6 Signs It Might Be Time For a New Cooler


Like most things in life, coolers aren’t designed to last forever.  Yes, even your expensive Yeti and Engel coolers will ultimately kick the cooler gashbucket.  Many people will run their coolers into the ground and keep using them until they fall apart.  We’ve seen people using coolers that were literally leaking water out from a crack in the bottom!  While this will work for some people, we recommend purchasing a new cooler when the key features on your existing one start to show signs of wear.  The worst thing in the world is loading up your cooler full of ice and items only for it to fail on you while in the middle of the lake or beach.

So what are some signs that it might be time for a new cooler?

1. The lid hinges have cracked or began to warp

cooler hingeA common area of failure on coolers is on the hinges that are used to open and close the lid.  Oftentimes these are made of plastic, but even the metal ones can ultimately fail.  This is because the hinges are one of the few areas on a cooler that are dynamically loaded.  In other words, it is physically moving up and down or rotating every time you access the contents inside.  This puts a lot more stress on the components vs. a static component such as the built-in carrying handle or the cooler walls. When these things fail you essentially have a ruined cooler.  Not only can opening and closing the lid become difficult if not impossible, but you also can lose your good lid seal, meaning the cooling performance of your ice chest will drop dramatically.

2. The handles/strap have tears or cracks

Most coolers offer some sort of carrying method.  The most common types include rotating side handles, embedded side handles, cooler handleoverhead handles, shoulder straps, and extendable handles for rolling coolers.  All of these can also fail over time, especially since most of the weight is being distributed over the relatively small area while being carried. When they begin to weaken, they can lose their structural integrity.  And when they fail, they usually fail pretty badly.  You don’t want to be carrying a load full of ice and drinks for the handle to suddenly give way and drop on the ground, potentially falling on your feet and damaging property.

3. The gasket is showing tears or cuts

cooler gasketThe gasket is the key component for a cooler’s ability to keep ice cold.  It forms an air-tight seal from the outside world and the air inside your cooler.  To form this seal, the gasket is oftentimes made of a softer material that has a bit more elasticity.  Since the material is so much softer it is prone to abrasions and gashes much easier.  Too many of these can create leak paths for the cold air to escape.  Some coolers offer replacement gaskets but if yours doesn’t it might be time for a new cooler.  Periodically check your gasket to make sure that it is in good condition.

4. The drain plug is leaking

The drain plug is the plug on the bottom of the cooler that allows for water to escape, usually from melted ice.  It is a key component cooler drain plugon a cooler because it makes it easier to remove the water in what would be an otherwise very daunting and dangerous task of trying to tip a cooler full of water over.  In addition, it is another potential escape route for cold air.  If you plug is leaking water not only can it be annoying because you have a puddle of liquid under your cooler whenever it is being used, but that also gives the chilled air inside an opportunity to escape as well.  Ignoring this could really hurt the cooling performance of your ice chest.

5. Major cuts or gashes in the ice chest wall

Let’s be honest: hard plastic coolers are designed to take a few blows and still stay in one piece.  This is especially true of the premium cooler brands.  Some even exclaim that their coolers are “bear proof” and have actually made videos of bears wrestling with their coolers!

However, over time even the toughest coolers can exhibit signs of weakness.  Periodically check the cooler walls for any significantly deep scratches or cuts.  While minor abrasions shouldn’t be an issue, a major gash create a stress riser and can become larger the more the cooler is used. A good rule of thumb that we go by is to see how thick the cooler wall is.  If a particular gash is more than halfway through the wall then we think it is time for a new cooler.  For example, if your Yukon cooler has 2” thick walls and you see a 1” deep gash on the right corner, you might consider shopping around for a new ice chest.

6. Need additional features or performance specifications

We firmly believe that you need the right cooler for the right job, and not all coolers are made the same.  Oftentimes we will see people trying to use a particular style or size of cooler for all applications and this can cause quite a bit of frustration.  A perfect example is someone using a conventional picnic cooler as a marine cooler.  Marine coolers require specific performance features such as waterproof ability and unique external coatings to help combat the sun, and people using their everyday Igloo cooler might run into some issues with this.

If you are doing a one-time event that is exposing your cooler to areas it isn’t designed for we don’t think that you should go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a new ice chest just for that occasion, but if you plan on using it a lot for this new activity then make sure you have the correctly designed cooler for the job.

These are a few signs that it might be time for a new cooler.  We always recommend doing a periodic check of your cooler for these signs of failure and any other weak points that you might come across before using it, especially on big excursions.