Introduction: Repairing Broken Wheels on Plastic Storage Bins

About: I work as a musical instrument repair technician. Outside of work hours I bury myself in art projects, work out at the gym, waste time on the Internet, play French horn in a band, play trombone in another band…

Plastic wheely bins are great. Stuff your stuff in 'em, and easily move them from one place to another.

They're not so great when the wheels break off.

The wheels on the bins I have at work are one solid piece of plastic, axles and all, that snap into little hollows on the underside of the bin. Over time the plastic nubs wear down, and eventually break right off, making the bins that much more annoying to transport. This Instructable will show you how I fix this.

Skill: Some
Time: Not much

Step 1: Assemble Materials

  • Bin with broken wheel
  • A nail just a bit narrower than the wheel axle. Round nails are best, but square works too.
  • A torch (butane torch pictured, but I ended up using my larger propane torch)
  • Pliers
Optional, But Recommended
  • Small bench vise
  • Calipers
  • Drill

Step 2: Prepare the Wheel

Two ways to do this step:

Option 1
  • Secure the wheel in a vise.
  • Grab the nail with pliers.
  • Heat the nail in a torch flame.
  • Use nail to melt all the way through the wheel.
  • Clean the melted plastic off of the nail.
  • Reinsert the nail and check that the wheel rolls.

Option 2
  • Secure the wheel in a vise.
  • Measure the nail (on the diagonal if it's a square one).
  • Find a drill bit that is slightly wider (or start smaller and work up a little at a time).
  • Drill all the way through the wheel.
  • Clear away the plastic curlicues.
  • Insert the nail and check that the wheel rolls.
Both have similar pros and cons. In each case the nail or the drill bit have to go in as straight as possible so the wheel won't bind later. I usually go with Option 2, since I often find I need to drill it out anyway to get rid of any melted globs stuck inside, though I'll first use the heated nail to melt a shallow pilot hole for the drill.

Step 3: Prepare the Bin

Heat the nail and melt holes where the wheel axle lines up with the sockets to the sides of the wheel well.

Step 4: Prepare the Nail

If the nail is longer than necessary, it's time to fit it properly.
  • Put the nail all the way through one of the holes.
  • Mark off the required length.
  • Trim to fit.
  • File down any burrs.

Step 5: Put It All Together

  • Put the nail partway through the hole from the outside of the wheel well (in this case, from the inside of the bin).
  • Thread the wheel onto the nail-turned-axle. Might take a bit of fiddling to get it on there, depending on size and shape of the bin.
  • Get it properly situated in the wheel well, and the nail lined up with the other hole.
  • Push the nail the rest of the way through.
You now have a once more functional wheel. Yes, overloading the bins with really heavy items can still break things, but the wheel well sockets themselves are more durable than the old plastic axles, so things should last for some time yet.

And my boss wanted to just toss these and buy new ones. Ha.
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