Wheelchairs make mobility possible and continuing to receive the benefits of this life-changing function, requires due care. Proper and regular wheelchair maintenance and basic and preventive maintenance serve to lengthen the lifespan of wheelchairs and improves their function and overall performance. When shopping for lightweight wheelchairs, an opportune time to become familiar with maintenance requirements is when being assisted with your purchase by the supplier, and when first reading through the product manual.
Common wheelchair maintenance tips
Maintenance and repair issues range from the relatively minor replacement of a foot plate to more urgent repairs such as replacing a bent wheel. Wheelchair maintenance is generally directed by two important factors: the type and model of wheelchair and how often the wheelchair is used. One risk associated with not being able to use a wheelchair, according to an NHS England site, is that a user may develop secondary health complications.
Certain features and mechanical mechanisms require more frequent checks if the wheelchair is used on a daily basis. This is because with regular use, these parts are more affected by wear and tear and likely to need repairs or replacement.
The brakes on wheelchairs are a critical part of its safety system and should be checked every week with users looking for signs of wear-down. To assess general condition or areas of concern, check:
- The ability to easily lock or unlock the brakes.
- How effective the brakes are in stopping the wheelchair from moving.
- Are the brakes tighter or looser than is normal and how does this affect operation?
Brakes need to be adjusted correctly according to manufacturer’s instruction to ensure they work to optimal effect.
Tyre issues, such as incorrect tyre pressure, can hinder the proper functioning of the braking system. It is therefore necessary to regularly check tyre pressure as well as the condition of inner tubes. Low pressure requires user to expend more energy to propel wheelchair and too high pressure risks bursting the tyre. The product manual details the recommended tyre pressure.
Additional wheelchair care tips
- If a wheelchair is to be stored for an extended length of time, a protective cover, preferably weatherproof, should be placed over it, and ideally stored in a dry area that is not exposed to direct sunlight.
- A mild water-soluble cleansing agent can be used to clean the wheelchair, taking care to avoid bearing points and upholstery. A wheelchair used in sandy environments requires a more intensive clean. Refer to specific manufacturer’s instructions or ask the supplier for best practice tips.
- The upholstery should also be checked for tears and rips and frame of the wheelchair examined for evidence of rust.
- A full maintenance check should be performed by a reputable supplier at least once a year.
Wheelchair repair issues can leave patients waiting up to a year before chairs are repaired. Staying on top of maintenance is a proactive way to reduce unnecessary repairs and ensure that a wheelchair is able to offer the highest level of safe use when required.