A wheelchair is a mobility device to help people with mobility challenges remain as independent and active as possible, without relying on external help. While all wheelchairs typically come with their tires properly installed, it is wise to learn how to remove and reinstall tires on your wheelchair.
If either you or your near ones are capable of doing this, it further elevates your sense of freedom and self-reliance. In this article, we will discuss the tools required and installation process of a wheelchair tire in an easy-to-understand, step-by-step process.
Installing wheelchair tires
You can install tires on a wheelchair in a straightforward manner once you have the right tools to do this. Actually, tire changing for most of the manual wheelchairs is similar to changing bicycle tires.
Many of the powered wheelchairs today are equipped with 2-piece rims (split) making the whole process much easier. If you think you are not comfortable or cannot perform this task, you can always ask your friends and family members.
You also have the option of going to local bike shops as they should be able to help.
An air pump is necessary to re-inflate air-filled wheelchair tires once they are installed. It is also handy to keep an air pump for maintaining the air pressure, as wheelchair tires must be re-inflated from time to time.
If you are using either an electric air pump or a compressor, you have to be cautious since the smaller tubes usually used in wheelchairs can rapidly fill up and burst easily.
Air Pressure Gauge
This tool is used to check air pressure both at the time of installing the tires and also during periodic maintenance when you check the tire pressure. Some bicycle pumps now include the pressure gauge as part of the pump itself.
You can use the tire levers to work the bead of the tire up and over the bead of the rim. These are mostly available as either plastic lever bars or more heavy-duty metal lever bars. They make the job of installing wheelchair tires much easier.
Foam Filled Tire Installation Tool
Tires that are foam filled have a bead width that is slightly wider than the bead of the rim. This tool works to compress the two halves of the rim keeping the tire in the middle, allowing the screws or bolts (meant to hold them together) to go through to the other side.
Wheelchair Tire Installation Tire Tool
This tool is particularly handy for the installation of larger wheelchair tires. The tool provides a solid platform to mount the wheel itself and then helps to stretch the solid tire over the rim so that the tire can easily snap into place. This tool works like a charm to install large solid tires easily.
Other than the tools listed above, you may also require one or more of the following tools for installing tires in a wheelchair: a wrench or socket which has the proper size, an adjustable wrench, and a screwdriver.
Keep in mind that the required tire make and model for each wheelchair is different, so you have to check what all tools are required to install your wheelchair tire before starting.
How to remove old wheelchair tire with one-piece rim
- In the first step, remove the wheel from the wheelchair. You should never try to change a tire or tube while it is fixed to the chair.
- If the tire uses an inner tube, you have to let the air out of the tire. In the case of Schrader valves, you can do this by pressing the stem in the middle of the valve. If it’s a Presta valve, unscrew the top and press to let the air out.
- After the air has been released, press the sidewall of the tire all around so that the bead of the tire gets released from the rim. Tire beads can sometimes get stuck, so be cautious.
- Check if your valve has a nut that holds it to the rim. If so, unscrew the nut.
- In case your wheelchair tire is a solid urethane or rubber type, insert a lever bar and push on the sidewall of the tire. Some of the urethane tires are quite smaller in size than the rim on which it is mounted, so this task may be difficult. To make your task easier, insert a second lever once one lever has gone in and then push the tire over the rim. This should do the trick and the tire should come off. If you are still unable to push the tire off, it may need to be cut off with due care so as not to damage the rim.
- In case you’re trying to remove a tire with a tube off its rim, use a couple of tire levers and try to push the tire off by manipulating the levers under the bead. Then, move the lever all around the rim till you can get one side of the tire off the rim. Next, follow the same steps for the other bead by going in under both tire beads from the same side. If you’re using metal tire levers to do this operation, take care that you don’t damage the rim.
- Once you’re able to take the tire off the rim, inspect the rim thoroughly for any damage. If the rim has a tire liner, inspect and make sure it is still properly seated on the rim.
How to re-install new wheelchair tire with one-piece rim
- If there is an inner tube for your wheelchair tire, inflate it slightly to give it more shape. Now put the tube into the tire and push the valve through the hold in the rim. Try and align the valve stem through the hole, so that it can seat properly later when the tube is filled with air. If there’s a urethane insert for your tire, just push it in.
- Next, you’ve to slide the first side of the tire bead around the rim fully until that side is completely on. Sometimes, you might require lever bars for this step.
- After this, put the second bead over the rim using lever bars and work the bead all around until it is completely on the rim. Typically, a minimum of two lever bars are required for this operation – one for holding as you’re progressing and the other for stretching the bead over the rim towards the end. It might seem tough to lift the last part of the bead over the rim. If metal lever bars are used, be extremely cautious so you don’t damage the rim.
- Once the full tire is on the rim, make sure the tube isn’t bunched up or pinched anywhere by pushing on the sides of the tire all the way around.
- Use the pump to inflate the tire to the correct pressure as recommended by the manufacturer of the wheelchair or as mentioned on the sidewall of the tire. If your valve has a valve stem screw, install it properly.
- You can install solid urethane tires on manual wheelchair rim by using only the right tools. Most of these tires may be significantly smaller than the rim and you need to stretch them as much as possible to install. We recommend that you should follow the instructions that come with the tools.
- Finally, before you reattach the wheel to the wheelchair, inspect the tire visually to make sure the tire is seating evenly all the way around the rim. Otherwise, deflate the tube and manually re-work the tire to properly align, before re-inflating it.
How to remove and re-install wheelchair tire with two-piece rim
- Remove the wheel from the wheelchair.
- If the tire uses an inner tube, you’ve to let the air out of the tire. In the case of Schrader valves, you can do this by pressing the stem in the middle of the valve. If it’s a Presta valve, you’ve to unscrew the top and press in to let the air out.
- Use the appropriate tools to take off the screws or bolts and save them for re-installing later.
- Lift the top half of the rim of the tire and wheel assembly. If somehow the two halves get stuck together, try dropping the assembly on to your work surface from about one-foot height. Be careful so that the assembly drops onto the deflated tire only. If done correctly, both halves of the rim should come apart.
- Any bearings and bearing spacer inside the wheel may fall out because of the earlier step. You can reinstall them later with a rubber mallet once the tire installation process is finished.
- Pull any inner tube or urethane inner tube insert out of the tire and save them for later re-installation if they’re still good.
- Inspect both halves of the rim for damage or the presence of any debris.
- If your tire has an inner tube, inflate it a little to give some shape and insert it into the tire. If it has a urethane insert instead, you can just push it in.
- One half of the rim should be lying flat on your work surface. Place the tire on top of the other half and insert the valve through the hole or make it line up with the slot provided for the valve stem. In the case of a urethane tire or foam-filled tire, the hole is not required.
- Align the top half of the rim on the assembly and reattach the screws or bolts as they were earlier. Make them just tight enough. In foam-filled tires, the bead of the tire is wider than the bead of the assembled rim, so the two halves have to be pressed together with force. For the really tough ones, you may need to use a foam-filled tire installation tool. Another way is to use longer bolts for two or three of the holes so that you can draw the two halves together, which allows you to use the original hardware. Once the original hardware goes in, you can remove the longer bolts.
- In the case of inner tubes, inflate the tire to the correct pressure as recommended by the manufacturer of the wheelchair or as mentioned on the sidewall of the tire.
- Inspect the tire and wheel visually to make sure everything is aligned. Otherwise, deflate the tube and manually reposition the tire to properly align, before re-inflating it.
- If any bearings came out during the tire removal process, use a rubber mallet or a block of wood wrapped in a towel to pound them back in. If there is a bearing spacer, insert it first.
- Finally, re-attach the wheel and tire assembly back to the chair.
It might seem daunting at first to think about installing tires for your wheelchair. With this detailed step-by-step process applicable for both manual and power wheelchairs, we hope you’ll find the task much easier to accomplish.