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Types of Casters & Wheels Guide

Revised: 8/13/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Portability is necessary in the modern workplace. From cordless tools to industrial trucks, the ability to transfer items not only makes work easier but safer, as well. Mobility requires the right types of casters and wheels. Though these two are similar, they have different uses. A caster is a wheel on a rotating mount, used for carts and chairs. Wheels, on the other, hand spin on an axle and are used for mechanical applications. Get to know the different types of casters and wheels with our guide to help choose the ones you need.

What Is a Caster Wheel?

Casters are separated into two categories: swivel and rigid. The swivel caster is designed so that the wheel in the caster can rotate 360 degrees, making it ideal for moving heavy loads in warehouses and other material handling tasks. Rigid, on the other hand, does not have a swivel bearing and moves only forward or backward. Because this type of caster doesn’t have as much movability, it is typically used for medical equipment, institutional equipment and other carts that don’t require much transport.

Types of Casters

  • Stem Casters are an assembly with a wheel (or several) wheels mounted onto a fork, with a stem for attaching it to the bottom of an object. The stem is what sets it apart from other casters. They are used to provide mobility to an otherwise stationary item and are typically made with polyurethane, soft rubber caster wheels which will not scratch or mark up floors.
  • Plate Casters contain a wheel or compound wheel with a plate on top for simple mounting. These types of casters have the ability to carry more weight than stem mount casters. As a result, plate casters can be used to turn an otherwise stationary object into a vehicle, primarily for material handling applications.
  • Leveling Casters are designed for easy moving and level setting machines. They can be used for various applications such as chairs, shop vacuums and service carts and can be switched back from mobile to stationary nearly instantly.
  • Pneumatic and Solid Rubber Casters are made up of materials that allow for low-speed movability for fragile and delicate cargo. This type of caster is designed to provide a cushioned, shock-absorbed, quiet ride. Casters with pneumatic wheels are usually the best choice for use outdoors over rough surfaces like gravel and grass.
  • Side Mount Casters have a vertical mounting plate that attaches to either the side or corner of equipment, furniture, equipment, gates and many other types of items to make mounting both easy and mobile.

Types of Wheels

Wheels are typically more heavy-duty than casters. They are used on carts, wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, wagons and other equipment. Wheels typically consist of tread/tire. Different applications require specific wheel features, such as size, bearing, material and load size. Caster wheels are defined by their load rating range. Here is the basic load capacity scale:

  • Light duty: 0 to 299 lbs.
  • Light-medium duty: 300 to 999 lbs.
  • Medium duty: 1000 to 2999 lbs.
  • Heavy duty: 3000 to 5999 lbs.
  • Extra super duty: greater than 6000 lbs.

When it comes to wheels, it’s also important that selection is based on functionality and the environment it will be used in. Some applications and tasks require a wheel that resists corrosion, temperatures and chemicals.

Casters and wheels improve overall productivity in the workplace by providing movement for various applications. Make your material handling jobs easier and safer with the right type of casters and wheels.


The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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