How to Properly Secure Wheelchair Tie-Down Straps in a Van

man assisting person into wheelchair van

Wheelchair tie-down straps are used to secure a wheelchair to the floor of a vehicle. Sometimes referred to as “wheelchair restraints,” these simple straps and hooks are essential to safe wheelchair transportation. In this in-depth guide, Freedom Motors USA provides the steps for proper wheelchair securement when using tie-downs – whether you live in Orlando, FL or Dallas, TX, this is essential knowledge.

Types of Wheelchair Tie-Downs

How you achieve proper wheelchair securement in your van will depend on what kind of restraint system is installed in your vehicle. The basic types of wheelchair tie-downs include:

  • Manual Wheelchair Tie-Downs: This is the least expensive option for wheelchair tie-down systems. The wheelchair user will need to have a companion or assistant who can help them secure the wheelchair to the anchor points. This system operates by placing the tie-downs on the wheelchair, then adjusting the excess tension of the straps with a ratchet or cam button/buckle. To achieve proper wheelchair securement and ensure the safety of the user, it is essential that the tie-down not be placed on any moving part of the wheelchair.
  • 4-Point System: This is the most common kind of wheelchair tie-down system. It features an L-Track, which consists of aluminum strips that have been bolted to the floor. The grooved channel on the L-Track has machined holes in it, placed about every 2 inches along its length. The tie-down straps can be easily attached to the L-Track in the position that best secures the wheelchair.
  • Floor Anchors: These have only one or two holes in them for attaching the straps, and though they don’t allow for the kind of flexibility that an L-Track does, properly used they work well for wheelchair securement.
  • Retractable Wheelchair Tie-Downs: This is the most widely used system, and it is also the safest and easiest to operate. The user can operate it on their own by simply connecting the tie-downs to non-moving parts on the wheelchair, and the restraints will self-adjust.
  • Automatic/Power Wheelchair Tie-Downs: Power tie-down systems only utilize one lock point. During your vehicle customization, a base will be installed into the vehicle, as well as a bracket to the bottom of the wheelchair. This type of wheelchair securement system must be installed by a certified retailer like Freedom Motors USA.

Is it safe to install wheelchair tie-downs yourself? While the DIY approach can be tempting, there are several reasons why it is safer to get professional installment, including the fact that the conversion process at a professional manufacturer typically involves more than one person.

Steps for Wheelchair Securement

  • Manual Straps: The straps used to restrain the wheelchair have locking pins that can be moved from one hole to another to anchor the chair. The opposite end of the straps feature metal J-hooks that attach to the wheelchair frame. Note that the straps are adjustable, allowing them to be pulled taut to hold the wheelchair in place.
  • Retractable Straps: The retractable straps can be automatic or semi-automatic, and are much easier to use since they are self-tightening and feature a quick release. They are attached the same way that a manual strap is.

With either the manual or retractable straps it is important to make sure that you securely attach the pin to the floor anchor or L-Track, and that the J-hooks are placed properly and tightened so that the chair does not move. W19 wheelchairs feature securement points to attach the straps to. On a non-W19 wheelchair, attach the straps to welded junctions of the frame, or to places where the frame is bolted. Never attach straps to moving or adjustable parts of the wheelchair.

Other important safety tips for wheelchair securement in vans include:

  • The wheelchair and occupant should always be positioned facing forward.
  • Floor anchor points for the rear tie-downs should be directly behind the rear securement points on the wheelchair.
  • Floor anchor points for the front tie-down straps should be spaced slightly wider than the chair itself.
  • Lap and shoulder belts for the wheelchair occupant must be used to ensure safety.

Wheelchair Docking Systems: Learn More About Power Tie-Downs

Another option if you’re wondering how to properly secure a wheelchair in a van is a wheelchair docking system, otherwise known as the power tie-down type we discussed above. These are especially useful for people in wheelchairs who are drivers. The docking system is bolted to the floor and features an electronic spring-loaded hook that attaches to a metal pin or bolt on the bottom of the wheelchair frame. Most docking systems come with a control module, so all it takes is the push of a button to secure or release the chair.

Find Freedom Mobility Solutions With Freedom Motors USA

To learn more about wheelchair tie-down systems and other assistive devices, wheelchair van seating options, as well as hand controls for cars, get in touch with the Freedom Mobility experts at Freedom Motors USA. Please feel free to contact us online, or call us at 866-581-7463 if you have any questions. Still searching for the ideal vehicle customization to suit your needs? Consult our extensive online inventory of handicap vehicles for sale, where you will find a diverse selection of rear entry vehicles and side entry vehicles. Find your perfect Freedom Mobility solution from the comfort of your home, and have it delivered to you in a timely manner!

Updated on 1/4/2021 by Freedom Motors

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