Manual Wheelchair Maintenance
Maintaining your wheelchair is just as important as maintaining your car. Learning how to care for your chair can give you peace of mind.
Wheelchairs are a little like cars -- if they have tune-ups at regular intervals, you can extend the life of your wheelchair while reducing overall repair costs. Oftentimes, you will be the first to notice any problems or changes in the functionality of your wheelchair.
Fortunately, it is not complicated for you to service many parts on your manual wheelchair. To help yourself in the long run, develop a regular preventative maintenance routine, which involves cleaning, inspecting and adjusting all critical components of your wheelchair and seating system. Start by wiping down your wheelchair with a clean, damp rag on a regular basis. Applying car wax to the wheelchair frame can make it easier to perform routine cleanings.
If you are a child or young adult, you can learn to do some things such as clean the wheelchair and make sure that your bolts are tight. A rider who has limited upper arm strength should ask for help from a family member or other caregiver.
The owner's manual is a critical resource that holds important information regarding which parts of your wheelchair are warranted and for how long, how to take care of your wheelchair, and which tools are necessary to maintain your the wheelchair. When you receive your new chair, make sure you keep your owner's manual in a safe place for future reference!
Tools are a worthwhile investment that can save a lot of money in the long run. A few must haves include: Allen wrench set (English and/or metric if your wheelchair contains European components), adjustable wrench, flat and Phillips head screwdrivers, spoke wrench, and a tire repair kit. Along with the tools, a pouch, bag or container should be purchased that can be used to carry them on the wheelchair in case of an emergency.
Performing routine wheelchair maintenance may give you a sense of confidence in its performance, safety and reliability. Here are suggested maintenance tasks that every wheelchair owner should follow:
Axles, Wheels and Tires
What you roll on is just as important as rest of your chair. Carefully check your axles, wheels, casters and tires.
Depending on how much you demand of your wheelchair will determine how often your maintenance routine should be performed. Climate, environment, and wheelchair type will also dictate how often a wheelchair needs serviced. It is recommended that while many maintenance tasks can be performed at home, the wheelchair should still be taken periodically to an authorized service center, as described in the owner's manual, for a routine check-up.
Bergen, AF: Keep-em rollin': wheelchair maintenance. Exceptional Parent 1997; 27(4): 33-38.
Cooper, RA: Wheelchair selection and configuration. New York, New York: Demos Medical Publishing, Inc. 1998: 371-396.
Rowan, EJ: Wheelchair preventative maintenance. 25 Aug. 1999, Eastern Paralyzed Veterans of America.
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