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Drive Wheel Differences on Power Wheelchairs

Your specific needs determine which drive wheel is a good buy for you.

 Drive Wheel Differences in Power Wheelchairs

The drive wheels of a power wheelchair are connected to the motor. There are three drive wheel types, rear-wheel drive, mid-wheel drive and front-wheel drive, each of which are ideal for a certain type of user and needs. Each drive wheel type has its own driving and handling characteristics, turning radii, and advantages and disadvantages. Below is a brief overview of the different drive types.

Rear-Wheel Drive

The original drive type, rear-wheel drive power chairs are some of the most stable chairs on the market. This type of chair has the highest top speeds available, as well as the largest turning radius. Note that with rear-wheel drive chairs, going up steep hills will cause the chair to lean back on the anti-tip tubes to assist in preventing the chair from tipping backward.

Front-Wheel Drive

In this type of chair, the drive wheels are actually in front of your seat. A sturdy solution for uneven terrain and up and down hills, front-wheel drive chairs can easily climb over small obstacles. Most of the chair is behind you with this type, so remaining aware of what is behind you is key. Think of this drive type like a forklift. The overall speed of this drive type is slower, because it can fishtail at higher speeds.

Mid-Wheel Drive

While in this type of chair, your center of gravity is about even with the center of the drive wheels, so they are essentially under you. With mid-wheel chairs, there is an equal amount of the chair in front of and behind you, making it ideal for maneuvering in smaller spaces. Unlike front-wheel drive chairs, this type of chair is not ideal for varied, uneven terrain with steep transitions. There is a possibility of you getting “stuck” on the front or rear casters; suspending the drive wheels so they have no contact with the ground. 

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