When selecting the right caster design for your application, you will need to choose between rigid and swivel casters. Swivel casters rotate around a vertical axis; rigid casters do not spin. Therefore, you can steer a cart fitted with swivel casters around a tight turn. A rigid caster, on the other hand, will not change direction and you will be lifting or tilting the cart to make turns.
Advantages of Each Type of Caster
Rigid casters can handle heavier loads than swivel casters. It is also easier with rigid models to keep a cart moving in a straight line over long distances. Swivel casters tend to spin while being pushed. On the other hand, if you expect to need to maneuver a cart around many obstacles and turns, choose swivel casters.
There is a way to gain some maneuverability with four rigid casters mounted on a cart. Place two larger wheels in the center of the cart, and place two wheels on the end. The cart tilts, which allows you to make turns. However, the tilting limits the load that the cart can safely carry.
Both swivel and rigid casters may be mounted on the same cart to achieve more flexible functionality. Two common configurations:
- Place two swivel casters on the front of the cart and two rigid casters on the rear. This will allow the cart to turn easily as well as travel in a straight line over a distance. However, it will not move sideways.
- Place four swivel casters on the corners of the cart, and place two rigid casters in the middle of the cart. The cart can carry a heavier load than a cart with only swivel casters.
Wheel locks are a great option if you want to combine the flexibility of a swivel caster with the stability of a rigid caster. When a swivel wheel’s lock is engaged, it can no longer change direction and functions like a rigid caster. Therefore, you can use the same cart for a wider variety of applications. Swivel locks come in hand-activated and foot-activated models. Foot-activated models are more popular because users do not have to bend over to engage the lock. You can buy swivel lock kits to install onto your existing casters.
You have several great choices when choosing swivel or rigid casters for your project. Think about the flexibility to need to make turns in different directions. You will also need to consider the weight and distance of the load that the cart needs to carry. In many cases, you will want to combine caster types for better results.