Victoria Forney

Exploring the Impact of Caster Wheel Configuration on Performance

If you frequently use casters in your business operations, you’re probably wondering how to use them more efficiently. To find out which caster wheel configuration is ideal for your business, keep reading for advice from Caster Central.

As the experts in every type of caster wheel, we know which types, sizes, and configurations are best for each type of industry. Whether running an industrial facility or retail store, you can benefit from enhancing the performance of your caster wheels.

Different Factors Affecting Caster Configuration

Caster configuration involves the materials, size, and layout of the caster wheels on your cart. Each of these factors affects how efficiently you can use your casters, and it also depends on the type of floors you have, the size and weight of your cargo, and the space you have available.

The Impact of Wheel Size

Generally, the bigger your caster wheel, the easier your workers can move and steer it. Inadequate caster steering can require much effort, putting undue strain on your employees and increasing the chances of workers’ compensation claims. If you have uneven floors or obstacles like seams or low elevated platforms, larger wheels can more easily roll over them with little effort.

However, larger caster wheels aren’t always the best option. The most obvious disadvantage is that they cost more, so if you’re not frequently transporting heavy or difficult loads, they might not be your priority for an investment.

Another disadvantage of larger wheels is they create a higher center of gravity. If you transport goods you stack high on the cart, you increase the risk of a tipping hazard. Finally, because they move more easily, putting larger wheels on devices people sit or lay on, such as hospital beds or gurneys, presents a safety hazard.

What does this mean for your business? If your workers have trouble safely transporting goods, or if you see an above-average number of injuries from your caster wheels, opt for those with a larger diameter.

The Role of Caster Material

One major component of caster wheel configuration is the material you choose for your caster wheels. The most common materials for caster wheels are as follows:

  • Rubber: Rubber wheels offer great traction on slippery or wet surfaces and cause less damage to your floors while remaining affordable. However, they can’t withstand heavy loads and tend to wear out faster than other materials. 
  • Polyurethane: This material offers durability and can resist acid, high heat, and corrosion while avoiding damage to your floor. They’re among the more expensive caster wheels and can buckle under heavy loads if you leave them stationary.
  • Nylon: Nylon resists the most corrosive substances, making it excellent for chemical manufacturers. Though nylon provides a smooth transportation experience, the harder material can damage your floor and may operate more loudly than other wheel types.
  • Steel: With high durability and load capacity, steel wheels are a great fit for heavy industrial applications. However, they’re one of the noisiest wheels, which can create workplace distractions and cause significant damage to your floors.
  • Cast iron: Like steel, v-grooved cast iron wheels reduce rolling resistance and can handle heavy loads and volatile work environments. However, in addition to loud operation and the ability to damage floors, they don’t turn as well and are best suited to transporting along straighter passageways.
  • Phenolic: Consisting of fabric and resin, these hard wheels resist corrosive substances and can transport heavy loads with little resistance. Like other hard wheels, they can damage your floors, and the noise may distract or annoy your workers.
  • Pneumatic: These wheels contain air, making them similar to car tires and a great fit for light loads across uneven or outdoor surfaces. They don’t hold up well to heavy loads and require consistent air pressure management.

What does this mean for your business? You should consider the type of flooring you have, whether you work with corrosive substances or in extreme temperatures, and how frequently you transport heavy loads.

For example, if you have hardwood floors, tile, or polished concrete, you’ll want a softer wheel that won’t make you invest more money in repairing your surfaces. If most of your transportation needs involve only light loads, rubber or pneumatic casters could suit your needs. However, if you work with acid, oil, or other things that could damage weaker casters, you should opt for a more durable material to maintain caster performance.

The Role of Maneuverability

Once you’ve established which wheel material and size work best for your work environment, you can choose how to lay out and fix the wheels to your device. First, consider whether you require swivel or fixed casters.

Fixed or rigid casters don’t swivel, making them nearly impossible to turn. However, they offer increased stability that mitigates accidents for heavier or bulkier loads. They work best for transporting goods in a straight line and pair well with cast iron wheels, though you can also use other materials. 

Swivel casters turn easily and track in 360 degrees, though they don’t provide as much stability as fixed casters. They work best for applications where you have to steer or turn. You can also combine fixed and swivel casters on the same device for the perfect blend of maneuverability and stability.

Configuring Your Caster Wheels

Four different caster wheel configurations remain the most common methods of increasing caster wheel performance and efficiency. The configurations often mix rigid and swivel casters and place them on different corners and sides of the cart to serve different functions.

The most basic and common layout mounts four swivel casters on the corners of the cart. With this configuration, you can move in any direction, including diagonally, making it the perfect placement for workplaces with tight turns or winding corridors.

Another common configuration places two rigid casters in the front and two swivel casters in the back. This placement allows you to go straight for long periods and pivot when required. It works best for workplaces where most of your path is straight.

If you regularly transport heavy loads across uneven terrain, consider installing four swivel casters in the corners and two rigid casters on a side for a total of six caster wheels. This configuration gives you the maneuverability you need while providing stability over bumps and cracks.

The last common layout uses two swivels and two rigid casters on the sides rather than corners, which form a diamond pattern. It provides roughly the same functionality as the six-caster configuration but works best for lighter loads. It also gives you the benefit of being more affordable than using six casters.

Considerations for Your Business

Considering all these factors, how do you choose the best caster wheel combination for your business? You’ll have to weigh all your needs in tension to determine the ideal configuration. However, when you consider the following, you can find a layout that improves your casters’ overall performance:

  • Load weight
  • Flooring vulnerability
  • Environmental challenges
  • Maneuverability needs

Find the Perfect Wheels and Configuration Today

Now that you know all about caster wheel configuration, you can increase how efficiently you run your business. Caster Central carries an extensive online inventory of caster wheels and accessories. From utility cart casters to floor locks, our online store has everything you need to run your business.

Call Caster Central at (800) 445-4082 to speak with a team member who can answer any further questions you might have and help you with our convenient and reliable ordering process.