It is important that you understand the kind of wheels you will need for your wheelchair. The options you have when selecting wheelchair wheels will depend upon where you will use them, the terrain you will ride them on, as well as the activities you will be involved in, inside or outside the house. Therefore, determining the right wheelchair tires or casters is always dependent on certain factors.
Keep in mind that people who suffer from spinal injuries or motor neuron disorders should restrain from being in situations where their spines receive excessive vibrations. We will discuss a couple of critical points about wheelchair wheels and some factors that will assist you in decision making. We hope this short manual will guide you in making the right choice about your wheelchair wheels.
Things like how smooth a ride is, or the speed you’re cruising at, are all dependent on the type of wheelchair wheels, tires, and casters you choose. This is why choosing them are not as easy a task as it might appear to be. It is always smart to approach an expert or do a bit of research before selecting your ideal wheels. Affordability and performance are also crucial factors, and this mini user manual will function as a healthcare assistant in helping you make an informed decision about the right wheelchair wheels.
The Components of Wheelchair Wheels
Manual or standard wheelchair wheels have two pairs of wheels. These are:
- Steering wheels, which are installed upfront
- And drive wheels in the back
Electric wheelchairs come with three pairs depending on the technology involved.
- A drive pair
- And one or two caster pairs
The back wheels of a wheelchair are made up of a hub, spokes, a rim and tires. The hub, which is the center of rotation, is connected to the rim with spokes or mags, with the tire mounted to the rim. On standard wheelchairs hand rims are used to push the wheelchair.
Wheels with spokes, also called spoke wheels, are like bicycle wheels with metal spokes. The spokes are either radial or crossed and are either 24 or 36 in total. Mag wheels have no more than ten spokes and are made of synthetic material.
The back wheels of standard wheelchairs have quick release axles to make handling easier when transporting. They also have extra caster wheels, which are mounted onto the chair.
Something to consider when selecting your wheels is their weight and the area where you will use them. Spoke wheels are much lighter than mag wheels but are generally more expensive to maintain. They are also not very suitable for moist environments. Whereas on the other hand mag wheels require little to no maintenance but could be subject to extreme temperatures.
Wheel Size In Relation To Wheelchair Size
Wheelchair wheels come in different sizes:
- A standard adult size (for manual wheelchairs) which is 24” or 61 cm
- A standard electric wheelchair size which is 18” or 46 cm
- Caster wheels for manual wheelchairs start from 3'' or 8 cm, and the most common ones are between 4–6 inches
The diameter of the wheel and the tire affects how comfortable your ride will be and also affects the effort you need to put in to move the wheelchair. Thus, you want to choose a wheel that allows for the best output on these options.
Electric wheelchairs on the other hand, have a smaller wheel made out of thicker and stronger material. In order to enjoy the benefits that standard wheelchairs offer in regard to thicker wheels, electric wheelchairs are adorned with an extra set of wheels.
Aligning and Truing
The alignment of the wheelchair wheels is vital, as it affect its stability, how it rides, how difficult it is to propel and how quickly the tyres can wear out. When aligning you must consider the following:
Camber – camber of the back wheels occurs when the wheels tilt inward or outward on their vertical plane. With camber the wheelchair propels easier as the hands are positioned nearer to the body. This applies more to people who propel self and has superior lateral stability. It also helps protect the fingers when passing doors.
Toe-in and toe-out – this is a critical alignment issue and has to do with the fact that the rear wheels do not run in parallel anymore. Avoiding toe-in and toe-out is important as it increases rolling resistance, and inadvertently leads to wear on the tires.
Truing – aligning the wheels is necessary, especially when it is wobbly as it spins on its axis. Mag wheels are the easiest when it comes to truing, as they are trued at manufacturing and remain that way unless they are exposed to harsh conditions. Spoke wheels are less stable, as different factors can distort the spokes.
Wheelchair tires come in different sizes. Some are pneumatic, meaning that they are filled with air, while others are solid, making them flat free. The flat free type are filled with rubber or foam. Depending on where they will be used, they are made with a different profile. Some have a deeper profile, like those used on Mountain bikes, while others have a flatter profile.
What you need to know is that a particular type of tire affects how a wheelchair will roll over a certain surface. Harder tires are easy to propel, whereas softer tires are not.
- Solid tires - these types of tires are basically low maintenance. Though they will hardly need to be replaced during the lifetime of the wheelchair, the rides will be bumpier.
- Flat free tires - are somewhat like the pneumatic tires, in that they are filled with a partially solid material. They do not become flat and are softer than the solid tires.
- Pneumatic tires – these tires go flat when punctured. They are also prone to going soft when valves lose air. A good example is a bicycle tire. The good thing about them is that they offer an enjoyable softer ride over uneven terrain.
Each tire you use has its own type of function, and this user guide will allow you to have an understanding about the tire that suits your requirements best. The wheelchair size must also be kept in consideration along with the rest of the other factors.
Please feel free to ask if you have any questions or if you feel we should have more tires and accessories added to this list. See our product pages for details and should you have any questions feel free to give us a call at 800-682-9444. One of our agents will be happy to assist you. We are open every day from 8AM - 8PM EST.
Feel free to write me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. At Electric Wheelchairs USA, we truly love helping our customers make the best choice for their needs whether it is a power chair, mobility scooter, or lift chair.