How long Do Manual Wheelchairs Last?

Wheelchairs can be just what some of us need to gain back independence and start moving again inside and out.  We rely heavily on these types of mobility aids to get us to and from places that otherwise might not happen.  Because of this, we want to know that the wheelchair we sit in will work.   So you ask yourself from time to time how long do manual wheelchairs last?  This question is not as straightforward as it may seem because of different factors that could reduce the wheelchair’s lifespan.  If it doesn’t it can be devastating to know the mobility aid we counted on no longer functions properly.  But just like other devices they do have a lifespan, wheelchairs are no different.  

So, how long do wheelchairs last?  The average lifespan of a wheelchair is around 3 years with the maximum lifestyle being around 5 years.  However, these numbers can fluctuate by how hard the wheelchair is used.  The more the wheelchair is used the shorter the life span will be simply because of wear and tear.  It is even possible that your current needs change and you may want to upgrade the chair before it stops working correctly.  Factors that affect a wheelchairs life span may be:

  • Types of surfaces the chair goes over
  • Quality of the materials used when building the wheelchair
  • Weight being put on the chair
  • Failure to maintain the chair when needed
  • Cleaning the chair when possible 

Knowing what can affect the lifespan of a wheelchair can help you if possible minimize those things to get a longer life span out of the chair.  Wheelchairs can be expensive and for most of us, we want to keep them as long as they are safe and keep us moving.

Table of Contents

What can determine how long a wheelchair will last?

A few things will determine the lifespan of a wheelchair.  How well it’s made, what materials were used, and how often you use the wheelchair.

Craftmanship 

Just like any other product that is built how well the wheelchair is built can and does play a role in how long the wheelchair will last.   Materials and how its constructed will certainly play a role in if your wheelchairs lifespan is on the short side or long side of the average.

Materials

Most of today’s wheelchairs are constructed of steel or aluminum or a mixture of both types of a single wheelchair.  But while these two types of metals are used those are not the only types you will find.  You can also find chairs made from carbon composites and titanium.  All of their pluses and minus.  Below is a graph of what you can expect from each.

Steel

Aluminum

Titanium

Carbon

Lifespan:

3 to 5 years

2 to 3 years

3 to 5 years

4 to 5 years

Positives:

Stronger than aluminum and can last a good amount of time. Cheaper in terms of price that other types of metals.

Reduces the weight of wheelchair so it can be used to travel easier.

Excellent material in terms of strength and weight.

Some of the best material for lightweight and strength.

Negatives:

Heavier material making the wheelchair weight more.

Not as strong as other materials causing a smaller life span of a wheelchair.

More expensive than steel and aluminum.

Most expensive material

Improper rear wheel placement

Similar to that of car tires needing the proper alignment and positioning when the rear wheels of a wheelchair do not position right properties can take effect.  This is because it will cause a greater force to move the wheelchair causing failure quicker to the chair.  

Not to mention if it’s more difficult to push a wheelchair your body will suffer as well.  Your arms and hands can see created pain and discomfort because of this.   It can easily cause someone more for to push, increased difficulties over longer distances, and more force required to move.

What causes Wheelchairs to break?

There are actions that can make your manual wheelchair break more quickly than others.  If you can avoid these missteps it can help in extending the life of your wheelchair.    How long do manual wheelchairs last will determine many factors but the major ones are below? 

  • Weigh put on a wheelchair:  Wheelchairs have weight limits and when a wheelchair is used at the maximum weight limits they will have greater pressures put on all of the components.   It is important to make sure that if you are at the wheelchair’s maximum weight limit we suggest opting for a more heavy-duty wheelchair.  This will make the wheelchair experience safer and can help with putting less pressure on the wheelchair, possibly extending its life.
  • Surfaces you will use the wheelchair on The surface you use the wheelchair on can either help to reduce or gain the life of your wheelchair.  Smooth indoor surfaces or concrete that is smooth will help to extend the life of tires and overall parts of the chair.  However, if you use your wheelchair over rough surfaces, grass, or uneven pavement these dips can reduce the lifespan because of the added pressures they will put onto the chair.
  • Daily usage in time and distance will affect how long a wheelchair can last.  The more you use the chair the faster it will wear out and possibly fail just because of normal wear and tear.
  • Damaging the wheelchair by way of accidents.  Like any other device Handling it with care can help to extend the life of the wheelchair.  If you are constantly banging or even dropping the chair during transport it can weaken, crack, or break parts that can fail much quicker with normal use.  

Maintaining your wheelchair for longer life

Just like anything else if you maintain the product you can extend the life past the normal lifespan in some cases.  Maintaining your wheelchair should be something you do not only o extent the life but to keep the best possible experience when you use the chair.  This will make things after and it will make using the wheelchair more enjoyable.  

Some areas of the wheelchair that can be most prone to failure should be checked at least every few weeks.

  • Tires and tire pressure 
  • Brakes if your wheelchair has them
  • Backrest
  • Footrests 

On top of this, you should have a professional check the wheelchair every year to thoroughly check the fame and all other parts so that if there is a problem it can assist and fixed if possible so you stay safe while in the wheelchair. 

Related questions

Can wheelchairs rust?   Yes, there are certain areas and materials that if they get wet and not dried properly can rust.  If the water also gets into the bearings they can rust causing the wheelchair not to roll smoothly.   If a frame is cracked that can also cause rusting. 

Are wheelchairs waterproof?  Some are and some are not.  Shower wheelchairs that are designed to get completely wet are waterproof and are meant to get fully wet.  Other manual wheelchairs can get somewhat wet but should be submerged like a shower chair.  If your chair gets wet it should be dried properly as quickly as possible.

5/5 (1 Review)
About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.