What is the Difference Between Casters and Wheels?


What is the Difference Between Casters and Wheels?Many people may not know what a caster is, but when they see it, they may simply define it as a wheel.

And they’d be wrong!

When it comes to looking for a certain product, you have to be very specific in knowing what you want. And knowing the correct name of the product is key. So lets define exactly what the difference between a caster and a wheel is.

The Wheel

We’re all familiar with the wheel. It’s a round object that will have a hole in the center to use as a spindle to make it work for whatever purpose you need, and that can be anything. One might also define it as a circular disc that spins around on an axle, much like the wheels on a car. The wheel is in fact used for mechanical.

The invention of the wheel has changed the way we live. It played a significant part in the industrial revolution making manufacturing industries stronger by contributing to automation processes producing more goods. You can learn much more about the invention of the wheel and how far its come on the Smithsonian website. However, if you’re inquiring about the difference between a wheel and a caster, chances are you’re more interested in the caster and what it can do for you.

The Caster

A caster is indeed a wheel—no way of getting around that, but…it’s a wheel on a rotating mount. This is what separates it from the regular wheel. So when you’re looking to replace the “wheel” at the bottom of your chair or cart, be sure to type in “caster” in your search engine, or if you’re going to a brick and mortar store, ask your sales associate for a caster, not a wheel. You’ll save yourself a lot of time.

Casters are used to mount to an object so that it’s easier to move. You’ll find that casters come in two different styles: the kind that has a flat surface so that another flat surface can lay flush up against it, or the kind without the flat surface that can lock into the object.

Those are the styles. But casters can also be separated into two categories: 

Swivel Casters

The swivel caster is designed so that the wheel in the caster can rotate 360 degrees while hauling a load. This feature makes it so much easier to move heavy loads and turn tight corners in a warehouse. Here are a few examples of the type of swivel casters that Douglas Equipment, the largest exporter in the southeast of material-handling equipment and casters has in stock:

General Duty Casters

This caster has a zinc finish and is RoHS compliant. It also has a nickel-plated kingpin for a smoother swivel. This caster has been used for material-handling equipment, industrial equipment, and moving furniture. While the exterior of the caster is nickel-plated, you do have the option of choosing what kind to material you want on the actual wheel.

Here are your wheel options for the General Duty Swivel Model:

  • Soft Rubber
  • Polyolefin
  • Hard Rubber
  • Steel

All of the General Duty casters have a thread width of 13/16” and the swivel radius depends on the size of the caster. The swivel will increase according to the size of the wheel. Your wheel diameter can be 2”, 2 ½”, 3”, and 4”. The load that each caster can carry ranges from 80 – 120 lbs. and of course the larger the wheel, the more weight it can carry.

Other types of casters are the Ball Bearing and Kingpinless. You can look these up on the Douglas Equipment website.

Rigid Casters

You can probably guess that the Rigid Caster is going to be the one that can only move back and forth. With a little muscle, you can surely pivot these casters in the direction you want, but it’s not going to be as effortless as the swivel option.

Regent Rigid Top Plate Model

This caster also has a zinc finish. It has double ball bearing raceways with an octagon washer on a threaded stem. What makes this particular model so special is that it has heat-treated raceways for increase wear and resistance. It is also RoHS compliant. Because it doesn’t have as much maneuverability, this caster is ideal for medical equipment, carts that don’t require much transport, and institutional equipment.

Here are your wheel options for the Regent Rigid Top Plate Model:

  • Soft Rubber
  • TPR
  • Hard Rubber
  • Polyurethane
  • Poloyolefin
  • Montech
  • Vipor

All of the Regent Rigid Top Plate Model casters have a thread width of 13/16” or 15/16”. Here again, the swivel radius (as minimal as it is) depends on the size of the caster. Depending on the size of wheel you choose, the swivel can go from 2 ½”, 3 7/16”, and 4 1/8”. Your wheel diameter for the Regent can be 3”, 4”, and 5”. The load that each caster can carry here ranges from 110 – 160 lbs.

Most of these casters come with break options. It really depends on the kind you want and if it’s even offered. If it isn’t and you prefer to have a brake, we can arrange to have one made for you.

It’s Whatever You Need!

At Douglas Equipment, when it comes to your material-handling needs, it’s whatever you want. We are in partnership with several caster manufacturers, including Colson Casters, that can provide you with the caster you need. Call our customer service department today to discuss your options, and be sure to visit our official website to see what all we have to offer. Our consultants are more than happy to assist you. Call our toll free number at 1-800-451-0030 or contact us online.