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NOTE:  This guide is intended toward very simple, practically-resolved powerchair issues that may be addressed through common sense troubleshooting.  This guide is not intended to replace professional service, and if one is not capable of performing such common sense troubleshooting, he or she should not attempt to perform any of these simple explorations.  If safety and health may be jeopardized as a result of a particular powerchair issue, appropriate support services and the powerchair's service provider should be notified immediately.   If one performs the checkpoints in this guide, and the issue still persists, he or she should contact the powerchair's service provider as soon as possible.


As my wife will admit, she is the world's worst troubleshooter.  When she told me our van's air-conditioning wasn't working, it was because she had the temperature dial on heat, and when she couldn't get our home's front door open, it turned out that it was locked.  Now it's not that my wife lacks intelligence, but that she simply jumps to a worse case scenario when a device isn't working, rather than looking at the simplest possible cause first for a solution.

When it comes to powerchairs - which can prove complex - it's understandable that we're often mystified when issues arise, presuming that something terrible has occurred deep within the powerchair, requiring a provider service call and extended down time.  Yet, while complex issues certainly can require a provider's service, some issues are so simple in nature that the fix is often right in front of us, as blinding obvious as an air-conditioner dial set to heat, or a door that won't open because it's locked.   In this way, knowing to check the most obvious causes first when powerchair issues arise can often save time and frustration, avoiding service calls and getting the powerchair rolling again in minutes.
 

Batteries won't Charge or Charger isn't Working

1. Ensure that the charger is properly plugged into the wall outlet, and that the outlet has power (the power cord may have come unplugged, or an outlet may be connected to a light switch that was unintentionally turned off, or the outlet tripped a breaker in the home's electrical panel).

2. If the charger is off-board of the powerchair, confirm that the power switch is on.

3. Confirm that the charger is properly plugged into the powerchair.

4. Observe the charger's lights or ammeter to confirm that the charger is operating.


Powerchair Suddenly Runs Dramatically Slower than Usual

1. If the powerchair has a tilt, recline, or elevating seat, confirm that all is in the upright driving position (power seating functions use an inhibit to reduce a powerchair's speed for safety when tilted, reclined, or elevated, so if the seat is slightly tilted, reclined, or elevated the inhibit will slow the powerchair until the seat is returned to upright).

2. If outdoors, confirm that you're not in exceptionally hot temperatures, or in aggressive terrain, causing the powerchair to overheat and enter thermal fold back, which reduces the power to protect the powerchair's electronics from excessive heat.  Allow the powerchair to cool, and move to less aggressive terrain and cooler conditions as soon as possible, which will restore full power.


Powerchair Suddenly Looses Power and Shows a Drained Battery Gauge, but then Returns Quickly to Full Power and a Full Charge Level.

1.  Check to make sure that the battery connection plugs and terminal connections are secure.


Joystick Flashes Lights or an Error Code

1. Turn joystick power off, then on again to see if the code remains (a deflected joystick a start up or sleep mode can cause this symptom, which re-powering will resolve).

2. Confirm that free-wheel levers are properly engaged, then turn the powerchair off, then on again to see if the code remains (most modern powerchairs go into electronic inhibit when in free-wheel mode).

3. Check all accessible connection plugs, including the joystick, motor, and battery plugs, confirming that all is secure, then turn the powerchair off, then on again to see if the flashing lights or error code remains.


Joystick Illuminates but Does Not Respond to Joystick Movement*

1. Disconnect the joystick's connection plug, then reconnect it, powering up joystick to see if the issue is resolved.

2. Disconnect the battery connection plugs, then reconnect, powering up the joystick to see if the issue is resolved.

*This is an extraordinary occurrence, and even though resetting the power may resolve the issue in the immediate, the powerchair's service provider should be notified to resolve the issue.


Motors Make a Vibrating, Clicking Sound when Driving

1. Disengage, then reengage the free-wheel release levers, confirming that they are properly engaged.


Again, it can prove very helpful to consider the simple solutions first when powerchair issues arise, but if solutions aren't readily found, one should contact his or her provider immediately.

As for my wife, she's getting better at knowing what to first check when devices don't work as they should.  Nevertheless, she's still working on recognizing re-settable breaker switches on hair dryers, continually tricking her into buying a new one.



Published 8/06, Copyright 2006, WheelchairJunkie.com