Casters vs. Wheels: Is There a Difference?
Victoria Forney

Casters vs. Wheels: Is There a Difference?

At Caster Central, we are the leading source for common and special use casters, wheels, and associated material-handling accessories. Contact us today at 800-445-4082 for fast and individualized service.

In our modern world, individuals and businesses need to efficiently move different goods and materials from one place to another. While much of this material movement occurs outdoors, workers transport huge volumes of goods within warehouses, factories, offices, and other facilities. Here at Caster Central, we offer products and services to help you and your business do just that.

To effectively manage material movements, it helps to understand the tools and technologies you will need to accomplish this goal. Thus, knowing the difference between a caster vs. wheel can help you to identify the specific types of material-handling and movement tools that can optimize your business operations.

Wheels and Their Uses

This may seem like an obvious subject, but the answer can help you understand the caster vs. wheel dynamic. Humans invented wheels long ago, and they have helped shape and advance human civilization. At their most basic level, wheels are round-shaped objects with a soft or hard outer boundary.

They also have an inner hub with holes for connections to an axle or driveshaft. Modern wheels come in many sizes and types and are optimized for various end uses. Wheels used in external, outdoor applications include tires for cars and trucks.

Companies can optimize wheels that workers use for internal and industrial applications for specific uses and situations. Manufacturers design wheels for casters that are especially useful for material movements and handling.

So, Just What Are Casters?

If you have ever used a cart in a grocery store, then you have experienced casters in action. While casters always include wheels, wheels don’t necessarily include casters. Casters are special assemblies with brackets, also known as yokes, which have wheels that fit in the middle.

They also include bearings, swivels, and mounting plates or masts that attach the entire assembly to various types of objects. In the example of the grocery cart, the cart itself is the object that the wheels and castors attach to on the bottom. Casters allow the objects that they support to move in various directions, such as forward, backward, and to the left or the right.

Because they can mount to many different objects, they allow people to move various types of containers and materials easily around offices, factories, worksites, labs, hospitals, and much more.

What Are Some Common Types of Casters?

Casters come in a wide variety of sizes and designs. Manufacturers make them from many different types of materials they choose for their utility in various indoor and even outdoor environments. Castor makers classify these simple but effective tools by how they work and how they mount to the objects they allow to move.

Some basic kinds of casters include:

  • Β Plate Mounting Casters: Plate mounting casters feature flat tops with brackets that contain holes for screws or other kinds of fasteners. Plate-mounted casters usually attach to flat areas on the objects that they provide mobility to.
  • Stem Mounting Casters: Another basic kind of caster is the stem-mounted variety. Unlike plate mounted, the stem mounting caster features a threaded post that attaches to the top of the unit. The post may or may not include threads that can screw into recesses in the bottoms of objects such as office chairs, bins, racks, and anything else that requires independent mobility.

In addition to plate mounting and stem mounting casters, some heavy-duty models may be welded into place for additional strength and structural integrity.

Other Types of Caster Classification

In addition to how they mount, manufacturers also classify casters in other ways based on how they work. Examples of these include rigid or fixed casters and swivel casters. Fixed casters have wheels attached to yokes or brackets that don’t swivel or swing.

Because of this, the wheels in these types of casters only move directly forward or backward. While they may sacrifice some level of mobility, fixed casters can often support heavier loads and objects without suffering any ill effects.

Swiveling casters mount to yokes or brackets that can swivel to the left and right in addition to their forward and backward wheel movements. They may only swivel a few degrees to the left or the right, or their design may allow for a full 360-degree range of rotation. When mounted, swiveling casters allow for the directional control of the objects.

In many cases, manufacturers can install fixed and swiveling casters on the same objects for a mixed effect. For example, a bin, rack, or another object may have a pair of fixed casters on the front end and a pair of swivel casters on the back end. This allows for easy forward motion of the objects but also makes it easy to steer the object to the left or right as needed.

Other ways that companies classify casters include institutional or industrial use models. Institutional casters usually serve in lower impact applications while the industrial variety sees use in heavier-duty roles.

Which Types of Wheels Do Casters Use?

Caster wheels come in even wider varieties than casters themselves. This is because the wheels that mount to various casters need to maintain their strength, structural integrity, and functionality in many different types of working environments. For example, the caster wheels used in a chemistry lab may be exposed to various kinds of potentially corrosive substances, while those used in a cold storage facility need to withstand relatively low temperatures.

Some common materials that manufacturers use for caster wheels include:

  • Cast iron
  • Steel or other metals
  • Plastics
  • Hard or soft rubber
  • Phenolic resin
  • Polyurethane

The types of caster wheel diameters differ for use based on the flooring and environmental conditions. For example, you might use non-skid rubber casters on floors that tend to be slippery. Or you might need non-marking casters if you don’t want to leave streaks behind on linoleum floors.

The Many Benefits of Casters

In addition to the obvious benefit of increased mobility and ease of use, casters can bring you and your business many other valuable benefits.

For example, they can make shipping and receiving operations much easier. Because they allow relatively large and heavy objects to move easily, they can help expedite different aspects of your in-house material movement efforts.

They also offer good injury prevention. Casters applied as ergonomic devices can help to prevent repetitive motion injuries and keep your workforce healthier. This ergonomic utility can also boost productivity and your bottom line.

How To Choose the Right Caster for Your Needs

When you choose the right casters and wheels for a given application, they can provide trustworthy service over the long haul. When selecting the correct caster and wheel combination for your needs, keep these factors in mind.

  • Heavy or light duty
  • Working environment
  • Condition and surface types of the floors in your facility
  • Frequency of use
  • Operating speeds
  • Exposure to moisture or various chemicals
  • How quiet the casters need to be as they operate
  • The average weight of the loads
  • Whether the casters will experience shocks

As you can see, a big difference appears when it comes to the question. Here at Caster Central, our experts can offer you valuable guidance that will help you to find the right combinations for your operation. Call us now at 800-445-4082 for a free consultation about all your industrial mobility needs.