Big Wheel Beach Cooler

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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. 

Step 1: Cooler With Factory Wheels Removed and Drill Holes Marked

I popped off the factory wheels, and measured on the cooler where I wanted the wheels.  The wheel location had to allow the cooler to sit up straight normally while providing the maximum clearance when the cooler is being rolled.  The holes had to be drilled to only put a hole on either side of the cooler, without hitting the internal walls.   I wanted the PVC carrier pipe that I put in the holes to fit snug against the inside walls also. 

You can see my measurements on the cooler, and I used a 1" drill hole punch to put in the holes.  I pushed a piece of 1" schedule 40 PVC through the holes to create a carrier pipe for the rod that I used to mount the wheels to.  I caulked around each side of the holes that were punched through the cooler, even though it was a very snug fit. 

I cut the steel rod for the tires to a length that fit best for my use, and drilled a hole in each side to allow for placement of the cotter pin.

Step 2: Finished Cooler Photos


As you can see, the PVC on the inside of the cooler fits snug against the inside of the cooler and the cooler sits up straight. 

I am considering adding to the cooler to allow for easier carrying of other items, but want to test it out a little first. 

Thanks for any suggestions in advance.

Step 3: At the Beach

I took the cooler out to the beach, and it worked great.  I had between 90 and 100 pounds total between my gear and water/ice.  My camp site was 0.5 miles from the drop off point across the island, and then 0.1 miles down the beach.  I didn't test it out in the really soft sand too much, but the wheels were spinning when going through the short segments of  very soft sand we went through.  I've done this trip before with the cooler only with factory wheels, and I'll just say that I drug the cooler most of that trip.  I also watched other people try to do the same thing, and they had the same issues I previously did. 

I got the "now that's a beach cooler" line a few times this trip with the new wheels.

Someone asked for photos, so I added a few. 

I thought of some fun modifications to try next after this trip, but I hope to hear some other ideas here.

2 People Made This Project!

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34 Discussions

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rovrcooler

1 year ago

Great post!

I am looking for best cooler tools for wheeled cooler. Thanks so much!

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WhitneyC11

2 years ago

Hi! I just wanted to make sure that the wheels you are using are good on the sand?? I am in the process of doing this to mine and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!

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AlanC131

2 years ago

Hello! Any chance you would want to make one of these to sell?

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GregL15SteveH20

Reply 3 years ago

I put a bearing spacer between the end of the pvc pipe and the tire rim so there is no play sideways for the metal rod axle inside the pvc pipe. The axle rod is only long enough to go through the tire with a cotter pin or push cap on the end to hold everything in place. So it does not have any play inside the pvc pipe. The PVC pipe stays in place because it is epoxied to the cooler. I picked up a few rubber grommets that go over the pvc pipe, both on the inside and outside, to keep it from moving, as well.

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Tjax77

3 years 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
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Tjax77

3 years 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.

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Sman510tjesse

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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.

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Sman510tjesse

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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.

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.

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umake

5 years ago on Introduction

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.

cooler.jpg
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spockllp

5 years ago on Introduction

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.

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spockllp

5 years ago on Introduction

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

Cooler1.jpgcooler3.jpg
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Sman510spockllp

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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).

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spockllp

5 years ago on Introduction

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.