Tips for Maintaining your Wheelchair

#Fun4theDisabled’s Vanessa Harris and Capt Chris of Froglegs, Inc. chat about five easy ways to maintain your wheelchair during the pandemic that are entirely manageable with just a few simple tools.

[Transcript with visual descriptions: Video opens with fun4thedisabled logo. On screen text reads: For more information and a full transcript of this video, check out Fun4theDisabled.com. Light hearted instrumental music plays. Vanessa Harris is joined virtually with Chris via video chat. Chris is seen in a workshop environment, surrounded by boxes and gear.]

Vanessa: This is Vanessa Harris with fun4thedisabled. I’m here with Chris of Frog Legs and today we’re going to discuss five easy tips that you can do at home on your wheelchair, which is important especially now during the pandemic. Hi Chris!

Chris: Hi! How are you doing today?

Vanessa: Ok, how are you?

Chris: I’m wonderful – enjoying this nice Spring weather here in Iowa. I’m going to go over a few easy steps so you can use to maintain your chair while you’re self-isolating during this little health crisis we got going on. These are some easy, quick steps that just about anybody can do from home with just a few tools.


Chris: Alright, so the first thing we’re gonna go over is how to disassemble your wheel – your front wheel from your fork in order to clean out your bearings. Removing the hair is going to help you get more efficient pushes because the hair likes to wind up, bind up and break down the bearings and you’re going to see longer bearing life out of your wheels. I just have this one off as an example.

You can do this with the fork still attached to your chair and I recommend doing it with the fork attached to your chair because then there are fewer things that you have to worry about. So, what you’ll need is, for our forks, you’ll need two 4mm X wrenches. And all you’re going to do is there are two little, like screw heads, on either side of the fork. You’re going to loosen those up. Some might have a nut and bolt system, ours have a screw. Then all you need to do is pull out the pin from the other side and your wheels should slide right out.

Ours have these frog shields which help reduce the amount of hair that you’re going to get in and make it easier to align. But most of the time they’ll have a little spacer that will be silver or bronze color. You’ll take those spacers or the frog shields off and then with a pair of pliers or your fingers, just remove the hair from the bearings. Make sure they’re all clean. Give them a spin to make sure you don’t feel and grinding or that it doesn’t spin well because that’ll be an indication that you need to change out your bearings.

Alright, once you’ve done that, you’ll reassemble your fork, making sure that you put it in the same hole you took it out of. And you take your pin and you start it in there and then I use either a screwdriver or a punch or the Allen wrenches to make sure that everything lines up and pops through. Then, we just gotta tighten this screw back up, just a hand tighten. I would recommend doing this at least monthly. If you have hairy dogs or cats, you might want to do it a little bit more often. Then give the wheel a test spin. That just makes sure everything is snug but not too snug. And that’s how we change out a wheel for hair.


Chris: Number two is how to replace your bearings. So, we’re gonna want to replace the bearings in our front wheels if we start feeling a grinding, a dragging, one wheel isn’t turning as well as the other. Whatever you do, don’t use WD-40, it might make it a little bit better for a month but it replaces the oil pack, the grease pack that’s in there, and it will actually make your bearings last a shorter amount of time before they are completely done.

So, you’ll want to replace your bearings if they’ve become corroded, or damaged, they’re not turning correctly, your wheel’s catching. So what you’ll do is, you’ll need a punch or a screwdriver and a hammer and then a wooden block helps or a piece of plastic, something that’s not going to damage the rim of your tire but you can raise it off the ground a little bit. So you put the punch in at an angle in order to catch the edge of the bearing on the underside. And once you have that bearing, you take your hammer and it’ll come out.

Then you flip it over and you want to make sure you’re bracing it on part of the metal part of the bearing, you don’t want to put it on the ball bearings are because that can just knock out the center and leave the ring, the outer ring and that will be a much more difficult time removing. So you put it in at that same angle and it’ll pop right out. Once you have it open, you’re going to check for burrs, take a look in there. Maybe take some paper towels and clean out any rust or gunk that’s in there. And make sure that your inner race is still good.

When it’s time to reassemble with the new bearings, you’re going to get them started by placing them in there and then take a socket and set it over top, a socket that matches the outer race of your wheel, of your bearing. Then you’re going to take that hammer and just kind of tap it back into place. What the socket does is it makes sure you apply the pressure evenly and you don’t risk damaging the bearings. Then you’ll flip it over. There will be a little spacer that comes with it. You set that in place, then you take the other bearing, set it on top, put the socket on top and tap that one down until it’s flush.


Chris: Tip number three is the proper inflation of your tires. It’s one of the most common things that we see at our repair centers, whether it’s the chair feels sluggish, it’s not turning correctly, I’m not getting an efficient push. A lot of time – or even if the brakes aren’t working correctly – it’s the tire pressure is low. Either you can use an air compressor or you can use a hand pump, but you should check your tire’s rating to see what your tire pressure is, but 90 PSI is usually a general rule of thumb.

To check the tire pressure is to get a tire pressure gauge. You can get these at a gas station, Walmart, bicycle repair shop, bicycle shop, anything like that. And all you do, there is a little valve on here and all you have to is press that tire gauge to that valve and it’ll give you a reading as to what the pressure is. A quick check you can do on the road is just squeezing your tires and if they give a lot and feel kind of spongy then you’re going to need some air. There are a variety of different pumps.

We use a standard bicycle pump, however, depending on your ability levels, you may want to go with a hand pump and be able to squeeze it by hand. Alright, so this is your stem right here. It’s pretty easy to get the correct one, they even have some that have for both stem types, that’s what we have here. And all you do is insert it on, lock it into place, and then use your pump. Once you get about 90 PSI, you’re usually pretty good there and you’re not risking popping a tube. Then, you simply unlock, pop it off, make sure you give it a squeeze, make sure it feels right, and then you’re good to go.


Chris: Tip number 4 is your brakes. So, some common problems with brakes are this part here, that grips, wearing out and becoming smooth. If that becomes smooth, you’re going to need to replace your brakes. There’s also generally a spring in here and if that spring breaks, you’re going to need to replace your brakes. There’s no repairing it at that point.

However, if it’s just that your brakes have become loose, or they’re not quite as tight as you like them to be or they’re too tight so it’s difficult for you to apply them, there are generally two screws right here and what you’ll need to do is loosen these two screws up and what that’ll do is loosen this entire part up and allow you to shift it forward and back to add more pressure or less pressure.

But the first thing you’re gonna want to check is to make sure your tires are properly inflated because if they’re underinflated, you’re not going to get that pressure and your brakes aren’t going to work correct. Now you don’t want to loosen them up completely because the brace can fall off and now you have to start your alignment all over again. But just loose enough so you can wiggle it to where you want it to go and then you snug it up when you think you have it where you want it and when you put it on, it should be snug but not so snug that you’re struggling to put the brake on. If it’s right where you want it, it’s got a good grip in the center of this and you’re not sliding around, you have it right about where you want it.


Chris: Number five –

Vanessa: Yes! Five!

Chris: Checking your spokes. So, one of the easiest ways for a rear-wheel to become damaged is for the spokes to be loose. So the easiest way to do that is to grab two that are side by side and give them a little squeeze. If they feel pretty firm, you’re probably good. If they’re kinda loose and just wobbling all over the place, even shifting, your spokes are loose and you’re going to get a bad ride.

So the way that you can fix that is that you’ll need a spoke tool, which I don’t have here, unfortunately, and up here at the very top, that’s where you’ll grab it with the spoke tool and just kinda turn to give them a twist that tightens them up. That’s something simple you can do while sitting on your couch, watching tv (laughs), enjoying your time off work.

Vanessa: Well thanks Chris, thanks for your five tips on maintaining your wheelchair, especially during a pandemic. When should we contact somebody and say I’m desperate, I can’t do this.

Chris: Um, if it gets to where you don’t feel comfortable, you feel like you might do more damage than good, call someone. Because it’s better to have a chair that’s not working quite right than a chair that’s not working at all.

Vanessa: Thanks, Chris!

Chris: You have a great day and everybody stay safe out there. We’ll be right here for you the whole step through the way, we’re not shutting down anytime soon.

Vanessa: Ok, excellent. Ok, thanks a lot Chris.

Chris: Thank you, have a great day!

Vanessa: Ok, bye-bye.

Chris: Bye.

Vanessa:  Thanks for watching our video as part of the Virtual Abilities Expo!  If you enjoyed this video, and want to stay connected with us, sign up for our newsletter list at fun4thedisabled.com

And for more videos like this check out our website at fun4thedisabled.com

This has been Vanessa Harris signing off!  Bye Bye.

[Screen fades to black. On-screen text reads: For more information specifically on Frog Legs wheelchairs, go to Froglegsinc.com. The video ends with a credit roll. Transcribed and captioned by aslcaptions.com]

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