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Power Wheelchair Maintenance Tips

by Gary Karp,
Even if you can't do the physical work of maintenance, it's helpful for you to understand the operation of your chair.

Even if you are unable to perform any of the required maintenance for your power wheelchair, you can still be an important part of making sure it stays in top condition. You can visually observe the parts of your chair, noticing problems that are apparent. For example, observe any moving parts such as belts, gears, and wheels to make sure that wiring is safely away from them with no chance of being caught. It might be necessary to tie wires down to the frame or in a bunch to each other. There are products made to clip wires to another surface to ensure their freedom from moving parts. The modular engineering of modern power chairs has helped to reduce any risk of this happening.

You can also call attention to anything that doesn’t feel the way it normally does, such as a loose armrest. Perhaps most important, you can learn enough about how your chair works, and how parts are connected, to be able to instruct someone so they can fix a minor problem or loose connection.

Listen to your motor. It is a good idea to become familiar with the healthy sound of your wheelchair when it is new. Over time, just like a car, it will become a little noisier, but if your ear is tuned to how it sounds when it is healthy, you will be able to notice when there is excessive noise. Increased noise might indicate worn bearings, out of line belts, or frame problems. Some chairs have a motor for each wheel. Each should sound the same.

In addition to these general observations, you will want to do specific checks on the following:

  • Although not required as regularly as some of the other checks, you will need to check electrical connections from time to time to make sure they are firmly in place, and are free of grime and corrosion. For instance, you might want to check to make sure all connections are tight after someone else has worked on your chair.
  • If you live where the winters are harsh and the roads are salted, you will need to clean the electrical connections on your chair more often to protect them from salt corrosion. Buildup can be removed with a wire brush after removing the cable from the connection. If it will not come off at first, your local hardware store has products which help to loosen stuck parts, such as Liquid Wrench. Apply a small amount of petroleum grease to limit corrosion.
  • Do not risk any unintentional changes of wiring connections. A good chair design will color code the wires, and if you remove one you should note its color. In fact, don’t remove more than one connection at a time so that there will be no chance of replacing it in the wrong place. Putting wires back incorrectly is quite dangerous. At the least you could damage the electrical system of the chair. At worst you could cause a short circuit which could burn you.
  • Any moving part that you use a lot, such as footrests, removable backs, tilt mechanisms, or adjustable armrests are likely to wear out sooner than other parts of the chair simply because they get more use. They will last longer if they are kept tightened and properly adjusted.
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