Picture of Big Wheel Beach Cooler
I needed bigger wheels on my cooler to be able to use it on the beach and carry some extra stuff on top of it for camping (Hammock's Beach, NC).  I considered making a beach cart, but this was a cheaper option for me and hopefully will take up less space in my car.  I hope someone can give me some ideas on how to make an even better version in the future. I already have some ideas...

The costs include a $30 Coleman cooler from Wally World (Walmart), two 10" pneumatic tires from Northern Tool at $10/each, $3 worth of 1" schedule 40 PVC, $3 for some bathroom caulking, $2 for two cotter pins, and $10 for a 3' piece of 5/8" zinc platted steel rod from Lowes.  I like the cooler for camping because it holds ice a long time, so I figured an up-fit would allow for me to use the big tires on the beach and the factory tires for my everyday activities. 

I thought about buying the big grey beach wheels, but they were $50 to $60 each. 

6/24/2013 - UPDATE - My version of this cooler doesn't fit through a lot of doors really easy, so if you fill it up at the fridge or indoors you may have to pick it up to get it out of the house.  I'm probably going to do a modification on a different cooler that will fit through doors for my family style vacations (see the version in the comments section - thanks to the commenter for sharing their version).  The one disadvantage I see to the longer cooler is that you will have to bear more of the weight of the cooler while dragging it.  If you are going to drag a cooler for a long distance, the version of the cooler that I show in these pictures may be somewhat easier to move.  I'll hopefully have the chance to verify this when I test out a modification to another cooler. 
SteveH202 months ago

How does the axle stay centered in the PCV pipe? I can't picture it in my brain.

Tjax774 months ago
Pics of my cooler. Note the PVC "foot"
15, 12:06 PM.jpg15, 12:06 PM.jpg15, 12:06 PM.jpg15, 12:06 PM.jpg15, 12:07 PM.jpg15, 12:07 PM.jpg
Tjax774 months ago
Great instructions. I built one this weekend using my old Igloo cube. The major difference on mine was i added a pvc "foot" on the front to keep it level. Keeping the pvc tube axel casing snug against the cooler wall was my priority and doing so made the cooler lean forward. My other small tweak was to keep the axel shorter so the wheels are the widest element. Overall my biggest ah ha was to drill a pilot hole from the inside of the cooler out for the pvc pipe, then drill in with the 1" drill bit.
tjesse3 years ago
Sand just eats the stock wheels for breakfast. Its like dragging a brick! Good job!
Sman510 (author)  tjesse3 years ago
That is a spot on analogy.

It would be funny to see one of the companies that makes those furniture moving pads create a parody commercial where they re-purpose their product to help people drag their cooler on the beach when the wheels can't cut it.

I appreciate the feedback.

you could use a snow sled or boogie board if your bringing one anyways.

tjesse Sman5103 years ago
Why did you not mount the pvc to the bottom with C clips.
Sman510 (author)  tjesse3 years ago
I did think about putting the wheels lower originally, but would have had to add some type of stand on the front under-side of the cooler to allow it to sit up when at rest. I had not thought of what I would use to mount it that way, but if they were mounted securely, I think C-clamps would have probably worked well. The weight of the wheels and the bumps that I took the cooler over probably would warrant more than just using screws to attach them, but C-clamps could have done the job.

The wheels could have also been attached to the back of the cooler, so that it could sit up straight at rest. That would have changed the center of gravity, but as long as you weren't carrying too much, the cooler would probably still be pretty easy to maneuver.

Finish this off with a light that turns off and on with the lid opening and closing...


Sman510 (author)  MechanicalMashup1 year ago

I saw some guys on Shark Tank that had lights in their cooler. I had thought that was a cool idea. I think I'll test your idea out, since it looks like a worthwhile eye-catching addition. Thanks for sharing. I'm heading to the beach next month, so the light along with adding some rod holders like umake suggested sounds like a great way to gain some new interest in the cooler.

Sweet! Share some pictures when you get yours done!
JesseG1 made it!1 year ago

Came across this in my quest for a better beach cooler (that could be had for under $250. Awesome stuff. I buils mine for $75 total, 35 over the price of the cooler. Thanks for the idea!

Sman510 (author)  JesseG11 year ago

Looks great. I'm glad that you found this post before investing in the expensive version off the shelf. My buddy won a large Yeti cooler at a big hunting charity event and I'm trying to convince him to let me put some nice tires on that thing (mainly so I can add some photos here and hear the conversations from his hunting club). That thing has some weight to it, so it would definitely benefit from some help. Have fun out there, and let me know if you come up with any fun modifications. I see you have a kid... attaching a child seat to the top to transport your kid, would be a ridiculous and eye-catching addition if you don't need to lug gear on the top.

umake1 year ago
Awesome write up. Set mine up last night. I drilled a 1in hole, but was only able to force a 3/4" pvc pipe through. It was a REALLY snug fit, but did the same and gooped around all the inside and outside with clear sealant.

Thanks again for the write up. So much more cost effective then a beach cart, and works really well! We're working on adding some rod holders to the cooler next for surf fishing.

spockllp2 years ago
What I ended up doing is hot glue a piece of wood to the front to level it out. It doesn't look the coolest but it's functional and the piece seems pretty sturdy. I'll be putting it to the test this weekend with a 1 mile hike over rocky terrain this weekend. I am going to strap stuff to the top so like you said I thought it might be better having something a little more level.
spockllp2 years ago
Here are the photos of mine. Not sure right now if I'm going to add something to the bottom to offset the height difference
Sman510 (author)  spockllp2 years ago
That does appear a bit higher on the back end, but you may end up preferring the way that it sits when you use it. It looks like it will still hold cups/cans in the holders, so you shouldn't lose any function by having a little extra tilt. If you are going to set stuff on top of it for lugging things around, then flattening it out like you noted should be pretty easy (if you find something light and easy to attach to the bottom).
spockllp2 years ago
Thanks for the idea and the write up. I did mine slightly different using the 5/16 rod and adding bushings to make up the difference.
Very nice! Here's my version I built today. Very similiar to yours. Heading to a hike in campsite this weekend, I'll report back on my first use.
Sman510 (author)  brownrecluse2 years ago
Nice! I literally was thinking about getting one of the coolers like the one you used for a second version (I have another cooler that doesn't have the long handle on the side like yours that I may try to modify, though I'll have to come up with a handle idea). I went on vacation and found out that my version does not fit down hallways very well. Once it is filled up with drinks and other stuff it can be hard to maneuver around inside. Keep me posted on how your trip went. Good work.
Camping went very well. Was a serious test for this cooler. The hike in was very steep on a wide, rocky trail. I loaded quite a bit of weight on top of it and it did great. On the way out it worked good, but I think turning this into a 3 or 4 wheel cooler would be ideal, mainly because going back out of the campsite the trail was quite steep and the cooler kept falling backwards. A third wheel would prevent that from happening.

But overall it was great!! Not show in the photo are some hooks I mounted on the side of the cooler to strap some bunji cords on it to hold down gear, and of course a bottle opener.
I ended up buying wheel barrow wheels from home depot, they were about 10 bucks each. It was nice because they came with a big selection of rubber washers, adapters, etc making it really easy to fit the wheels on.
cityhall2 years ago
This is a great idea. I have ordered the parts. One question. I noticed the measured markings as to where to dril the wheel holes. Can you please share those measurements? Thanks
Sman510 (author)  cityhall2 years ago
From the back of the cooler to the center of the hole, it is 4 inches.
From the bottom of the cooler to the center of the hole, it is 4.25 inches.
I have some 1/8 inch tick marks that don't show up well in one of the photos in between the longer lines which show the inch tick marks. I just wanted to point that out in case you needed a scale for any reason.
Let me know how things go, or if you come up with any modifications that you think should get posted to the instructable.
gvanhoy3 years ago
Nice Job. I just did a similar mod on a smaller cooler. The small wheels kept getting locked when rolling on gravel areas. I used the existing axle chaise and with a new 5/16" rod ($3.50) and found 1/2"OD-0.328"IDx1"long plastic bushings at Lowes. 6 washers and 2 axle caps. I also used a pair of Lowes 7" lawn mower wheels ($8.69) on it. And like you said, I added a 2x4 plate on the bottom to allow it to sit level.
tchiarito3 years ago
Thanks, I have been thinking of doing this with my cooler, same model as yours. One part confuses me a little: you said "The holes had to be drilled to only put a hole on either side of the cooler, without hitting the internal walls", but do I see the pix show the pvc going all the way through the cooler, or am I looking at it wrong? Thanks!
Sman510 (author)  tchiarito3 years ago
The "internal walls" that I was trying to protect, was really just the walls on the inside of the cooler other than where you drill the hole on either side. I was trying to drill the holes as close to the internal back wall (where it is rounded a bit near the tires and the drain plug) of the cooler as possible, so I was concerned that the drilled holes may cut into the adjacent internal walls of the cooler. The PVC that I pushed through after drilling the holes fits tight against the internal back wall of the cooler, though that really isn't too important other than just trying to minimize the amount of space it takes up inside the cooler. I hope this helps clarify that statement, but let me know if you want me to try to give you a little more info.

Have fun. I really like the new wheels on mine.
Thanks, that clears it up completely. I plan to make the changes next weekend before my next camping outing, where. like you, I have to hike a mile along the beach before reaching the wilderness camping area.
9w2xyz3 years ago
Have you considered wheel barrow wheels? Dirt cheap.
mikeasaurus4 years ago
nice mod, and the steel axle all the way through will allow some heafty loads to be carried.
Have you taken it out to the beach/camping yet, how does it perform?
Sman510 (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
I just added some pictures from the trip I just got back from to the post. I was really happy with the results. I was actually planning to carry my pack, but realized when I got out to the beach, that I could put it on the cooler and have no problems carrying it. That made a huge difference.

I really just wanted the big wheels for this trip, since I had to hike a decent way in the heat. Now that I know that it can take some extra weight, it is going to be great for carrying extra beach chairs, umbrella, and the horseshoe set for future trips.

Thanks for checking it out.
zazenergy4 years ago
Very nice mod! Thanks for showing us how this works.