My garden cart tires were shredding. They had probably been flat for a year, because every time someone pumped them up, they just lost the air. But we are a tough bunch. Tough or obstinate. We pulled it around the yard to do our chores anyway. We learned how much we could put in it before the tires would no longer rotate. All because I know next to nothing about tires.
Then, my oldest son, while working cheerfully with me in the yard one day, mentioned that he had heard there are some solid tires sold for garden carts, wagons, and wheelbarrows. That is, there is no inner tube. Instead, they are made of some durable foam. These tires are heavier, adding to the total pre-load weight of the cart, but they never go flat. But we thought I would probably need to go to a tire store. I know next to nothing about shopping for tires.
That was about nine months ago. This month, I finally thought I could get my mind around taking the tires off of the cart to take them in. I went out and looked at the old tires. Nope, I was wrong. I saw about six bolts in a couple of different places. Five of them were in a position on the inner wheel that I couldn’t see how I would use a tool to unscrew them. The other bolt was sticking out in the middle, but I didn’t see what it had to do with the tire. I went to hunt down my engineer.
He graciously agreed to come help me problem solve. Without any laughing, at least where I could see him, he told me the middle bolt is what holds the tire-wheel component to the axle. Ah, the axle. I have heard that word before. He brought out his super-duper set of multi-sized wrenches and rolled it open for me. Then, he stepped back.
I tried four different wrenches before I found one that fit. Then, I began to unscrew the bolt. Well, I thought I was unscrewing it. He gently cleared his throat and said I would want to turn it the other direction. I don’t know why I can’t remember these things! It was still quite stiff, but at least now there was a glimmer of hope. I held the tire in my knees and put my full body weight into it. Right before my right triceps started to spasm, the bolt went loose. He asked me what I would have done if it hadn’t come loose, to which the only honest answer was a glum, “I don’t know.” He explained to me that I “would have” gotten a lever, like the pieces of unistrut that he and daughter used to change the lawn mower blade. It comes in different lengths, so I would have found one that worked for this job. Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s what I would have done.
With all four tires successfully removed, we headed out to the tire store, our friendly neighborhood Les Schwab. I explained to the man at the counter what I wanted. He explained to me what they had to offer. I obviously needed new tires and tubes, which would be one cost. Then, to fill each tube with foam would be another $35 each. It was all more expensive than anticipated, but held the promise of lasting a long time. I want to say that the folks at Les Schwab have given me great service over the years. I was not pressured into anything and he was really working at helping us figure out what might work.
Next, my engineer wanted to stop by our local D&B Supply for bits and pieces of PVC pipe for another aspect of our swimming pool project. As we wandered the seasonally rearranged aisles, low and behold, there were shelves of small tires! Staring right at us was one that looked like it would fit my garden cart. It was only $25. It was all foam, no additional outer tire or inner tube. And so it was the whole unit. We bought two of the three available.
Now we had the hard part of going back to Les Schwab and telling them we had found another potential solution. Fortunately, the man at the counter had just barely started getting the order processed. He was very understanding. He helped us carry our old tires back out to the car and even gave my engineer a couple of hints about what we might need to think about for putting the D&B tires on the cart.
At home, when we set the new foam tire over the axle, we could see it needed something. The opening of the metal hub (or rim) of the foam tire was just ⅛ inch too large in diameter, but between that and it not being long enough for that part of the axle either, it would probably wobble around a lot. This might not be any better than a flat tire. My engineer said to “give him a minute” and disappeared into his workshop.
When he came back, he had a piece of ½ inch diameter metal conduit (like what is used to house electrical wires) cut to the length of the part of the axle that the tire hub needed to fit more snuggly on. He had cut it partially through down one side, so that it expanded as he hammered it to slide over the axel. The new tire hub fit nicely over this, without any more room to wobble in that direction. Then, he pulled out a stubby piece of ¾ inch conduit that had been cut to fill the space between the tire hub and the bolt. The hubs of the original tires had been longer in that direction. Now all was held secure by putting the washer and bolt back on.
I asked my engineer how he had cut down the length of conduit. He told me I didn’t want to know. Then, he went off to prepare the pieces for the second tire. I called one of my daughters to complain about the stress her father was putting me through, then breathed a sigh of relief when the saw sounds ended and there was no screaming. Not that he ever screams. He came right back out with all of his fingers and no blood visible. He told me that this time he held the long piece of conduit up to the chop saw to make the cut, after which he cut that section off of the whole piece. Much easier and safer. And no, you still don’t know how he did it the first time, but I do, and he said not to tell you.
This time, he handed me the pieces and I hammered things in place. For the last little bit, he held a wrench or two over the conduit to help push it down. I screwed on the bolts, but he tightened them, because I was complaining about my arm, which is still sore seven hours later. We put the better of the two original tires back on the rear of the wagon and tested how it rolled. I couldn’t tell any weight difference and it moved smoothly.
He has another inexpensive idea for fixing the back two tires, so I’ll get back to you when he does that. Meanwhile, I am feeling inspired about my fall clean-up with my newly outfitted garden cart. Even if I don’t know much about tires, I can appreciate a nice set of new wheels.