Igloo coolers are available in a wide variety shapes and sizes to suit just about everyone's food and beverage cooling needs. Some of their larger coolers even come equipped with wheels, which make transporting larger, heavier coolers much more convenient. Typically, the wheels on these coolers are rather small and plastic, designed for use on pavement and smooth surfaces. They don't work as well on rougher surfaces like gravel, or soft surfaces like sand. If you find yourself using your cooler in these situations you may wish to upgrade to larger wheels.
Determine which type of wheels are currently installed on your cooler. There are two different varieties, which can be called inboard and outboard. Inboard wheels are mounted flush with the side of the cooler, in a recess on either side. They are usually mounted on the corners, on the opposite end from the handle. Outboard wheels are usually larger, and are installed externally from the rest of the cooler. They tend to be located closer to the center of the cooler.
Select the wheels you wish to install on your cooler. The general rule is, the rougher the surface, the larger diameter wheel you want to use. If you want to take it up rocky trails, go for wheels from a small mountain bicycle or folding bicycle. Try to find something that will not extend past the top of the cooler. For soft surfaces like sand, a small wheelbarrow wheel with an inflatable tire is best. The wider tire will not sink in as easily.
Disassemble the wheel and axle assembly on your old cooler. The wheels are typically attached to the axle by a hex nut and washer. Remove the wheels and the axle should slide out of the channel in the cooler. Measure the diameter of the axle with your caliper. The replacement axle will need to be longer for the larger wheels, but the diameter must be the same so it will fit in the cooler.
Measure the width of the cooler, and the width of your new wheels at their widest point. Add them together, and add 1 inch to the total so there is a gap between the cooler and the tire to prevent rubbing and wearing of the tire sidewall.
Cut the steel rod to the length you calculated above using your hacksaw. File the cut end smooth and flat. Using the appropriate metal die, cut new threads into the rod. Each end should be threaded, and the threads should be as wide as the hub of the new wheel plus approximately 1 inch to accommodate a nut and lock washer on each side of the wheel.
Install the new axle in the channel on your cooler. Thread a nut and washer on each end, fit the wheels, and install a nut and washer on the end. At this point, if there is a gap between the axle nuts and the cooler, allowing the cooler to move side to side on the axle and contact the wheels, spacers need to be added on either side to keep it centered.
Measure the gap between the inner wheel nut and the side of the cooler. If it is 1/2 inch or less, you can use metal flat washers to fill the gap. If it is more than that, find a length of plastic pipe with an inner diameter slightly larger than the axle and cut it to fit the gap on both sides.
Tighten your wheel nuts to secure the wheels after your spacers are in place.
Items you will need
- Flat and Philips screwdrivers
- Socket wrench set
- Thread die set
- Steel rod
- Metal file
- Hex nuts and lock washers
- Small plastic pipe
- Since the wheels are likely to be taller than the originals, you may want to glue a piece of wood to the bottom of the cooler to allow it stand level.
- If your cooler's axle is small, and you install wheels much larger than the original wheels, be careful when transporting heavy loads. The axle may flex and bend. If possible, consider fitting an axle larger than the original one to compensate.
- drink cooler 1 image by Brett Mulcahy from Fotolia.com