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Updated:  14-Dec-09

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John Williamson


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 downsides.

To begin with Foam Tyres and Foam Filled or Solid Tyres are heavier.
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 "oscillating" 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 and manufacturer.

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 to you.

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 comfortable...

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 on.
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 gets worse.

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:

home built powerchairpage

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.

This causes 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 Pressures

Punctures!
Obviously puncture 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 10 years see here

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 car tyres. 

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 deflating.

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 same OFF ROAD sealer as the off road ones above.

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 alternatives...

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. 

powerchair off road tyres comparison

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.

puncture proof tyre casing

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???

Quick summary

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 these.

Tubeless 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!

Menu:

Detailed PowerChair Only Menu

Related:

Powerchair Tyre Pressures  What should they be and why?

Tyre 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.

Powerchair Tyres
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 Pneumatic?
Advantages and disadvantages of each type
. Which should you fit?

Run Flat Tyres for your car or van.

 

 

 

 

 

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