Wheels Vs. Casters: What’s The Difference?

Caster wheels are used on a variety of commercial and residential items from office chairs to heavy equipment to rolling carts. While you may have heard of the term caster wheel, you may not realize it is made of two separate pieces. Casters are not merely wheels but rather include one. Not all wheels are casters. Here is a basic guideline when shopping for caster wheels.

Caster Wheels

While a wheel has been around since the Stone Age, casters are a new take on the classic wheel. A yoke or fork brackets the wheel separating it from a standard wheel. When the caster breaks, you are not merely replacing the wheel but the entire assembly. Catalog searching requires the proper name to ensure you get the part you need to replace the caster on the bottom of your cabinet or chair. Casters typically come as rigid or swivel casters. Heavy duty plate casters come as both rigid and swivel. The casters and wheels come in a variety of materials, load capacities and sizes to accommodate a variety of industrial, commercial and residential purposes.

Rigid Casters

When you want to only go in a straight line, rigid casters are ideal. They don’t turn or swivel. They only go forward and backward. Rigid casters are often used in conjunction with swivel casters on trolleys, carts and other materials. Heavy objects benefit from rigid casters in the center to help support the weight. They are also ideal for stationary objects with limited movement such as heavy cabinets. Since they don’t feature a swivel mechanism, the rigid casters can support more weight.

Swivel Casters 

Need an object to move in a multitude of directions? The swivel caster is a must. The ability to rotate 360 degrees makes these a versatile caster. Many can carry a large amount of weight and still handle turning. Turn around tight corners with ease thanks to the swivel feature. Heavy loads move easily wherever you need them. Swivel casters typically come as kingpinless casters, locking casters, stem casters and plate casters.

Generally, casters have a zinc finish, but the material can be heavier duty depending on the environment and business needs. On the other hand, wheels present an opportunity to truly customize your casters. They come in nylon, soft rubber, steel, hard rubber, polyurethane, vipor, polyolefin, TPR and montech. With so many options, there is a caster wheel right for your business or home regardless of the object being supported or moved.