Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Confining Air Under Pressure

One frustrating aspect of my new -- well, December 2008 new -- power wheelchair is that it came equipped with pneumatic rear tires. The previous wheelchair had air-filled tires, as I seem to recall, but they were sealed in such a way as to prevent leakage or flats.

This morning I woke to a flat tire. We'd been out yesterday, and we'd stopped at a service station to air up the tires on the wheelchair. I have a propensity for ignoring the slow, "tires leak because there's no perfect seal" factor that happens with any pneumatic tire -- car, truck, bicycle, golf cart, fork lift, or wheelchair. But I think I had let these go too long. Apparently refilling them to maximum pressure (which we guessed at) resulted in a tube being pinched. A mile or five worth of riding apparently cut the tube; thus, the flat.

But that's not really the important thing. Flats happen. Frustration results. What moves the mood into Good grief, Charlie Brown! territory is that no one will repair a tire if it's evident the tire's purpose is support a wheelchair -- not a professional tire shop, not a dealer, not a service station, not even Wally World, the one source of everything.

Oh, you'll need to go to a medical supply store for that.

For a tire that resembles nothing more than a tire from a lawnmower? For a replaceable tube that might cost ten bucks at an auto supply store and three times that at a medical supply store? What difference does it make if a 3.00 by 8 inch tube goes in a lawnmower, a golf cart, or a wheelchair tire?

Luckily my stepson came home from the graveyard shift with a friend. They lifted the chair, unbolted the wheel, and after a bit of tinkering, saw that it was a split rim. That meant we could get the tube out, which in turn led to another round of We can't patch it because it's from a wheelchair.

The solution? A trip to Wally World for a bicycle tire patch kit, a heavy duty one supposedly for off road bikes. Three and a half hours into the adventure, I was rolling again. 

Until the patch gave way. Until a can of aerosol Fix-a-Flat came bubbling out from around the valve stem.

The flat was discovered at 645am. The flat was repaired at about 645pm, after a 75-mile round trip to a medical supply store that actually stocked tires and tubes for a wheelchair, which by extension I mean the purchase entailed two new tires and two new tubes rather than the single tube necessary.

But I'm the sort who looks on the bright side: I put one new tire/tube combination on the chair and have kept the (probably ruined) older tire and the companion new tube/tire pair for the next flat tire episode.


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