Do I Need Rigid or Swivel Wheel Casters?

Do I Need Rigid or Swivel Wheel Casters?Here at Douglas Equipment, we have casters for every material handling situation and an extensive variety of wheel sizes, materials, designs, and capacities for our customers to choose from. But for all the possible configurations, choosing the right caster for your work environment often comes down to a basic choice – should you use rigid or swivel wheel casters? The answer depends how you respond to the following questions:

  • How much space do I have to work with?
  • How often will I need to move the material and to where?
  • How much weight do I need to move?
  • Over how far a distance do I need to move the materials?

Let’s take a look at some of the compelling reasons for each type of caster.

Rigid Wheel Casters: Walking the Line

A rigid caster, also known as a fixed caster, is a wheel mounted in a set of forks that doesn’t turn. Because of this, rigid casters can move materials forward and backward in a straight line, but they can’t be steered. While this limits the maneuverability of the cargo, rigid casters are stronger than swivel casters, and can handle higher weight capacities. When using all rigid casters, it’s important to make sure they line up correctly to ensure a smooth track. For an economical configuration for trucks and carts carrying light loads, tilt-mount four rigid casters in a diamond pattern with the center wheels slightly larger than the front and back, so the truck can rotate on the center wheels; however, this configuration can’t move sideways. Rigid casters are also handy for moving pallets with a mounted push-stick.

Swivel Wheel Casters: Turn on a Dime

If you’re working in a tight space or other environment where greater maneuverability is required, swivel casters are the way to go. Swivel casters rotate 360° and can respond immediately to changes in direction. These casters swivel on ball bearings to keep the wheel turning even under heavy loads. Loads on swivel casters can take more effort to set in motion than rigid casters, because it takes a push to get all the wheels pointed in the same direction before the cart or truck will roll. Also, it can be very challenging for a cart or truck with all swivel casters to roll in a straight line, so this configuration should only be used to travel short distances.

Sometimes the Choice is Both

For some tasks, you may want the ability to roll smoothly backward and forward as well as to change direction. For these applications, you can combine rigid and swivel casters, one type at the front end and the other type at the back end of the truck or cart. This will give you the ability to move the truck or cart over long distances without the struggling to keep the swivels moving forward or being prevented from moving sideways. Some of the more common examples of this configuration are the shopping carts and flatbed carts available to shoppers at grocery and home-improvement stores. This versatile configuration is also suitable for medium to heavy loads.

Either Way, We’ve Got You Covered

Many of the most popular and relied-upon product series in our caster inventory are manufactured in both rigid and swivel models, so you don’t need to compromise the quality you expect if your caster needs change. A few example series we offer are:

Colson 6 Enforcer Series

This kingpinless top-plate caster can handle loads ranging from 300 to 1,500 pounds depending on the model selected. Wheel diameters range from 4 to 8 inches and are available in a wide variety of wheel types, including Performa and Moldon rubber, polyurethane, phenolic, and cast iron, among many others. The swivel models utilize a single ball hardened raceway and have a swivel radius ranging from 3 and 15/32 inches to 6 and ½ inches.  The rigid models sport a ¼-inch steel top plate, while the swivel top plate is 5/16 inches. The wheel turns on a ½-inch hollow axle with a grease zerk and a lock nut. The multi-temperature grease in the wheel bearing and swivel raceway keeps lubricating in extreme hot and cold temperatures. This Colson caster is an excellent choice for automotive and tire production lines, food processing centers, and sheetrock dollies.

Albion 05 Series Medium Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Casters

For institutional, hospitality, and pharmaceutical settings where cleanliness is paramount, this caster’s stainless steel construction makes frequent cleanings easy and resists corrosion that can come from exposure to chemicals, cleaning agents, steam, or other caustic elements. The swivel section contains double stainless steel ball bearing raceways that are formed smooth for easy swiveling. The top plate and yoke are highest quality Type 304 stainless steel, and the kingpin is a stainless steel rivet. The ¼-inch stainless steel legs are welded to the yoke base for strength, and the wheels turn on a ¼-inch hollow stainless steel axle with roller bearing. Brake options include stainless steel cam, stainless steel single side, face brake, and swivel lock. Capacities range from 350 to 1,200 pounds with wheel diameters from 4 to 8 inches, with Prevenz™ antimicrobial wheels available.

Shepherd Bassick XX/YY Series

The XX (swivel) and YY (rigid) series combine a low overall height with capacities from 160 to 900 pounds to bring you a caster that can handle rough treatment while helping to prevent loads from tipping. The swivel models feature dual ball bearing raceways with swivel radius from 2-⅞ inches to 5-9/32 inches. Hard or soft rubber, phenolic, or steel 3- to 4-inch wheels absorb shock and the yellow dichromate finish resists corrosion. This low-profile bulldog of a caster is an excellent choice for electronic equipment and material handling.

We Won’t Steer You Wrong

Let the experts at Douglas Equipment put our nearly 60 years of experience at your service to find the best casters to suit your work and environment. Customer satisfaction is our priority. Contact us today for guidance in the caster selection process.