Purchasing a new suitcase can be a strenuous task. Choosing between different brands, different design and materials. Anyone who had to travel with a suitcase with a broken wheel before recognizes the importance of good suitcase wheels. Brands advertise the wheels of their products with many different terms which makes choosing a suitcase with good wheels without breaking the bank even more difficult. This guide aims to provide you with everything you need to know about suitcase wheels to make an informed choice when shopping. Specifically, we hope to answer the following questions:
- What types of suitcase wheels are there?
- Are Suitcases with double wheels better than suitcases with single wheels?
- Are suitcases with inline skate wheels better than suitcases with normal wheels?
- How can I recognize a good suitcase wheel?
- What suitcase has the best wheels?
- What wheeled holdall has the best wheels?
- What does this mean for repairing the wheels of the suitcase?
- Availability of Replacement Suitcase Wheels
- Can I just use universal suitcase replacement wheels?
What types of suitcase wheels are there?
To get a better understanding of the different options we are first looking at the different types of wheels that are available. While some can be found on all kinds of suitcases, others may only be found on specific product types.
Suitcases with single wheels can mostly be found on modern 4-wheels suitcases. This type of wheel features an axis which is held by the suspension on both sides with the wheel being in the center. Due to this construction single wheels typically have a thicker wheel compared to double wheels. This type of wheel is very durable due to the thickness of the wheel but has the risk of increased wear or even melting if debris is stuck between the wheel and the wheel housing which is not timely removed.
Many brands today offer suitcases with double wheels. Compared to single wheels the axis is held by the suspension not on both ends of the axis but in the center with the wheels being on each end of the axis like car wheels. In comparison to single wheels each wheel of the double wheel is typically slimmer compared to single wheels to compensate for additional weight. Many travelers prefer double wheels as the weight is distributed more evenly and the wheel has a reduced risk of getting stuck due to debris.
Castor wheels differentiate themselves from single and double wheels due to their wheel housing. For castor wheels the wheel housing is typically integrated into the suitcase shell on the backside and in some cases in the form of corner wheels. Due to the wheel housing being integrated into the shell and only sticking out partially, castor wheels are typically larger compared to regular 4-wheel suitcases with single wheels. While castor wheels are very resilient their form factor limits their use to 2-wheel suitcases as well as holdalls which frequently use castor wheels. Many travellers prefer such 2-wheel suitcases as they can be pulled better on two wheels compared to 4-wheel suitcases and do not roll away e.g., on trains.
Inline Skate Wheels / Rollerblade Wheels
Inline Skates are well known to roll very smoothly and over a long distance. So, it comes as no surprise that many brands have chosen to offer suitcases with Inline Skate or Rollerblade wheels. This type of wheel typically features a ball bearing as well as a relatively large size and is typically made from hard polyurethane. Inline Skate Wheels are available both in the shape of castor wheels as well as single wheels. The advantages and disadvantages of this type of wheel are thus similar to the types of wheels described above. The performance of this type of wheel greatly depends on the quality of inline skate wheel used and has the potential disadvantage of increased weight compared to more traditional wheels.
Spinner Wheels & Swivel Wheels
When shopping for a new suitcase many websites and brands will refer to the wheels as spinner wheels or swivel wheels. These are technically no separate type of suitcase wheel but describe wheels which can be turned in all directions. In other cases, brands may refer to them also as 360° rotating wheels. Today, this functionality is a common feature for all 4-wheel suitcases.
Are Suitcases with double wheels better than suitcases with single wheels?
At suitcase.repair we regularly receive messages from customers asking us if they should purchase a suitcase with single wheels or double wheels. As mentioned in the description of the different wheel types above each type of wheel has its own advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Suitcases with Single Wheels
Due to the architecture of single wheels, they have the advantage of a thicker wheel. This has the benefit of not as easily getting stuck between tiles or breaking off while maintaining a reasonable running distance. The disadvantage ofrunasing a suitcase with single wheels is typically that for most single wheels there is a higher risk of debris being stuck between the wheel and the wheel housing (especially when pulling the item on two wheels) which could cause the wheel to be run down quickly or even melt.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Suitcases with Double Wheels
Suitcases with double wheels have the reputation of being more balanced compared to single wheels. While each wheel is slimmer (to compensate for additional weight) the total of 8 wheels help to stabilize the suitcase and makes it easier to navigate difficult terrain e.g., cobblestones. Additionally, the central axis prevents debris from getting stuck between the wheel housing and the wheel as is the case for single wheels. Apart from all these benefits this type of wheel has, however, a greater risk of wheels (or part of the wheel) getting torn off during transport as they are more exposed.
Overall many travellers today perceive double wheels as more comfortable and more convenient compared to single wheels. Both types of wheels have, however, their own advantages and disadvantages which may matter more or less to you based on your travel style. When it comes to the smoothness of rolling and the silence of the wheel the wheel type is of less importance than the quality of the wheel used inside. Even when many brands use double wheels today, you will still find many premium brands offering suitcases with single wheels. As single wheels are also popular among very cheap items due to their lower entry price it is important to have a close look at these wheels before purchase.
Are suitcases with inline skate wheels better than suitcases with normal wheels?
Suitcase wheels come in many different forms and quality classes. As described above single wheels and double wheels are among the most common wheel types. Inline Skate wheels have the added benefit of featuring a ball bearing which ensures the wheel runs more stable and more smoothly. If the inline skate wheel will perform better than regular suitcase wheels not only depend on the quality of the ball bearing used but also on the rubber layer around it. Typically, this rubber layer is made from Polyurethane. Finding the right softness for this material is essential to ensure that the wheel can hold the weight of the suitcase, is not showing excessive wear and is not too loud. A too hard wheel can often lead to the material becoming brittle while a too soft wheel will need to be exchanged frequently due to the increased wear on the wheel.
From our experience at suitcase.repair many brands using inline skate wheels choose them because they are available on the market for comparably low prices and do little adjustments to the material. In most cases that unfortunately leads to the material composition not being ideal for suitcases with the wheels being very loud, easily getting brittle or being worn down quickly. While there are notable exceptions it will be difficult to identify such a difference during purchase. Additionally, higher quality inline skate wheels tend to be heavier compared to regular wheels which are optimized for the lowest possible weight increasing the total weight on your luggage.
On the upside suitcases with high quality inline skate wheels have the potential to roll very smoothly and absorb shocks better than other wheels if the wheel housing is optimized for such wheels. The main draw to these wheels is for many the ability for DIY repairs which are easier than for regular wheels if you can find replacement wheels with a similar thickness and diameter compared to the original wheels.
If suitcases with inline skate wheels are the right choice for you depends strongly on your DIY capabilities and your ability to spot a suitcase which uses a high quality of wheels which can often be hard to identify.
How can I recognize a good suitcase wheel?
Comparing the wheels on different suitcases of multiple brands we are overwhelmed by many marketing terms which make identifying the right wheels for you a difficult task. As described above, in the case of spinner and swivel wheels many terms are only used for marketing purposes and do not indicate a difference in the wheel itself. Below you will find a description of commonly referred to suitcase wheel features and what this means for choosing a suitcase with good wheels.
Most suitcase wheels are made from Nylon material for the wheel housing and a mixture of materials for the wheel itself. For parts which are necessary for bearing the load they are typically also made from Nylon or similar materials such as Polypropylene. Rubberized wheels typically refer to the wheel’s top coating which is in some cases from a rubber like material. In most cases Polyurethane is used for this purpose. As with Inline Skate wheels and other types of wheels, wheel manufacturers need to balance the softness which helps make the wheels more silent, prevents the material from being brittle and helps the wheel to roll more smoothly and the hardness which helps to prevent excessive wear and tear and prevents. Shopping suitcases online you will find suitcases ranging from being without any rubber / polyurethane wheels to those which are very soft on the outside. Unfortunately, when shopping online few brands include details if their wheels are rubberized. While common for higher priced items we recommend checking the wheel in-store by pressing your fingernail slightly into the wheel.
Ball bearing wheels
Ball bearings are used in many appliances from skateboards to blenders and bicycles. They help to prevent friction especially for parts which are moving faster and are thus considered beneficial for usage in suitcase wheels as well. While some wheels such as inline skate wheels or skateboard wheels use ball bearings as a standard only few suitcase wheels will feature ball bearings. The reason for this is that ball bearings add in many cases additional weight and present a great increase in production cost making the suitcase more expensive. While adding comfort when traveling the additional cost and weight of ball bearings makes them more unattractive for casual and holiday travellers and may primarily appeal to business travellers using their suitcase daily. Should you buy a more expensive suitcase just because of wheels with ball-bearings? That depends on your preferences, for some the additional spend may be justified by the increased comfort, while others may opt for an item without ball bearings and simply replace the wheels more often if they show too much wear.
Shopping for a new suitcase you may come across the term Hinomoto wheels. But what does this mean? Hinomoto is a Japanese manufacturer of suitcase wheels which is renowned for the high quality of their wheels. Some brands choose to indicate the manufacturer of their wheels as a sign of quality. In many cases the wheel coating will also have the Hinomoto branding on it which makes it possible to identify the wheels. It is however important to note that also for Hinomoto wheels there are different types (e.g., single wheels and double wheels) and quality levels making it difficult to compare them. Should you buy specifically a product with Hinomoto wheels? Hinomoto wheels are a reputable choice of wheels which are usually found in higher priced items. We do however not recommend to only look for suitcases with Hinomoto wheels as there are also high-quality wheels from other manufacturers which may provide equal or better experiences at different price points. For larger brands Hinomoto will also wheels without the Hinomoto branding so you will not be able to identify if Hinomoto wheels are used but must trust the quality of the wheels you see in stores or online.
Most travellers hope to avoid waking up the neighborhood when returning from a trip and for good reasons. For this reason, many brands advertise their wheels as being extra silent. These wheels typically have a thicker rubber / polyurethane coating making the top layer softer and decreasing the noise level. As with rubberized wheels in general you can only trust the brand explanations and images to check if the wheels are rubberized and how thick this layer is when shipping online. For shopping in stores, you can check the wheel with your fingernails. Due to the soft coating of these wheels they tend to show signs of wear slightly earlier compared to other wheels resulting in exchanging the wheels a little earlier. This should however matter most if you are travelling frequently.
In recent years brands started to advertise additional suspensions in their wheels meant to reduce vibrations and noise. From our experience at suitcase.repair such suspensions in the wheel housing typically only have very little impact on the level of vibration you feel when moving the suitcase as the suspension will not have much effect on more challenging terrain such as cobblestones or gravel.
Suitcases with extra-large wheels
The size of the wheels used on a suitcase can have a great impact on how easily you can move over difficult terrain and are frequently requested by customers. The size of the wheels used can vary greatly based on the brand. Many items in the entry price range tend to have small wheels with a diameter as small as 4 cm. In the medium and upper price ranges wheel sizes may range from 5 to 8 cm in diameter. Typically, the wheels for cabin size items have a 0.5 to 1 cm smaller diameter compared to the wheels for larger size items. While larger wheels have many benefits, they also have some disadvantages such as a higher chance of getting damaged due to sticking out further, a higher production cost and most importantly they cause a reduction of packing volume to maintain the overall size restrictions. For this reason, most brands try to balance the wheel size and use wheels with a diameter of 5-6 cm.
The wheel housing
Nearly as important as the wheel itself is the wheel housing. The wheel housing is used to attach the wheel to the suitcase and should prevent the wheel from getting pressed inside the suitcase. For this purpose, many brands add additional reinforcements on the inside of the shell to prevent the shell from being pressed inside. You can see reinforcements by opening the maintenance zipper in the middle of the shell and looking at the wheel mount.
Another factor to consider about the wheel housing is the use of rivets or alternatively screws to attach the wheel housing to the suitcase. The use of rivets has the benefit of providing a great amount of stability reducing the chance of damages to your suitcase. On the downside rivets are difficult to remove and replace requiring a professional to assist you in any repair. Some brands reduce this burden by making it possible to replace the wheel without the wheel housing. While this is a great option you should be prepared for a more complicated and costly repair in case the wheel housing gets damaged. For wheel housings which are attached using screws the repair is usually much simpler and does not require professional assistance. Choosing between items using rivets and screws we typically recommend items with rivets for frequent travellers due to added strength.
What suitcase has the best wheels?
Choosing the suitcase with the best wheels is a difficult task as it greatly depends on your travel habits, typical terrains you travel on as well as your preferences and budget.
We recommend going through the different suitcase wheel features above and considering if these are required features for your travel. In many cases a trip to a nearby luggage store will also be a great choice to compare different options. Most suitcases in the medium price range (starting at € 150 for large size items) feature a decent standard of suitcase wheels which have a diameter of 5-6 cm (based on the suitcase size) and a slight amount of rubberization however lack advanced features such as extra-large wheels, Hinomoto wheels or additional suspension. From our experience these wheels will satisfy the requirements of most customers. For more demanding customers or frequent travellers there are great options for suitcase wheels with more advanced features be however prepared to spend € 350 and above for such items.
Another factor to consider is the availability of matching spare parts should you need to replace these parts in the future. Checking the availability before purchase helps you avoid unpleasant surprises after purchase.
What wheeled holdall has the best wheels?
Wheeled holdalls typically use castor wheels either mounted in the center or at the side of the holdall. Holdalls are very popular as they are very robust and have a great packing volume. Finding a holdall with great wheels can however be challenging as many brands use wheels which are attached using rivets. This makes their replacement complicated and, in many cases, expensive. Thus, you will want to check if there are holdalls available where the wheel housing is attached using screws.
Regarding the wheels it is worth checking if the wheels are using a ball bearing and have a soft outer coating. You should avoid wheels out of hard plastic or wheels with a small diameter. Some holdalls also feature larger wheels mounted to the side of the holdall which help to avoid debris getting stuck within the wheel housing.
Another factor to consider is the availability of matching spare parts should you need to replace the wheels of your holdall. We recommend checking the availability of matching spare parts before purchase already to ensure you can use your holdall for a long time.
What does this mean for repairing the wheels of the suitcase?
Suitcase wheels (as well as wheels for holdalls) are typically designed to fit a specific model of suitcase. To ensure any replacement wheel will fit properly on your suitcase you must use a replacement wheel which has been designed to specifically fit this model. Using a wheel which has been designed for a different item could result in the item not fitting at all due to having a different shape or the holes not aligning with the mounting holes on your suitcase.
Due to the wide variety of different wheel types of brands typically make spare parts available for a certain time frame. The time frame for how long spare parts is available depends on many factors such as the warranty period the item comes with, cost and availability to manufacture these spare parts, availability of machines and suppliers. It is not rare that the machines to make certain parts are no longer being used and replaced with new machines or that suppliers go out of business. In such cases brands will typically replace items where the damage is covered by the warranty. For out-of-warranty repairs there is, however, a low chance of finding alternative spare parts matching your item.
Availability of Replacement Suitcase Wheels
So how can you know if spare parts are available for your suitcase? Most brands will describe on their website for which period spare parts will be available. For brands not disclosing this information publicly you may need to contact their customer service to get this information. A good alternative is also to check if spare parts for the brand you are interested in purchasing an item from is listed on suitcase.repair. Brands who partner with suitcase.repair are dedicated to providing a great aftersales experience to their customers and provide a seamless and convenient way to receive spare parts for their products.
As providing a repair service and storing spare parts for an extended period (sometimes up to 20 years) will be a high expense for many brands, you will find that brands selling items in the medium and upper price range offer spare parts typically for a longer period. For some very cheap items and unbranded products it might in comparison be difficult to obtain any fitting spare parts at all.
Can I just use universal suitcase replacement wheels?
Most suitcase wheels are designed exactly for one suitcase model. Additionally, on 4-wheel suitcases the different wheels will have a different orientation and for different sizes a different height. While many universal suitcase replacement wheels are offered online, in most cases they will not fit the item exactly or would require you to make changes to your suitcase or the wheel to fit them. In many cases a difference in wheel height can additionally cause issues with the suitcase no longer being balanced or even touching the ground when being pulled on two wheels. Unfortunately, these suitcase replacement wheels are not universally usable which is why we recommend you to reach out to the brand directly or search for exactly matching spare parts on suitcase.repair.
As mentioned before, for very simple inline skate wheels a DIY repair might be possible with new inline skate wheels if the wheel diameter and the size of the axis match exactly. Please, however, pay attention to the strength of the wheel housing as it might be damaged already or get damaged by removing the existing wheel.
Today there are many different options of suitcase wheel types available and many features which can make travel more comfortable. The first step to finding the perfect suitcase for your needs is always about understanding your travel habits and requirements for your new suitcase. An investment in a suitcase in the medium price range typically already offers a decent level of comfort and is worth considering. To see if the additional benefits of more expensive items (also considering other parts than the wheels) are worth the additional spending we recommend visiting a professional luggage retailer to compare the items in person.While a good wheel can make travelling a lot easier it typically does not prevent damage. Hence, checking the availability (with the brand directly or on suitcase.repair) of matching spare parts and the period for which spare parts are available should be a consideration for every purchase.