Friday, November 17, 2017

Radio Flyer Wagon Wheel Upgrade




This project began with me stating "I'll be damned if I pay $25 per wheel for an upgrade from Radio Flyer!".

And down the rabbit hole I went!







Materials Needed/Used:


  • Beer
  • Mallet
  • 10 inch pneumatic tires 
  • WD-40
  • More Beer
  • 5/8 (Outer Diameter) 7/16 (Inner Diameter) Vinyl tubing 
  • 7/16 Push Nuts
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Razor blade
  • 1/2 inch PVC


The short of it: Remove old tires, use the vinyl tubing as a spacer to fit the 10 tires onto a 7/16 axle.


The Breakdown:

Removing the old tires is easy.  You can break the push nuts off or save them by twisting them as if you are unscrewing them.  Saving them could save you the time of locating new ones and it one less thing to track down.

Old & new Push Nut

~1/2 inch space where old spacer attached




Spacer & Tire removed from back

Once they are off you can start dealing with the mispaired axle size and tire bore.  Although on the Radio Flyer website they are listed as 1/2 inch axles for this model, they are not 1/2 inch but 7/16.  If you then measure most tire bores, you will discover they are generally 5/8.  And if you are really good at math, you might realize 5/8 is not the same as 7/16.  Kudos.

Axle size

Rear Axle

I tried searching for spacers, and failed.  The best I could find was some vinyl tubing with the correct inner and outer sizes.  However, I knew it would be a tight fit it I got the exact size.   A smaller size might work as well and be easier. Hindsight right.



After some amazing calculations and beers, I arrived at the spacer sizes I need to keep the new larger wheels from rubbing.  I came up with PVC spacers the measured 3/4 inch for the back axle and 3/8 for the front axle.  There is room for error and room for play, but mileage may vary.

This next part requires equal parts WD-40 and Beer.  Getting the vinyl spacer into wheel bore and then onto the axle.  I cut vinyl tubing to about 2 5/8 inches.  In order to make this tight squeeze a little easier, I beveled the inside and outside of the tubing, and then sprayed everything with WD-40.  Be sure to place your 3/4 PVC spaces on the axles first before getting the tire on.  The WD-40 made it easier to slide the tubing into the wheel bore, and then by spraying the axle, it helped to slide the tire+tubing.
Inserting tubing first

3/4 PVC spacer with ~2 5/8 rear axle

Rear axle with tubing and spacer


Rear axle vinyl tubing removed

While the back tires when on like a prophylactic in Amsterdam, the front was not as easy.  First, this model of Radio Flyer has the two independent front axles.  So you will have to either use something to brace it, or build a wedge to keep it from spinning,  I went the hard route and just held it with my hands.  Again, make sure you put on the 3/8 PVC spacers first.  Secondly, there is not alot of play room on this axle and it has a flare that held a washer in place for the other wheels.  It took a little work but I was able to get enough of the wheel on with enough tubing.
Front Axle with Flare

One tire on front axle 
Front axle with tubing


It is worth mentioning, that is you use this method, you may not need the 3/8 PVC spaces on the front.  The fit is fairly tight.

Now, to make it nice an trim, take a razor blade and carefully trim off any excess vinyl tubing.  Do be cautious on this step as you are cutting in an unusual position.

Now place you push nuts back on and you are ready to cruise!




Be Aware:  These tires work great off-road.  I'm not going back.  However, if you mainly use your wagon on the street, be warned.  On the street, I've noticed that the front axles will get into a tug of war and cause a synced wobble. Not sure it has to do more with alignment, or just the fact that the front are free.  Sticking a child in the front may put enough weight down to fix the issue.


And that's it. Not too bad for an off-road wagon.  If all else fails, you can always put back on the old wheels.  Good luck out there, and if you have any tips to share, be sure to leave them in the comments.  Thanks again!


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