There are an estimated two million new wheelchair users in the U.S. every year. Whether you're born with limited mobility or experience it as a result of an injury or illness, the adjustment to life in a wheelchair isn't easy; with so many different varieties (titanium wheelchair vs. aluminum, rigid wheelchair vs folding) and accessories, choosing and caring for your new wheels can be a tall order. When it comes to wheelchair bearings, the process can become even more confusing. We've put together a simple buyer's guide to ensure you know everything you need to when it comes to wheelchair bearings.
What Are Wheelchair Bearings?
In technical terms, wheelchair bearings are cylindrical housings that allow for the free movement of caster wheels, caster forks, and rear wheels on manual wheelchairs, motors, and gearboxes. Because the average manual wheelchair has 12 bearings, they play a crucial role in its ability to move smoothly.
What Are The Signs That My Wheelchair Bearings Need To Be Replaced?
Unfortunately, wheelchair bearings can become worn; if they aren't replaced, this can further damage the wheelchair part that the bearing is attached to. Keep an eye out for the following signs of deterioration:
- Increased effort to push a wheelchair (or self-propel)
- Decreased agility of a manual wheelchair
- Squeaks, groans, etc. of manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and scooters
- Outright failure of the bearing (the bearing breaks apart)
How Will I Know What Bearings To Buy?
You'll need to know three things in order to buy the right bearing for your wheelchair: the size of the bearing, the reference number (if available), and the bearing type. Most wheelchair bearings possess an alpha-numeric reference stamped on their side, referring to its type and size. Any reference numbers ending in Z, ZZ, RS, or 2RS are all interchangeable. If the reference number is worn off, you'll have to measure it yourself. Fortunately, you may be able to see it stamped on the other side; you should also pay attention to the presence of a flange or snap ring as this can help you narrow down your options.
Approximately 10% of the world's population is currently living with a disability. To those who fall under that category, we hope this article has made your understanding of wheelchair bearings a little bit clearer.