What Are Casters? A Beginner’s Guide

What Are Casters? A Beginner's GuideThe Oxford Dictionary defines a caster as: each of a set of small swiveling wheels fixed to the legs or base of a heavy piece of furniture so that it can be moved easily. Many people think there is no difference between wheels and casters, but casters are much more than just wheels. A wheel is the round part that turns around an axle, but a caster features much more than just a wheel and axle. There are many parts to a caster and each is important as it will affect the mobility of the object to which they’re attached.

Douglas Equipment has been in the material handling business since 1955, and our team of trained professionals can help you choose the right caster for your application. And by using a few simple questions on our quote page we can ensure that we get the information we need to serve you better. 

How will you be mounting the casters?

Whether this is a new or replacement set of casters it is important when deciding if you require a plate mounting for your casters or a stem mounting. Whenever possible, we recommend a plate mount as the sturdiest method, but sometimes this is not possible.  If it is indeed a four-hole plate mounting, what is the hole spacing on the plate, length by width, and the same dimensions for overall plate size? If you are looking for a stem caster, what type of stem do you need; round, square, or threaded? What is the diameter and length of the stem?  Are there any cross-drilled holes, or grip rings?  By knowing your mounting features we can quickly identify which of our selection of casters will suit your mounting needs.

What is your application?

What will your casters be installed on? While this is an important starting point, it is only part of the equation to find the right caster. You may be buying casters for a cart to move materials in your business, but carts come in many varieties. What is the total weight that will be moved on these carts across the four casters installed? Do the casters need to swivel or can they be fixed? If they do need to swivel, do you need a swivel lock brake for easy tracking over long straight distances? Is noise a factor for you, because you will be in an office environment? Or is it no issue due to its use in a shop where noisy machinery is already in use? All of these concerns may affect the type or even the size of the wheel you will choose. Knowing the application details will help our experts to ensure that you are happy with the casters you buy.

What wheels do I need?

If the caster you’re choosing is for direct replacement, the choice is easy for wheel size.  But for new installs, it’s important to decide if you need a specific wheel diameter or tread width. If you are looking for easy rolling, you will likely want to look at a larger wheel since the conventional wisdom is that the larger the wheel, the easier it rolls. A larger wheel simply covers more distance in one revolution than a small wheel. However, if you are looking at moving electronic or medical equipment it might be in your best interest to think about using smaller wheels since this will make the cart easier to swivel, and therefore change direction.

If you will be using them in an assembly line or machine shop, you’ll also want to consider the width of the wheel. A wider wheel will help with handling the heavy weights involved in these industries. Our specially trained staff can help you navigate the varying different wheels available to find one suited for your special needs. 

What overall height should your caster have?

An additional consideration is any limitations to the overall height of your caster. It is easy to think about the size of wheel but you need not forget about the overall height of the caster including the mounting features. If your caster is too tall it will raise the center of gravity of your load. This may not be a concern of loads that are very wide, but tall loads could cause problems as they may become prone to tipping if raised too high above the ground when transported on your material handling equipment. When this is the case, going with a low profile caster will help reduce your tipping concerns by making the deck of your cart or dolly closer to the ground.

What conditions will I be using my casters in?

One of the last things to know is the conditions under which your caster will be used. Will the flooring be a smooth or rough surface? Will there be water present? Will the casters be used inside or outside or both? Will the casters be exposed to high heat, cold, steam or chemicals? Will they be used on asphalt or on soft ground? Will they be used at high speeds? Each of these conditions will pose a different problem for the caster and will therefore influence the recommendation of which caster you should consider. For example, steel wheels are good for smooth surfaces, and is most durable, yet can do harm to sensitive floors.  Phenolic wheels are floor-saving, but have difficulty rolling over obstacles.  Rubber wheels negotiate obstacles well, but can have problems with the presence of grease or chemicals. Knowing and understanding the conditions you will need to use your casters in will help our experts to select the best casters for your needs.

How do I make up my mind? Douglas Equipment Can Help!

When you have a general idea of what you need and the conditions that you will be using your casters in, the experts at Douglas Equipment can help you to satisfy your unique needs. With over 60 years of experience with casters and the material handling business we can give you the proven advice you need on which casters are right for the job you need to complete. Being located in South Florida means we can easily serve the entire United States, and we can also ship products to the Caribbean and South America with ease. You can contact us online through our contact form and we will respond as soon as possible or you can call us directly at 800-451-0030 to speak with someone right now.