Hesperian Health Guides

Taking care of your wheelchair

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Appendix: Take care of your equipment > Taking care of your wheelchair


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Your wheelchair will last longer and give you a smoother ride if you take good care of it. To do this yourself, you will need some basic tools (see the box below). These pages are a general guide to help you care for your wheelchair. How much maintenance your chair will need can depend on how rough or smooth the roads or pathways are where you live and ride your chair.


DAILY

  • Clean any dirt off the wheelchair frame with a damp cloth.
  • Try to keep water and dirt from getting into the bearings in the front and rear wheels (do not store your wheelchair where it will get wet).
  • Check the tires to make sure they are still hard. Use the bicycle pump to add air if necessary. The tires should be very hard when you press on them.
a woman operating a hand-cycle on a dirt road.
Be kind to your wheelchair and it will be kind to you


EVERY WEEK

  • Check the tires for weak or worn tread and punctures. If there is a nail or tack stuck in your tire, do not pull it out until you are ready to get the tube fixed. Change the tire if necessary. If your wheelchair uses bicycle tires, they can be repaired or replaced in a bicycle shop. It is not very difficult to patch a puncture in the tube inside the tire. Ask someone in a bicycle shop to show you.
  • Check the rear wheels to see if they spin freely. If they wobble or make an unusual noise, the ball bearings may be worn and might need to be replaced. Also, tighten any parts that feel loose (you may need to visit a mechanic to borrow bigger wrenches). After you tighten the nuts, you may have to loosen them a little bit so that the wheels can spin freely.
  • If the front forks do not turn from side to side easily, make sure they are not bumping into the footrests. If the whole fork wiggles a lot, tighten the top nut down tight, and then loosen it just enough so that it can turn easily.
  • If the front wheels do not spin freely, they may need new bearings. It is best to have them checked in a wheelchair shop.
  • Clean any dirt or hair out of all 4 wheel axle housings using a damp cloth with a few drops of oil on it.
  • Wiggle the spokes in the large back wheels. Use the spoke wrench to tighten any that are loose. Replace any broken ones.

MONTHLY

  • Wax the wheelchair frame to make it easier to clean, open, and close.
  • Ball bearings in the center of the wheels may be factory sealed. If they are not, take them out, clean them with solvent, dry them, and put them back in with new grease. If water gets into the bearings, it can cause rust, and the wheelchair will not roll smoothly.
  • Check arm rests, leg rests, and hand rims for rough spots or sharp edges. File them smooth.
  • Check the screws and bolts on your chair and tighten any loose ones. Look for screws on the seat back and bolts on the seat, hand rim, x-brace, footrests, front axles, rear axles, brakes, front caster (front small wheel), and pivot (turning point). The front caster pivot bolt should be tight but not too tight, or the chair will be hard to steer.
  • Check the wheelchair frame for cracks or dents. A crack may cause the frame to break. Some cracks can be welded together.
a wheelchair with an arrow showing the x-brace under the seat.

EVERY 4 TO 6 MONTHS

  • Oil the center and bottom of the x-brace with medium-weight machine oil. Oil the other pivot points on the chair.
  • Check the seat fabric and replace it if it is torn or sags too far. This is very important, because sagging or torn seats can lead to pressure sores.
  • If you are using a foam cushion, check to make sure it is still springy. A foam cushion that has lost its bounce can also lead to pressure sores.


IMPORTANT! The front tires, whether they are solid rubber or filled with air, may need to be replaced in a wheelchair shop.

If your wheelchair breaks, you may need to have it repaired in a wheelchair shop. If there is no wheelchair shop in your area, a bicycle repair shop or metalwork shop may be able to help.