8 Things to Know About Power Chairs

8 Things to Know About Power Chairs

If you are a person with physical disabilities, mobility aids can significantly improve your quality of life. Thanks to technological advancements, you can pick from many vehicles and devices. 

In this guide, the focus is on a power chair. You’ll discover details about these electric mobility devices. The info ranges from the basics to characteristics that’ll help identify the best power wheelchair. Keep reading to learn more about these mobility aids!


Here Are 8 Things You Should Know About Power Chairs

1. What Is a Power Chair?

power chair

A motorized or electric power chair is a mobility aid. It aims to serve people with physical disabilities. Most common users include those with leg issues but also spinal, neurological, and other health conditions.

People often confuse power chairs with mobility scooters and aren’t sure which is a better fit. It all depends on the user. The general rule is that electric wheelchairs are for those with lower body strength and mobility. Scooters have control handles in front. That requires using hand strength to steer it. Depending on the controls, you don’t have to use them at all to control power wheelchairs.

2. It’s Suitable for All Terrains, But Depending on the Model

best power chair

Electric wheelchairs can handle different surfaces. Depending on your plans, here are the available categories:

  • Indoor. If you don’t plan to go outside, you can go for a basic and lightweight power wheelchair. The idea is to stick to indoor use, so most of these units come with a small turning radius.

  • Indoor and outdoor. The concept is that you’ll only occasionally go on exterior terrains. The setup is decent for outdoors but not for rough surfaces and long-term rides.

  • Outdoor and indoor. The setup includes a wide chassis for additional comfort and stability. It maintains impact on bumpy terrains well. While you can use these wheelchairs indoors, their turning radius might not be ideal for tight areas.

  • Outdoor. The general rule is these are the most durable electric wheelchairs. You can use them on inclines, bumpy surfaces, and demanding terrains. A wide chassis, oversized tires, and generous padding are essential.

3. Know the Type of Electronics Controls for Your Power Wheelchair

electric power chair

Electric wheelchairs should be easy and intuitive to move. And the basic setup achieves that. The standard controls usually involve a joypad. You apply pressure to it to move forward or in reverse, depending on the desired direction. Some additional options to adjust might include seat height or back recline.

While using a joypad is convenient, it’s not suitable for all users. Some don’t have the hand strength or abilities to use these controls. Fortunately, there are many special alternatives. Users with spinal injuries might get head control. The manufacturers have a vast range of options, and it’s all about finding which fits the user.

Finally, if there aren’t suitable controls, consider the “attendant” mode. These involve someone else moving the wheelchair. Some manufacturers put it on the rear side. These aren’t that intuitive, and there’s a good chance of finding a suitable alternative for the user.

4. You Can Choose from Three Chassis Types

portable powerchair

Electric wheelchairs offer a wide feature range, including different chassis. The main types include the following:

  • FWD. It’s short for front-wheel-drive. It involves only two castors in the rear. That means the drive wheels are on the front side. The setup is great and inclines and handles obstacles better. But with the majority of the unit behind the driver, it takes learning to drive the vehicle.

  • RWD. Unlike the previous, this is a rear-drive system. It’s incredibly stable, especially with two castors in the front. Rear-wheel drives are excellent for developing greater speeds and covering long distances at straight lines. However, they usually aren’t for indoor use.

  • MWD. Mid-wheel drive systems deliver the best of both. You find two castors in front and a couple more behind. The driving wheels are directly below the use. These have a small turning radius and are easy to drive. However, you should be careful on bumpy terrains since castors might lose traction.

Combine the desired chassis type with its optimal size. It’s how you’ll identify the best power chair. The chassis width for indoor use should be lower to pass through doorways and tight areas. 

As for the length, it can vary on the design. It doesn’t have much influence overall. However, a too-long chassis might compromise stability at inclines.

5. It’s All About Reliable Brakes and Suspension

Brakes and Suspension

If you pick a top-quality power wheelchair, you can rest assured these two components will work well. Electromagnetic regenerative brakes are a great choice. They ensure your wheelchair remains stationary while not moving. And while braking, the power goes back to the batteries, which extends the travel range.

As for the suspension, the two common options are rubber and a gas spring or shock absorber. The latter is excellent at handling bumps and outdoor terrains. It’s good for big curbs and tricky surfaces. However, the suspension system can be noisy since it includes many components.

Rubber is silent, and the ride will feel much smoother. It’s good to absorb vibration from standard uneven outdoor surfaces. However, if you use an MWD setup, be careful when going downhill.

6. The Relation Between Chair Weight and Bearing Capacity

Chair Weight and Bearing Capacity

It’s only normal that sturdier and heavier wheelchairs can handle more pounds. However, it all depends on the unit. For example, you can find a portable powerchair that only weighs around 100 pounds. But its bearing capacity goes up to 300lbs, which is impressive.

The actual chair weight varies on many factors, including the frame material, batteries, etc. Extra features add more pounds, such as a swivel seat function. However, the battery is the heaviest part, and large ones can increase the chair’s weight considerably. As you’d assume, that affects overall portability and ease of transport.

7. Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Power Wheelchair

Choosing a Power Wheelchair

Here’s more useful information about electric wheelchairs to help you find the perfect model;

  • Budget. The price ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 or more. Portable wheelchairs tend to be more affordable, although the component quality also affects the cost.

  • Design. The aesthetics are an important part of a wheelchair you’ll use frequently. Most manufacturers offer the same model in different colors.

  • Flat-free tires. It’s a convenient addition that includes inserting foam interiors to prevent puncturing.

  • Tire size. Large wheels tend to offer more stability. But smaller tires might deliver better speed.

  • Power seat lift. The feature uses battery energy to elevate your chair up to the specified limit. It’s convenient if you need to reach or lower a particular height.

  • Storage space. Some wheelchairs come with a basket where you can put your belongings. It ensures they remain within eyesight while you are moving.

8. Pick from Reputable Brands and Best Models

Mobility aids are long-term investments and accessories that have multiple benefits for the user. Power chairs have excellent maneuverability and are easy on joints and muscles. If you go with reputable brands, you can rest assured they will deliver the highest quality. Here are some great electric wheelchair models to try!

Merits Health EZ-GO Deluxe P321

Merits Health EZ-GO Deluxe P321

This Merit power chair is among the lightest models on the market. Users will appreciate the ergonomic seat design. Combined with back support, it’s great for frequent use and spending hours in the vehicle.

You can assemble the chair easily, making it suitable for transport. It only weighs 113 pounds, but its bearing capacity is 300 lbs. The light unit comes with limited battery power, so the chair’s maximum on a single charge is crossing 12 miles.

Merits Health Atlantis Super Heavy Duty Chair P7102

Merits Health Atlantis Super Heavy Duty Chair P7102

Although it comes from the same manufacturer, it’s a completely different electric wheelchair. It features a heavy-duty design intended for rugged use. Its bearing capacity is 600 pounds, making it suitable for overweight users. The footplate is extra wide, and the armrests have a flip-up function.

The powerful motor ensures that P7102 can go up 10-degree inclines. The maximum speed is 5mph, and the travel range per charge is approximately 32 miles. Intelligent braking ensures the vehicle won’t roll while it isn’t moving.

Shoprider Streamer Sport Electric Power Chair

Shoprider Streamer Sport Electric Power Chair

The final recommendation is a mid-size power wheelchair. It has a small turning radius, making it suitable for indoor and outdoor use. The two-inch ground clearance is decent enough for most surfaces. 

Users will appreciate generous padding and adjustable armrests. You can also move the footplate angle to find optimal placement. While it’s not portable at 203 pounds, the chair is incredibly durable.


Final Thoughts

Motorized wheelchairs feature a long-term investment. They can become a device you rely on to move from point A to point B throughout the day. Picking an ideal power chair isn’t an easy task. Don’t rush your decision, and consider everything from the bearing capacity to speed and travel range.

While it’s important the product fits your budget, it’s wise to go with a major brand. Sticking to reputable manufacturers and units like the Merits Health EZ-GO Deluxe Electric P321 ensures your power wheelchair will deliver the expected quality. These top-quality models are available online, so don’t hesitate to place an order today!