Mastering Wheelchair Maintenance

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Maintaining your wheelchair in top condition is crucial for ensuring its longevity and optimal performance. Regular maintenance not only extends the life of your mobility device but also enhances your comfort and safety. In this guide, we’ll share essential tips for keeping your wheelchair in excellent shape, from routine checks to simple DIY repairs. Whether you’re a seasoned user or new to using a wheelchair, these practical tips will help you stay mobile and independent.

A person in a wheelchair on a beach is holding colorful balloons, with the sun setting in the background. Besides, a magenta box with the Ability Tools logo in black text reads "Mastering Wheelchair Maintenance, and underneath it reads "".

This past spring, Ability Tools hosted an electrifying webinar for Earth Day 2024: Reinventing the Wheel Reuse Rally, led by the dynamic Vincent Lopez of Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRCSF). Attendees from across California joined us as we learned how to navigate California’s Assistive Technology Reuse Program, choose the right mobility device for your needs, and discover simple DIY repairs and maintenance tips. Check out the guide below that walks us through an overview of reuse practices learned during the webinar.

A black background slide with white text reading "Earth Day 2024 Reinventing the Wheel ReUse Rally Overview of ReUse Practices for Durable Medical Equipment Vincent Lopez ILRCSF CFILC." On the right side, there are three logos stacked vertically: the Wheelchair Repair logo at the top, the ILRCSF logo in the middle with the text "support • information • advocacy," and the Ability Tools logo at the bottom, a program of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers.

What is Durable Medical Equipment (DME)?

A line drawing of a wheelchair, an ear with a hearing aid, and two crutches surrounded by a circle with a dotted line. beneath text reads Durable Medical Equipment

DME refers to medical equipment built for durable, repeated use, primarily for addressing health issues, and typically for home use. Some common DME items include:

Quick Tips for Mobility Devices

On the left, there is a blue circle with a light bulb in the center, and on the right, there is a drawing of a person in a wheelchair. Inside the image, Text Reads Quick Tips
  • Many devices, functions or accessories are not covered by medical insurance and are not all-season.
  • If a device gets wet, it can damage the electronics and wheel bearings.
  • Schedule periodic preventative maintenance.
  • Parts are specific to the make and model of the device.
  • Avoid overloading devices that would offset or exceed weight limits
  • Test items for range: posted ranges are often off

Areas to Consider When Selecting DME

  • Condition
  • Age
  • Environment
  • Specialized
  • Accessories
  • Transport

Questions to Ask Consumers When Choosing a Mobility Device:

  • What type of environment will this item be used in?
  • How will the item be transported?
  • Does it fit into the user’s lifestyle?
  • Are repairs and modifications affordable?
  • Will the item fit the user?
  • What do transfers look like to use this item?
  • Is this adaptable to the user’s disability?
  • What is the amount of use throughout the day?

If You Can Not Take the Item:

If You CAN Take The Item:

Keep the Wheels Rolling Fund Logo

The Keep the Wheels Rolling Repair Fund (KWRF) will provide small grants to non-profit organizations of up to $450 for the purchase of parts and/or repairs needed to refurbish a wheelchair or scooter so it may be reassigned to a low-income Californian with a disability for free. Only nonprofit organizations may apply. The KWRF may not be used to pay for repairs to a device already owned by an individual with a disability. The fund is intended to support the reassignment of used devices to new individuals who need them. Send an estimate to the Keep the Wheels Rolling Fund (For non-profits not direct consumers). If you are interested in applying, please check out the funding application.

What are Common Repairs for DME Items?

  • Batteries Replacements
  • Wheel & Tire cleaning and rotating
  • Caster Bearing cleaning
  • Loose Parts (Armrests, headrests, etc.) adjustments

DME & Insurance

Sometimes, insurance covers a user’s eligibility for a DME item, and replacements might be available after five years. Additionally, eligible consumers covered by insurance may be eligible to receive repairs.

Finding out if your insurance provider covers DME can be tricky. Fortunately, ILRCSF has a video on Navigating Insurance and Funding on their YouTube Channel:

Device Lending and Demonstration Centers (DLDC’s)

DLDC’s are operated by Ability Tools (formerly the Device Lending Library); they offer free, short-term loans for up to 30 days, ideal for temporary needs or testing items before purchase. The program aims to help potential AT users try devices before buying, provide backup systems during repairs, and offer interim devices while waiting for delivery. Please keep an eye out for a future blog featuring our updated DLDC list of locations.

Search for device loan options:

Advocating Resources:

SB-1384 Powered wheelchairs: repair: This bill would, except as specified, require an original equipment manufacturer of a powered wheelchair, as those terms are defined, to provide documentation, parts, embedded software, firmware, and tools used to inspect, diagnose, maintain, and repair the wheelchair to an owner or an independent repair provider for the purposes of providing service on the equipment in the state, on fair and reasonable terms and costs, as defined

To join our advocacy alerts for our power wheelchair right-to-repair bill, please visit the CFILC website.   

Local AT Information & Referral: AT Advocates are community-based information and referral specialists who can assist consumers with a variety of assistive technology issues. They work at Independent Living Centers in California.

AT Advocates can:

  • Provide information on assistive technology
  • Provide referrals to qualified AT professionals for evaluations, assessments and training
  • Help locate vendors, services and funding resources
  • Make outreach and community education presentations
  • And much more

Click here to find an AT Advocate near you.

Other Resources:

Earth Day 2024 – Reinventing the Wheel ReUse Rally Full Webinar

Learn about Wheelchair Repair and Processes:

ILRCSF Nick Feldman Wheelchair Repair Program YouTube Channel

Manufacturer Training:

Pride Mobility Learning Institute

Ki Mobility Education