2016 December 10    Tech   Metal & Shop


Ever see one of those $149 garden carts?  They're made of steel, which is good.  And you can haul stuff around with your lawn tractor. 

They do have a couple of design limitations, though. 

One of them is the wheels and tires.

In this article I'm going to tell you how I fixed a garden cart that was probably designed to be unfixable.  I'm not recommending that you try this, really, but you might find it entertaining.  (Disclaimer.)

The coolest thing about this project?  It involves both blacksmithing and welding.

Now let's see how it went!

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In This Article

The Tires

New Wheels


Mini Blacksmithing

Mounting The Wheel

Arc Welding

Double The Fun

Finished Project?



The Tires

It was a beautiful autumn day, and the little garden cart was being put to work.

When I parked it, I noticed the tire was flat.

This wasn't the first trouble with those cheap tires.  Back in the spring or so, the other tire went flat and I tried to rescue it with some black sealer and a new inner tube  When the cheap rim waffled as I was replacing the inner tube, I even hammered it back into round very carefully.  And for a while, it seemed the repair was working.

Then, on this autumn day in 2016, the tire just plain fragmented. 

With the tire disintegrated, the inner tube was done for.

The other tire failed shortly afterward.  This time I had the cart loaded, so the rim bent!  They just don't make 'em like they used to.

Time For A New One!

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New Wheels

So I figured I'd just order new wheels with flat-free tires. 

After getting a new wheel, I realized the cart had a non-standard axle diameter.  Less than 5/8", but not 1/2".  And the cart takes a wheel hub that's less than the standard 3" width.

But the new flat-free wheels had 3" hubs.  To get each wheel on far enough, I had to cut away about 3/8" of steel from each side of the cart. 

Remember I said the axle was less than 5/8" diameter?  The new wheel fit on it, but there was a lot of space. 

If I installed the wheel on that, it would trash itself and probably the axle, too.  But how do you make an axle larger, when you don't have a machine shop?  Even if I had a proper 5/8" axle, it wouldn't fit the cart without extensive work.

Then I got an idea. 

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Somehow I had to find something to take up the space between the 5/8" bearings and whatever diameter that axle was.

I've read of "universal adapters", but I didn't have one.  I didn't know if the right one existed.  And I figured that if it did, it would probably be made of plastic anyway.

So here was my idea:  I would make three wedges, and drive them in at about 120 degrees apart.  These would "adapt" the wheel bearing to the axle. 

But how to make the wedges?  Hammer wedges were much too large. 

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Mini Blacksmithing

To make each wedge, I began with a square nail at orange heat.  I hammered the metal into the wedge shapes.  An important step was to make the wedges have the right curvature, so they would conform to the axle.  For this I used a homemade drift punch that I'd made from wrought iron or mild steel.  (I know;  that's not really suitable for a drift punch...) 

It acted much like an anvil horn:  basically a curved anvil of just the right radius. 

It worked!  It was way more tedious than making full-sized wrought iron stuff.  But it basically worked.

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Mounting the Wheel

The wheel had to be wedged, not only from the outer side, but also from the inner side.  That was the really tough part.  I had to make the wedges stay put as I seated the wheel onto the axle. 

Then I did the outer side of the wheel.  Three wedges, tapped in between the wheel bearing and the axle, at about 120 degrees apart.  This deformed the wheel bearing slightly;  I could actually see it. 

Once the wedges were seated, they probably weren't going anywhere.  But I decided to make sure of it.  Next up, time to weld!

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Arc Welding

The wedges were almost flush with the axle ends, so it was possible to weld them on.  A small-diameter workpiece like this requires a steady hand, especially with stick welding.

This time I wasn't going to make the mistake of using 6013, which is too slaggy unless you're welding a straight-line bead.  So I tried 7018, which has become my favorite electrode type.

It was right about now that I realized just how great are the 1/16" 7018 electrodes from Hobart.  Those guys should get some kind of award for making these, because I don't even think anyone else has the sense to offer 7018's in that diameter.  I think these were made for challenging jobs like this, and welders like this

At fifty-five amps or so, they can weld surprisingly thick metal. 

Obviously I have to tell you not to try this sort of repair on a road vehicle.  (Seriously, don't.)  But this is a garden cart designed for low speeds in the backyard, so we're good.

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Double The Fun

Some slag chips from the welding got down into the bearings.  They made an awful sound every time the wheel turned.  (This is why you need a grease gun and one of these if you work on stuff.  Absolute must-haves.) 

On the second wheel I was more careful.  Before chipping the slag, I actually used blue masking tape over the bearing. 

I'm actually glad both the original tires went bad;  they were junk.  The new tires are rated for 500 lbs each

Maybe one day I'll figure out how to fit this cart with a real 5/8" axle.  The cart undercarriage was not really designed for this, so it could become an extended welding & fab project.

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Finished Project?

The cart seemed pretty good now.  There was only one problem. 

I forgot just how cheap the axle was. 

Half a cart of nothin', and the axle bends.  Then the wheels dig into the underside of the cart. 

So every time you use the cart, you have to detach it, tip the whole cart up on end, rotate the axle 180 degrees, reattach the cart, and use it until the axle bends again.  That seems like a lot of work, and it is.  I still think it's better than throwing away the whole cart, but if you're starting out, I think it's a smarter idea to invest in a better cart.


My repairs got the cart working for a while, but the axle is under-engineered. 

Most garden carts, dump carts, etc, have the same basic issue.  Even some of the $500 to $1,000 ones have flimsy axles. 

Here are a couple ideas to solve this.  (A.) Get the type of cart that you would haul with a Jeep or a truck.  If you can do that, buy a military surplus trailer, or something with an axle at least 3/4 inch diameter. 

(B.) Buy a vintage John Deere 80, or something else that was made semi-decent.  These older carts were made the way they should be. 

Either of these choices will probably require "local pickup", which means you would have to drive to pick it up.  If you're in the market for a cart, that might be worth it.  You almost can't buy a decent cart at any of the stores anymore.  The only serious alternative that I see, besides buying a vintage cart, is to get a welder and make the cart yourself.


This was a fun welding and blacksmithing project, even if the cart is not really made to haul a lot of weight.

What I really learned from this whole thing:  Don't Buy Cheap Garden Carts.  Buy quality. 

One alternative is to buy a heavy duty off-road trailer for your truck or SUV.  Consider an M105 trailer;  there are usually several for sale through that link.  These trailers don't dump, though (I think), so I don't know if that would work for you.  Hydraulic dump trailers get kind of expensive.

Another idea:  if you need a small cart for your lawn tractor, I would try to get a John Deere 80 or something similar.  These are dump carts, but they were made the way dump carts should be.  Most modern carts are not even in the same league.

Overall, this little project was good practice for metalworking.  So, in that regard it was worth it.  Now that I've got this cart sort of fixed, maybe I can finish a couple of the blacksmithing projects that I had started.

Thanks for visiting this page!

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Flat-free tires for your wheelbarrow, dump cart, etc.

Grease guns - get a good one.  Over the years I've gone through so many cheap ones that went bad;  it pays to have a decent one.

Tractor carts that might be better quality than one I have.  The types I mentioned earlier in this article might be even better ones, though. 

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