Every year there are two million new wheelchair users in the United States. When you have limited mobility and rely on your wheelchair to get around, you can’t be too careful about keeping it in good working order. This is especially true if you are self-reliant and lead an active lifestyle, in spite of having limited mobility.
By following these tips for wheelchair maintenance, you will increase the useful lifespan of your wheelchair, and stay safe from day to day.
1. When to Perform Maintenance Checks
How often you perform maintenance on your wheelchair depends on how much you use it, and in what environments.
If you use a high-performance wheelchair and spend a lot of time outside, basic nightly checkups would be a good idea. If you spend most of your time indoors with very limited mobility, you can probably get away with checking it over every week.
Additionally, some wheelchair components need to be checked frequently, while others can be left alone for weeks at a time. Follow instructions in this list of maintenance steps for when to perform each.
The brakes on your wheelchair should be checked at least once per week—although you should usually be able to tell throughout the day when there’s something wrong with them.
The efficiency of your brakes can be impaired when they are poorly placed or incorrectly adjusted. Other times, trouble braking could be caused by low tire pressure. Check for these possible problems to ensure your brakes are in good working order.
3. Front Wheels
Both front wheels should be configured so that they touch the ground equally and can rotate easily. If the wheels do not spin effortlessly when lifted off the ground, they might need to be replaced.
If the tires on one wheel are chipped or cut, that wheel should be replaced.
Front wheel bearings sometimes collect hair and carpet fibers. These can be removed with tweezers.
If you have harsh winters or frequent cold weather in your area, the front wheels and bearings should probably be replaced every spring.
4. Back Wheels, Tires, and Tubes
If you use inflatable tires, you should check the tire pressure between once per week and once per month. The correct pressure should be printed on the side of the tire. Using your wheelchair with the tire pressure too low can cause damage to the tires and limited mobility.
The tires ought to be replaced once the tread has been worn down to half of its original thickness.
If there are spokes on your back wheels, you will need to check for broken or loose spokes. You can easily check this by looking at them, and then plucking them like you would a guitar string. If you find a broken or loose spoke, you’ll need to take the wheel to a wheelchair supplier or bicycle dealer to have it repaired.
Again, hair and carpet fibers can sometimes get caught in wheel bearings, and can be removed with tweezers.
5. Wheelchair Frame and Fittings
Look over your wheelchair’s metal frame for cracks. These usually occur in joints where the frame has been welded together.
Check to ensure that all fittings, screws, or bolts are tight and in good condition. You should be able to tighten loose fittings using an Allen wrench or another commonly-available tool. You will probably want to check this at least once per week.
6. Clean the Wheelchair
You should use a mild detergent to wash your wheelchair’s frame. Use soap and water to clean the backrest and cushion.
Finally, don’t forget to take your wheelchair to your supplier if it sustains any damage, as using it in a damaged state could be dangerous. If you ever need to replace parts on your wheelchair, make sure you’re using parts recommended by your wheelchair’s manufacturer.
With these tips, you’re now set to maximize your wheelchair’s useful lifespan, and to use it safely and efficiently.