Rigid Caster vs. Swivel Caster: What You Need To Know
Victoria Forney

Rigid Caster vs. Swivel Caster: What You Need To Know

Do you know the benefits and drawbacks of rigid caster vs. swivel caster designs? Before you mount casters on furniture or replace your existing casters, choose the proper caster for the job. Casters come in many sizes, materials, and designs, making them useful for many applications in business, industry, and everyday life.

The array of quality rigid casters andΒ stem casters by Caster CentralΒ meets the needs of countless businesses across the country. Optimize your experience by combining the best attributes of caster design with the most appropriate caster materials. The ideal caster is easy to use, durable, and safe for the environment and situations when you need to use it.Β 

Design of Swivel Casters

Swivel casters rotate around a vertical axis so that the wheels can change direction as the cart or furniture moves.Β 

The design of most swivel casters includes a ring of ball bearings positioned between an inner raceway and an outer raceway. The inner raceway attaches to the furniture or cart leg, while the outer raceway attaches to the yoke for the wheel. The two raceways can rotate with respect to one another.Β Β 

Some casters have a central pin, a kingpin, that anchors the caster to the legs or base of the structure. A swivel caster with a kingpin can swivel around it.

Kingpin-less casters attach to the mounting plate without a central kingpin. The central pin can be a weak point if the caster suffers an impact or becomes overloaded.

Design of Rigid Casters

Rigid casters have a simpler design than swivel casters, eliminating the need for ball bearings or complex moving parts within the caster system. A solid piece of metal or other durable material could form the mounting plate and the yoke for the caster. This holds the caster in a fixed orientation relative to the wheels.Β 

Advantages of Rigid Casters

Rigid casters are simpler than swivel casters, making them more durable and less likely to need repairs. Whether rigid casters are a sound choice for your application depends primarily on the type of motion your casters will typically undergo and whether they bear heavy loads.Β 

Stability in Straight Line Motion

Rigid casters are particularly useful for situations where the caster will typically travel in straight lines, and deviation from straight lines could cause damage to the furniture, cargo, or surroundings.

For example, if you use large carts to move inventory along aisles in a warehouse, it might be inconvenient to turn or weave. Employees will have an easier time moving heavy loads up and down the aisles if the wheels always face forward.

Load Capacity

Rigid plate casters that mount using four screws are sturdier than casters that swivel around a central stem. Plate-mounted swivel casters are also more prone to damage compared to rigid casters because the load presses on the swivel mechanism, which could damage the ball bearings.

The lack of ball bearings or kingpins means that fewer components can break. If the caster material is sturdy, such as steel, it is likely to withstand heavy loads. Mounting plates and yokes tend to have high weight capacities since the weight spreads across four mounting screws.Β 

Durability

Even under moderate load conditions, friction, corrosion, and other problems can cause bearings to fail, adding to repair and replacement costs.

Ergonomics

If the person moves a heavy load in a straight line on swivel casters, they have to expend energy keeping it from veering off course. The extra effort puts strain on the shoulders and back. With rigid casters, once the mover points the cart in the right direction, the cart will resist side-to-side motion.

Price

Rigid casters have a simpler design. In many cases, the caster mount and yoke can be a single piece of metal or plastic. This simplicity reduces the costs of rigid caster vs. swivel caster wheels.

Ease of Installation and Maintenance

Rigid casters stay in place while you attach them, which can make it easier to screw or bolt them in place. For example, you can grasp a rigid yoke to hold it in place while you attach the plate. A yoke that swivels will be less useful and more likely to get in the way during installation.Β 

Swivel casters can jam or have trouble swiveling if dirt or grime collects in the swivel mechanism. If one or more caster wheels on a cart become sticky, the entire cart can become hard to control.

Advantages of Swivel Casters

Despite the many advantages of rigid casters, the ability to swivel can be an indispensable feature for some applications.

Maneuverability Around Corners

A core feature of swivel casters is the ability to change direction rapidly with a narrow turning circle. Consider, for example, a grocery cart. Without the ability to pivot in crowded aisles, they would be unwieldy at intersections or if anyone had to turn around in the middle of an aisle.

Sideways Movement

Swivel casters are ideal for moving items that do not have a designated "front" or that frequently move sideways. If you move a square cart with swivel casters and need to turn a corner, you can switch to a different side and push the cart comfortably without having to turn.

Swivel Locks

Swivel locks mitigate some of the disadvantages of swivel casters by fixing the swivel mechanism in place, essentially allowing you to switch between each type of caster, depending on the situation.

Swivel locks generally contain convenient hand- or foot-locking mechanisms that make it easy to change the caster's mode on the fly. Use the locked wheels to move furniture into position, and disengage the lock when you are ready to maneuver it into its final location.

Mixing Rigid and Swivel Casters

You don't necessarily have to choose between rigid caster and swivel caster models. Why not try mixing the two caster types for the same installation?

One way to obtain the benefits of both rigid and swivel casters is to mount both types of casters on the same conveyance. For example, if you mount two rigid casters in the back of a cart and two swivel casters in the front, it will resist sideways movement but make turns more easily than it will with rigid casters.

Changing the number of casters can resolve some caster issues. If you worry that a caster might not be strong enough by itself to support heavy loads, you can double the number of casters so that each caster assembly and wheel only supports half as much weight.

Consider How the Swivel Caster Feature Interacts With Other Caster Features

The choice between rigid caster and swivel caster models is about more than that one feature in isolation. Wheel material, wheel diameter, wheel thickness, and caster diameter influence the maneuverability, impact resistance, and load capacity of casters. An expert in caster technology can help you appreciate the holistic combined effect of different caster features for your business operations.

Browse the Unparalleled Inventory of Casters at With Us at Caster Central

Don't settle for a caster that isn't right for your needs. Enjoy our wide selection at Caster Central and benefit from our recommendations to find the caster that fits your specific applications.

At Caster Central, we have multiple caster choices with many features and designs. You'll have plenty of choices to make, not just choosing rigid caster vs. swivel caster options. For example, search for duplex caster wheels, caster wheels with grooves, stain-resistant caster wheels, andΒ caster wheels for carpets.

To speak with a Caster Central representative about your caster needs, call us at 1-800-445-4082 today.