2017 August 6 Metal & Shop
This is the first article in a multi-part series on building your own cart.
Before we get to the build, let's talk about what's out there on the market. It might help illustrate why a DIY cart makes sense.
It's also helpful in another way: if you know what's wrong with the existing carts, you can avoid those mistakes when you build your own.
In This ArticleThe Cheap Store-Bought
Options For a New Cart
What About The Cart Build?
The Cheap Store-Bought
I found a cart for $150 on sale.
Sure, it was cheap, but I thought I'd get some use out of it. I even welded up an extender for the hitch:
My 6011 welds lasted much longer than the rest of the cart. It had so many issues that it really couldn't be improved.
I'll describe what's wrong with this cart, so hopefully you can avoid learning the hard way as I did.
The Sheet Metal was so thin, the cart body would oilcan constantly. It sounded like hammering on an empty 55-gallon drum. Everywhere you'd pull the cart, that's what you'd hear. This nuisance I could have overlooked, had it not been for...
The Tires. Cheap junk, went flat within a couple months. One of the rims waffled when the tire went flat; the other waffled when I tried to install an inner tube. The metal was either too thin or the wrong alloy. And once I rigged up the cart with flat-free tires, there was another problem:
The Axle... 5/8" diameter is not enough for a dump cart, but this wasn't even 5/8". Maybe 9/16? It bent so easily that it was unreal. I literally had to rotate the axle 180 degrees after every use, so it would bend the other way.
Even worse, the axle mount is a hinge-like design made of rolled sheet metal. You can't expand that for a better axle. You can't really weld on another axle mount. So there's no realistic way to upgrade the axle to a larger one.
Options For A New Cart
The under-$500 price range is a tough one for carts. They all seem to have design problems or quality issues. Even the $500 carts usually skimp in some way or another.
Now with that said, there are probably at least three or four carts that I would consider if I didn't know how to weld. Here are two that seem the most promising, to me at least:
1. Yutrax Trail Warrior. This cart is mostly steel, so it can be modified later if you do eventually learn how to weld. Right from the get-go, some people have found it necessary to bend stuff into place, weld on reinforcements, etc. And the instructions, from what I can gather, are not that great.
At least it has a plain type of axle, though. If something goes wrong, you should be able to install a better axle without junking the whole cart. Also, if I had this cart I would cut a piece of plywood to fit over that mesh. There are probably a number of things you could do to make this cart last longer, unlike that $150 heap that I bought.
2. Polar Trailer 8233. This one is well-built but uses a plastic tub. The tub could break away from the mounting bolts, so you might want to use big washers around these when putting it together. I don't like plastic anything for a cart, but this one has a lot of satisfied owners. The tub seems to be that type of plastic that's actually pretty durable in the sun.
Of these two, here's the one I would get. One reason is that the other choice does not have a straight-across axle. That means it could be a lot more work to upgrade that. The straight-axle one seems more modifiable, even if it's not as user-friendly right from the shipping box.
A cart that has a dump mechanism is not much good if it can't support the weight. And in this price range, it's tough to get both. So, I consider it a lot more important to get a sturdy cart than to get one that can dump.
What About The Cart Build?
This is the first article in a series on the DIY Lawn & Garden Trailer Build. So you probably guessed that I decided to go with a build, not a ready-made.
But why build it yourself?
Well, for me it's the learning experience of building my own cart. And theoretically, you can build a cart that would be better than anything you could buy new for $500 or less.
I still wouldn't rule out those two carts that I mentioned, though. It's nice to know that if I totally mess up my DIY cart build, those are available.
Next article, we'll look at the basic elements of the DIY cart... but first, real quick, how about the....
Here's an idea that combines DIY with ready-made. You would order a low-cost road trailer, then build the rest of your cart on top of that. Welding skills required-- or be really handy with bolts and stuff-- but the most difficult steps have already been done for you.
Why this idea is bad: Can't think of any reason, except the leaf springs could make it too bouncy for offroad use. But if it's loaded down with rocks, lumber, or firewood, it's probably not going to flip over. Unless you are going around a turn on a hillside, or something.
Oh, and the hitch might be at the wrong height for the back of your lawn tractor. And it's the wrong kind of hitch, but you could easily fix that.
Why this idea is good: anything made for road use has to meet some minimum standards for durability. They can't use spaghetti axles that bend in two seconds and flip your vehicle. (Sometimes they do use crummy tires, so watch for brands you never heard of.) Standard-sized road wheels should accept name-brand tires that last for many thousands of miles.
Once you're in the realm of on-road trailers, stuff bolts together and it's all pretty much standard. And the wheels are bolted to the axle hubs, not held on by cotter pins.
Another benefit: For offroad use, you can do all kinds of creative mods that would not be allowed on the road. Big galvanized water trough that looks like it could haul stuff? It probably can! (But read this if'n yer gonna weld that.)
Dang it, I near talked myself into gettin' one of these, just to see what I can build on it. Say..... how about a towable vise stand......? I might just do a build project on this, as soon as I finish the 2 or 3 other builds I've got in the works.
This was Part 1 in a series on building a lawn & garden cart. In this article, we saw what's wrong with the cheapest carts. As we've seen, they have serious flaws: sheet metal that's too thin, tires that disintegrate, axle mounts that can't be upgraded, etc.
Also in this article, we looked at a couple of ready-made carts that should be more reliable. If you don't weld or don't want to spend the time making your own cart, either of these choices should be reasonable. They're more "mini trailers" than "dump carts", but in the under-$1,000 price range, it's tough to find a really solid dump cart.
Finally, there's the possibility of using a low-cost road trailer as a base for your cart. That may or may not work, but it seems promising.
In the next article we'll start looking at the actual DIY cart build, starting with the wheels and axles.
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Thanks for reading!
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