The swing away mailbox is a simple solution to an ongoing problem. Mailboxes and the mail system are a great idea. Snowplows and their ability to clear our roads are a great idea. However, mailboxes and snow plows frequently cross paths and the results are not so good. Snow plows are not the only culprits to take a mailbox post or two. The roster also includes sliding cars, vandals with baseball bats, over-sized wide loads, and tractors that run out of shoulder room.
The swing away mailbox idea has been around for years, mainly in the form of a few homemade contraptions by skilled farmers and welders. If you are unfamiliar with how these work, the basic premise is that the boom pole, which supports the mailbox itself, is constructed so that it is able to rotate on the post. When a snowplow or vehicle comes into contact with the mailbox, it is pushed up and out of the way. Then, gravity causes the mailbox to swing back into place, which is the key component. It is pretty simple to make a post with a mailbox that will rotate, but having one that will rotate back into place is the key. Otherwise, every time the wind blows your mailbox is backwards and your mail carrier is not going to swing it back for you each day.
Recently, swing away mailboxes have become more common, and even mandated by some cities and counties. Often in these areas, the mailbox posts can be purchased from the government entities at a reduced price, so be sure and check your locale for this opportunity, even though the quality of some of these is lacking.
DIY Swing Away Mailbox Construction
The DIY construction of a swing away mailbox involves welding and metal cutting skills that are outside the realm of most DIYers. As a result, we are not going into detail on those here. However, if you do feel so inclined you can checkout an example from Farm Show Magazine.
DIY Swing Away Mailbox Kits
The following two kits are great for DIYers as they require only common tools and installation should take less than an hour.
SwingClear Mailbox Post Kit
The SwingClear post kit sells for about $120, which is higher than we like, but it may earn its keep if you never have to replace your post again. Installation does not require concrete or digging, it’s constructed of rust-resistant galvanized steel, and made in the USA. Following is a video demonstration of one actually being hit by a snow plow.
The first installation step consists of pounding the base pole into the ground with a heavy hammer. It is recommended to place a wood block on the pole for hammering so that you do not damage the pole. Keep pounding until the orange portion of the base is about 6 inches off the ground. Then, slide the vertical pole into the base post, which is held in place by one bolt. Loosening of this bolt allows you to raise or lower the vertical pole to get the correct mailbox height.
Next, attach your mailbox to the boom pole with two carriage bolts (provided). However, depending on your particular type of mailbox, attachment to the boom pole will probably have variations. Then, slide the boom poll with the mounted mailbox onto the vertical pole. You can now raise or lower the vertical pole to the appropriate height and then tighten the bolt at the base. That’s it…give it a push and make sure it goes back into place.
SwingSafe Mailbox Post Kit
Similarly, this post does not require concrete or digging and installation of the post itself is almost identical to the SwingClear version. This one costs a bit more at about $160.
The only notable difference is with the base post. The base post is a u-shaped channel post and it provides a little more support for the vertical post than the SwingClear design. This is because it supports the vertical post all the way up and it uses two bolts (as opposed to one). This post is also height-adjustable.
As for the materials, this post is also made of galvanized rust-resistant steel and is constructed in the USA. The SwingSafe also includes an anti-theft internal steel cable for the mailbox and a bracket to mount your newspaper tube, which are not included with the SwingClear.
Either of these kits is a sound DIY way to upgrade to a swing away mailbox and we do not recommend one over the other. Before installing, review our article on mailbox height and placement to ensure that you are abiding by USPS mailbox regulations.
Bring on those snow plows!