At Wheelin’ Mobility we wanted to offer you a resource to help you maintain your equipment. We decided to compile some of the tips and tricks we have learned over the years using our equipment and what we could glean from other sources. Below we listed tips and tricks that help us maintain our equipment, and reduce the amount of repairs we need.
01. Battery Life
Power Chair and Scooter users: get the most out of your battery life by charging your battery regularly. Try not to run the battery till it dies because it the battery life. Also be sure to keep it out of the sun for prolonged periods of time as your battery can overheat and die on you.
02. Know Your Surroundings
This one sounds pretty obvious but it can be pretty easy to move on autopilot and end up in a sticky situation.
A) Beware of accidentally going down a set of stairs instead of the ramp. Especially if you are only paying attention to your destination not how to get there. Going down stairs is not only extremely dangerous but can be hard on your air tires if you are not expecting it. It can be pretty easy to pop a tube and put extra stress on your rims and spokes with the hard impact of the corner of the stair or curb on your tire. It isn’t guaranteed to happen, and accidents do happen that are unavoidable, but not something to make a habit out of unless you want to spend the extra money and time on maintenance. (We do have plans to help with that too.)
B) The harder you are on your chair the more stress is absorbed by the chair and that stress can add up. Some chairs are built for durability, some are not. Know which kind you have. And give both kinds some love!
C) Beware of debris and other things on the ground. As a manual chair user I spend most of my time scanning the ground immediately in front of me to make sure I avoid the debris on the ground such as glass, dog poop, garbage etc. and I am not always successful. Part of it is that if I run over it then it is on my hands…and I hate things on my hands. The other part is that stuff gets picked up by my wheels and could pop a tire, or clog my castors. There are products for manual chairs to help avoid popping a tire that way (Ask me about the Schwable Marathon Plus wheelchair tires!).
D) I know that sometimes it is unavoidable but do as much as you can to avoid running over anything sharp and pointy.
E) Beware of puddles. (I know, I know…its Vancouver!!!) But going through puddles with your castors is a great way to get rusty clogged bearings. And there is nothing worse in my mind then the high pitched squeak of destroyed bearings. It really puts a kink in my ninja stealth mode!
03. Know Your Equipment
Nobody knows your equipment like you do. You know the exact fit, feel and sounds it makes. You can tell if it is listing to the right or the left. You can tell when it makes a new or odd sound, no matter how quiet. You live and breathe your equipment every day. You know what it can handle and what it can’t. If it starts to behave differently, check it out. Catching a problem early on will help prevent you from being stranded because of a major problem later on. Make sure your tires are full (if you have air tires) Try and clean your chair as often as possible. And if there is something you are unsure about…call us, we will be happy to help you figure your equipment out. That’s what we are here for! And keep our number in your phone, you will never know when you will need it!
04. Say no to Crack(s)
Manual chair users should inspect the wheelchair frame for cracks, especially in areas that sustain significant stress, such as the cross-brace of a folding wheelchair and the caster housing. A crack can be a serious threat to safety and should be tended to immediately. The degree of repair depends on the location of the crack. A crack occurring at a junction point in the frame may be repaired via a simple welding procedure. On the other hand, the entire frame may need to be replaced. Consult with the owner's manual to find out which parts of the wheelchair are covered by the manufacturer, how long the warranty is good for, and about the service policy. Wheelin’ will be your advocate to help you go through the difficult and often frustrating process of warranty repairs.
05. Nuts & Bolts (not as yummy, however more important than the snack)
Check no less than once a month for loose nuts and bolts. Do not substitute damaged nuts and bolts with those of alternative grades and configurations. For example, a number label on the head of the bolt signifies how strong it is - the higher the number the stronger the bolt. Only replace bolts with those of the same grade or strength rating. Also, do not replace a lag bolt (partly solid/partly threaded) with an all-threaded bolt (screw). It is especially important to check out your chair if you felt/ heard/ saw something fell off of your chair. Which is always a nerve racking experience! Contact us if you are unsure about anything. We are here to help!!
06. Check Your Connections
Occasionally Power Chair Users, you will need to check electrical connections from time to time to make sure they are firmly in place, and are free of grime and corrosion. For instance, you might want to check to make sure all connections are tight after someone else has worked on your chair.
This may not apply to Vancouver Power Chair users, but for those of you who live where the winters are harsh and the roads are salted, you will need to clean the electrical connections on your chair more often to protect them from salt corrosion.
Buildup can be removed with a wire brush after removing the cable from the connection. If it will not come off at first, your local hardware store has products which help to loosen stuck parts, such as Liquid Wrench. Apply a small amount of petroleum grease to limit corrosion.
07. Know Your Wiring
Power Chair Users we want you to be safe! Do not risk any unintentional changes of wiring connections. A good chair design will color code the wires, and if you remove one you should note its color. In fact, don’t remove more than one connection at a time so that there will be no chance of replacing it in the wrong place. Putting wires back incorrectly is quite dangerous. At the least you could damage the electrical system of the chair. At worst you could cause a short circuit which could burn you.
08. Moving Parts
Manual Users should check once a month or so if legrests, footrests, armrests, and backrests can be released (if originally designed to do so!) and put back into place with ease. These parts where down the easiest, so make sure to go easy on them and be aware if they need to be replaced. It is no fun to have your backrest come off in public, requiring some ingenuous problem solving to put it back on.
Power Chair users should also inspect any moving part that you use a lot, such as footrests, removable backs, tilt mechanisms, or adjustable armrests are likely to wear out sooner than other parts of the chair simply because they get more use. They will last longer if they are kept tightened and properly adjusted.
9. Know When to Lubricate
If you have a folding wheelchair, ensure that it opens and folds easily. The folding mechanism requires lubrication (consult with the owner's manual for the type of lubricant to use) at least one a year -- more if you live in a humid or wet climate.
All pivot points on the chair need to be lubricated, such as where the front casters turn. Good lubricants to use are ones that offer corrosion protection and are water resistant.
Ball bearings will also need lubrication. However, most manual wheelchairs have sealed bearings or wipers to discourage water and dirt from damaging them. Bearings require special care and should be serviced by a trained specialist. Contact you Wheelin’ Mobility or a specialist in your area when it is time for new bearings.
I was on my honeymoon when my bearings got very wet and started to squeak, the bike shop we went to were not sure if they had the right tools and didn’t want to strip the bolt. So I was a squeaky fiend for the rest of my honeymoon until I could bring it to a shop to get new bearings. The moral of the story is: Do not drench your castors or you will be hearing it (from your bearings) for a while!
10. Look After Your Axles
Keep your manual chairs running smoothly with good wheels, tires and axles. Quick-release axles allow quick removal of your wheels. These axles should slide through the axle housing smoothly and "click" into place, or if threaded (like a screw), should thread easily and latch properly. No squeaking, binding or excessive side-to-side motion should be present when rolling.
Keeping the axle housing clean of debris can help ensure that it functions properly. This area is highly susceptible to dirt and mud build-up and should be cleaned once a week for the active user or on a monthly basis otherwise. Remove wheels and wipe off the axles with a clean cloth that contains just a few drops of oil on it. Also, try and clean the axle housings and around the bearings.
11. When Was Your Last Wheel Alignment?
Chairs need their wheel alignment checked just like cars. Check your wheel alignment monthly. If your wheelchair tends to veer to one side while coasting, it could very well be that your wheels are out of alignment or that your spokes have become loose or damaged.
Inspect your wheels weekly to ensure that spokes from the axle to the rim are intact, that rims are not bent and that your wheels are parallel to one another. A properly adjusted wheel may require the equipment and expertise of a specialist.
12. Don't Neglect Your Castors
The front casters should be inspected and repaired every few months. There should be no wobbling of the caster wheel, no excessive play in the caster spindle, and the caster housing should be aligned vertically.
You can feel if there is something wrong when you wheel, but it is good to physically check if you sense a problem. Your chair will veer or squeak if thing are not quite right.
13. The Dreaded Flat Tire
A common problem encountered with manual and power wheelchairs is the flat tire. Tires pneumatic rubber tubes -- as opposed to airless foam or solid inserts -- require more maintenance. That's why you should learn how to change or repair a tube. Or have someone on hand who can help you.
If you are an active person who has frequent flats, patch it using a "patch kit" purchased from any local bike shop. This is an economical alternative to buying a new tube all the time. The kits include several rubber circular patches that are either glued over the hole or are self-adhering (the easiest ones to use). Refer to our 'Tires. Simplified.' article for more information on wheelchair tires.
14. Feel the Pressure
Be sure you have the right pressure in your tube as indicated on the side of the tire. Inflate the tube using a hand-pump (can be useful if away from home) or electric or regular bicycle pump. Make sure you have the right pump for the type of tubes you have.
Check tire pressure once a week. A quick check method is to pinch the outer walls of the tire. It should be firm. Under-inflated tires can make it more difficult to push and maneuver the chair, cause the tires to wear faster, and prevent the wheel locks from seating properly against the wheel.
15. Worn, Cracked & Loose
Replace tires when the tread becomes worn, cracked, loose or when the side walls begin to bulge out when pumped with air. Check that wheel locks (brakes) are secured tightly to the frame and that they hold tires firmly in place and are easily activated. Make adjustments if they interfere with the tire while rolling as this can cause undue wear and tear.
We would love to hear from you. What tips were the most useful? Is there any other wheelchair maintenance tricks you find helpful? Visit our Facebook page and comment using #wheelchairtips