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Basic Electric Wheelchair Repair Guide
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Basic Electric Wheelchair Repair Guide

For those with mobility impairments, an electric wheelchair is not only a mode of transportation but also a key to independence. However, like any mechanical device, power wheelchairs can experience issues that require repair. This guide aims to equip wheelchair users and caregivers with the necessary knowledge on how to deal with common electric wheelchair issues and keep using the vehicle afterward.

Before Disassembling Your Wheelchair

Prior to starting any service and repair work, make sure you get all the required tools and supplies at hand. Bare essentials include a set of wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, and electrical tape. Besides, the multimeter and the tire repair kit are the tools that can also stand you in good stead on the journey of power wheelchair maintenance.

Safety should be the number one concern when working on electric wheelchairs:

  • Disconnect the battery to protect yourself from electric shocks, or the vehicle might move by itself.
  • Implement proper lifting techniques in order to avoid straining your back.
  • Consider wearing protective gear on like of gloves and safety glasses if necessary.
  • The owner’s manual is the best source of information on how to deal with your power wheelchair model.

Electric Wheelchair Troubleshooting Common Issues

1. Battery Problems

replacing battery on electric wheelchair

A battery is the core of an electric wheelchair, and problems with it can lead to a variety of severe problems. If your wheeling chair isn’t working or the battery isn’t holding a charge, test the battery with a multimeter. If the voltage is low, charge the battery as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If charging does not fix the problem, probably, it’s time to replace the battery.

Dead or Weak Batteries

One of the most frequent battery problems is a dead or weak battery that does not hold a charge or provides low power to the wheelchair. This issue is very common, especially when the battery is old or has been through a lot of discharging or overcharging cycles.

The main reason for a dead or weak battery is usually the natural aging of the battery cells. The wheelchair batteries lose their ability to store and give energy as they age, which results in a shortened run time and the final failure. Besides, the batteries are also subjected to extreme temperatures or overcharging, which in turn may speed up the degradation process.

In most cases, users can manage to restore a weak battery by charging it properly as instructed by the manufacturer. But if the battery is truly dead or has reached the end of its lifespan, the only solution here is to replace the battery.

Battery Leakage or Swelling

This problem is usually a result of overcharging, physical damage, or excessive heat exposure. Battery acid leakage can corrode the battery terminals and the surrounding components. The following may cause the wheelchair’s electrical system to be further damaged.

Battery leakage or swelling is a serious problem that should be dealt with as soon as possible. Electric wheelchair users should never try to repair or reseal a leaking battery, as this can be extremely hazardous. In such a case, you should replace the battery and then clean and check the battery compartment and the surrounding areas for any signs of corrosion or damage.

Although some of the users are able to replace the batteries themselves, it is still necessary to follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and take the proper safety precautions. The repair or resealing of a leaking battery is not advised and should be left to repair service professionals.

Battery Charging Issues

Improper charging can also cause battery problems in electric wheelchairs. If the battery is not being charged correctly, it may result in reduced run times or premature battery failure.

Charging issues can be caused by faulty wheelchair chargers, loose connections, or incorrect charging procedures. Make sure you are using the correct charger for your specific battery type. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s charging instructions.

In certain cases, users can fix the charging problems on their own. You can examine and clean the battery terminals, check for loose connections, or replace a bad charger. However, if the problem keeps on or is related to more complicated electrical parts, it is better to contact a wheelchair service provider.

2. Tire/Wheel Issues

replacing wheel on electric wheelchair

Problems related to tires and wheels are the most common ones that electric wheelchair users face since these parts are always getting worn out by daily use. Here are the common issues to be aware of.

Flat Tires

Flat tires may occur when a power wheelchair is used on rough terrain or runs over sharp objects. Punctures, cuts, or excessive wear can cause air leaks, thus, a flat tire. This issue can happen several times a year, depending on the user’s environment and driving habits.

You can fix the flat tire by using a tire repair kit or by patching the puncture from the inside. If the tire is badly damaged or worn, it might have to be replaced entirely.

Worn-Out Tires

Over time, the tread on electric wheelchair tires gets worn out to a great extent, which leads to the loss of traction and, hence, the risk of slips or falls. Treadwear is a gradual process, but it can be fastened by rough surfaces, improper inflation, or the user’s weight distribution.

The task of replacing worn tires is one that most users can do on their own as long as they have the right tools at hand. Remove the wheel from the chair, then use a lever to pry the tire off the rim, replace the damaged tube with a new one or patch it if possible, reinstall the tire onto the rim, inflate it to the proper pressure, and finally remount the wheel back onto the wheelchair.

Wheel Alignment and Adjustment

The correct wheel alignment and adjustment are super important for the smooth, efficient operation of a powerized mobility device. Misaligned or incorrectly adjusted wheels may lead to uneven tread wear, vibrations, and steering problems.

Although minor wheel adjustments may be made on your own, realigning wheels or solving more complex issues may require the help of a trained technician.

3. Motor/Electrical Problems

checking motor issues on electric wheelchair

The motor and electrical issues are one of the most difficult and irritating troubles for electric wheelchair users. These parts play a crucial role in the functioning of the power chair, and any breakage may lead to a serious loss of mobility. Below is the list of the most frequently occurring motor/electrical problems.

Motor Failure

Motor failure is not so common, but it is a serious problem that can be caused by wear and tear, overloading, or electrical faults. Symptoms may comprise a non-responsive or sluggish motor, weird noises, or an outright inability to move. Motor failure can be either slow or fast, depending on the underlying cause.

Frankly, replacing a failed motor is quite complicated and usually needs professional help. The process includes disassembling the motor parts, dealing with electrical connections, as well as providing proper alignment and calibration.

Electrical Connection Issues

Loose, corroded, or damaged electrical connections are the most common problems. They can lead to intermittent or complete loss of power or erratic behavior. Such issues can either develop slowly or be caused by physical damage, moisture exposure, or vibrations.

You can try to solve minor connection problems, like tightening the loose terminals or cleaning the corrosion. But in case of wiring issues or complete damage - it should be done by a professional.

Fuse or Circuit Breaker Failure

Electric wheelchairs are the ones that use fuses and circuit breakers to guard the electrical system from overloads or short circuits. Blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers may lead to the wheelchair losing its power or specific functions to stop working. Replacing fuses or resetting circuit breakers is a task that most wheelchair users can do by themselves.

4. Joystick/Controller Issues

fixing joystick on electric wheelchair

The joystick or controller is the primary interface between the user and the wheelchair. If the chair is not responding correctly to joystick inputs, then recalibrate the joystick as per the manual’s instructions. Besides, check the wiring connections between the joystick and the controller for any damage or loose connections.

Conclusion

Acquiring basic power wheelchair repair skills will enable users and caregivers to deal with common issues if they arise. This reduces interruptions in everyday life and allows you to use your mobility equipment in its best condition. Remember to systematically diagnose common wheelchair problems and carry out regular maintenance for excellent performance of the wheelchair.

Electric scooter owners can also check our mobility scooter repair guide here.

Alex Vander Poel
Alex Vander Poel
Marc’s Mobility was created by my Father Marc in 1995 when I was 7 years old. I have grown up in and around this industry and from an early age would clean, drive and repair these units with Marc. I graduated high school in 2006 and headed to Gainesville, FL to get a Business degree at the University of Florida. Once graduated, I moved back to Lakeland FL to help my father grow the business to what it is today.

I have been full-time in this industry for almost 12 years as of 2022. When I graduated college the company was a small 3 member operation. At the beginning, it was my primary role to inspect, repair, and prepare units for shipping all across the US. As we have grown to over a 10 man operation, I now oversee all aspects of the business but understand each and every role here at Marc’s Mobility. I believe what makes us successful is we do our best to treat everyone we interact with as if they were family.

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