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It’s all about the wheels

We all know about the supermarket trolley which needs an exorcist, its wheels spinning around as if possessed by Beelzebub. Or the sack truck who’s with one wheel that has gone on strike and decided that it ain’t gonna roll for you no more.

Handling equipment is all about the wheels. From the cheapest Chinese import to the most expensive German aluminium truck, the quality of the wheel is going to be the key to the usefulness and life of the truck. It is very rare that a frame will fail before a wheel.

So, what should you look for when you are buying a truck or trolley? There are three things to consider: the bearings, the hub and the tyre.

Bearings

Roller bearings vs. Ball bearings vs. Plain bearings

The bearings on a wheel are important for the smooth running of the truck. They are the contact point between the static axle and the moving wheel hub.

Roller bearings are best suited for stability and for heavier loads. The contact point of the roller is greater than a ball bearing, this means the wheel can take a higher capacity load.

Ball bearings are great for moving more quickly with lighter loads. The bearings have a ‘lighter’ contact and therefore the friction is less, enabling smooth and quick use.

Putting bearing in a wheel makes the truck more expensive. Therefore, many wheels have plain bearings. These make the product cheaper. The hub of the wheel is in direct contact with the axle, so this is an option when you want a cheap truck that does not need to be used regularly or put under a heavy load.

Hub

There is a common misconception that a steel hub is strong and a plastic one is weak. While a plastic hub can crack on impact, a steel one can dent or go out of shape, making it equally useless. Our experience is that if you can find high quality, impact-resistant, plastic hub, this will keep its shape better than steel and will also be lighter. Also, plastic doesn’t rust!

Expresso, the world leader in sack truck design and manufacture always uses a high-quality plastic hub.

Whether you choose plastic or steel, quality is key and if your truck is cheap, it’s because the materials used in the wheel will be cheap.

Remember, only a rich man can afford to buy a cheap truck!

Tyres

The type of tyre on a truck decides the quality of the ride.

There are three types of tyres, each has advantages and disadvantages. But the variety of quality within each of these types is huge. The cliché ‘you get what you pay for’ is apposite in the case of trucks.

Pneumatic

A pneumatic tyre is the lightest tyre to buy. It is also best suited for rough ground and general outdoor use. It has the most ‘give’ which means it cushions variable terrain and allows for the load to stay secure on the truck frame.

However, there is one major issue with pneumatics and that is deflation. A cheap pneumatic tyre doesn’t need any excuse to go flat as it is often not properly sealed. But even a high-quality pneumatic tyre can puncture while you are out on deliveries, rendering your truck immediately useless.

Solid rubber

If you don’t want a flat tyre, a solid rubber one might be the answer. Also, a solid wheel offers more stability than a pneumatic in a warehouse environment as there is less ‘bounce’ than a pneumatic tyre.

The problem with a solid wheel is often the one you get with a supermarket trolley. If a bit of grit gets stuck in the rubber, it can make for a less comfortable ride, or a flat spot might develop when the trolley is left standing for a lengthy period.


Puncture proof

Typically, a puncture-proof tyre is a foam-filled pneumatic tyre. The aim of this is to offer the best of both worlds; the ride quality of a pneumatic with the reliability of a solid at the same time as being lighter than a solid wheel and, as the name suggests, puncture-proof.

There is a big variety of quality puncture-proof tyres and they are generally more expensive than pneumatic.



Summary

A good wheel is the most important component of any truck, it is key to how safe the truck is, how reliable it will be, and how long it will last. It is also the part of the truck that has the most influence on the price.

Work out whether you will be using your truck indoors or outdoors, how often you will use it and what weights you will be putting on it. This will help you to decide what wheel you are looking for.

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