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Casters 101

November 4, 2019

Casters 101

Many people, when asked what a caster is, stumble for a correct answer, or simply don’t know. Once you start noticing casters however, you quickly see that they’re everywhere, being used in countless areas of industry, food service, health care, and transportation. So what exactly is a caster? A caster is an undriven, single, double, or compound wheel that is designed to be mounted to the bottom of a larger object so as to enable that object to be easily moved.

There are many components and intricate features that go into the making of casters and caster wheels. Often times, manufacturers and distributors alike present confusing, complex descriptions of the final product. Although this is at times helpful, it may also be overwhelming. Here we have divided and labeled the individual parts of a caster/wheel combination, creating a “Casters 101” glossary for the caster consumer:

  1. Mounting Plate – A flat, horizontal plate, with four bolt holes. The caster is bolted or welded onto the equipment.
  2. Raceway – A surface in which bearing balls or rollers rotate.
  3. Ball Bearings – Many construction styles include a single row of ball bearings in a large diameter raceway, or two separate rows of ball bearings moving independently through two levels.
  4. Load Plug
  5. Legs – The axle-support brackets extending down from the fork base of a swivel caster, or from the mounting plate of a rigid caster.
  6. Zerk – A grease fitting
  7. Lock Nut
  8. Axle – A reusable fastening system to assemble casters. Preferred in applications where the wheel needs replacement or maintenance.
  9. Wheel – Caster wheels come in a wide variety of materials, sizes and treads. Often, caster wheel type is synonymous with the material makeup or specialized tread pattern exhibited by the wheel.
  10. Wheel Bearing – A maintenance free bearing similar to a ball bearing but using small cylindrical rollers instead.
  11. Top Hat – Provides a smooth inner raceway for the wheel bearings, and strengthens the caster by permitting the legs to tighten against it.

Types of Casters

Rigid Casters

A caster can be one of two types, either a rigid caster or swivel caster. A rigid caster consists of a wheel mounted to a stationary fork. The orientation of the fork, which is fixed relative to the vehicle, is determined when the caster is mounted to the vehicle. A rigid caster is primarily utilized for straight line travel, meaning rolling forward or backward. An example of this is the wheels found at the rear of a shopping cart. They restrict vehicle motion so that the vehicle travels along a straight line.

Swivel Casters

Like the rigid style caster, a swivel caster wheel is mounted to a fork, but an additional swivel joint above the fork allows it to freely rotate about 360°, enabling the wheel to roll in any direction. This makes it possible to easily move the vehicle without changing its orientation.

Benefits of Using Casters

There are numerous ways to utilize casters. They are used in many applications and have benefits to whatever job is at hand. Casters and wheels offer a wide variety of solutions within many different applications.

  1. Mobility – A caster and wheel combination gives stationary items the ability, and ease of motion. Once heavy, immovable objects can glide effortlessly along the ground with a push.
  2. Durability – Casters have the ability to perform in harsh environments while maintaining a long life. Caster wheels are able to maneuver rough surfaces. With the right caster, debris ridden, industrial floors are of little concern. Strong wheel molds resist debris and maintain smooth working order, while forged steel endures every bump. Many industrial casters and wheels also have a high heat tolerance and can withstand extreme temperatures.
  3. Ergonomics Ergonomics is the science of designing the job, equipment, and workplace to fit the worker. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries, which can develop over time and lead to long-term disability. Certain casters with the proper ergonomic composition can assure that ease of use is consistent.

Caster Concepts is a leader in manufacturing industrial casters and caster wheels. We strive to bring you the strongest and most durable casters and wheels available. Every order is custom made to fit the exact specifications for your application. For further information and a custom beyond standard solution please call 517-680-7950, or email


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