Like most vehicles, a wheelchair – whether electrical or manual – requires care and attention. There are moving parts than can break, general wear and tear issues and other problems that can mar this vital mobility aid.
The more you look after your wheelchair, the more it will look after you. Here are some simple maintenance and care tips to help extend the life of your wheelchair.
Keeping Your Wheelchair Clean
Regularly wipe down the surfaces with a damp cloth. Dirt, dust and mud will get into the moving parts and grind them down. It will also dilute the lubricants that keep it moving.
The more you clean this dirt, the less likely it is to cause damage or reduce the efficiency of your wheelchair. Ensure you get into the nooks and crannies and wipe away as much as you can. Every few months use a good quality wax on the surfaces.
This removes the more intense build-up of dirt and protects it from future light damage. This is one step that most people do not realise can protect their wheelchair from damage.
Check the Tyres Regularly
As with cars and bicycles, how inflated or otherwise the wheelchair is will impact its effectiveness. Underinflated tyres don’t just make it harder to move the wheelchair, it also prematurely ages the rubber and causes damage to the spokes.
Tyres should be hard when pressed and should not give way easily under normal thumb pressure. Although worn tyres are not illegal, there are potential safety issues of which you should be mindful. Always replace tyres with little to no tread.
Check the Wheels
This is another procedure similar to general maintenance for bicycles. When not in use, lift it off the ground and spin each wheel in turn.
Wheels should spin freely. If it rubs or clearly wobbles, the wheel bearings may be on their way out. It’s worth getting the wheel replaced sooner rather than later as it won’t get any better and will only make going difficult. However, this may not necessarily be problematic bearings; it could simply be a loose spoke.
Use a spoke wrench to tighten them up and then try again. If they are all tight and it still wobbles or rubs, get the wheel of your wheelchair changed.
Storing your Wheelchair
As with a bicycle, store your wheelchair somewhere it will not get wet or dirty. Water and dirt are the two biggest elements that reduce the life of a wheelchair.
If you can’t store it in your home, put it in a shed or side room and use a waterproof cover. If you can keep it away from sources of cold, that will help too. Cold temperatures can lead to the thickening of lubricant and make it less effective. The warmer the lubricant is, the better it will perform for the wheelchair.
Check the Structure
The x-braces and all pivot points on the wheelchair will need oiling around 2-3 times per year on average. Using a cloth with a dab of oil, wipe away any dirt and grime from the wheel axle housing.
Oil keeps the metal moving parts moving smoothly. The next job is to look at the frame itself. Check for any dents or cracks in the metal frame.
With modern aluminium, this is less likely but it can still warp over the years. If cracks appear, it will need welding before it puts too much stress on the rest of the frame. A good new wheelchair will last you many years if well looked after.