Why Do Wheelchairs Have Slanted Wheels?

There are over 2.7 million wheelchair users in the United States. Wheelchair design has come a long way over the years. The slanted or camber tires has made a major impact on the stability and performance of the wheelchair.

Wheelchairs have slanted wheels (negative camber) for better lateral stability. The camber redirects the force to the flexible frame when rotating the push rim for a smoother ride. The negative camber also makes faster maneuverability around corners which makes it essential for Parasports.

A negative camber on a wheelchair allows for better maneuverability around furniture and enables you to get close to objects while protecting your hands. This is one advantage of having the bottom of the tire on the ground farther out than the top of the tire where you hands are.

Negative camber is a big advantage when your sideways on uneven surfaces like a ramp. You are more stabile because of the angle of the wheels giving you a wider base for support.

Advantages of having slanted (negative camber) wheelchair wheels

  • Camber wheels redirects force when rotating the push rim to the flexible frame for a smoother ride.
  •  The negative camber gives the wheelchairs a wider base resulting in much more lateral stability to the wheelchair.
  • A wider base because of negative camber will protect your hands from hitting walls and doorframes since the bottom of the tire that touches the floor is farther out than the top of the tire where your hands are.
  • The push rims are in more of a ergonomic position for pushing. It is more natural to push down and outward with negative camber.
  • With the top of the wheel closer to your hips it is less stressful on the shoulders when pushing on the push rim.
  • A wheelchair with slanted wheels just looks aesthetically appealing. 
  • The negative camber makes turning quick, easier and safer than a zero camber.
Courtesy Of Paralyzed Living

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Disavantages of having slanted (negative camber) wheelchair wheels

  • Fitting through doorways, aisles, or to maneuver around your home can get difficult because of the wide base the negative camber gives you. 
  • Wheelchairs with negative camber usually cost more. Because of their sporty look , a negative cambered wheelchair may also have upgrades as to being lightweight and a lot more durable to handle vigorous motions. From time to time you can see people playing basketball or racing on a track in these negative cambered wheelchairs. These upgrades will make the wheelchair more expensive.
  • If the negative camber of the wheelchair is angled too much, then the top of the wheels may rub against the side panels of the wheelchair or rub against you as you maneuver yourself around. 
  • Negative Cambered tires require special treads to avoid wearing down unevenly. Regular or zero camber wheelchairs have a tire tread that runs down the middle of the rim with no offset. A negative cambered tire will wear down too quickly on the sides if mounted this way. This is why you have to buy tires that have had the tread placed on the inside edge. A few wheelchair manufacturers usually add offset treads to the tires which will compensate for the angle of cambering. These are specialty made tires for negative cambered wheels.

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What is a camber?

Camber is the angle of a set of wheels in relation to the surface of the flat ground. Camber is associated with any object that has a pair of tires (car, truck, wheelchair). There are three types of measurement cambers. The common angle range Is -15 degrees to +15 degrees.

  • Zero camber
  • Negative camber
  • Positive camber

What is zero camber?

 The wheels are completely straight up and down, and it is completely perpendicular to the ground when looking straight on is a camber angle of zero. 

What is negative camber?

The top of the wheels point inward when looking straight on is negative camber.

What is positive camber?

The top of the wheels point outward when looking straight on is positive camber. Wheelchairs do not have positive camber because it is not laterally stable and can tip over easily on uneven ground.

Can you change the camber on a wheelchair? 

Some wheelchairs have adjustable cambers.  You are able to adjust camber by inserting a different camber bar that alters the angle or by adjusting the axle plate for increased camber. Fixed camber wheelchairs are not adjustable. You usually have to order the wheelchair with the degree of camber that you want. 

What’s the correlation between camber angle and residual torque?

The study
The Effects of Rear-Wheel Camber on the Mechanical Parameters Produced During the Wheelchair Sprinting of Handibasketball Athletes

You can read a the whole study and all the citations at REHAB RESEARCH VA.GOV


The wheel camber of a wheelchair is a significant parameter that must be taken into account in the search for optimal regulation of a wheelchair. This study examined the effects of different rear-wheel camber (9 degrees , 12 degrees and 15 degrees )-today used mainly in the handibasket championship-on the various kinetic and kinematic parameters of the propulsion cycle. Eight males, all players in the French handibasket championship, were asked to participate in this study. They performed three 8 s maximal sprints as measured by a wheelchair ergometer, 9 degrees , 12 degrees , and 15 degrees of rear-wheel camber. The results of our study show that residual torque increases in proportion to the increase in wheel camber. This could explain other study results, which show a decrease in mean velocity and an increase in both power output and time of the propelling phase, in relation to the wheel camber. These results should provide the information necessary for optimal wheelchair regulation.

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Courtesy Of Paraolympic Games

What Parasports can you play with a camber wheelchair?

There are many sports you can play with a camber wheelchair also know as a sport wheel chair. These sports are called Para Sports, short for paraplegic. The athletes who play in Para Sports are called Para Athletes. You can visit PARALYMPIC to learn more about these Para Athletes.

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Badminton
  • Biathlon
  • Boccia
  • Football 5-a-side
  • Goalball
  • Ice hockey
  • Judo
  • Shooting
  • Sitting volleyball
  • Snowboard
  • Table tennis
  • Taekwondo 
  • Triathlon
  • Wheelchair basketball
  • Wheelchair curling
  • Wheelchair rugby
  • Wheelchair tennis

Can daily wheelchairs have camber wheels?

Wheelchairs that are used for daily activity can have camber wheels. Many people have a slight camber to their everyday wheelchair. It can be as little as 1 to 5 degrees of an angle. That might not sound like it would make a difference but it does. That little bit adds more stability and will protect your hands than a zero camber.

You won’t be able to do all the things a sport wheelchair does because the angle is to small. The performance and stability is all about the more camber angle. But you will fit through your doorways in you home.

Steven Abbey

Steven Abbey is a author for Senior Living Headquarters and owns a home in a retirement community. His wife owns a successful family business that has served tens of thousands of people. He also has a electrical technician degree.

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