Rigid Casters Vs Swivel Casters: Know The Difference

For every large moving job, you’ll need to decide what type of caster or skate to use. There are essentially two types: rigid casters and swivel casters.

To decide which kind to use, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • How much space do I have to maneuver?
  • Am I moving the materials more than once?
  • To where am I moving the load?
  • How much does the moving load weigh?
  • What is the distance I’m covering in the move?

a pair of rigid casters

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between each caster and help you settle on a wheel configuration that best suits your move.

Rigid Casters

Also referred to as fixed casters, rigid skates do not turn. They are great for moving materials in straight lines, forward, and backward. Things to know about rigid casters are:

  • You cannot steer these types of skates, but they bear more weight than swivel casters.
  • They can generally carry 2.5 tons to 100 tons of cargo per skate.
  • They are also terrific for transporting pallets with a mounted-push stick.

Swivel Casters

If you need to navigate your cargo through tight turns and small spaces, you will want to go with a swivel caster. Things to know about swivel casters include:

  • These skates spin 360 degrees, and you can steer them to change direction.
  • They generally hold 1.5 tons to 12.5 tons of weight per skate.
  • It can take more manpower to maneuver cargo on swivel casters. This is because a solid push is needed to get all the wheels pointed in the same direction for the skates to roll.
  • Using all swivel skates limits the distance you can travel with your cart or truck. Swivels are not designed to consistently roll in a straight line, so only use these types of skates for shorter distances.

Using Both

Depending on the move job, you may want to use both rigid and swivel casters on the same cart. Certain combinations of the two can offer you stability and mobility for strong and efficient transport.

Combining both types of casters will allow you to move across greater distances without trying to keep the swivel wheels straight, as well as allow you to steer around corners and move sideways. For example, think of the design of a shopping cart. It combines both swivel and caster skates.

Listed below are some examples of wheel combinations.

4-Wheel Non-Tilt

  • This cart has four swivels in each corner.
  • This combination allows you to change direction without having to turn completely around.
  • A cart with this combination is not for moving in straight lines as it can be hard to maneuver in those instances. You can, however, put swivel locks on the rear skates. By locking the casters, you can move the cargo in a straight line.

4-Wheel Caster Steer

  • This is one of the more commonly utilized wheel configurations.
  • It has two swivel casters in the front and two rigid in the back.
  • It turns easily and moves smoothly in a straight line.
  • A little more effort is needed with turns. For instance, to make a 90-degree turn, you have to pivot the cart on its rigid back casters.

4-Wheel Diamond Pattern

  • This configuration is all rigid skates arranged in the shape of a diamond. It’s best for tilt-type carts.
  • This is typically the most cost-effective way to set up your skates.
  • The center wheels allow for pivoting and 360-degree turns.
  • The 4-wheel diamond is not good for heavy cargo (only three skates are rolling across the floor at once) and you cannot move it sideways.

Wagon Design

  • This arrangement has two axle mounted wheels at the front and two rigid skates in the back.
  • This is one of the best designs for heavy jobs.
  • It’s difficult to manually move carts with this combination, which is why most of them are power drawn.

6-Wheel Tilt

  • Similar to the 4-wheel diamond, the 6-wheel tilt can move heavier cargo and it’s great for lengthy carts.
  • With four swivel wheels and two rigid, this configuration supports long turns.
  • Depending on the cargo weight, you can do a tilt-type cart or a non-tilt.

Consult Experts and Be Safe

When deciding the type of caster and skate configuration for your industrial move, consult experts and ask questions. Additionally, consider the type of floor you’ll be moving across and if that should affect your skate selection.

Be sure to protect the floor you’re moving across. And protect yourself: Know how to safely maneuver all tools and be prepared for workplace emergencies.

Contact us with any inquiries. We are happy to help and eager to get you rolling in the right direction!