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Pre-Assembled Big Box Store Items

2474 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  bontai Joe
I don't know how the rest of you all feel with some minimum wage school kid or wino assemblying your items, and doing it half a$$ed in the process, but I have my druthers about it.

Big box stores are notorious for charging a fee to assemble items, and if you look ata these items you can see that while assembling it as your own instead of to place on the show room floor, there are many improvements that can be made, and most of them are quick, cheap and lead to longevity of the item.

Look at the Agri Fab chipper shredder carts as sold by Lowes. There are very few if any lockwashers or flat washers used. Lots of holes are predrilled one or two sizes over or slotted, to aid in assembly etc. Nuts or bolt heads fit ionto these already thin flimsey sections of metal will deform either when tightening or during use. Just buying the item unassembled and then taking what you save on assembly charge and buying some good nylock nuts, a d box of good flat washers etc and utilizing them instead of those nuts with the built in star washer or the flanged serrated type nuts, and using flat washers on both sides in some areas will all lead to a better assembled unit.

After mucho use, I finally got around to taking a long hard look at my Agri Fab unit, as I was kind of bored and had nothing to do today I figured it would be a good time to look.
I made quite a feew improvements, such as:
1 I went over each and every nut and bolt, and most if not the majority were already loose, or metal was deforming. I bumped the dimples back flat, and used flat washers on both sides along with nylock nuts. Should solve any future loosening and deformations. The front support to hold the cart level that is a stamped piece of steel was already showing signs of bowing in the floor bottom. I removed the front bottom panel, and cut and drilled a piece of bed rail angle iron to fit inside the bed. I also made to shorter angles with a plate welded to each end that will span the back portin of this bed mount and support it on this angle instead of just the flimsey bed material. The ends with plates are fit to the center rib formed by the two bottom panels, and through bolted to each other, sandwhiching this bottom floor panel rib. ANother bolt is placed at the outermost ends near the sidewall, and then the bolt for the rear portion of the bed support anchors the middle. It took all flex and bowing out of the support and actually made it very stiff.

I then made a new stop or guide that the bbbottom of the support hits against from a piece of flat iron. I made it longer than the small 1/2" angle that they used, and now there is no need to sort of flex the support forward to clear this small angle. I made the high portion of the stop approximately 3" and have it bent just a bit shy of 90 deg, so it catches and guides the support onto the tongue without catching in the process.

I then used a tube of black Polyurethane caulking sealant (sold in HD etc as PL line, and some very very good stuff) to seal the joints inside the cart box. I ran a bead around the upper walls to lower wall panels, and the floor panel joint seam, and also along the top wall to the plastic cover joint, and also the front panels joints. as well as both edges of the angle iron I installed alaong the front panel and floor joints, during the reinforcing job. I filled any and all unused bolt holes with stove bolts (short ones) and nylocks. Before these unused holes were always dribbling a traail of debri out of them, and were always a source of dust until they got covered by more debri. I removed the simple nut and bolt attach for the rubber bungee straps to secure the mid point of the door and installed eyebolts that were drilled through the lip of the top and bottom wall panels. Much easier to hook up mid latch on door for me now. On one side I mounted a 1 1/8" diam x 40" long piece of steel tube, along the top and bottom wall panel lip. It serves as a holder for the leaf rake now. Always at hand when you need it during a vac job. I may add another on the other side for a broom or hay fork etc.

I then took the blower housing apart. I pulled the flail knives out, and gave them two passes with a hard face rod, on the leading edge and tips. They were not what I would call worn out, but you could see some wear on it already, but now for the most part, it should last (according to the book and info on the hard face rod, anywhere from 10 to 40 times as long. These knives are nnothing more than a piece of forged steel and are really not all that hard to begin with. Easily cut with a file. Now a file slides off the flail knives. ;-)

I had a broken chipper knife I found out, when I seen a crack. This is a good item to keep an eye on. They take a lot of impact and are hardened to 58 rc, pretty darn hard. Sears wants $25.00 plus tax and shipping, so I opted to make my own. I used a piece of new but old lawn mower blade I had laying around. It was a full 1/4" thick just like the original knife was. I cut it to size 1.25" x 3.75" x .250" and drilled and countersunk the two fastener holes. I bolted it to a plate, and gave it three passes of hard face rod, and then ground the 38 deg sharp edge on it. Looks fine. The hardface road deposits material that is supposed to attaian a rc hardness of 56 to 60 rc and is extremely chip and abrasion resitant, so I seem to have a knife that is equal to the original in hardness, but the body is softer and should not suffer any cracks like the original, but should be more than strong enough not to deform under use. I did use another type hardfacing rod on this chipper knife which is supposed to work harden to the above rc hardness. I ran a bead on the fixed shredder bars as well.

After redoing the knives, shredder bars and flails, I applied a bead of the same PL sealant to one side of the blower housing, and bolted it together. No more dribbling out of the blower housing joints anymore.

I took off the chipper hopper and installed large fender washers on the inner side as the smaller washers used were sunk into the plastic hopper allowing it to wobble. Now with larger fender washers there is more area to compress and hold it firm. I may add an additional flat iron or rod support from the engine mount to the top of the metal support used to hold the hopper at a later date if it gets loose again. I also added a few large washer to take up some of the end play on the axle / wheel play. There was alamost 3/8" of space that the wheel would move side to side. I may cut it off and redrill another hole later.

All told I spent about 5 hours on it, and had virtually every single nut and bolt removed and reinstalled or replaced in addition to the mods. Gave it a try, and the back of my tractor actually stays nice and clean,. or a lot cleaner than it did before, due to sealing the seams and jopintys and filling in the empty bolt holes. Even the wife commented it does not make as much dust as before from everywhere. No more little dribbles of debris following it around either. So I think I did do it some good, and improved a pretty decent machine which the factory could have done for just a few cents more spent in a piece of angle iron, some decent flat washers, and nylock nuts and a bit of sealant. Probably have less than $10.00 in it and thats counting the price of some hardface rods, and I still have over half a box of flat washers and nylock nuts for other uses. I also noted that a lot of the tinny sound and rattling is also gone. Another plus to the washers and sealant.

So if you bought a preassembled unit, it will pay you in the long run to give it a good going over, and fix things before they break or give a problem or save you time when you really need it by heading off a problem, unless you really have a store whose folks you trust to assemble your items. The improvements will only add to its longevity IMHO.
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The risk of a box store putting it together is that you get someone putting together that is at the end of their shift and don't like doing it. I remember a grill that wobbled like crazy.

The other thing is, by putting it together yourself, you become more intimate with the product. You understand how it is put together and if you have a problem in the future, you already have some pre-knowledge of what is involved to fix it.

Sometimes though... I just don't have the time and pay for them to assemble. I guess it comes down to picking and choosing what gets put together by them and which by me. For instance, bike assembly... what a joke.

Good overview of your "reassembly of a preassembly". :smiles:

I agree with you on how someone just throws it together not bothering to follow the most basic of instructions.

I've done similar rejuvenations to a few of my attachments. A good thing in doing a reassembly is you can get an idea of why they built it the way they did. And to actually make improvements on it, gives one a sense of pride in building it superior than the manufacturers engineering team did.

I agree on the flat washers on each side of a predrilled holes. The metal is pretty flimsy and over time deflects. And the nylock nuts eliminates lockwashers.

My guess as to why the manufacturers don't do these things is probably to keep costs down. That's sad, because most would be willing to spend a little more if they are assured a quality unit.
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I hit on this a bit in the lawn sweeper post. It is realy sad to see what the manufacturers, and the stores call "good enough" . Sad, real sad
I was concerned with this when I bought my Mow N Vac. At the Lowes where I bought it, I looked at the store model/preassembled model and was shocked to see that in the bed of the trailer, their was a huge bag of parts. Upon further inspection, the trailer was missing a significant number of bolts that hold the top and bottom together. They were willing to charge me $100 for this!!. I instead took the unassmbled model and have been happy every since. Sad part is that some poor SOB is going to buy that and isn't going to know any better will buy it and claim its a piece of crap becuase it will fall apart or not work properly.

Agri-fab consumer products like at Lowe's are CRAP IMHO.
Their spreaders and aerators were so bad I actually took the time to contact their home office and complain. Parts breaking down. Finally got a call back (1 week later) from Mr. Hollingsworth and he personally told me that, "they had to cut corners to compete with overseas labor costs and that is why their machines are kinda shotty" --- I THOUGHT THE HONESTY WAS GREAT BUT THE REALITY WAS PITIFUL -- HOW NICE IS THAT? I said why so much disorder, no washers, lock nuts, everything put together like crap and built to fall apart and rust at a moments notice. "Well, that is what we have to do to compete"

Well, they stopped competing for my business --- because I refuse to patronize them anymore. Blame it on the overseas labor, blame on the production costs, union dues....hell, blame it on the rain --- but don't make a product if you cannot make it right.

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I'm kinda surprised to hear that. I have always had great luck with my agri-fab gear. I own the Mow N Vac, a dethatcher, a aerator and a trailer and have had no issues.

The mow n vac in particular is very well engineered and works perfectly. I use the others two the three times a year without any issues. I just don't let the idiots at the stores put anything together.

My opinion is that if they can't put a coherent sentence together, they should put anything else together.
Sounds like you should join their product support division!!!! You can improve their current designs and add a couple hundred to the price!!! I guess that is the point, cut the corner and charge less. They are still making a lot of money on the product and COULD make the improvements you did!!!! Sound like you have a great customized unit now! Did you put chrome wheels on it as well? Just kidding!

:grapevine :thumbsup:
AMEN! Chipmaker,
I put my own stuff together for all the same reasons you mentioned. I know I'll do a better job than the unmotivated person at the store who just wants to get it done quick. And I'll pay more for a different brand of something when the quality won't meet my standards. I do not want to pay $200 for an item that I will need to replace every 2-3 years if a different manufacturers item that costs $400 will last me 10 years. It is that info on which manufacturers are naughty and which are nice that got me in these forums in the first place. If six guys post that brand "x" is crap and all of theirs fell apart and it was not worth the money, I'll most likely stay clear of brand "x". If I see mixed results, at least I'm aware of the possible problem areas to look at and can make a more informed decision on whether to buy or not. That is the true power of the internet, access to info that is not available anywhere else.
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