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Solid Rubber, Foam, Puncture Proof Tyres (or foam core/inserts) or good old
Pneumatic Air Filled Tyres for your Powerchair?
Powerchair Tyre Pressures What
should they be?
Punctures are a scary thing for many powerchair
users. Its not like we can just get out and push it home! A puncture can leave
us stranded and unable to get home.
So which is best? An old style air filled tyre
with a tube? Or a "Green", foam, foam cored, or similar "puncture proof" tyre?
Well as usual it depends...
While its easy just to specify one of the solid, (foam
cored, etc) tyres to make sure you can never get a puncture it has its
To begin with Foam Tyres
and Foam Filled or Solid Tyres
Weight is always a bad thing and
if fitted to a caster wheel for e.g. can cause the dreaded caster wheel flutter
as the extra weight lowers the natural oscillating frequency So it does its
at a slower speed that your powerchair can achieve.
So if you
have this problem and use solid tyres on the front replacing them with air
filled ones will help to stop it! Kits which are available to "dampen" this
wobble are a bad idea. They try to cure the symptom rather than the problem and
waste power when turning. They just try to stiffen the caster action
through friction. Extra weight on the drive wheels however is
less of a problem in a slow vehicle like a power wheelchair. Although it has two
effects. a) it reduces the suspensions capability (greater un-sprung weight) and
it wastes battery power.
They get "flat spots" on
them when stationary.
Depending on type and manufacturer and on tyre
size and loading they all develop flat spots on the bit sat on the ground. Sometimes this happens while I sit having a meal, or sat at my computer as I am
now. It can be very annoying with the powerchair feeling like it has square
wheels for a while when you move. While it goes away with use after a while it
still becomes a pain... This can be in as little as two
minutes on some tyres or can last many hours depending on a number of variables
They are harder to push.
Greater rolling resistance, depending on manufacturer and type but they do have
a greater rolling resistance generally than conventional air filled tyres do. Don't
believe that? Try pushing a chair with a set of each fitted. I have. Then you will! This eats
batteries faster and so reduces range. If you don't go far each day it maybe wont matter
The ones that perform the best here with the least rolling resistance are
also the hardest ones that deform over obstacles less. Which are then the LEAST
And comfort is not exactly a
strongpoint on these solid/etc tyres as it is! If they made them softer the
rolling resistance would increase even more. So air filled tyres are pretty hard
to beat. Which is why the real world of cars, planes, trucks etc all use air
filled tyres. Albeit TUBELESS ones since they are hugely less likely to suffer a
puncture. At least one that results in a flat tyre.
It also means your steering accuracy and control also suffers to
a degree. (Also
dependent upon C of G position and programming, which tends to be more "soggy
pudding" than "sharp scalpel" on all production powerchairs)
They are very much less comfortable to ride
One of the biggest problems of Power Wheelchairs is that even at
low speeds every ripple in the ground that you run over or crack in the pavement
is a direct solid attack on your spine! It hurts and causes spasticity, Never mind curbs or cobbles,
uneven paving etc...
See here! All of the outside world is rough. Powerchairs Solid,
Foam Filled type tyres all happen to be about as hard as an air filled tyre at
its maximum pressure. They have to be this way or the rolling resistance problem
Below is a worn Foam tyre. (Yes its very Green! Most are grey. They can be
all colours, I have red, yellow, blue and pink ones here too.) Foam
tyres are much worse than foam FILLED tyres. They crumble and crack and wear
away fast! See Below:
The harsh ride that
Powerchairs generally give due to hopelessly ineffective suspension and tyres
with small cross section and little sidewall area and high pressures is
compounded by even "harder" uncomfortable foam or foam filled tyres.
physical damage long term and can aggravate and help cause pressure sores if you
are prone to this. I am. Both through loading on bumps and sheer forces as you are thrown side
to side. But
mostly its just damned painful! / uncomfortable and harsh.
Powerchair manufacturers add "suspension" for what its worth to
try and help here. Trouble is our chairs are too slow for it to be effective and
no power wheelchair I ever tested (I have tested a LOT) had effective suspension. Still the marketing department love it! Anyway the real answer to
ride comfort is big fat floaty low pressure air filled balloon style tyres like
these one above
They offer the exact opposite kind of a ride to "solid tyres"
and much better than small air filled ones too as they simply deform
around even large rocks and obstacles etc.
I can run over a hammer on my workshop floor
without actually knowing it. They just deform around the object and "absorb" it. You get a
very smooth ride on our pavements!
But even the stock small pneumatic (air filled) tyres offers better ride comfort than any
solid tyres do. With the added advantage that YOU control the tyre pressures. Hint,
lower is much smoother... See Tyre
proof "solid", foam, tyre inserts etc cannot get punctures! But
punctures need NOT be an issue with air filled tyres either. For e.g. PowerChair
manufacturers could easily use Tubeless tyres. I have been doing this for
Tubeless tyres are MASSIVELY less likely to deflate or become
punctured than a tyre with a tube in it. Tubes pop like a balloon, or expand
around an object like a nail and let the air out. The tyre industry sees around
20 to 25 times fewer punctures per mile driven in cars compared to the days of tubed
For this reason I use tubeless tyres on the rear wheels of all of
my powerchairs now. I have not had a puncture in a tubeless powerchair tyre in
12 years plus of use and abuse! And I really do use and abuse my chairs! Why
don't manufacturers fit tubeless tyres like your car? God knows, ask them...
I have got home on the odd occasion with a nail in my tyre, but unlike a tubed
tyre I just ignore it until I get home. leaving the nail in just stops it
Also the off road tyres fitted to the indoor/outdoor chair in the
photo above are tubeless. In addition they are much less likely to get a
puncture anyway since they are big fat balloon tyres with only 4 psi to 7 psi of
pressure, (you choose) and 4
ply strong... You can run over glass or nails and it just rides over it lightly
and deforms around the objects Due to the larger surface area
and lower pressure contact area. The opposite to a stiletto heel. If I drive
over your hand its not only not painful but its rally quite a non event.
Why then are all powerchairs not already fitted with these? Its
not because they are too "big" because my chair is a narrow 25 inches wide...
Again ask the manufacturers! And they are available in grey, And about 6 other colours
in case that's their excuse! I prefer black though.
I also add a 1/3rd fill (that's a lot!) of puncture seal goo...
Its an OFF ROAD sealer (seals even
better in low speed vehicles as its very thick and goopy!) as a secondary protection. It stays inside the
tyres waiting "just in case". So that along with the low pressures and
the fact that they are tubeless this almost guarantees no punctures
But even still, I also have one powerchair fitted with a set of
Puncture Resistant Kevlar lined tyres! These things are ALSO filled with the
OFF ROAD sealer as the off road ones
The manufacturers could fit these Kevlar reinforced tyres which all but
guarantee no punctures ever but they choose not to do so. Ask them why
yourselves! Beats me, they are not even expensive when you consider the
The image below shows the TUBELESS
(for massively less punctures) BIG BALLOON
super low pressure tyres, For comfort, sand and snow capability that are both 1/3rd filled with
OFF ROAD sealer (just to make totally sure!)
And you wonder why I never get
punctures and have a smooth ride! The one not fitted (stood free in front
of the chair) is an "Off Road", snow, beach TUBELESS tyre that I actually use all year round
indoor and out. The one on the chair ( actually fitted) is the "Lawn" or
Turf tyre. It is
in addition, "Kevlar Lined" for ultimate puncture protection. Trust me I have
tried to puncture an old one and you just cant puncture it without a drill! And then
the OFF ROAD sealer
fixes it anyway!!! Comfort, long life, off road capability and punctures
all not a problem. Why would anyone use normal "mobility" solid skinny 3.00 wide
tyres? Beats me.
On the front tyres
I simply use ordinary tube and inflated with air. OK its
got the same OFF ROAD sealer
in there as well. But this chair is not nose heavy like all rear drive
"production powerchairs" are so a puncture in the front is of no consequence. I can even remove a
wheel completely and drive around perfectly normally. I have had a flat front
tyre in the past (before I started adding the puncture seal goo), and I didn't bother fixing
it for days. If I was sat in a normal production front heavy (hard to control) powerchair
then I would just cut strips off an old tyre to put INSIDE the new ones, to protect
against punctures instead. I would not choose solids here ether.
Solid tyres are OK I think if you are indoors mainly, where battery range
isn't an issue, or in a slow powerchair in smooth places like shopping centres
with no road/street "shocks" to shake you about.
The fat tubeless and reinforced ones above are what all powerchairs really need
on drive wheels though. As you get almost zero chance of any punctures with far better ride comfort than
any other tyres. Maybe in grey rather than my preferred black.
Close up of the puncture
proof air filled tyre. This filled with some off road seal fluid means you
wouldn't be able to get a puncture no matter how hard you try. Why are these no
STANDARD on all powerchairs???
Puncture proof foam,
inserts, solids etc, Harsh ride, flat spots, foam deteriorates as
they age, shortens battery life and range due to greater battery discharge
level. Harder to "steer" or control. No punctures possible. Some don't age or
last well. Caster flutter on some chairs due to weight.
Tubed skinny tyres
as used on most powerchairs. Better at all of the above, lighter, unfortunately
regular punctures are a problem... Tubes go pop like balloons do. I used to get punctures on
average once a week or so... You CAN put puncture seal in tubed tyres too,
but its usually much less effective and just makes a mess. So I don't like
and or Big fat smooth riding tyres with off road puncture seal.
(like I use) Almost zero chance of a puncture, and I have not managed it
in 12 years. No downsides. Better ride, sand/snow/mud capable. This is what the manufacturers SHOULD fit if they
gave a crap... Its easy, I did it myself.
In addition you can keep a tiny CO2 tubeless repair kit somewhere (opposite) on
your chair (I don't bother). Tubeless tyres don't puncture and go down instantly
they just get a nail in them and you ignore it until you are home. And the
sealer works great on tubeless tyres even if you do pull that nail out.
So in the highly unlikely event that someone drills a hole in your tyre while
you sleep (not much else can puncture these Kevlar protected ones) you can fix
it without even removing the tyre... Takes about one minute and off you go!
I used these before on big bikes in a previous life.
Another shot of that hateful green foam tyre showing how its tread area wears!
Or rather crumbles away... If you must use puncture proof tyres don't use foam,
use foam filled ones. They are still awful things but they don't do this above!
Detailed PowerChair Only Menu
Powerchair Tyre Pressures What
should they be and why?
Weld Aerosol Punctures.
We just love those! At least get et a can
of tyre repair foam today!
Puncture Proof Tyres I
mean real puncture proof, like the military use.
NOT solid, foam filled, inserts or and of
the other "mobility solutions" that jar your spine every few feet outdoors.
There are better ways.
A page discussing the types of powerchair tyres we
have, can get, and which are best and why. Advantages and
disadvantages of each type. So you know what to look for or to swap over to!
Powerchair Tyres Solids or
Advantages and disadvantages of each type. Which should you fit?
Run Flat Tyres for your car or