These days, we crave variety and customization in the products we purchase, whether it be a piping hot morning coffee or the latest smartphone. This variety is especially important when it comes to moving anything heavy on casters, and the same goes for the brakes used to stop the caster (and the cart they’re attached to) from moving. We’ve covered the main types of brakes here, but two brakes in particular are extremely important and most commonly provide you with the exact benefits you need for your business. These two brakes are the tech lock brake and the total lock brake. In this post, you will learn how tech lock brakes can work in your business and how you might approach selecting a brake type in general.
As noted here, tech lock/face contact brakes provide a more definite way of engaging the brake than side lock brakes. Tech lock brakes, however, are not quite as solid as total lock brakes. Both of these types of brakes normally use the same type of mechanism for engaging the brake, a pedal. In other words, you push on a pedal and the brake is engaged, so both types of brakes have virtually the exact same movement and outcome (the brake is engaged). So, when you are deciding on a brake style, don’t necessarily limit yourself to one type, like tech lock brakes or total lock brakes. Let your specific situation and problem guide your purchase.
TECH LOCK BRAKES, WHY?
So, if total lock brakes are more secure, then why wouldn’t you just always select total lock brakes over tech lock brakes? There are some important reasons why you might choose tech lock over total lock brakes. The most practical reason is that you can add tech lock brakes on after you have previously purchased casters (retrofitted). An example of this style of brake is the Caster Connection face contact brake (FCB). On the other hand, total lock brakes are integrated into the rig itself, so you can’t really modify your current rig to become a total lock brake. You really have to replace the whole caster. There is one workaround that you can see here, but this involves adding multiple components rather than getting a true total lock brake.
Another reason for choosing tech lock brakes over total lock brakes has to do with the nature of the rig itself. Tech lock brakes come on rigid, standard-lead, and extended-lead caster rigs. That means that you have the versatility to choose which type of caster rig you want. You can choose an extended-lead rig and get the benefits that an extended-lead rig offers you in ergonomics. If you’re not familiar with the different rig types, you can learn more here, but an extended-lead rig will essentially allow you to push more weight easier. You do not have this option with a total lock brake, since as of this moment, there is no manufactured total lock brake on an extended-lead rig. This fact is a very important factor to consider when choosing your brake type.
There is also another instance where total lock brakes might not be the best choice. This has to do with a particular type of caster, called a round-stem caster. If you’re unfamiliar with stem casters, you can read more here. The round part of a “round-stem” caster simply refers to the shape of the stem, which is essentially shaped like a wand. Because of this circular shaped stem, you often have twisting, even if you have a total lock system, and this can cause further strain on the stem. In this case, a tech lock brake is possibly a better choice, but your application will dictate the best choice, and there are other specialty choices in fields such as the medical industry, on hospital beds for example, which have unique total lock brakes.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
If you have casters already and you need brakes, you should simply go out and buy some tech lock brakes that are designed to attach to your casters (post assembly), right? Well, not so fast. Although this is extremely convenient in some cases, it might not be the best solution for you long term. You need to know what you’re getting into.
Field-installable brakes come with their own disadvantages, and not all tech lock brakes are made alike. This is something that is easy to overlook because there are so many brakes out on the market that they all tend to look the same. Like with virtually all products, quality is easy to spot once you focus on the product for a second. Brakes are no different.
Think about this. Let’s say that someone offered you two pieces of metal and you were really concerned with durability. The first piece was a solid piece of metal, while the next one was two pieces of metal bolted together. It’s easy to guess which one you would take. The solid piece of metal would be the obvious choice. You may be able to strengthen the area around the bolt, but this will always be a possible point of failure, and you may encounter problems later. You may eventually have to replace this piece of metal.
Similarly, thin metal on the brakes and around the joint where they are retrofitted to the rig can develop problems at the joint. If the brake is of a higher quality, then you should be okay as far as durability is concerned, but this is your decision, and you may be replacing brakes in the future. It’s that simple.
Even if your brakes don’t break, noise can be a real issue. Let’s say that the metal on the brakes begins to loosen but doesn’t totally fail. As you push the cart along, the brake can start to clank around. Times this by however many carts you have, and you have a substantial noise increase on your hands. So over time, you most likely need to maintain these brakes more than other brake types that have been built into the rig in the factory or which utilize a solid piece of metal on the fork itself, like the built-in brake caster rig.
This isn’t a small or insignificant feature either. In fact, you may very well find that your high-quality brakes outlast your caster wheels. Now you can simply replace the wheels, without replacing the entire rig or brakes. This can save you significant time and money.
Pedals, in addition to the joint, can receive a ton of pressure and abuse from steel-toe boots and the like. Just imagine that 350-pound guy you work with who looks like Dwayne Johnson’s bodyguard. Every time he pushes down on that brake, you might hold your breath a little. A solid aluminum pedal and fork are really going to increase the life of your brakes. You’re not going to have to worry about replacing the brake because the pedal or fork failed, especially if the pedal is a thicker piece of aluminum.
Again, you have options, but think about the time that goes into maintenance and repair. Do you have the time to devote to this, or do you want a bulletproof solution that you simply forget about because it works so well? There is no right answer, as long as you know the facts and how they apply to your unique situation. That means that one solution for you might be to replace your current rigs with new rigs that have a built-in brake rather than simply adding on a retrofitted face contact brake. If you’re reading this before you have your rig, then this is even easier.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Another important aspect of selecting tech lock brakes is the design of the brake itself. The design of the brake offers tremendous practical advantageous to you. At times, this is where you may need to look at different types of total lock brakes as well, so that you can find the perfect design for your needs.
The main question to ask is “What cart are these going on and how does the design of the brake limit what I or my employees can do?” For most tech lock brakes, the pedal position is the most important aspect of design, particularly when it comes to your cart. If the pedal is positioned too high up on the wheel, then this leads to difficulties in accessing the pedal itself if the caster is under the cart to a high degree. However, if the pedal is positioned towards the back, then you don’t have to reach your foot under the cart to reach the pedal. This is a much more efficient setup since you don’t have to waste time and energy reaching your foot under the cart. For an even more efficient setup, there are certain total lock brakes that take design to another level. Find this information in this article and video.
As you can see, you’ve got lots of options when it comes to tech lock brakes. Your unique situation determines which brakes are right for you. If you would like a professional’s help navigating all of the different scenarios in selecting your brakes, including total lock brakes, we would love to guide you through the process and make sure that you have the right personalized setup.
Tech lock brakes are just one of the many choices you have in life, and although they might not provide you as much instant gratification as that specialty coffee, the right brakes will affect your efficiency and—dare we say—joy much more than a morning’s coffee kick.
We’ve got over 30 years of experience with casters and their brakes, and we’d love to talk. Get in contact with us by pressing on the link below. Let’s chat!