Wheelchairs are more than just fancy seats! 25.5 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities, and 11.8% of these Americans use wheelchairs. They are essential tools to help millions of people get to work, attend family events, and go to medical appointments.
Wheelchairs are designed to last for years, but they don’t always last that long. You must know good wheelchair maintenance steps, regardless of what types of wheelchairs you have. You can make things simple by studying the essentials.
How can you clean your wheelchair? What parts of your wheelchair should you focus your attention on? How can you avoid common problems like breaking your footrest?
Clean Your Wheelchair
Dust and grime can gather on your wheelchair, especially if you don’t use it on a regular basis. Before you get into your wheelchair, you should clean it with a damp cloth. Use a soft cloth on the cushions and a dishcloth on your wheels.
Different types of wheelchairs have different cleaning needs. An electronic or battery-powered wheelchair needs to be cleaned carefully, as water or soap can damage its parts. Talk to your wheelchair manufacturer about how you can clean your wheelchair.
Prioritize your armrests and handles, as these areas are the places you touch most often. Make sure you disinfect these areas every day with antibacterial wipes so you don’t become sick. Dry them off with a clean towel so the moisture from the wipes doesn’t damage the armrests.
Inspect Your Tires
Deflated tires can make your wheelchair impossible to move. You can check the pressure by pressing down on your tire with your thumb. If it presses down significantly, you should inflate it with a bicycle pump or compressor.
Many tires lose pressure during the winter. You should check the tire pressure at least once a week when it is cold out, and you may want to keep a bicycle pump with you.
While you are inflating your tires, you should keep an eye out for cracks or bulges. You should replace your tires if they are worn out. You should also make sure they are parallel with each other, as misaligned tires can skew your wheelchair to one side.
Do not forget about your wheel bearings, which help your wheels turn. Spin the wheels while your wheelchair is off the ground and see how fast your wheels move.
If they are slow and they stop after you spin them, the nuts and bolts may be too tight. You can loosen them with a screwdriver. If the wheels rotate backward after you spin them, the bearings may be too loose, and you need to screw them into place.
Maintain Your Cushions
Cushions may be the most important parts of your wheelchair. If you sit on a deteriorated cushion, you may develop a pressure ulcer, bruise, or torn soft tissues.
Check your cushions every week and inspect them for any holes or tears. Replace them if they are damaged and wrap covers over the new cushions as an extra layer of protection.
There are different types of cushions for different types of electric wheelchairs. Some have air cushions while others have gel and foam cushions.
Air cushions need to be inflated, and you can use your bicycle pump to do that. You may need to spread the gel out in your gel cushions, which you can do by kneading them. Foam cushions should have intact pieces of foam that remain spongy even after you press down on them.
Cushions that serve as back support can be harder to maintain because the upholstery may start to wear down. Look closely at the upholstery and make sure that each bolt is in place. The fabric on your back support cushions should never be torn, though you can place patches on them.
Test Your Brakes
You should test your brakes every month. They should be on the frame of your wheelchair, and they should not shake as you move your chair.
Practice moving forward and then applying the lock. It should hold the tires in place and be easy to activate. If the lock affects your tires when you are rolling forward, you need to fix the lock.
Most types of manual wheelchairs have brakes with screws, and they can become loose. You can use an Allen wrench to fix your screws. Keep the wrench in a bag attached to your wheelchair so you can fix the brakes when they start to fail.
Be Careful With Your Footrests
Many wheelchair users use their footrests to open doors or act as bumpers against obstacles in their way. This can break your footrest over time. Only use your footrest to stretch your legs out and relax your feet.
Some types of wheelchairs have removable or adjustable footrests. Adjust the footrest until it is off the ground, as low-lying wheelchairs can cause your footrests to drag on dust, concrete, or rocks.
You should be careful when folding your wheelchair up and loading it into a vehicle. Remove the footrest before it goes into your car, or fold the footrest so it fits on top of the seat.
Get Help With Different Types of Wheelchairs
All types of wheelchairs require your help. Clean your wheelchair every day and inspect the cushions and wheels for signs of damage several times a month. You should go easy on your brakes and screw them into place.
Be very careful when you transport your wheelchair, as you could break the footrest, upholstery, or bolts. Follow instructions from your manufacturer so you know how to fold it properly.
If you need help, turn to licensed wheelchair vendors. Freedom Mobility Center sells and repairs all types of wheelchairs. Contact us today.