Wheelchair Tire Pressure

Different types of tires are available to manual wheelchair users including pneumatic and solid tires. There are advantages to pneumatic tires over solid tires, but they do require regular maintenance of air pressure. Under inflated tires affects wheelchair propulsion.

Author YearCountry
Research Design
Total Sample Size
Methods Outcome
Sawatzky et al. 2005


Post Test

NInitial=17; NFinal=14

Population: Mean age: 35.3 yr; Gender: males=11, females=3; Level of injury: paraplegia=17.Intervention: Propulsion of personal wheelchair over a linoleum floor at a preferred speed for 8 min with 4 different tire pressures (100, 75, 50, 25 psi).

Outcome Measures: Energy expenditure, Heart rate-Polar heart monitor, Oxygen consumption-Cosmed K4 oxygen system, Distance traveled.

1.      When tires were deflated to 50 and 25 psi, there was an increase in energy expenditure (p<0.01 and p<0.001, respectively).2.      The decrease in pressure indicated a 12.2% (50psi) and 24.1% (25psi) increase in energy used.

3.      A correlation was found between heart rate and oxygen consumption (r=0.74). Higher lesions had a lower correlation (above T6, r=0.55), than lower lesions (below T6, r=0.82).


Sawatzky et al. (2005) investigated the effect of tire pressure on wheelchair propulsion. Tires deflated to 50 and 25 psi from the recommended 100 psi resulted in an increase of energy expenditure of 12.2 % and 24.1%, respectively. Tire pressure does effect energy cost of wheelchair propulsion but not until they are deflated to more than 50% of the recommended inflation.


There is level 4 evidence (from one post-test study: Sawatsky et al. 2005) that tire pressure effects energy expenditure only after the tire has been deflated by 50%.