Best wheel dollies and skates

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By Gary Stretton

01 July 2018

Best_wheel_dollies_2018 : credit: © Gary Stretton

Gary Stretton reveals the best gear to help move dormant Land Rovers in confined spaces

Moving a driven Land Rover around in an area barely larger than its own footprint is no mean feat and similarly, moving a powerless one around can be something of a chore if not almost impossible single-handedly without inducing a hernia. But there is a solution in the shape of wheel skates and dollies. Once mounted on a set of these, any Land Rover can be manoeuvred safely around small garages and workshops, and long-term projects can be pushed out of the way to create access down one side, for example. The flexibility offered by skates and dollies can transform how you work, utilise precious space and save lots of time and effort.

Dollies are simple affairs: four sturdy castors on a platform suitably shaped to accept a tyre. The vehicle requires jacking up for each dolly to be placed beneath each tyre in turn. Skates on the other hand are more sophisticated and use a hydraulic horizontal ram to lift the wheel onto the skate without the need for a trolley jack. Quick and simple. But which is best? Both types have their benefits and considerations so understanding each in relation to your needs is the key.

To gain the best experience from either type you need to consider the surface they will be rolling on. This is because both types are available with nylon or cast iron wheels and these, too, have their pros and cons. In short, nylon wheels are ideal for smooth floated concrete floors in particular, while cast iron types will run on most less smooth concrete surfaces but with much more noise. They might also break through painted surfaces of floors. Neither types like broken surfaces or unswept floors which will snag the wheels. The test surface was a painted concrete floor, not floated but still smooth. If you intend leaving a project on skates or dollies for very prolonged periods of time, the steel types might be better. Good quality nylon castors should not be expected to distort if left over a period of time with heavy loads on them, or if accidentally overloaded. Time constraints prevent us from testing this aspect. The other consideration to mention is storage. A set of four takes up space when not in use and are best hung up out of the way if possible.

So when push comes to shove and swivel, which is best for your needs?

What to look for

The weight rating of a skate or dolly is critical in terms of safety but also in terms of manoeuvrability. If overloaded, bearings grind rather than roll and wear out prematurely. Your vehicle’s weight must be known before buying to avoid disappointment. For the test, all the skates are rated above 450 kg per vehicle wheel giving 1800 kg in total. The higher the rating, the better the castors will cope.

Wheel brakes are worthwhile if your floor is on an incline or if a stored vehicle is adjacent to anything that it must avoid contact with, such as another vehicle or a doorway.

Wheel bed shapes and sizes vary but all those tested easily accepted a 7.50 x 16 wheel and tyre, with most capable of much wider profile tyres. Always check first though.

Pushability is based on the ease with which our test 109 Station Wagon could be pushed around in a confined space by one man. Ideally, two people should be used but the bar had to be set somewhere.

CLARKE AWD1 DOLLIES

Price (pair): £53.99

Similar, though not identical in design and dimensions to Draper’s, the Clarke dollies offer a 500 kg each rating. The 75 mm nylon castors are supplied unfitted and in use roll and swivel well, although locks aren’t included. The curved, smooth dolly bed holds the tyre securely and self-centres when loaded.

Key features
• Load rating: 500 kg each
• Dimensions: 603 x 370 x 150
• Nylon non-marking castors
• Curved dolly bed with strengthening bars/handles
• Castors supplied unfitted

Search: Item 051310205; machinemart.co.uk

CJ AUTOS DOLLIES

Price (pair): £186

In spite of their weight and size, these skates are ready assembled and very quick to fit and use. Simply extend the roller arms until they fit either side of the tyre, then pump the piston pedal by foot to move the ram and arms inwards, lifting the wheel easily. The rolling cylinders on each arm ensure centering a wheel is no effort. In use, the nylon castors made light work of the concrete floor and could be swivelled readily.

Key features
​​​​​​• Load rating: 680 kg each
• Hydraulic rams
• Nylon PU castors, two braked per skate
• Steel wheel rollers 
• Up to 17-inch wheel rims
• Up to 330 mm tyre width
• Lowering safety stop pin
• Integral carry handle

Search: Item CM02B, cjautosheywood.co.uk

DRAPER 454 KG DOLLIES

Price (pair): £76

Draper’s skates are rated at 454 kg, the lowest on test but they coped well regardless. The curved dollies are easy to lower wheels into and feature strengthening bars that double as handles for carrying and positioning. You could also safely hang them on a wall using the handles. The nylon castors are supplied unfitted and in use rolled well on our test surface.

Key features
• Load rating: 454 kg each
• Dimensions: 600 x 300 x 100
• Nylon non-marking castors
• Curved dolly bed with strengthening bars/handles
• Castors supplied unfitted

Search: Item 23253, drapertools.com

SEALEY 680 KG DOLLIES

Price (pair): £95

Sealey’s dolly is the simplest on test – a V-shaped section of very thick steel with a cast iron castor in each corner. Dimensionally, they are the smallest tested but were enough for the 7.50x16 tyres and with a gutsy 680 kg each rating. Two of the castors per dolly feature locks for additional safety. The castors rolled and swivelled well, though typically, being solid metal, they need more effort to move initially. Each castor features a single mounting nut so assembly is quick. The steel plate has a chequer plate pattern for additional grip. The integral carry handle is also useful for storage on a wall hook.

Key features
• Load rating: 680 kg each
• Maximum tyre width: 250 mm
• Nylon non-marking castors
• V-shaped chequer patterned dolly bed
• Integral carry handle
• Castors supplied unfitted
• Two locking castors per dolly

Search: Item WS681, sealey.co.uk

CJ AUTOS SKATES

Price (pair): £96

These basic-looking dollies use chunky steel sections sat atop four 75 mm castors. The castors are supplied unfitted and feature a single bolt each. They are taller than the others tested, so the vehicle needs jacking slightly higher. Once on, the tyres dig into the cross beams securely. There are no castor locks but the castors rolled and swivelled very easily and smoothly.

Key features
• Load rating: 500 kg each minimum
• Suitable tyre sizes: 10-inch to 20-inch
• Nylon non-marking castors
• Castors supplied unfitted
• Available singularly

Search: Item CM04Acjautosheywood.co.uk

 

VERDICT

Struggling with a stranded vehicle in a garage or workshop can be time-consuming, frustrating and potentially dangerous. Trying to manoeuvre a vehicle as large and heavy as a Land Rover into a tight space is doubly difficult, so the use of dollies or skates is perfect for maximising space and working safely. The types tested here all made easy work of shunting the stricken 109 backwards and forwards and sideways, though some did it more easily than others.

The Sealey dollies are as simple as you can get, but don’t judge their design against them. They are compact, easy to carry and store and feature that 680 kg rating. The only mark against them in this company was their steel wheels, which moved perfectly well but take more effort to get moving. If your floor is painted or not of high strength concrete they may dig into the surface. As a bonus, they do feature locking castors, too.

Draper and Clarke use very similar-designed dollies and both work very well indeed. Their curved beds are self centering, making loading quick and easy. The only way to distinguish them is load rating, which the Clarke wins; and pricing, and again the Clarke wins. However, if height is an issue for you, the Draper dollies sit about an inch lower when loaded.

The CJ Autos dollies are of hefty design and well constructed. The large castors made light work of the 109 and were the easiest dollies to push around. Due to their height, ensure you can lift your vehicle high enough with a jack to fit them. My only reservation for very long-term use was whether their cross-beam design might affect tyres, as they have open frame bottoms. That said, they performed admirably in the test.

Locking pin prevents the ram slipping under load

Finding suitably rated skates that manufacturers were willing to be tested proved more difficult than you might expect so full marks to CJ Autos for submitting theirs. To use they were simplicity itself. The steel rollers make lowering a wheel onto them a self-centering cinch and the pedal-operated ram lifted the wheel in a dozen or so pumps. To move they again proved much easier than expected, and swivelled well enough to make moving the 109 into a tight corner an achievable one-man task. The only possible drawback for anyone using them in a small domestic garage is their size for storage, but don’t worry about that because a friend is sure to want a loan of them.

The honours go to Clarke for that ideal combination of capacity, ease of use and price; worthy DIY winners, while CJ Autos take the Pro Award for their skates. If you regularly work with stricken vehicles in a busy workshop scenario, these will free up vital time and space allowing safe movement of vehicles in confined areas – and they don’t cost a fortune.