Few assistive devices are as commonly used as the wheelchair, and for those that need one to remain mobile, there is little worse than having a faulty wheel. So, what happens when things go wrong, and one or more of the wheels on a wheelchair has a problem? Can you replace the wheels, or do you have to do something more drastic?
Wheelchair wheels are replaceable, and it is not a difficult task. With the right tools and the proper replacement wheels, just about anyone can replace the wheels on a wheelchair, regardless of the type of wheel or wheelchair.
Wheelchairs allow people to move when it would be difficult to do so otherwise, so having to wait to regain that mobility is a problem. The goal today is to explore the signs of wheels needing to be replaced, your options for doing so, and what all that entails.
The Wheelchair Wheels and When to Replace Them
Wheelchair wheels can be replaced, and they should be. Eventually, whether it is a decrease in performance or a complete malfunction that leaves a wheelchair incapable of movement, the wheels no longer work as intended. When that happens, the people who rely on wheelchairs find themselves faced with the prospect of losing their mobility.
Fortunately, wheelchair wheels can be replaced, and it is something that can usually be done at home with relative ease. There are also specialized shops dedicated to wheelchair repair. Regardless of the option you choose, you can and should change your wheelchair wheels when needed, ensuring both safety and mobility.
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The Wheels that Need Replacing
The first step to learning about wheelchair wheels and the times and methods to replace them is to learn about the types of wheels. To begin with, there are two different types of wheels on wheelchairs, which are the drive wheels and the caster wheels.
- Drive Wheels: The larger wheels on a wheelchair, which are normally installed in the rear position. On a manual wheelchair, these wheels are what one would interact with to move. The main purpose of the drive wheels is propulsion, whether it be on manual or electric wheelchairs.
- Caster Wheels: Caster wheels, also known as steering wheels, are smaller wheels responsible for helping steer the wheelchair. They are typically in the front on a manual wheelchair, but their position can vary on electric wheelchairs. Sometimes, there are even two pairs of caster wheels.
Neither type of wheel is entirely safe from wear and tear, and both are capable of being damaged and needing to be replaced.
The Signs Wheels Need Replacing
Wheelchair wheels are durable, built reliable to ensure the people who need them to remain mobile do not have problems. However, they do suffer from wear and tear, often being used constantly. To ensure smooth, easy movement and safety, it is important to know the signs that your wheels need to be replaced.
A few of the signs that drive wheels might need to be replaced are:
- If the tire shows signs of wear, such as being worn, flat, or lacking tread, depending on the type of tire
- If one of the spokes is loose or appears damaged
- If there is wobbling when the wheel is spun freely
- If there are problems during wheelchair motion, such as not moving well or pulling to the side
A few of the signs that caster wheels might need to be replaced are:
- The tire shows signs of wear and tear, such as being worn down
- If the caster wheel wobbles when spun freely
- If the caster wheel does not spin when the wheelchair is in motion
The Consequences of Not Replacing the Wheelchair Wheels
If you notice problems with your wheelchair wheels but do not change the wheels, you are risking a much bigger problem in the long run. In fact, there are a number of problems that can occur if a wheel issue is ignored, such as:
- Additional tread wear
- Further wheel damage to both the drive and caster wheels
- Unbalanced tires causing stress and wear on other parts of the wheelchair
There are also safety issues to consider, such as tipping and potential stress caused to the user when their mode of transportation becomes unreliable and dangerous.
Replacing Wheelchair Wheels
The first thing to keep in mind when replacing the wheels on your wheelchair is what you will need to do so. For starters, you need to ensure that you have the correct replacement wheel or wheels. Remember than an imbalance between the wheels can cause problems for both the wheels and the rest of the wheelchair.
After you have the replacement wheels, consider the tools you will need, such as the appropriately sized wrenches and any replacement bolts, washers, and nuts. Having the exact tools for the job is imperative, as an improper tightening can result in a dangerous situation, such as wheels coming loose or falling off altogether.
If you do not think you can properly replace the wheels on your own for any reason, seek a professional. For instance, if you have difficulties with strength or do not have access to the proper tools to ensure a tight, proper fix.
There are many shops out there that will do the job, so reach out and ask about pricing for your needs if you think this is a better option for you.
How to Replace Wheelchair Wheels
Replacing wheels, both drive, and caster is quite easy. The main factor to consider when starting is the wheel itself. When replacing a wheel, you want the right size and, likely, a wheel from the original manufacturer of the wheelchair, as each has its own specifications. Try to use a wheel as close to the original as possible.
Steps for replacing a wheelchair wheel:
- Remove the Wheel: Loosen and remove the bolt keeping the wheel in place, which requires a wrench on each side of the wheel itself. Wrench size may change depending on wheel type, especially between caster and drive. During the process, make sure to keep any bolts, washers, or other pieces you remove.
- Remove and Replace the Wheel: Replace the old wheel with the new one, making sure that the new wheel is turned the same way as the old one. Once the wheel is in place, put the bolt back through, ensuring that the washers are where they were previously. Proceed to tighten the nut firmly back in place.
While there may be a hub to remove on certain wheels, the basic steps remain the same, with both sets of wheels requiring minimal effort. Remember, if tightening will be a problem, especially with the need for two wrenches, do not take the risk.
I wrote a article on “how to fix your wheelchair pulling to the left or right” here. A adjustment may be needed when replacing a wheel.
Buying Wheelchair Wheels
Buying wheelchair wheels is a crucial step in replacing them. As previously mentioned, the dimensions of each wheel are important and need to be considered thoroughly, no matter the type of wheelchair or wheel being worked on. A few factors to consider are:
- Type of Tires
- Spoke or Mag Wheels
- Wheel and Tire Dimensions
- Hub Width
Having the wrong wheels can make them impossible to place, and even if you can, it may not be as safe. Fortunately, getting new wheels is easy, with a plethora of online retailers offering replacement wheels, including Amazon.
The wheels on wheelchairs can absolutely be changed, and the overall process is not a difficult one. If you are having problems with your wheelchair wheels, do not hesitate to change them or find someone who can. After all, if you are in need of a wheelchair, little is as important as maintaining the comfort and mobility it provides.
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