Operating a brand new piece of equipment mounted on properly chosen casters can be a real pleasure! For example, with a new cart that’s fully loaded, you may notice that it can be set in motion with a slight push. It rolls along quietly with what seems like no opposing friction, and can be easily maneuvered into position at its destination.
Over time, things can change. That same cart in the example above, after it’s had some use, can be hard to set in motion, and once rolling, require great exertions to keep it moving. You may notice a deafening, rattling sound as it rolls along. When it’s time to park the cart at the end of its journey, it may seem like every wheel wants to go in a different direction.
All of those symptoms – and many others – can be due to worn casters. If you notice any of those things happening with your equipment, or any of the signs of wear listed below, it may be time to replace your worn out casters– or switch to a different kind, better suited to stand up to your particular conditions.
8 Common Signs of Wear on Casters
- Worn Tread – Soft rubber wheels can be great for delivering a smooth ride and protecting floors, but their tread can wear out over time, especially if used on rough surfaces. Worn tread can lead to uneven rolling, and poor control when cornering. When you see signs of worn tread, it may be time to replace the wheels. If you find that you’re replacing the wheels too frequently, consider switching to a different tread material. Caster manufacturers make various wheels designed to stand up well on different surfaces.
- Flat Spots on Tread – Wheels can develop flat spots, due to a variety of causes. Heavily loaded polyurethane wheels that are stationary for long periods of time can develop flat spots. Heat buildup in polyurethane, or interaction with liquids or chemicals in some compounds, can cause internal softening of the wheel’s material. When loaded, these soft areas may deform, forming a flat spot. A wheel with a flat spot may be hard to roll, and hard to push once in motion. If flat spots are a problem, consider replacement with a wheel material rated for the load, or one that will withstand the softening effects of liquids or chemicals.
- Cracks in Tread – In the wrong circumstances, some resilient wheels are prone to cracking. Soft rubber wheels, if left too long outdoors and exposed to the elements, can become brittle and crack. Consider switching to a wheel compound designed for outdoor use, if this is a recurring problem for you. Polyurethane wheels, if subject to an excessive load while rolling, can develop cracks. To prevent this, make sure you specify a wheel compound that is rated for both the load and the speed in your application.
- Tread Chipped or ChunksMissing – Over time, some wheel materials can start to chip or lose chunks of the tread surface. This can be a problem in applications where equipment is towed. Each time a crack or obstruction is encountered, impact damage can result. Cast iron wheels, for example, can be extremely durable; but due to the molecular structure of cast iron, it can be prone to fracturing when struck by a glancing blow. In this case, steel wheels might be a better choice than cast iron. Steel has more resilience, and will resist chipping.
- Metal Shavings Accumulate on Tread – In situations where casters must roll across debris covered floors, particularly in situations involving metal shavings, properly selected tread materials can be chosen for their ability to reject debris. In wheel materials without this ability, debris like metal shavings can accumulate in the tread, eventually destroying the wheel. It may be time to replace the wheel if you notice a heavy buildup of debris in the tread material. When you pick a replacement, consider using material for the tread that will not allow debris to accumulate, such as some polyurethane compounds.
- Tread Noise When Rolling – Some casters are noisy right from the start. However, if your casters once rolled quietly, but have now become loud and noisy, this may be a sign of wear. The noise may be due to brittleness, chips and pits, or other causes.
- DelaminatedTread – Many caster wheels are formed by laminating a tread material, such as polyurethane, to the core of a different material, such as plastic or metal. The tread is often attached to the substrate through an adhesive process. In some cases, the tread can become separated from the wheel or hub, which is known as delamination. This can be caused by exposure to liquids or solvents for which the adhesive was not designed, by overheating the wheel, or even improper application of the adhesive in the first place. If you notice delamination, it’s probably time to replace the caster.
- Screeching Metal-on-Metal Sounds – Whether your equipment is traveling in a straight line or making a turn, if you hear the shriek of metal on metal, it can be a sign that it’s time to lubricate the bearings. However, if lubrication no longer silences the squeaking, it may be a sign that the bearings are worn – or even missing. This can cause a caster to stop swiveling, or increase the force needed to make the wheels turn.
Replace Those Worn Out Casters – Contact Douglas Equipment Today!
If your casters show any of the symptoms we’ve listed above, or other signs that they may be worn, you have several options. You can replace individual worn components; replace the entire caster with the identical make and model; or replace it with one that might be a better fit for your application conditions. The experts in the customer service department at Douglas Equipment will be happy to help you with your selection. Please call us at 800-451-0030 (or 305-888-3700 in the Miami area), or contact us online today!