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2 Main Types of Luggage Wheels

A luggage bag lying on the street.

I’m sure we can all agree that it’s enough for your luggage to be securely contained in your suitcase. It’s also important that you’re able to move it around with the greatest of ease, comfort, and of course safety. That’s where luggage wheels come in. The thing is, there’s so much variety that it’s almost impossible to tell which ones are right for you. 

You’re just going to like some more than others. Your lifestyle will also determine which one is suited for you. Even the way you put your luggage together will have a bearing on your final choice. That’s why it’s important to know about the different luggage wheels on the market, and it’s a good thing you’re about to.

1. Inline Skate Wheels, the Skateboarder’s Envy

Inline Skate Wheels with different colors.

What is It?

Inline skate wheels are luggage wheels that are made from a hard yet flexible type of plastic. Just as with skateboard wheels, they move in two directions only; forward and backward. The word ‘inline’ speaks to the fact that they don’t pop out of the suitcase and almost seem to be built-in. They commonly come as a pair of wheels though it isn’t unheard of to get a set of three.

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Why Choose This Type?

While some suitcase wheels are made from rubber or plastic, the polyurethane in inline skates reign supreme. They’re more hard-wearing than others, meaning you won’t have to repair or replace them anytime soon. They’re resistant to wear, don’t crack or snap, and don’t pick up debris along the way. What’s more, the chances of getting these wheels stuck in something are low.

What is it Used For?

Say you’re one of those travelers that frequently have trips to distant or remote places. Perhaps you often find yourself on the roughest roads. Inline skate wheels perform well in such environments as they can withstand pretty much anything that’s thrown at them. Their greater allowance of packing space also makes them ideal for someone that travels for a long time with a lot of stuff.

Key Features

These types of wheels are recessed into the suitcase. Also known as roller board or upright wheels, they’re attached to the backside of the suitcase. Most of the time, inline skate wheels are bigger than spinner wheels. As you can imagine, this has some bearing on how long they end up lasting.

Pros

You’re dealing with the most robust on the list since inline skate wheels are caved-in into the bag. Anything that’s tucked away is less likely to sustain damage, after all. Since they roll forwards and backward, the chances of tripping are minimal. With a minimalistic design featuring a pair of wheels, there are fewer components to worry about. 

It’s worth noting that they’re often equipped with two stoppers. This makes for steady luggage because it won’t just roll downhill. That is not to say that all spinner wheel luggage doesn’t have stoppers. It also doesn’t mean that with stoppers you’re safe, because not all stoppers are made the same.

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Cons

Your mobility is limited with inline skates. You can’t move your luggage sideways with these wheels, which can present a challenge in crowded areas. They don’t do too well when wheeling through bumpy surfaces either. In situations like that, you’ll need to be careful because they could take a beating.

The fact that they typically come equipped with stoppers should not put you at ease. These stoppers or legs can sometimes be too short, making it easy for the bag to tip over. It’s therefore your responsibility to make sure you have a good pair of legs on there. Finding out what people have said about the product after buying it will be of great help. 

2. Protruding Spinner Wheels, the Adventurer’s Choice

A luggage bag with wheels on a white background.

What is It?

As the word implies, spinner wheels turn in any direction. They’re said to be ‘protruding’ because they stick out of the frame of the bag. There are soft shell spinners, made from nylon or polyester and there are hard shell ones, which are stronger. A lot of the time you’ll find that they’ve been toughened up by adding leather.

Why Choose this Type?

Your wrists and joints will not be strained when pulling your luggage because these wheels help reduce the amount of force exerted on your body. Even with a lot of stuff packed and with some walking to do, wheeling about will be a breeze. Aisles, alleys, and other narrow pathways are no match for spinner wheels.

When traveling, it’s important that you’re able to get from points A to B as quickly and easily as possible. Having trouble moving your luggage around can cost you valuable time and energy. Going for luggage with spinner wheels can save you all that trouble. You get to your destination quicker and without any hiccups, which is what every traveler wants.

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What is it Used for?

For luggage that’s always on the move, spinners are absolutely perfect. Maybe you don’t usually travel and when you do, it’s for excursions. Spinners make perfect sense for you because you don’t really need strong wheels, just ones that move well. For kids and those with back problems, spinners are the winner because of how little effort is needed when using them.

Key Features 

Spinner wheels are comparatively small. Luggage with these wheels can be pushed and pulled while upright, but it can’t be leaned over and pulled. They mostly come in two pairs, but there are those that only have one. It boils down to what you hope to achieve with your luggage.

Pros 

Spinner wheels offer greater mobility even in the most confined and crowded of spaces. Their 360-degree range allows you to quickly move your luggage out the way when something or someone approaches. You don’t need too much space to move around, and that’s just what you want when you’re on the move.

If you normally pull your luggage through smooth surfaces like the airport floor and carpet, this is perfect for you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve packed a lot of stuff or a little. As long as it’s got spinner wheels, it’ll be easy to steer. Personalizing your luggage so it never gets lost is also possible thanks to these wheels, as you have a wider range of models and colors to choose from.

Cons 

Typically, spinner luggage will have a space underneath it. That’s space you can’t use, meaning you end up with less room than you expect. To add to that, unless you’re standing on level ground or you have stoppers, luggage is likely to roll away. The fact they often have four wheels means your luggage will be heavier and there’ll be more to repair in case of damage. 

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This is the priciest option you have in the world of luggage wheels. Moreover, they have a tendency to pick up debris along the way. This results in stuff getting stuck inside them, which won’t just limit mobility but may result in damage. And since they’re smaller, they’ll be more prone to that damage compared to a big set of wheels.

Luggage Wheels

What is It?

Luggage wheels are wheels that are attached to suitcases and other types of bags. They help with handling your baggage, simplifying the moving process. Whereas before we had to carry our bags, luggage wheels have made it possible to simply pull it along. Your luggage glides on the ground smoothly and is easily guided with a simple handle adjustment.

Brief History

The world was introduced to luggage wheels in the 1970s. The owner of a luggage company, Bernard D Sadow, saw how easily an airport worker moved heavy machinery on a wheeled pallet.

Applying the idea to luggage, he registered his patent two years after the revelation. It was a long time coming too, considering when the wheel was invented and how long luggage has been around, but it changed the way humans travel forever.

FAQs

How Do I Protect My Luggage Wheels?

A luggage bag with broken wheels.

Say for instance you opted to go for the protruding spinner wheels that are exposed. You’re hoping to find a way to protect those wheels so they can continue to serve you for years to come. There are ways you can go about it. You can purchase your luggage and wheels and go about protecting those wheels afterward. 

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Firstly, you can get some wheel covers. Available in rubber or plastic, they’re slipped over the wheels and screwed into the base of your luggage. Sure, they don’t cover the entire wheel. Still, they can help shield them from any scratches and bumps on the way.

Another option is to get a bag protector. Serving as a sort of jersey or fabric cover for your luggage, they cover the entire bag. This keeps it protected from dust, scuff marks, and more. You can even pick out a color or pattern of your choice to show off a bit of personality.

And if you don’t want to buy and would rather DIY, you can always make your own luggage protector. A canvas sack or large cloth laundry bag will do the trick. You just slip in your bag, close it, and attach your tag so everybody knows it’s yours. This option is certainly not as visually appealing as the other two, but it gets the job done. 

It’s not a good idea to pack beyond capacity because that will put a strain on your wheels. Balancing out your stuff so that one side isn’t burdened more than others is also important. When you come across a rough surface, pick up the bag. Instead of pulling your luggage all over the show, consider shipping it to your destination. 

If your luggage wheels show signs of weakness, have them replaced. Just ensure that you’re replacing the old ones with the right kind of wheels, or there’ll be trouble. Take caution as you go about installing the new wheels. One wrong move and you could damage the whole set-up.

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How Can I Make My Luggage Wheels Roll Better?

There may come a time in your luggage life when the wheels don’t roll as smoothly as they used to. If this happens, don’t panic, it isn’t quite yet the time for a replacement. Why even wait for them to start malfunctioning? The moment you come back from a vacation or work trip, you can nip it in the bud.

Your focus will be on the bearings because that’s what’s responsible for keeping the wheels moving. If they happen to be dry, it’s your job to apply some oil around them. What this does is keep them working at peak performance. It also serves to make the bearings more durable, because with dryness comes malfunction.

How Do I Clean My Luggage Wheels? 

A screwdriver is required for you to be able to remove the screws, and ultimately; the wheels. You’ll push the bearings of the wheels and put them aside safely. That’s when you clean them, without water and without dirt getting inside. You then apply the oil to the bearings and wipe down the wheels.

When you’re done wiping the wheels, you can wash them using soap and water. You get a cloth and wipe off the water, and you put everything back together. Take care to put the bearings back as they were and take your time. Just like that, you’ve got clean wheels both on the inside and the outside.

What to Keep in Mind when Shopping for Luggage Wheels

A man selecting a luggage bag on the store.

1. Material

What your wheels are made of will factor into how long they last. You want to go for harder materials that can withstand pressure and survive collisions. Softer materials will give into whatever pressure it’s exposed to, resulting in misshapen wheels. Polyurethane is known to be the best material for luggage wheels, having less rolling resistance and being more durable. 

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You need to take note of the kind of siding used in the bag, even if it’s just a small strip. You’ll then think about which type of siding is specifically best for you. Soft siding gives more way, so you can fill the bag to capacity freely. Hard siding won’t budge as much, but it will offer more resistance to impact and pressure.

2. Portability

The whole point of having luggage wheels is to be able to transport your luggage easily and comfortably without any errors. If your wheels fail to help you achieve that, then it defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it? It’s for that reason that you need to make sure your wheels are built for motion.

You can do this by taking the suitcase for a spin around the store or just checking to see if it has some proper ball bearings.

3. Fastening Technique

It’ll do you well to figure out how the wheels are attached to the bag. Rivets are not as reliable as screws, they can quickly go loose. What’s more, screws are replaceable, and you know what a headache it can be buying something with irreplaceable parts. The fastening of the wheels has great bearing on the general mobility and stability of your luggage, so pay attention to that.

4. Protection Framework

A white luggage bag with two wheels.

Chances are, you’re going to bump into a corner once in a while or hit your suitcase against something by mistake. Sometimes you’ll be in such a rush that you handle your luggage roughly and end up regretting it later. Having your wheels protected is the key to having functional wheels for a long time.

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Since protruding spinner wheels are fully exposed, they lack the kind of protection inline skate wheels boast of.

5. Manufacturer’s Warranty

While you may not be expecting the worst, it’s best for you to prepare for it.  Before you decide on committing to a purchase, you’ve got to check the warranty. It may seem like a one-size-fits-all set-up with these insurance covers, but don’t be fooled. Some warranties are much longer than others, and those are the ones you want to go for. 

6. Weight

Something else worth considering is weight, and for a few reasons too. The heaviness of both the bag and the wheels needs to be taken into consideration. You wouldn’t want to have heavy wheels on an already heavy bag, especially if you’ll be packing some heavy stuff.

Knowing there are weight limits at airports and such, remaining conscious of weight is crucial to avoid any bad experiences.

7. Stoppers

There’s a risk you’ll lose your luggage if it happens to roll away while you aren’t watching. Stoppers or foot bumpers act as a ‘brake’ that keeps it in the same place, regardless of whatever slope you’re standing on. Stoppers must be made from harder materials so they don’t break easily. They should also be long enough so it isn’t easy tipping the bag over.

8. Number of Wheels

A luggage bags with different Number of Wheels.

You must’ve noticed that some suitcases have more wheels than others, with some having as many as eight. With four wheels, you have greater stability and more freedom of movement. Two wheels, however, perform exceptionally well when rolling over rough surfaces. You, therefore, have to decide if you value stability and movement over durability.

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