Tips on Choosing the Right Wheelchair Wheels
The choice of your wheelchair wheels will depend on the use of your wheelchair. Whether outdoor or indoor, the terrain and activities you engage in will also determine the type of wheels you choose for your chair.
The smoothness of the ride combined with speed maneuverability and control are all related to the wheelchair tires, casters and wheels. Choosing these components is not an easy task it is advisable to contact an expert such as a therapist or health care professional to help you choose a combination that will meet your lifestyle, maintenance, and affordability needs.
Wheelchair Wheels and Components
Manual wheelchairs have two sets of wheels a pair in front called a caster and a pair at the back called the drive wheels. Power wheelchairs, on the other hand, may have up to three wheels; one caster and two drive wheels. One of the factors you should consider when selecting wheelchair wheels is how heavy they are and the environment which you will be using them. Spoke wheels are usually lighter than mag wheels but they require more maintenance. They are less suitable for moist surfaces. Mag wheels are mostly maintenance free but are affected by extreme temperatures.
Tires can either be pneumatic (air-filled), solid and flat free foam, urethane or rubber filled. Depending on the terrain you wish to use them they may be knobbly or smooth. As a rule of thumb, you should know that tires affect how easily a wheelchair specific rolls over surfaces. The harder the tire, the easier it will be to propel your wheelchair and the softer the tire the harder it becomes to propel your wheelchair. Here are your choices:
- Solid tires are almost maintenance free and are unlikely to wear out in the life of your wheelchair. But you will definitely be in for much bumpier rides.
- Pneumatic tires will go flat when punctured and will go soft even without any damage but provide soft rides.
- Flat free tires are pneumatic tire but are filled with semi-solid material. They aren’t subject to flat tires and give a softer ride than a solid tire.
Wheel Sizes vs Wheelchair Sizes
Wheelchair sizes usually come in standardized sizes:
- An adult standard wheelchair drive wheel size is 24”
- A power standard wheelchair drive wheel is 18”
- Caster wheels start from 3”
The sizes affect comfort and required effort to move the wheelchair; you should, therefore, select a chair that you will comfortably sit in and at the same time require minimum effort to propel it.
Different individuals need different types of wheelchair wheels according to their conditions. A person in pain would not choose wheelchair wheels that will give a lot of vibration while a user who values speed as a sense of independence may need to choose wheels that will enhance speed. If you are an average user you may not notice the difference, but if you are an active user then you will tell the difference easily.