Title:
Rotatable wheel assembly for coolers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The rotatable wheel assembly includes an axle and wheels. Mounting arms with mounting pins or L-shaped rods are coupled to the axle and may include end caps covering portions of the mounting pin or rod. The mounting pin or end cap is inserted into a receptacle on opposing sides of a cooler. Alternatively, the mounting arms may have an eyelet that may be rotatably coupled to a mounting stud on each side of the cooler. The assembly may be placed in a resting or rolling position along the cooler body. In the resting position, the assembly rests or snaps into a groove along the side of the cooler and out of contact with the surface. The assembly can be rotated from the resting position to a rolling position with the axle positioned under the cooler and the wheels in contact with the surface to assist in transporting the cooler.



Inventors:
Vaughn, Jim (Katy, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/810223
Publication Date:
01/03/2008
Filing Date:
06/05/2007
Assignee:
Igloo Products Corp. (Katy, TX, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/457.1
International Classes:
F25D3/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
VANAMAN, FRANK BENNETT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
King & Spalding, LLP (Houston) (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A rotatable wheel assembly for use with a cooler comprising: an axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; a mounting pin coupled to each mounting arm and extending orthogonal to the direction of the mounting arm, wherein a longitudinal axis for each of the pins is substantially parallel; and wherein each mounting pin is capable of being coupled to a side of a cooler body.

2. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein the first mounting arm and second mounting arm are parallel.

3. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein each mounting pin comprises: a first end coupled to one of the mounting arms; and a second end; and an end cap covering the second end and a portion of the mounting pin.

4. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein each mounting arm may further comprise at least one hole, wherein each hole comprises a channel through the mounting arm.

5. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 4, wherein the mounting arm comprises a plurality of holes positioned along the direction of the mounting arm.

6. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein the mounting arm comprises an angled member.

7. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, further comprising: a first sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the first mounting arm is coupled to the first sleeve; a second sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the second mounting arm is coupled to the second sleeve; and wherein each of the said first sleeve and said second sleeve is slidably adjustable along the longitudinal axis of the axle.

8. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein the assembly rotates about a longitudinal axis of the mounting pins.

9. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein the axle, first mounting arm, second mounting arm and mounting pins are made of a metallic material.

10. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 1, wherein the axle, first mounting arm, second mounting arm and mounting pins are made of a plastic material.

11. A rotatable wheel assembly for use with a cooler comprising: an axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; an eyelet extending through the mounting arm, said eyelet positioned between the first end and the second end of the mounting arm; and wherein each eyelet is capable of being slidably positioned around a stud extending outward from a side of a cooler body.

12. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein the first mounting arm and second mounting arm are parallel.

13. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein each mounting arm comprises a plurality of weight-reducing holes positioned along the direction of the mounting arm.

14. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein each mounting arm comprises an angled member.

15. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, further comprising: a first sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the first mounting arm is coupled to the first sleeve; a second sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the second mounting arm is coupled to the second sleeve; and wherein each of the said first sleeve and said second sleeve is slidably adjustable along the longitudinal axis of the axle.

16. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein the assembly rotates about an axis comprising the centerpoint of each eyelet.

17. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein the axle, first mounting arm and second mounting arm are made of a metallic material.

18. The rotatable wheel assembly of claim 11, wherein the axle, first mounting arm, and second mounting arm are made of a plastic material.

19. An insulated container comprising: insulated side and end wall panels; a bottom wall panel coupled along a bottom edge of each of the side and end wall panels, wherein the bottom wall panel and side and end wall panels comprise an internal cavity; a lid; a first receptacle positioned along a first side panel; a second receptacle positioned along a second side panel; and a rotatable wheel assembly, said assembly comprising: an axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; a mounting pin coupled to each mounting arm and extending orthogonal to the direction of the mounting arm; and wherein each mounting pin is capable of being positioned within one of the first and second receptacles.

20. The insulated container of claim 19, wherein the rotatable wheel assembly further comprises: a first sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the first mounting arm is coupled to the first sleeve; a second sleeve positioned about the axle, wherein the first end of the second mounting arm is coupled to the second sleeve; and wherein each of the said first sleeve and said second sleeve is slidably adjustable along the longitudinal axis of the axle.

21. The insulated container of claim 19, wherein the rotatable wheel assembly rotates about a longitudinal axis of the mounting pins.

22. The insulated container of claim 19, further comprising a relief line extending horizontally along a first end wall panel, wherein the relief line is capable of cradling at least a portion of the axle.

23. The insulated container of claim 22, further comprising a handle coupled to the first end wall panel, wherein the relief line is positioned above the handle.

24. The insulated container of claim 19, further comprising a relief positioned within and along the bottom wall and extending between and orthogonal to the first side wall panel and the second side wall panel, said relief of a size and a shape for receiving at least a portion of the axle.

25. The insulated container of claim 24, further comprising a retaining tab adjacent to the relief, said tab holding the axle within the relief.

26. The insulated container of claim 25, wherein the retaining tab is rotatable from a first position holding the axle within the relief to a second position allowing the axle to be removed from the relief.

27. The insulated container of claim 19, wherein the rotatable wheel assembly is rotated from a resting position to a rolling position.

28. An insulated container comprising: insulated side and end wall panels; a bottom wall panel coupled along a bottom edge of each of the side and end wall panels, wherein the bottom wall panel and side and end wall panels comprise an internal cavity; a lid; a first stud positioned along an outer periphery of a first side panel and extending outward therefrom; a second stud positioned along an outer periphery of a second side panel and extending outward therefrom; and a rotatable wheel assembly, said assembly comprising: an axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; a first eyelet extending through the first mounting arm, said first eyelet positioned between the first end and the second end of the first mounting arm; a second eyelet extending through the second mounting arm, said second eyelet positioned between the first end and the second end of the second mounting arm; and wherein the first eyelet is coupled to the first stud and the second eyelet is coupled to the second stud, said eyelets capable of rotating about the studs, and wherein the rotatable wheel assembly rotates about a longitudinal for the first and second studs.

29. A method of engaging a rotatable wheel assembly for an insulated container resting on a surface comprising the steps of: removing an axle of a rotatable wheel assembly from a relief positioned along a first end of the insulated container; rotating the wheel assembly about a fixed axis until at least one wheel rotatably coupled to the axle of the wheel assembly contacts the surface; raising the first end of the insulated container and the wheels out of contact with the surface, the insulated container raised to an angle wherein the first end is at a level above a second end of the container wherein the axle rotates about the fixed axis to a position under a bottom wall panel of the insulated container; lowering the first end of the insulated container until the bottom wall panel of the container contacts at least a portion of the axle, one of said first end and said second end positioned in contact with the surface; raising the end of the container in contact with the surface to a height above the surface; and rolling the container on the wheels of the rotatable wheel assembly.

30. The method of claim 29, wherein the insulated container comprises: insulated side and end wall panels; the bottom wall panel coupled along a bottom edge of each of the side and end wall panels, wherein the bottom wall panel and side and end wall panels comprise an internal cavity; a lid; a first receptacle positioned along a first side panel; a second receptacle positioned along a second side panel; and the rotatable wheel assembly, said assembly comprising: the axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; a mounting pin coupled to each mounting arm and extending orthogonal to the direction of the mounting arm; and wherein each mounting pin is positioned within one of the first and second receptacles.

31. The method of claim 29, wherein the insulated container comprises: insulated side and end wall panels; the bottom wall panel coupled along a bottom edge of each of the side and end wall panels, wherein the bottom wall panel and side and end wall panels comprise an internal cavity; a lid; a first stud positioned along an outer periphery of a first side panel and extending outward therefrom; a second stud positioned along an outer periphery of a second side panel and extending outward therefrom; and the rotatable wheel assembly, said assembly comprising: the axle having a first end and a second end; a first wheel positioned adjacent to the first end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a second wheel positioned adjacent to the second end of the axle and capable of rotation about the axle; a first mounting arm and a second mounting arm, each mounting arm comprising: a first end and a second end, the first end of each mounting arm coupled to the axle, wherein the mounting arm extends in a direction substantially orthogonal to a longitudinal axis of the axle; a first eyelet extending through the first mounting arm, said first eyelet positioned between the first end and the second end of the first mounting arm; a second eyelet extending through the second mounting arm, said second eyelet positioned between the first end and the second end of the second mounting arm; and wherein the first eyelet is coupled to the first stud and the second eyelet is coupled to the second stud, said eyelets capable of rotating about the studs, and wherein the rotatable wheel assembly rotates about a longitudinal for the first and second studs.

Description:

STATEMENT OF RELATED PATENT APPLICATION

This non-provisional patent application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. ยง 119 to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/811,321, titled Rotatable Wheel Assembly for Coolers, filed Jun. 6, 2007. This provisional application is hereby fully incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the field of insulated containers such as coolers or ice chests. More particularly, the present invention relates to a detachable and rotatable wheel assembly for large coolers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As the popularity of coolers and ice chests has grown, additional features have been added to enhance their convenience. For small and medium size coolers having a capacity of equal to and less than one hundred quarts, wheels have been added along the bottom of the cooler to enhance their mobility. These wheels are generally fixed to opposing sides of the cooler and extend below the bottom of the cooler so that a consumer can grasp a cooler handle on the end opposite of the wheels and pull the cooler to its desired destination.

However, there are several drawbacks to the conventional coolers with wheel attachments. First, wheel attachments have only been installed on coolers having a capacity of equal to or less than one hundred quarts. Coolers having a larger capacity have not been provided the convenience of wheel attachments and are typically placed on a separate cart or dolly and transported from one location to another. For smaller coolers that do have wheel attachments, those wheels are fixed in a position along the bottom of the cooler and can not be rotated out from the under the cooler when they are not in use. Because the wheels remain along the bottom of the cooler, the cooler has a tendency to roll inadvertently when placed on a non-flat surface or when placed in car or boat that is in motion. Additionally, because the wheels must extend below the bottom surface of the cooler, the cooler is not capable of laying flat.

Lastly, the design of the conventional coolers, did not use physics, ergonomics, and anthropometrics to determine the ideal location for the wheels, which reduces the amount of weight the handle load bears on the user, since every quart of cooler space equals about one to one and one-half pounds of weight. Wheels have typically been placed at one end of a cooler. When the cooler is lifted by the handle on the opposing end of the cooler, the person transporting the cooler bears most of the full weight of the cooler. Thus, a cooler with a capacity of one hundred quarts, when filled, could weigh over two hundred pounds. By enabling the use of larger diameter wheels and placing the wheels closer to the center of gravity for the cooler, the force required to pick up and move the cooler would be greatly reduced. However, while large diameter wheels placed in that advantageous position works well while the cooler is being rolled, in the resting position the cooler would be top heavy and unstable.

Therefore there is a need in the art for a wheel assembly that can be attached to a cooler to help transport it and can be detached when the cooler has reached its destination. There is also a need in the art for a wheel assembly that can be positioned underneath the cooler while the cooler is being rolled to a location and can be rotated into a resting position along the side of the cooler when the cooler has reached its destination. There is also a need in the art for a wheel assembly kit that can be retrofitted to coolers that do not have wheels thereby allowing a user to add wheels to any size, design, or model of cooler, no matter who the manufacturer is. Finally, there is a need in the art for a wheel assembly that employs physics, ergonomics, and anthropometrics to determine the ideal location for the placement of the wheels on the cooler to reduce the handle load on the user through the use of larger diameter wheels placed closer to the center of gravity for the cooler while it is being rolled and capable of being moved out from under the cooler when it is in a resting position.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A rotatable wheel assembly can include an axle and wheels positioned along and affixed to each end of the axle. L-shaped rods or mounting arms can be orthogonally attached to the axle. The L-shaped rods can include a short member and a long member with the short member being orthogonally attached to the end of the long member. The short member can also include end caps covering its exposed end. Each end cap can be inserted into a receptacle on opposing sides of a cooler by applying a force to the L-shaped rods to increase the distance between the end caps and then releasing the L-shaped rods when they are adjacent to their respective receptacles. Once installed the assembly may be placed in a resting or rolling position along the cooler. In the resting position, the assembly rests or snaps into a groove along the side of the cooler. The assembly can be removed from the resting position and placed under the cooler to assist in the transportation of the cooler. Once the cooler has reached its destination, the rotatable wheel assembly can be placed back into the resting position or removed from the cooler by removing the end caps from the end cap receptacles. Through the use of larger diameter wheels placed closer to the center of gravity for the cooler while the cooler is being rolled, the force required to lift and roll the cooler is reduced, while the wheels can be moved out from under the cooler body while the cooler is at rest, thereby reducing the unstable nature of conventional coolers with wheels.

In one exemplary embodiment, a rotatable wheel assembly includes an axle having opposing ends. Wheels may be positioned along each end of the axle and can be capable of rotation about the axle. A pair of mounting arms can be attached to the axle. Alternatively, each mounting arm can be attached to a sleeve which can be placed over the axle. Each mounting arm extends in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the long axis of the axle. A mounting pin can be attached to each mounting arm. Each mounting pin extends in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the long axis of the mounting arm. Furthermore, the pins generally extend away from their respective mounting arms in a direction towards the opposing pin. Each pin can be coupled to or placed within a recess in the side of a cooler body.

In another exemplary embodiment, a rotatable wheel assembly includes an axle having opposing ends. Wheels may be positioned along each end of the axle and can be capable of rotation about the axle. A pair of mounting arms can be attached to the axle. Alternatively, each mounting arm can be attached to a sleeve which can be placed over the axle. Each mounting arm extends in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the long axis of the axle. Each mounting arm includes an eyelet that extends through the mounting arm and creates a hole therethrough. Each eyelet can be coupled to or positioned over a stud attached to each side of the cooler body.

In another exemplary embodiment, a method of using the rotatable wheel assembly on a cooler includes removing the axle of the wheel assembly from the relief it is sitting in and allowing the wheel assembly to fall by the force of gravity until the wheels contact the ground or surface upon which the cooler is resting. One end of the cooler can be raised to a height above the other end and at least to a height wherein the wheels of the assembly no longer are in contact with the surface. Once the wheels are free-swinging, the axle and wheel assembly rotates under the bottom side of the cooler. The raised end of the cooler can be lower until the bottom side of the cooler comes into contact with the axle. At this point, one end of the cooler will be generally resting along the surface and the other end of the cooler will be positioned above the surface. The end of the cooler resting along the surface can be lifted and the cooler pushed or pulled, such that the cooler rides along the axle and is transported by the wheels.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the exemplary embodiments of the present invention and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a combination cooler and rotatable wheel assembly according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of the rotatable wheel assembly of FIG. 1 in accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates the combination cooler and rotatable wheel assembly of FIG. 1 with the rotatable wheel assembly in a resting position according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates another perspective view of the cooler and rotatable wheel assembly of FIG. 1 with the rotatable wheel assembly in a resting position in accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of the cooler and rotatable wheel assembly with the rotatable wheel assembly in a rolling position according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates a view of a rotatable wheel assembly according to an alternative exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates an alternative L-shaped member for the rotatable wheel assembly in accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates an alternative cooler and rotatable wheel assembly according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary mounting arm for the rotatable wheel assembly of FIG. 8 according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described in detail with reference to the included figures. The exemplary embodiments are described in reference to how they might be implemented. In the interest of clarity, not all features of an actual implementation are described in this specification. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that in the development of an actual embodiment, several implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the inventors' specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints which can vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having benefit of this disclosure. Further aspects and advantages of the various figures of the invention will become apparent from consideration of the following description and review of the figures.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3, several perspective views 100 of a cooler 135 and rotatable wheel assembly 105 according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention are described. As set forth in FIG. 1, the cooler 135 includes a cooler body 102 and a cooler lid 104. The cooler body 102 includes a forward wall 106, opposed side walls 108, 112, and a rear wall 114. In one exemplary embodiment, the cooler body 102 can have a generally rectangular shape; however, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that several other shapes can be employed for the cooler body 102 of the present invention.

The cooler body 102 further includes an upper edge 116 which surrounds an interior cavity 118 (not shown). The cooler body 102 further includes insulating material (not shown) between the external shell 122 and the interior shell 123. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many different types of insulation can be used in the cooler body, the selection of which is not material to the present invention. On the opposed side walls 108, 112, the cooler body 102 includes integral handles 160 defined by generally downwardly opening notches. In one exemplary embodiment, the handles 160 can have different sizes and shapes or may be substantially identical. In this exemplary embodiment, the cooler 135 can have a primary handle and a secondary handle, wherein the primary handle is substantially larger than the secondary handle. In one exemplary embodiment, the primary handle may have a length a little shorter than the height of the cooler body 102. A user of the cooler 135 may insert their fingers and/or a portion of their hand into the handles 160 to lift the cooler as, for example, when loading or unloading the same from a vehicle. Desirably, the cooler body 102 also includes a drain plug or port 162 positioned along a lower portion of the cooler body 102.

The lid 104 can include an upper surface 132, a recess in its lower surface 134 (not shown) and can be surrounded by a peripheral lip 136. If desired, a seal and groove combination (not shown) known to those of ordinary skill in the art may be disposed about the exterior of the lid 104 for sealing engagement with the upper edge 116 of the cooler body 102. The lid 104 may further include, along an edge of the lid 104, a small hand grip recess 138 to allow the user to easily grasp the lid 104 by its edge for opening purposes. In one exemplary embodiment, the lid 104 may further include a secondary lid 124 having dimensions substantially less than the lid 104. The secondary lid 124 may be rotatably affixed to the lid 104 and may or may not include a secondary hand recess 126 for opening the secondary lid 124.

In an alternative embodiment, the secondary hand recess 126 may be integral to the lid 104 and positioned below one edge of the secondary lid 124. The secondary lid 124 may be attached to the lid 104 using known attachment methods and rotated from a closed position to an opened position about the known attachment methods to access the interior of the cooler body 102. Furthermore, the lid 104 may be attached to the cooler body 102 using known attachment methods, such as hinges, and rotated from a closed position to an opened position about the known attachment methods to access the interior of the cooler body 102. In an alternative embodiment, the lid 104 may be designed to have an interference fit with the interior shell 123 of the cooler body 102, such that the lid 104 may be slidably engaged and disengaged with the interior shell 123 to provide and restrict access to the interior cavity 118.

The rotatable wheel assembly 105 of FIG. 2 includes an axle rod 110 having a length that is generally longer than the depth of the cooler 135. The axle rod 110 may be manufactured from metal or plastic or any other material known to those of skill in the art. The axle rod 110 may be hollow or have a solid inner core. The axle rod 110 is capable of supporting a heavy load based on the capacity of the cooler 135. A wheel 115 may be positioned along each end of the axle rod 110 and held in place with a axle cap 120, lug nut, or other attachment means known to those of skill in the art so that the wheel 115 may freely rotate about the axle rod 110. The wheels 115 are suitably selected for outdoor use and are capable of moving heavy loads along hard semi-hard, or even soft surfaces. In one exemplary embodiment, the wheels 115 are tires capable of being filled with air and providing improved traction and maneuverability along semi-hard and soft surfaces, such as sand. Furthermore, while the exemplary embodiment described and shown in the referenced figures presents a wheel assembly 105 that includes two wheels, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the exemplary assembly 105 could be modified to include additional wheels, including odd or even numbers of wheels in total or along each side of the axle 110.

Two substantially L-shaped rods 125 are orthogonally attached to the axle rod 110 by welding or other known attachment means. The L-shaped rods 125 are positioned inside of and adjacent to the wheels 115 along the axle rod 110. Each L-shaped rod 125 includes a long member 150 and a short member 155. The long members 150 for the L-shaped rod are substantially parallel to one another. In one exemplary embodiment, the length of each long member 150 is adjustable, so that it may be extended or shortened, to change the position of the wheel assembly 105 underneath the cooler 135. Those or ordinary skill in the art will recognize that there are several known methods for provided extendable and retractable members including, but not limited to, telescoping members. Each of the short members 155 are orthogonally attached to one end of the long member 150 and face inward along an axis parallel to the long axis of the axle rod 110. In one exemplary embodiment the L-shaped rods 125 are made of the same material as the axle rod 110. The rotatable wheel assembly 105 also includes end caps 130 that may be slidably applied or fixed over each short member 155. In one exemplary embodiment, the end caps 130 are made of a hardened plastic material capable of sustained wear as the rotational point for the assembly 105.

An end cap receptacle 140 that includes a bored-out area having a diameter greater than the end cap 130 and a depth that is less than the length of the short member 155, may be machined out of opposing sides of a cooler 135. Each end cap receptacle 140 is typically positioned along the lower-half and substantially along one side of the cooler 135.

To insert the wheel assembly 105 into the end cap receptacle 140 a force may be applied on each L-shaped rod 125 in an outwardly opposing direction along the axis of the axle rod, thereby increasing the distance between each end cap 130. Each end cap 130 is then placed adjacent to an end cap receptacle 140 and released so that the end caps 125 return to their original distance away from one another and enter into their respective end cap receptacles 140.

FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate a cooler 135 and rotatable wheel assembly 105 in a resting position. Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4, in one exemplary embodiment, the cooler 135 has a capacity equal to or greater than forty quarts; however, smaller capacity coolers may also employ the rotatable wheel assembly 105. The cooler 135 includes a groove or relief 145 positioned above the handle 160 and extending horizontally along the length of that side of the cooler. The groove 145 has a depth and angle such that the axle rod 110 can rest within or snap into the groove 145 in such a manner that normal motion will not cause the axle rod 110 to fall out of the groove 145.

FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of the cooler and rotatable wheel assembly with the rotatable wheel assembly in a rolling position according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Referring now to FIG. 5, to transport the cooler 135 using the wheel assembly 105, as shown in FIG. 5, a force may be applied to the wheels 115 or axle rod 110 to remove the axle rod 110 from the groove 145. Once removed, the wheels 115 will drop vertically until they come into contact with the ground or surface upon which the cooler 135 is placed. The user then grasps the handle 160 to raise that end of the cooler 135 off of the ground at least to a point where the wheels 115 do not touch the ground. The wheels 115 will automatically rotate about an axis extending between the end cap receptacles 140 until the wheels 115 and axle rod 110 are positioned beneath the cooler 135, as shown in FIG. 5. The cooler 135 is then lowered until it comes to rest on the axle rod 110. The user grasps the handle 160 on the opposing end of the cooler 135, typically the primary handle, to raise the cooler 135 and transport the cooler 135 via the wheels 115 along a hard, semi-hard, or soft surface. In one exemplary embodiment, the cooler 135 is raised to an angle less than forty-five degrees. The cooler 135 can further include a bottom groove or relief (not shown) positioned along the bottom of the cooler body 102 and extending across one dimension of the bottom side of the cooler body 102. The bottom groove has a depth and angle such that the axle rod 110 can rest within or snap into the groove in such a manner that normal motion will not cause the axle rod 110 to fall out of the groove 145. In another exemplary embodiment, a tab (not shown) may be positioned along the bottom side of the cooler body 102 such that the tab is capable of holding the axle 110 in place while the axle 110 is positioned underneath the bottom side of the cooler body 102.

When transportation of the cooler 135 is complete, the user can use the handle 160 to lift the side of the cooler having the end cap receptacles 140. The user may grasp the assembly by the axle rod 110 or wheels 115 and insert the axle rod 110 back into the groove 145. In another exemplary embodiment, when transportation of the cooler 135 is complete, the user may apply a force on each L-shaped rod 125 in an outwardly opposing direction along the axis of the axle rod 110, thereby increasing the distance between each end cap 130 and remove the end caps 130 from the end cap receptacles 140. In an alternative embodiment, to transport the cooler 135 using the wheel assembly 105, as shown in FIG. 5, the wheel assembly 105 can be permanently positioned beneath the cooler 135, such that the wheel assembly 105 does not rotate about an axis extending between the end cap receptacles 140. In this alternative embodiment, upon completion of the move of the cooler 135 using the wheel assembly 105, the wheels 115 may be removed from the axle 110 so that the cooler 135 will be substantially level. In a further alternative embodiment, upon completion of the move of the cooler 135 using the wheel assembly 105, the wheel assembly 105 may remain in a position beneath the bottom of the cooler 135, such that the cooler 135 is positioned at an incline.

Through the use of larger wheels 115 placed closer to the center of gravity of the cooler 135 (instead of along one end as in conventional coolers with wheels), the force required to pick up the end of the cooler 135 during the rolling process is reduced, thereby allowing the cooler weight to be counter-balanced and more evenly distributed. Further, by allowing the wheel assembly 105 to be rotatable shifted out from under the cooler 135 when the cooler 135 is at rest, the instability and motion of conventional coolers with wheels is eliminated.

In addition, the wheel assembly 105 can be designed and marketed separate from the cooler 135 and provided as a retrofit kit that would enable a user to modify their cooler 135 to use the wheel assembly. In one exemplary embodiment, the retrofit kit would include the wheel assembly 105, a drill bit (Not Shown), a sleeve or plug (Not Shown), and a template (Not Shown) for adding the receptacles 140 to a cooler 135. In this exemplary embodiment, the template can be a paper template that could be laid upon the cooler 135 and provide the location for the placement of the receptacles 140 on each side of the cooler 135. The drill bit could be designed to create the necessary depth and width of a hole bored into each side of the cooler 135 for the receptacle 140. A sleeve or plug could then be inserted into the hole created by the drill bit. In one exemplary embodiment, glue would be applied to the sleeve or plug to ensure that the sleeve or plug remains in the hole generated by the drill bit. The sleeve or plug would act as the receptacle in the modified cooler 135 and the end caps 130 for the wheel assembly 105 could be inserted therein. Such a retrofit wheel assembly kit would allow the wheel assembly 105 to be used on any type and style of cooler 135 made by any manufacturer. In this embodiment, the width of the wheel assembly 105, the distance between the L-shaped rods 125, the length of the axle rod 110, the length of the L-shaped rods 125, and the type of wheels 115 used could be modified based on the size of the cooler 135 the retrofit kit is designed to be used with, thereby allowing the wheel assembly 105 to be used with coolers 135 having a range of capacities, sizes, and shapes.

Turning now to FIG. 6, an alternative embodiment of the rotatable wheel assembly is shown. The alternative wheel assembly 105A includes components that are the same as the exemplary rotatable wheel assembly 105 except that the L-shaped rod 125 has been modified. In the alternative embodiment an angled member 205 is orthogonally attached to the axle 110 or, in one exemplary embodiment, to a sleeve 215 that is attached to the axle 110 by known attachment means. The sleeve 215 may be welded or attached to the axle rod 110 by known attachment means. In another exemplary embodiment, the sleeve 215 can include a set screw 220, such that the sleeve 215 can be slidably adjusted along the axis of the axle rod 110 and the set screw 220 may be tightened once the desired position of the angled member 205 on the axle rod 110 is reached. In this exemplary embodiment, the set screw 220 may be loosened and one or both of the angled members 205 slid outward, away from one another, to place the wheel assembly 105A adjacent to the receptacles 140. The angled members 205 may then be adjusted inwards, towards one another, until the pin 210 is inserted into the receptacle 140 and the set screw 220 may be tightened to hold the sleeve 215 and the angled member 205 in position.

In one exemplary embodiment, the angled member 205 can be manufactured from a piece of steel flat bar, however those skilled in the art will recognize that numerous metallic and non-metallic materials could be used in the manufacturing of the angled member including, but not limited to, ultra high molecular weight plastic. In addition, portions of the interior of the angled member 205 may be bored out, as shown in FIG. 6, to reduce the weight of the angled member and improve the balance of the wheel assembly 105A. A pin 210 is orthogonally attached to the interior sides of each of the angled members 205 on a axis substantially parallel to the long axis of the axle rod 110. The distance from each pin 210 to the axle rod 110 should be substantially equal. Each pin 210 has a diameter and length such that it is capable of being inserted into the receptacle 140 of the cooler 135 as shown in FIGS. 1-3.

FIG. 7 illustrates an alternative mounting bracket for the rotatable wheel assembly 105A of FIG. 6 according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Referring now to FIGS. 6 and 7, the exemplary mounting bracket includes an elongated member 205. In one exemplary embodiment, the elongated member 205 is made of steel flatbar. The elongated member may have a substantially rectangular shape (not shown) or it may have one or both ends rounded in a substantially concave or convex shape or a combination thereof. The mounting bracket also includes a mounting pin 210 coupled to the elongated member 205. In one exemplary embodiment the mounting pin 210 extends longitudinally in a direction orthogonal to the longitudinal direction of the mounting bracket. The mounting pin 210 may be made of steel or other metallic or non-metallic materials known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The mounting pin 210 has a generally cylindrical shape and can be coupled to the elongated member by known attachment means including, but not limited to, welding. In an alternative embodiment, the mounting pin 210 may be integrally created with the elongated member 205 in a molding process.

FIG. 8 illustrates an alternative cooler and rotatable wheel assembly 300 in accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Now referring to FIG. 8, the alternative assembly 300 includes a cooler 135 substantially as described in FIG. 1; however the cooler 135 of FIG. 8 does not include the receptacles 140. The cooler 135 further includes one or more mounting studs 315. In one exemplary embodiment, each stud 315 can have a substantially cylindrical shape and can be made of metallic or non-metallic materials including, but not limited to steel and plastic. In one exemplary embodiment, the stud 315 is made from the same material as the cooler 135. In addition, the stud 315 may be coupled to the cooler 135 after creation of the cooler 135 or the stud 315 may be made integrally with the cooler 135. The studs 315 are typically positioned on opposing sides of the cooler 135. Furthermore, each stud 315 is typically positioned along the lower-half and substantially along one side of the cooler 135.

The assembly 300 further includes a rotatable wheel assembly which may be permanently coupled to the cooler 135 by way of the studs 315 or may be capable of being attached and detached from the studs 315 of the cooler body 135. The rotatable wheel assembly includes an axle rod 110 having a length that is generally longer than the depth of the cooler 135. The axle rod 110 may be manufactured from metal or plastic or any other material known to those of skill in the art and may be hollow or have a solid inner core. The axle rod 110 is capable of supporting a heavy load based on the capacity of the cooler 135. A wheel 115 may be positioned along each end of the axle rod 110 and held in place with an axle cap 120, lug nut, or other attachment means known to those of skill in the art, so that the wheel 115 may freely rotate about the axle rod 110. The wheels 115 are suitably selected for outdoor use and are capable of moving heavy loads along hard semi-hard, or even soft surfaces. In one exemplary embodiment, the wheels 115 are tires capable of being filled with air and providing improved traction and maneuverability along semi-hard and soft surfaces, such as sand. Furthermore, while the exemplary embodiment described and shown in the referenced figures presents a wheel assembly 105 that includes two wheels, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the exemplary assembly 105 could be modified to include additional wheels, including odd or even numbers of wheels in total or along each side of the axle 110.

Two mounting arms 305 are orthogonally attached to the axle rod 110. In one exemplary embodiment, the arms 305 are attached to the axle rod in a similar manner as that described in FIG. 6. Alternatively, each mounting arm 305 may be coupled to the axle rod 110 by welding or other means of attachment known to those of ordinary skill in the art. As shown in FIG. 9, each mounting arm 305 includes an elongated member 305. In one exemplary embodiment, the elongated member 305 is made of steel flatbar; however, other metallic and non-metallic materials known to those of ordinary skill in the art may be used. The elongated member 305 may have a substantially rectangular shape (not shown) or alternatively, it may have one or both ends rounded in a substantially concave or convex shape or a combination thereof. The mounting bracket 305 also includes an eyelet 310 positioned adjacent or nearly adjacent to the end of the bracket 305 opposite the axle 110 and extends through the bracket 305 to create a hole therein. In one exemplary embodiment, each eyelet 315 has a substantially cylindrical shape with a diameter sufficient to slidably receive all or a portion of the stud 315 on the cooler 135. Returning to FIG. 8, the mounting arms 305 are positioned inside of the wheels 115 along the axle rod 110.

In one exemplary embodiment, the mounting arm 305 may be attached to a sleeve (not shown) similar to that described in FIG. 6. The sleeve can include a set screw, such that the sleeve can be slidably adjusted along the axis of the axle rod 110 and the set screw may be tightened once the desired position of the mounting arm 305 on the axle rod 110 is reached. In this exemplary embodiment, the set screw may be loosened and one or both of the mounting arms 305 slid outward, away from one another, to place the wheel assembly adjacent to the mounting studs 315. The mounting arms 305 may then be adjusted inwards, towards one another, until the mounting stud 315 is inserted into the eyelet 310 and the set screw may be tightened to hold the sleeve and the mounting arm 305 in position.

In an alternative embodiment, each mounting arm 305 may be fixed along the axle rod 110 and a force may be applied to one or both mounting arms 305 along a plane substantially parallel to the longitudinal direction of the mounting studs 315, such that the distance between the eyelets 310 is greater when the force is applied than when a force is not applied. The force spreads the ends of the mounting arms 305 with the eyelets 310 apart. Each eyelet 310 may then be positioned adjacent to its corresponding mounting stud 315. The force can be reduced or eliminated such that the eyelets 310 move closer to one another and all or a portion of each mounting stud 315 is slidably received in its corresponding eyelet 310.

In one exemplary embodiment, the length of each mounting arm 305 is adjustable, so that it may be extended or shortened, to change the position of the wheel assembly underneath the cooler 135. Those or ordinary skill in the art will recognize that there are several known methods for provided extendable and retractable mounting arms 305 including, but not limited to, telescoping members. In one exemplary embodiment the mounting arm 305 is made of the same material as the axle rod 110.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative embodiments, exemplary embodiments have been shown by way of example in the figures and have been described herein. However, it should be understood that the invention is not intended to be limited to the exemplary embodiments disclosed. Rather, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as described.