Isenbergs <isen...@sbcglobal.net>: Oct 27 03:30PM -0700
Having replaced several wheels on our Port-a-Bell cases, and changed my method a little since the previous report (text below), I figured it’s time for an update.
Wheels. The wheels on our cases (purchased in 2010 or thereabouts) are 68mm diameter and fit a 6mm axle. You can find replacement wheels on Ebay and Amazon. (Search for replacement luggage wheels or inline skate wheels.) Kits that include axle sets and a hex wrench and 4 wheels are available for as little as $12. You might as well buy 4 wheels — you’ll need them eventually. I believe that all such wheels these days are sold by metric dimensions.
Axles. The factory-supplied axle is a long rivet with a diameter of 0.226 inch = 5.74mm. Most recently, I’ve been replacing it with a 6mm hex-head bolt that’s at least 60mm long, so that it has enough unthreaded shank. My local Ace Hardware has these, and I suppose Home Depot, Lowe’s, Tru-Value, or any other decent hardware store would as well. A 1/4-inch bolt will be too large to fit through the wheel bearings, so you do need the metric size. You don’t need a Grade 5, Grade 8, or stainless steel bolt. I cut the bolt with a hacksaw so that about 1 5/16 inch (33.3mm) of unthreaded shank remains. Then I grind down the hex head to about 1/3 of its original thickness. I use a hand-held Makita “angle grinder” for this, but you could conceivably use a hacksaw and hand files. Clean up the rough edges with a hand file or bench grinder. Note that if you purchase a wheel kit that includes axles, you might be able to use them instead of buying a metric bolt, though you
might need to cut the longer portion to the appropriate length. My main discovery since my initial report is that you don’t need a nut on the bolt at all, and you don’t need to modify or cut the plastic case. Since the stamped metal wheel housing fits snuggly into the plastic case, the bolt simply cannot fall out. The bolt head merely needs to be thin enough for the housing to fit in place. Conceivably, a 6mm shaft with no head would also work as an axle. It would need to be about 1 3/8” (35mm) long and could be cut from a longer bolt. I haven’t tried this.
Rivets. The Pop rivets that hold the housing into the plastic case can be drilled out easily from the outside. I think I used a #9 drill, but the diameter isn’t too critical. Although I chose to replace those rivets with #10 screws, you could certainly use Pop rivets again if you have the equipment. Overall, I found the most difficult part of the whole job was carefully grinding off the head or “tail” of the axle rivet without damaging the metal wheel housing. I used my Dremel tool with an abrasive grindstone or cutting wheel to remove enough material that the rivet could be pushed out.
See attached photos of the 6mm bolt in process, and the original axle rivet after removal.
— John Isenberg