Wheelchair tires are top-ranked among essential items of any wheelchair and can be found in a wide variety of types, sizes, different materials, and styles.
Many tires are designed based on the utilization purpose.
For example, you can find tires for use outdoor, for sports, for dance, for activities on the snow, for manual or powered wheelchairs, and so on. The list is very long.
Let’s see down here some of the most common types of wheelchair tires:
Wheelchair Tires for Outdoor Use
Wheelchair tires for outdoor use, also known as all-terrain tires, are great options to improve wheelchair performance on the grass, the beach, on rocky terrains, mud, and wet surfaces.
For each situation or environment, there will certainly be a type of tire for the occasion, with the proper type of tread for a great grip on the surface you are riding on.
The whole idea of all-terrain wheelchair tires is the possibility of riding smoothly and effortlessly on any surface you choose, other than the usual safe, flat, clean, day-to-day floor like the one you see in your house.
So, What Is a Tire Tread?
Treads are the parts of rubber of the tire that touches the surface, the ground.
Tire treads are known as tire tracks.
Grooves are the spaces in the tires that separate the treads.
People usually get confused referring to the grooves as the actual treads, which is incorrect.
People usually refer to the grooves that separate the treads as the treads themselves.
This is incorrect.
The grooves are not the treads.
They are between treads.
For your reference:
A racing car, for example, has tires with many treads, with almost nothing to no treads at all.
On the other hand, a big tractor has tires with huge treads.
The definition above says it all.
If the groove is only the space between the treads, how could “space/groove” touch the ground?
Regardless, most of the tires you see out there have some tread simply because the tires touch the ground.
You will see tires without grooves in two different situations (there might be some others out there)
On race tracks for racing cars, motorcycles or even bicycles.
They utilize these tires without grooves, known as slick tires, to improve performance and speed on dry surfaces.
That is not what we look for here for a wheelchair user.
Or when your old wheelchair tires are completely worn out.
Time to replace these tires to make sure you or the wheelchair user are safe.
When Is It Time To Replace My Wheelchair tires?
A visual inspection can easily detect tires that are worn out beyond normal.
These are tires that are severely overused and must be replaced immediately.
Parts of the tires can identify that the tread patterns cannot be seen anymore, or some lower layers of the tires are exposed.
If you still see tread patterns, see grooves, then you can do a quick measurement to make sure your tires are still in good shape despite the good (possibly deceiving) appearance.
So, if your tire’s tread height is below 4/32” (3mm), then it is time for a replacement. Some people refer to this as a tread’s depth.
You can measure this 4/32” (or 3mm) on a coin and use the coin in the tread grooves. It is a great reference, easy to apply.
Time of utilization is a difficult topic.
It will certainly vary from user to user and purpose.
Depending on how the wheelchair is utilized, tires will last longer or not as much.
How Much Do Wheelchair Tires Cost?
Prices vary from US20.00 to over US200.00 from different vendors, brands and tire categories (if pneumatic, air-filled or solid).
High-performance wheelchair tires will certainly cost a little more, like the ones you see for playing wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing or any other kind of sport.
All-terrain wheelchair tires also tend to be a little more expensive as many of them are wider (more material to make it) with more sophisticated types of treads.
What are caster wheels?
Wheelchair caster wheels are housings that include wheels, usually mounted as the front wheels in most wheelchairs, manual or powered.
Swivel casters are usually seen as the best option for wheelchairs due to their versatility, allowing wheelchair users to maneuver their chairs easily.
Casters that are well maintained and correctly installed in wheelchairs provide quick responses to moves due to the handling of the rims by the user or even how the caregiver wants to chair to behave on the ride.
And yes, you can find tires for casters as well.
They are categorized as the rear wheelchair wheels, found as pneumatic, foam-filled and air-filled. We will learn more about them in a sec.
Accessories like the Freewheel Wheelchair Attachments are great options if you want even more mobility and agility, especially if you plan outdoor rides.
It can be a little pricey, but it is worth the investment due to its durability and versatility.
You will certainly keep the attachment for years and years to come.
You can check some of the processes here in this link to the Accessories page.
Types of wheelchair tires
Wheelchair tires are available in three distinct categories: Solid, Pneumatic, and Foam filled tires.
Let’s see some information about each of these categories.
These are tires made of a single type of material, with no space to be filled up by anything else (or any other filling material).
These tires do not go flat, but they can get worn out with time.
Good options if you want less maintenance.
Keep in mind, and you must have in mind that solid tires are not as light as pneumatic tires and do not ride as smooth as the ride on pneumatic tires either.
Solid tires transfer all the impacts caused by the path or terrain straight to the structure of the wheelchair.
The user will certainly feel it.
Pneumatic tires are like any tire you see in cars, bicycles, and others. These are air-filled tires.
Pneumatic tires are lightweight and help tremendously by providing lower-impact rides, running smoother on uneven surfaces, outdoors, etc.
It requires a little more maintenance on checking air pressure and possible repairs from time to time if they go flat and need a fix or tube replacements.
Flat Free Inserts or Foam filled tires:
These types of tires can bring the best of both worlds.
They are pneumatic tires (filled with air) with a trick that allows them not to go flat: The inserts.
Despite being filled with air, flat-free inserts or foam-filled tires never go flat, even in a punctured tire or cut.
You will see these tires typically in powered wheelchairs or even on manual standards wheelchairs front wheels.
There is a wide variety of designs and patterns of tires from these three categories.
These designs will vary depending on how the wheelchair user plans to use the wheelchair (I.e., practice sports, dancing, riding outdoors, use in homes only, etc.)
Air Pressure for Wheelchair Tires
Most wheelchair users have pneumatic as their tires of choice for daily routines, sports, and other activities.
But, as we know, these types of tires require maintenance and a regular air pressure check is a must.
Air Pressure for wheelchair tires will vary based on tire format and utilization purpose (i.e., for sports vs. home use, for example).
Air pressure is measured in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) and ranges from 40 to over 140 PSI per tire.
For reference, sports wheelchair mostly uses high-pressure tires that require from 65/70psi to over 130, while standard wheelchair tires require less pressure, ranging from 50 to 70 psi (variations may apply).
Just so you have an idea, let’s compare a regular car and a bicycle.
A normal 4 door sedan requires around 35psi to have perfect tires for the daily commute.
For bicycles, around 50 to 70 psi for a standard mountain bike or around 100psi for a lightweight speed bicycle.
As you can see, narrow tires demand more air pressure than wider tires.
You will see the same patterns on wheelchair tires, the same concept about narrow vs. wide tires.
Ensure the air pressure is checked frequently and under the tire manufacturer’s instructions.
Most tires usually have the recommended PSI on the side of the tire for your reference. You will notice the same for cars and bicycles.
Why is wheelchair tire pressure so important?
Proper tire pressure will provide the wheelchair user with more comfort on the daily rides or when practicing sports like playing basketball, for example, or racing at a park.
But comfort is not the only benefit.
Wheelchair tires with the right pressure have a better grip on the ground and provide slightly higher speed with less effort.
This combination is great, as the wheelchair user will ride having to apply less effort, save energy, and prevent arm injuries.