Your wheelchair gets you where you need to go every day however avoidable mechanical issues can slow you down. With a little simple upkeep and maintenance, you’ll be able to keep your wheelchair in top shape. This can help extend the life of your wheelchair1 while reducing potential repairs - with their related costs - down the road.
Schedule regular maintenance for your wheelchair.
At a minimum, you need to check your wheelchair at least once a month. Start with a simple visual examination, keeping an eye out for:
- Torn upholstery
- Cracked wheels
- Broken wheel locks
- Torn calf pads
- Cracks in the frame
- Loose screws
- Debris embedded in tires or footrest hinges
Identifying these small issues provides you with a checklist to address now, before they become larger problems. Your owner’s manual can provide you with information for maintaining and repairing your specific wheelchair model. The manual will also include details on your warranty and any specific tools you might need to complete simple maintenance.
Keep your wheelchair clean.
Something as simple as cleaning your wheelchair every few weeks can help keep you moving smoothly. Dirt and debris build up between moving parts, causing added friction that not only slows down your wheels, but can cause wear and tear on those parts.
In general, you’ll want to clean your upholstery and handles regularly with a gentle solution to remove surface dirt.
A great tip for cleaning your wheelchair is to use the same dish detergent you use for your pots and pans. Dilute half a cup of detergent with water in a bucket and use a soft rag to wipe down all the surfaces and moving parts.
Use a small, very soft toothbrush to remove dirt and debris from hard to reach places. You may be tempted to use a sharp, pointed tool to dig in and remove the dirt, but you could inadvertently damage the part or hurt yourself.
Tighten screws and bolts.
It’s a good idea to keep a couple of screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, and a set of Allen wrenches on hand for simple maintenance. Check each connection and if anything is loose, tighten it. It’s much easier to tighten loose screws and bolts than to replace them after they fall out.
Invest in a wheelchair side bag. It attaches securely to your armrest and is a handy place to store tools needed for wheelchair maintenance.
Find any tire damage.
Nails and sharp stones can easily get embedded in your tires when you are out and about on rough terrain. In addition to making your ride bumpy, this can cause long term damage to both the tire and wheel. It can also make your chair off-balance, putting you at risk for a spill. You’ll want to carefully remove the item from your tire. The specific tool you’ll need will depend on the type of tire you have (solid rubber or ones with air) and what exactly has punctured the tire.
Check the tire pressure.
If you have tires that require air, optimal tire pressure is essential for smooth mobility. Research shows that using a wheelchair with low tire pressure puts you at increased risk of back injury1. Checking tire pressure is easy with a standard pressure gauge. Try a simple hand or bicycle pump to add air to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. It’s also a good idea to keep a spare tire on hand in case your tire gets punctured.
Don’t overlook your brakes.
Brakes are one of the most important features of your wheelchair. You may be able to do some basic tightening on your own, but since your safety is at stake, if you suspect anything is wrong with your brakes, take your chair in for professional service immediately.
Know your coverage.
Even with regular home wheelchair maintenance, there are times when you need to bring in the experts. Many wheelchairs come with a warranty, so be sure to keep this information on file along with your owner’s manual. If you have a Medline brand wheelchair, some repairs are covered by your warranty. For more information please call 1-800-MEDLINE.
Also, if you have private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid - or a combination of the three - your wheelchair repair may be a covered expense2. Check your policy for specifics.
Keep your wheelchair functional.
Basic maintenance helps keep your wheelchair functioning effectively for both your safety and comfort. Identifying and handling small issues before they become problems is key. If you encounter challenges beyond your skill set, escalate to an expert repair service. Simple maintenance can help keep your wheelchair functional - and allow you to enjoy the freedom and independence it provides you.
1Wheelchair Tire Pressure. (n.d.). Spinal Cord Injury Research Evidence. Retrieved from
2Pelkey, R. (n.d.). Maintaining your Wheelchair. Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. Retrieved from