Replacing Drawer Slides
Replacing drawer slides is one of those annoying “must do’s” that spring up from time to time when the old drawer hardware wears out. The result is a drawer that sticks—or collapses—inside or out of the cabinet, spilling its contents all over the place. The only good thing about the replacement chore is that it’s an easy fix.
The only thing “extreme” about the project is how extremely simple it is. As long as the slides are properly sized and installed level and even, you should have the drawer back on track in practically no time.
Shown is a quick step-by-step guide on how to replace some basic wheeled slides. In fact, the slides shown here are of the “el cheapo” variety we grabbed at the local big box store. If you’re replacing slides at home, it may be wise to upgrade to some higher quality friction slides or even ones that utilize ball bearings. Some slide mechanisms install on the center of each side of the drawer, others at the bottom sides. Some even use a single track centered at the bottom of the drawer. In any case, the replacement procedure is basically the same.
Remove and Replace First, remove the drawer by pulling it out and lifting the glides from the guide tracks. If the hardware is only bent or misaligned, you can sometimes bend the components back in shape with a pair of pliers. Otherwise, measure the drawer so you can purchase the appropriately sized slides from your supplier. In the case shown, the plastic mounting plate of the guide track had broken. So I removed the broken hardware and opted for a full replacement. It may help to take the old hardware to your supplier if searching for an exact match.
In the case shown, the available slides were too long for the cabinet. So I trimmed the slides with a metal-cutting chop saw, but you can also use metal snips or a hacksaw. Once cut to size, the job is a basic remove-and-replace process. Unscrew the existing hardware and replace with the new components.
The glides, guide tracks, mounting plates and necessary screws all came together as a kit from the hardware store. Start with the glides, and move on to the tracks, taking note of the locations for the replacement screws. A cordless drill/driver makes quick work of the assembly. Instructions are included with the replacement kits, but the job really couldn’t be more straightforward.
Usually the guide tracks are fastened not only to the front and rear of the cabinet case but also screwed to the side walls of the cabinets. In the case shown, the cabinets were cheaply constructed and did not have an interior partition wall. That factor probably contributed to the instability of the drawer hardware and the resulting failure of the mounting plate. Adding an interior wall to help anchor the guide tracks would probably help the drawer’s performance, but for the purposes of this article, at least the missing wall affords a nice unobstructed camera angle at the replacement procedure.
When replacing the guide tracks, use a torpedo level to make sure the slides will travel in the same even plane, or the drawer will bind when operating. Also take careful measurements of the mounting plates so they are repositioned exactly in line with the slides—not too wide or too narrow, or the drawer won’t open/close properly.
With all the components in place, it’s time to reposition the drawer by sliding the wheeled slides into the guide tracks. If necessary, add a little lubrication to make sure everything operates smoothly.