A manual wheelchair should be maintained regularly so that it will last a long time and work properly. When chairs break down often, the user’s health and safety can be threatened, and the user is less apt to get involved socially. While there are times that a trained professional must do certain maintenance or repair tasks, there are many things that a wheelchair user or their caregiver can do to maximize the chair’s lifetime and usefulness. The exact nature of these tasks is partly determined by whether the wheelchair is manual or electric.
The first step in preventive maintenance is reading the owner’s manual as soon as you purchase the wheelchair. This will contain specifics of caring for that particular brand of wheelchair, and will also give you information about the chair’s warranty. Keep the manual for future reference after you read it.
To take proper care of a wheelchair, you need a basic set of tools. Your wheelchair maintenance toolbox should contain a tire repair kit, a Phillips head screwdriver, flat head screwdriver, Allen wrenches, a spoke wrench, and an adjustable wrench. If a small toolbox containing these items can be attached to or stowed on a wheelchair, it is a good idea to have it there just in case an emergency repair is necessary.
There is no one set time interval in which you should do maintenance. Rather, it will depend on your climate, the environment in which it is used, and how much demand is put on the wheelchair for daily use. What follows is a rough guide to regular maintenance for a manual wheelchair.
- Wipe the chair with a soft, damp cloth to keep it looking good and keep dirt out of the mechanisms every day.
- Check tire pressure and ensure that the wheel locks are still tightly attached to the frame and that they are easy to activate.
- Look at the axle housing and clean away any debris.
- Check the spokes are secure and that the wheel rims are not bent.
- Examine the front casters to check for looseness, misalignment, or wobbling.
- Check nuts and bolts to make sure they are all present and secure. If any nuts or bolts need replacing, only use nuts and bolts of the same size, strength rating, and grade.
- Look for cracks in the frame, and check that removable parts, like the leg rests or back rests can be easily removed and put back on.
- Give the chair a thorough cleaning. Some people use car wax on the frame to keep it cleaner longer.
- If your chair folds, make sure it opens and closes easily. Lubricate the folding mechanism if it is not working smoothly