Installing a patio umbrella in your yard, patio or deck shields you from the sun and rain. However, folding patio umbrellas feature mechanical parts that are subject to failure after heavy use or due to general wear and tear. In particular, if you need to replace a crank on a patio umbrella you have several options to help you avoid needing to purchase an entirely new umbrella.
Ordering replacement parts for your patio umbrella is one of the best ways to replace a crank. Patio umbrella manufacturers offer different replacement options, ranging from new cranks to entire new pulley systems. If your umbrella's pulleys and cords are intact, you may still need to order replacement components if the manufacturer doesn't sell single crank handles. However, this allows you to replace most of the parts that are susceptible to failure or give you spare parts in case of a future problem.
Fixing a Crank
A patio umbrella's crank is essentially a handle that winds or unwinds an attached spool. As the spool turns, it releases or draws in the cord that engages the umbrella cover, pulling it open or allowing it to fall closed. If the crank is broken but the spool is intact, you can fix the crank by affixing a universal handle to the spool. A handle with a metal clamp should be able to grip the spool tightly, providing a replacement handle that serves the same function as the original handle.
If your patio umbrella crank fails while you're using it, or when you don't have time to seek a permanent replacement, you can usually still operate the umbrella. Grip the spool where the handle attached with a pair of vice grips, pliers or an adjustable wrench. Use the tool as a handle to raise or lower the umbrella. If the crank needs to lock in place for the umbrella to remain open, tie the tool to the umbrella shaft with twine so it can't spin freely.
Most patio umbrellas come with a limited manufacturer warranty that covers things such as damage to the crank. Before buying or making a replacement, consult your owner's manual or contact the manufacturer. In most cases you can receive new parts at no cost if you are the original buyer and it's within the limited-warranty's term, which is typically one or two years.
Dennis Hartman is a freelance writer living in California. His work covers a wide variety of topics and has been published nationally in print as well as online. Hartman holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Master of Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo.