Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a time for ... truing (wheelchair wheels)

For several weeks, the right wheel on Patti’s wheelchair had been misbehaving, increasingly rubbing against the chair creating everything from annoying sounds to resistance.

More significantly for Patti, the only arm she can still use is her right and this one ability could not be compromised.

Chasing my tail, time and effort was continually misdirected looking for solutions whether through her care facility physical therapy department, researching replacing the wheel and or wheelchair itself and banging heads with insurance, or even tinkering myself. (While wheelchairs have been part of family life for over 15 years, I’m not a real mechanically oriented person and tend to ‘argue’ with inanimate objects.)

Confounding the process, Patti in the chair could never remember the problem.
“If you don't feel you can handle simple wheelchair repair preventive maintenance yourself, you should always ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to help you.”
Visiting with Patti’s family on Sunday her father and brother took a crack at the wheel and I entered a world I never knew existed - the land of spokes.

Her brother went right to “truing the wheel”. Spokes actually push and pull a rim while a wheel rolls. Proper tension keeps the wheel round and straight. A younger version of him learned these skills working on motorcycles. 

Lacking a proper shop, instead spinning the wheel on the wheelchair axel as the chair lay on its side, he found the high spots in the rim and corrected by tightening and or loosening corresponding spokes in low spots. … and all this accomplished while Patti sat and played games at the table in another wheelchair with her Mom and our daughter. Truing time can be family time.

Patti originally chose her wire wheels because she liked the look.  Mag wheels, I’ve learned, are allegedly maintenance free while wire wheels require spokes to be adjusted periodically to insure proper tension. My Bad!  

While Patti’s wheelchair now comfortably rolls, I’ve learned that even this caregiver approaching his 22 anniversary of MS caregiving can use some truing - “ask for help” rules!

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. That was interesting, Patrick! I wouldn't have known you had to do that with wheels like this! Good that someone was knowledgeable in the family to be able to help you guys out!


  2. LOL, I would NEVER have imagined all the problems wheel chairs and power chairs can present. They look simple, don't they? LOL

  3. Truing wheels has always seemed like a mystical process with the secrets on how to do it properly revealed only to a few who likely went through an initiation process of sorts. I've known folks who took their spoke WC wheels into a bike shop and had good results.

    Another reason, aside from the obvious, that I hope my chair remains a rare occasional use item -- I have spokes instead of mags.

  4. Thank you all for the comments. Yes indeed it so often comes down to 'never imagined' though the bigger lesson learned for me - ask for help!:)

  5. I am SOOOO thankful that Pete's every need (and most whims) are cared for by some department at the VA. When he has an issue with his wheelchair they send a mobility specialist to our house to fix it, is a wonderful thing really.

    He has had so many issues with it in the past year I can see it would be a total nightmare if we had to try and fix it ourselves or pay to have it done.

    Thanks for reminding me we actually have it pretty good here.


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