Harbor Freight Pinball Cart Conversion

Moving pinball machines is difficult without a pinball dolly. The problem is, pinball dollies are really expensive. However, there comes a point where you really can't get along without one. They not only make it easy to move machines out to repair them, or move them around when you want to rearrange your collection, they also make it a whole lot easier to load and unload games for transport. 

I have been reading for years about a much cheaper solution. Harbor Freight sells a 500 pound capacity hydraulic lift cart for under $200. And, when you have a coupon (which Harbor Freight almost ALWAYS has), you can save as much as 20%. The shipping cost is crazy high--half the price of the cart or more--but, if you have a Harbor Freight near you, that's not a problem. And I do! With my 20% off coupon in hand, I picked up my cart for around $150 including tax.

The one catch with the Harbor Freight kart is that it has a fixed handle that's fully upright. that means you can't get it far enough under the game to lift the machine properly. That means modifying the handle so it will fold. There's a whole thread on Pinside that covers different ways to modify the handle. Many of them require pipe cutting, welding, or other skills I'm not willing to learn. Luckily, there's also an easy, cheap way to do it.

Rather than go through all of the specifics here, I'll refer you to this video by Cary Hardy. (He has lots of useful videos and he's really entertaining. You should check out his YouTube channel.) He goes through all of the steps you need to follow to make this simple modification. The one thing he doesn't say in the video is what size hinges he used. I had a hard time finding hinges that (a) had holes big enough to accommodate M8 bolts and (b) were small enough not to add any width to the cart or drag on the floor. 

I finally settled on these 6-inch strap hinges on Amazon. The holes were slightly too small...but I was able to easily drill out the four holes I needed. Then, once the handle was attached, it was just a matter of adjusting the length of the release cable (which Cary describes in his video) so the handle would fold all the way down. 

Oh...one other difference from Cary's video is that the holes in the handle are only on one side--they don't go all the way through like the ones on his example cart, so you can't run a bolt all the way through the handle. What I did was use a short bolt with a nut inside the handle itself (it's a tight squeeze for big fingers, but I made it work). If you want to go to a little more effort, you could drill out the other side and run a bolt all the way through--but mine seems to work fine as-is.

So...there you have it. It is impossible to express how much easier life is now that I have an easy way to move my pins around.