Disability blogger Emma Muldoon, Simply Emma, is a Scheme customer and full-time powered wheelchair user. In this article, she gives her top tips for maintaining a powered wheelchair to keep it working at its best.
Following a regular maintenance routine helps keep your powered wheelchair in good working order. Wheelchairs are very much like cars that need to be serviced to ensure they get us from A to B without any issues and to prevent breakdowns. Here are some easy ways to maintain your powered wheelchair.
Charge the battery
One of the most important ways to keep your powered wheelchair in tip-top condition is to charge it regularly. Even if you aren’t using it for long periods of time it’s best to charge it. The easiest and simplest time to charge your powered wheelchair is when you are sleeping. I charge my wheelchair overnight to ensure the battery is fully charged for the next day. The last thing you want is to be stranded somewhere or your plans to be ruined because you run out of charge. Frequently letting the battery drain until it’s completely empty can cause damage. If you notice the battery isn’t holding a full charge or you are running out of power faster than usual, then you may need to replace the batteries. Speak to your local dealer who will be able to fit the replacement batteries for you.
Over time things like nuts, bolts and electrical connections can become loose. These are the components that should be kept tight and secure at all times. It’s best to speak to your powered wheelchair dealer as soon as you notice something isn’t quite right, if parts are becoming loose/worn or if it’s making an unfamiliar sound. Your dealer should be able to identify the issues, and then either reassure you, or come to see you if necessary. My powered wheelchair kept breaking down due to a faulty loose cable connected to my controller. This happened several times when driving down kerbs and across roads, which made my wheelchair lose power suddenly. This was frustrating but also dangerous. Now I make sure all cables and components are safety checked and my wheelchair is serviced on a regular basis by my dealer; if you’re a Motability Scheme powered wheelchair or scooter customer then regular servicing is included as part of your lease!
Keep it clean
Powered wheelchairs take us from A to B and everywhere in between in all weathers. It’s not surprising they gather up lots of dust, dirt and even hair. By adding cleaning to your powered wheelchair maintenance routine, you will help improve its overall performance. The safest way to clean your powered wheelchair is by wiping it down with a damp cloth or sponge. This will ensure water doesn’t seep inside the components or mechanical workings of your wheelchair causing rust or stopping it from working properly. Regular washing of the cushion covers in the washing machine (or handwashing) prevents a build-up of dust, dirt and sweat to keep the material in good condition. It’s important to keep the wheelchair controller covered to prevent damage from rain. Again, I’ve learned from this mistake after being caught in a heavy rain shower, which caused the buttons on my controller to stop working. The whole controller unit had to be replaced.
Check tyre condition
Much like cars, powered wheelchairs also need tyre replacements from time to time. Rough uneven terrain and the distance travelled will cause gradual wear and tear to the tyres. Check if the tread is worn or bald in any areas and make an appointment to have them replaced as soon as possible. The condition of the tyres is important because it can lead to performance and safety issues such as problems affecting the steering and cause the battery to drain faster. Dirt, grime, dust, hair and twigs can build up and get stuck in the wheels, but regular cleaning will help keep the casters/wheels working well. If you’re a Motability Scheme customer and suspect there’s something wrong with your tyres then please contact your dealer, who will be more than happy to check your tyres for you.
Maintenance tips from a Motability Scheme dealer
As a Motability Scheme customer, your dealer is there to help and support you throughout your lease. I spoke to Scheme specialist Tracy, from Parkgate Mobility in Yorkshire, to get his answers to some key questions on powered wheelchair maintenance.
How often should my powered wheelchair be serviced?
Regular servicing is of paramount importance to the safe reliable use of any powered mobility equipment. We recommend that your powered wheelchair is serviced annually to keep it in tip-top condition. By keeping a record of service intervals, you will know when it is due a service, however, your Motability Scheme dealer should contact you when your next service is due. Depending on usage it may be necessary to have your powered wheelchair serviced more regularly, again your dealer should also be able to provide advice about servicing requirements.
What do I do if I have a technical fault?
Contact your local Motability Scheme dealership as soon as possible and explain what the symptoms are. They will be able to tell you if the equipment is still safe to use or not. For minor technical faults, it may be possible to continue to use the equipment whilst an engineers visit can be arranged.
I have air-filled tyres, what checks do I need to carry out?
First of all, look to see if the tyres are properly inflated. You can check this by looking at the tyre to see if the bottom appears flatter than normal and also by pressing the tyre with your thumb to see if it feels under or over-inflated.
Can I, or my carer, pump my product’s tyres up myself?
Yes, you can pump your powered wheelchair’s tyres yourself if you are physically able to do so. Make sure that you always inflate to the recommended pressure as outlined in the user manual. But don’t forget that your dealer is there to assist you through your lease, so will be more than happy to help if you’re unable to pump your own tyres.
How do I keep my battery from going flat?
Follow the recommended charging procedure as outlined in the manual. We recommend a good, long overnight regular charge. Try not to get into the habit of short charges and don’t wait until the battery is flat before you charge, if you do not use the equipment for a long period of time then put your powered wheelchair on charge periodically so that the batteries do not go flat.
What’s the best way to look after my battery?
Modern-day batteries are maintenance-free but do require regular charging, follow the above advice and you should get good service from a set of batteries.
The good thing about battery-related problems is that it usually happens progressively, i.e. the powered wheelchair doesn’t just stop working, you get an advanced warning, this should give you enough time to contact your dealership before things deteriorate beyond repair.
What’s your top tip for wheelchair maintenance?
Regular servicing! If you’re a Motability Scheme customer then annual servicing is included as part of your worry-free lease, so make sure you don’t miss out on your yearly appointment. Plus, the batteries are the lifeblood of your powered wheelchair so try to get into good charging habits.
To read more from Emma, please visit her blog Simply Emma