Email me with your
Chairs review or comments
Obviously the Powerchair
manufacturers need some serious help as they don't seem to
know what we need!
you are buying a chair for general inside and outdoor use it
helps you decide what compromises to look for.
The "problem" is that a chair that's good outdoors may be
So for any
manufacturer or designer or buyer, this page is for YOU
to read. (And as usual the manufacturers will
ignore it!) Seriously if you are a
manufacturer I suggest you print this out and give it to
your "design" department, so they they can ignore it
Requirements for a
typical paraplegic active user (myself for example!) are as
SIZE & WEIGHT
foremost LESS is more! All the
manufacturers seem to forget this. This means both
weight and physical height, length, width. EVERY
single Pound or Gram or Millimetre is important here and
matters MASSIVELY! Just because it's
"powered" is NOT a reason to build a wheelchair like a
locomotive! And they ALL are.
Every single inch means less manoeuvrability, less access
to rooms off corridors, less ability to turn in tight
spaces / loos. Every pound in weight means more
wasted battery power, which in turn means bigger
batteries are needed to keep the range, which is a
vicious circle! Smaller lighter "tighter"
construction means less power requirement, so smaller
batteries can be used! This mean a smaller
more manoeuvrable chair can be built around them.
powerchairs so big and heavy? This is the major
cause of the BIG batteries they they then require to
manoeuvre and turn all day long! Chassis and
all the multitude of brackets / bolts / footplates /
seat frames etc are almost ALWAYS massively
overweight, ill thought out and made from steel that is
heavy enough to sink a battleship.
With some sensible lightweight alloy construction, lighter
better thought out components. weight and subsequent battery
size, and therefore total chair size can be reduced
massively. Simple things such as lights and indicators
that are required here by law are just an afterthought.
The ones on the F55s that I use for example weighed pounds
and looked big, ugly, and bashed into everything. They
could easily be replaced (cheaper!) with some tiny
aftermarket carbon fibre motorcycle ones, with a weight
saving of 700% on these small components alone! Follow
this approach with the whole chair and we get a tighter
smaller lighter neater chair altogether.
should be NO MORE than the distance between the back of your
head and the tips of your toes when seated. If it is
greater, the chair is a bad design. There can be no argument
here its important! It means turning around in
corridors / loos etc would be extremely limited for no good
reason! This effectively rules out mid drive or
front drive powerchairs too. They cannot be made to be
this short and need a bunch of extra wheels to prevent them
falling over stuck out either behind, in front, or both!
Total Width should be the distance between your
closely tucked in armrests, at the chairs widest point!
All the rest NEEDS to be narrower than this since turning
from a corridor say, into a doorway means the "corners" are
now the limitation. More about "corners" to
size - Powerchairs typically come with "swing away"
(ancient looking tubular things like
footplates. Now SOME people actually need these.
But for the vast majority they are just a pain in the butt!
Firstly if you cannot stand (the primary purpose of using
the wheelchair?) you have to "transfer" to bed or van
seat etc. Well this means you have to park alongside
your bed/seat and use a slider board or just lift with your
hands to get from one place to the other! Now the
damned things are in the way, so you have to move forwards
somehow first. This is both difficult, and dangerous
(I finished up on the floor several times). You CANNOT
"swing them away", as the bed is in the way. You
cannot remove them because They are needed to support the
weight of my legs as I transfer. So as usual I remove
THE MOUNTING BRACKET OFF
so that I
can: a) save
about 10lb in weight, b) Transfer safely c) fit a MUCH
NARROWER, LIGHTER alloy one. (here)
narrowness is extremely important because this forms the
"corner" of the powerchair when trying to turn in a tight
space like into a doorway from a corridor improving
The problem with powerchair and wheelchair manufacturers
is that they are V E R Y S L O W to change, move
on, advance! They seem to think that
painting the 8 year old iron framed monster a different
colour makes it "better" or more appealing. They
get funky names, numbers, fancy stickers and brochures
and underneath they are exactly the same as they were 10
years ago. Batteries are a good
example. The commonly used GEL (Gelled acid)
powerchair batteries we all use are by FAR the heaviest
part of a powerchair. You just cannot fit
"smaller" ones because then even if they survived each
day "just" and got you home you would be discharging
them far too deeply. The problem is that all deep
cycle lead acid batteries hate to be discharged really
low! It KILLS them... Typically you will get
300 "cycles" (days to us) from a deep cycle battery that
is discharged to 80 percent used up. This means
that my batteries last 10 months before renewal time...
So why don't the manufacturers use AGM batteries like
the OPTIMA ones I use? They are not
MASSIVELY better but they give me both greater range,
and weigh less, and are physically smaller than the
stock GEL ones? They last about 500 cycles too...
REMEMBER that the battery is the heaviest part of your
powerchair, and it has to supply the power to drag
itself all over the town! Small weight savings
here and efficiency improvements pay off enormously in
either range, performance, or size and manoeuvrability.
They COULD (if
price was not an issue but it is) also use Nickel Metal
Hydride. These are better still, and they give
more cycles, and CAN be discharged to 90 percent or so
without problems, and could be much smaller and lighter
still. They could also use Lithium Ion batteries -
massively better again, but massively priced!
As far as motors are concerned, WHY are we still using
inefficient old motors with brushes, on ANY
wheelchairs??? Its ridiculous. Its as if we are
living in the Victorian age. Brushless motors are
far simpler, have no brushes to wear out every 18
months, and far, far more efficient. They have
been around for many years, and again mean less power
wastage, so smaller and lighter batteries and chair
would be possible. A combination of AGM OPTIMA
batteries, and brushless motors would be a really good
compromise, with greater range, less weight than current
powerchairs for example.
PROGRAMMING AND POWER CONTROLLERS
Don't get me
started here! My god, what a minefield.
ALL chairs that I have tried are programmed absolutely
abysmally. Part of the reason is that the
manufacturers are scared of people suing them!
So they make sure your chair cannot have any power or
manoeuvrability, is massively over damped on its
controls and has so little torque that its often hard to
steer where you want to go. And that's the good
ones! This CAN be reprogrammed, but not by the end
user or any service personnel. They only allow a
pathetic "user" programmer that allows a small selection
of things that make little difference to be adjusted.
Partly legislation, partly inability??? I really
don't know. I do know that my own chair (and about
40 others that I have played with for other desperate
individuals) now steer and turn properly! But you
need an "engineering" control programmer to do this (at
least with the Penny and Giles system) called a PP1b
(NOT the end user PP1b because that is just an
ornament!) My own powerchair settings that I use
the bottom of the page. These settings do away
with ALL the delay, and give more torque at all speeds
so proper accurate control can be had! Finally...
It is MORE DANGEROUS like this because it has full power
instantly when you decide to turn, move etc. Catch
it with your jacket sleeve by mistake and break yours or
someone else's legs. Your own responsibility. But
the point is that the USER should decide NOT the
manufacturer. As it was I would have had to sell
the chair as "unusable" at least by me
On a 6 to 8mph chair a controller NEEDS to be
80 amp bare minimum, and preferably bigger.
Anything less relegates it to "indoor use only as far as
I am concerned! If not you will be fighting
a losing battle trying to steer accurately on heavy
ground, or steep ramps etc. Less is not a good
option! You will not have enough "torque" for
kerbs/uneven surfaces/steep ramps etc whilst having full
control. I replaced my 80 amp one with a
direct replacement 100 amp unit and the difference (once
correctly programmed) is massive. It has the torque to
drive up a kerb for example where it just stalled
on 5 things. Ignore any "claims" made! The
things that the big manufacturers claim make no sense.
For example on one manufacturers powerchair site they
claim 15 miles for the same identical chair in both 4mph
and 6mph versions... The only change is the gear ratio.
Taller gears draw more current, and go faster! But
have LESS range. So the "claim" can only be a
guess. Ignore them.
(so the real effect of bigger batteries is very
capacity (and its internal resistance - go OPTIMA!)
Type of use
efficiency (Go brushless!!!)
So when looking at powerchairs consider the above five
CENTRE OF GRAVITY POSITION
(we are talking only
rear drive powerchairs here as I don't take the rest
seriously, they are for indoor/town centre use only I think)
Why exactly do
powerchair manufacturer make them all so stupidly nose
heavy??? Manual chairs are made so that they are
very "tippy" with most of the weight over the rear
wheels. They do this because that is what allows
the thing to steer straight on a non level surface, lift
the front small wheels over obstacles etc. It
makes it "easier" to use on a daily basis.
Well I have some news for you wheelchair manufacturers!
THE SAME THING APPLIES JUST AS MUCH to powerchairs!
You build them all like those old "Clive and Jennings"
manual wheelchair bombs used by old people!
A boring lesson or three follows...
When a stock front heavy powerchair comes across a tree
root, or uneven pavement, the FRONT heavy wheels stop on
the ground! This is bad! Because the other
two cannot still be in control of your steering if one
of them leaves the ground! I have run into
walls, off the kerb onto the road in traffic numerous
times because of this ridiculous setup! When it
happens your chair spins around one way or another out
of control! The BLAST powerchair tries to
get over this with a swinging front beam so that all
four wheels stay on the ground where it isn't level.
But the real problem is the C of G because if it was
more rearward, it wouldn't need that fancy beam at the
front! Who cares when just a castor leaves the
floor? The castor does not steer! It
only holds the chair off the ground. If its in the
air its simply redundant! The fancy front
beam swinging arrangement on the Blast chair just adds
weight and width. Ever hear of KISS? (Keep
It Simple Stupid)
On grass, wet surfaces
also, NO REAR GRIP! So you slide into people /
obstacles and break your legs!
On a slope, say when
travelling along a cambered road edge (as most people do
daily) it heads for the low side, the gutter. This
is because most of the weight is on the free to go where
they want front castors!!! Apart from
murdering the batteries as you try to force it to go
straight (it can take 30 extra amps to travel along a
road like this) its dangerous! On occasions the
motors/tyres lose the battle and slip. You crash
into the gutter... Only a lunatic would see this
as the correct C of G!!!
When you turn (or try too)
on carpet especially, the chair has to try to turn you
with most of its weight over the castors! It wears
out carpets, motors, batteries, and feels awful!
Kerbs, or even small
branches, uneven damaged pavements etc all have a couple
of inches or more height. A manual chair can
easily wheelie over the obstacle. A nose heavy
powerchair cannot. It crashes into it and either stops
dead, or bounces upwards... On my modified chair
with its centre of gravity moved back about 5 inches and
its reprogramming, I can easily just "lift" the
front over curbs, tree roots etc. Also it can
wheelie like a manual chair. And why shouldn't it
be able too? Its useful dozens of times every day.
And the more rearward C of G helps stop all the other
problems above too.
for you. I would avoid Recaro's though. are
usually an afterthought, and shift you even further
forwards on a usually nose heavy chair causing more
control issues. And they are no good for long term
seating unless you have a very special bum! And...
What do you do with it if it gets "wet" or worse...
Wheelchairs at least Powerchairs NEED to have a large
range of adjustment to move the seating back and
forwards. Far enough to get accidental wheelies,
because if you don't its NOSE HEAVY!
What is with the fixation
for GREY tyres? GREY tyres have
a few problems for serious users!
1st, the GREY
looks crap, and rapidly goes a nasty shade of
grey/brown/yellow and looks more crap still!
Black looks less "disabled" or "hospital, and they stay
tyres are made from a different compound from normal
black tyres, that both costs a fortune, (because they
can charge more!) and is kind of "crumbly" after a bit
of use, instead or sticky! It doesn't mark shiny
hospital floors but it literally crumbles away before
your eyes! The grey front tyres wore out on my
chair in 4 weeks. The black ones that I replaced
them with that are both cheaper, better looking, and
exactly the same tread pattern, last about 3 to 4
months! (they come from those tiny mini-moto bikes
if you are interested)
Rear ones are
also available in black. I used to use these.
But I got sick of punctures which leads me to the next
Since I used to get dozens of punctures -
(normally in the back tyres as objects get flung upright
by the front ones) - I looked at the alternatives...
Green (foam) tyres are truly awful! They develop flat
spots at the bottom and don't stay round, are heavy, and
"soft" while at the same time being hard to push so
waste battery power! They somehow also
manage to give an uncomfortable ride at the same!
Well I can see why they are not popular on cars!
And on the front castors they are so heavy that the
castor starts to oscillate! Great on fast downhill bits!
Chair tries to spit you out... So I fitted some
different rear wheels, that were cheap, (trailer wheels)
fitted with some slightly bigger (faster!) TUBELESS
tyres. Why tubeless? Because you are
approximately 15 to 20 times less likely to suffer a
flat tyre according to different tyre companies. A
tube is like a balloon Stick a pin in one and see what
happens? Bang! No tube = no bang. Small
objects cannot deflate it at all because once removed
the hole just closes up. Now since they are much
better, cheaper, and more modern, easier to buy from any
car/trailer place WITH a wheel why don't the
manufacturers fit these! This does not fix the
front tyre puncture problem, but that was mainly glass.
Once the C of G was moved back to where it was supposed
to be there is very little weight on them now! So
the glass seems not to hurt them any more. But it
wouldn't matter anyway since I can remove either one of
the front wheels now and drive about quite happily!
ANOTHER reason not to have a noise heavy powerchair.
come free with a gallon of petrol nowadays, so why cant
I have one built into my pod! I am always in
this thing so it saves me wearing a watch...
This ones easy.
socket SHOULD NOT be a small XLR socket on the end of 6
feet of cable. Resistance is too high for the
charger to properly sense the batteries voltage while
charging, causing the charge rate to fall off too fast
from the "bulk" phase.
Bolts - all
shitty zinc plated steel. These things get used in
winter salt you know!
colour paint OK on main frame, all other parts extremely poor, thin,
dull.. Corrosion sets in fast. These things
are expensive so get your act together!
Motors and gearboxes. I have had 4 sets of motors
and gearboxes in 4 years... Says it all really.
And parts are not available other than brushes, which
wear out at about the same time as the cush drives, the
gearbox clunking (backlash design prob, they all do it
sir). And ON MY SPECIFIC CHAIR the wheels... These
corrode on if fitted dry. If copper grease is used
they fret on the keyway causing yet more backlash...
So they are advised to be changed at the same time as
the motors! All because they incorrectly use a
keyway to transfer power both inside and outside the
gearbox! (Hello Sunrise???) These motors are made
by EMD so if I were you I would avoid any powerchair
where these are used. For details on this go
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