2017.06.18

In our last post about the Power Racing Series which was aptly titled Wheels of Fail, we talked about the crappy Harbor Freight wheels and how they sometimes explode (not really) and ways to strengthen them. This time we’ll focus on adapting them to a 1″ live axle setup.

If you’re not sure what a “live axle” is, it describes a setup where the entire rear axle spins and (at least) one wheel is attached to the axle to spin with it. Here’s a good description.

Let’s get some parts! Over at BMIKarts there’s a 1″ live axle at around $25 (depending on length) and you’ll also need a 1/4″ Keystock that is used in the Keyway of the axle to hold the wheel in place.

Harbor Freight Wheels

Okay, let’s get some wheels! Sadly, the $4.99 Harbor Freight wheel now seems to be $5.99. With a 20% off coupon it comes in around $4.80. You’ll need two wheels for this setup, so budget $9.80 for our drive wheel. (But you’ll have a spare tire and inner tube.)

Harbor Freight Wheels

Here’s our Harbor Freight wheel. It’s got (poor quality) bearings and ready to fit on a 5/8″ axle, but since we’re using a 1″ axle we need to make some modifications. Oh, make sure you let the air out before you take it apart!

Harbor Freight Wheels

Remove the four bolts and throw them away. Well, you can save them for something, but on one wheel there were the thinnest washers I’ve ever seen, and the other had no washers. The bolts are too short so we won’t be using them. You’ve got the tire and inner tube and two rims…

Harbor Freight Wheels

Get rid of the rim with the extension tube on it, and use the shorter rim from the second wheel. You got two, remember? Did you take them both apart? Good! You did it right!

Harbor Freight Wheels

There’s one more thing we’ll need. The Galvanized Wheel Hub with (4) 5/16″ Bolts on a 2-13/16″ Circle (1″ Bore) for $13. You can get the version with no hardware. I got the version with 5/16″ jam nuts, so I had to knock them out with a hammer. (A few light taps were all that were needed.)

Depending on your setup you might want a different solution. The Harbor Freight wheels work with a 2-13/16″ hole pattern, so use that. And if you don’t use a 1″ axle, choose what matches your axle.

Harbor Freight Wheels

I put some 1/4″-20 bolts on the hub along with some washers and nuts. (You might want grade 5 steel or something a bit stronger than your typical hardware store bolts.)

Harbor Freight Wheels

Put it all together! Take that hub, stick it through the rims, and don’t forget the tire! You’ve got a drive wheel all ready to go on your 1″ live axle.

Harbor Freight Wheels

Make sure you put the air stem on the right side. You can’t access it (and it won’t fit) on the side with the hub. (Which is why we needed two of the short rim pieces from two different wheels.)

Okay, so we’ve now got a drive wheel for a 1″ live axle that was under $25 to build, and required no drilling or cutting or specialized tools. We’ve also got a spare tire and inner tube. We’ve still got to modify the other rear wheel, which will (hopefully) spin freely with some bearings, but that’s a post for another time. (Also, we still have to figure it out!)

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