it to.

Drumroll…… presenting B.A.B’s B.A.C.:

Tada! Our new Big Ass Cart!

Ta-da! Our new Big Ass Cart!

Afterwards I found this photo online of what you get when you pay $500 or MORE:

The "Official" product version from Rubbermaid.

The “Official” product version from Rubbermaid.

My new casters are rated to hold over 650 pounds each, preserving the “official” product’s 2000+ pound capacity, so best I can tell is that for an extra $350, I would have matching wheel colors…

So between the cheap (shopping cart) and not so cheap (über new flatbed cart) it was a good day getting some wheel upgrades around the building. Hopefully the weather, and my recovering hand, will be ready to put these to use soon!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Stephen Scurletis permalink
    April 2, 2014 1:03 pm

    Next time anyone needs casters, buy local and try:

    Consolidated Truck & Caster
    2254 S. Vandeventer Ave.
    St. Louis, MO 63110
    800-771-5640 (fax)
    location map at:

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