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5 Common Wheelchair Faults and How to Fix Them

Wheelchairs are vital for those with limited physical mobility, offering freedom, independence, and a sense of normalcy. But even the sturdiest wheelchairs require regular maintenance to keep them in good running condition. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore 5 common wheelchair faults and how to fix them to get the most out of your wheelchair experience. From checking the brakes to tightening loose screws, learn to ensure your wheelchair stays in great shape.

5 Common Wheelchair Faults with Solutions to Fix Them

Below we will discuss the 5 most common electrical wheelchair problems. We also describe the most practical way to fix these issues. 

1. Faded, Torn, or Improperly Sized Furniture Upholstery

One of the most common faults that wheelchair users encounter is worn out, damaged, or ill-fitting upholstery. This persistent issue may make life in a wheelchair very uncomfortable very fast.

This can be a frustrating and uncomfortable problem, making it difficult for the user to sit in their wheelchair for extended periods without feeling discomfort or pain. 

It’s essential to customize a wheelchair to the individual user, and for some people, it means including padding or absorbing material. However, if your wheelchair’s upholstery is torn or damaged, this crucial support will be delivered ineffectively.

Worn out Upholstery

Upholstery that is worn out due to regular use can cause the wheelchair’s padding to flatten and lose its shape, resulting in a hard and uncomfortable seating surface.

The upholstery can also become torn or damaged due to accidents or wear and tear. These issues can be particularly challenging for wheelchair users with reduced mobility or those who need to spend extended periods in their chairs.

Fitting Upholstery

Ill-fitting upholstery is among wheelchair design problems that can affect wheelchair users. Poorly fitted upholstery can lead to pressure sores, which can be painful and challenging to treat.

This issue is particularly relevant for users with spinal cord injuries or other conditions requiring them to remain seated for extended periods.


Fortunately, there are solutions available for those who are experiencing these problems. A quick conversation with a qualified wheelchair service provider will help you determine what must be done.

To prevent this from developing into a significant, long-lasting condition, it is essential to address it as soon as possible, whether by prescribing different cushioning or padding or attempting to fix the upholstered surface of your wheelchair.

Read Also: How to Get An Electric Wheelchair Into A Car

2. Replacement Parts

This issue can arise due to a variety of reasons, such as wear and tear, damage caused by accidents, or simply the age of the wheelchair itself. Replacement parts can include anything from wheels, armrests, footrests, and even the entire frame.

One of the key challenges when it comes to replacement parts is finding the right one that fits and works perfectly with the specific wheelchair model.

This can be a daunting task for users who don’t have the technical knowledge or the necessary expertise to identify faulty parts.

Furthermore, some wheelchair manufacturers tend to have unique and proprietary designs for replacement parts, making it even harder to source compatible parts.

Apart from the challenge of finding the right replacement part, the cost is also a pressing concern. Often, replacement parts can come with a hefty price tag, especially if they have to be custom ordered or shipped from overseas.

Wheelchair users need access to affordable and reliable resources for replacement parts.

  • Wheelchair components will wear out and need to be replaced after prolonged usage. For example, damage or premature wear may occur to your wheelchair’s wheels, caster forks, and joystick controls.
  • Any harm to your wheelchair from an obstacle or accident may make it more difficult for you to retain control.


Since they’ve been damaged, you’ll sometimes have to swap out or fix your caster forks or wheels. It’s annoying and potentially hazardous when the controls are slow to respond.

A defective wheelchair element that removes control from the user is just as dangerous as a faulty steering wheel in an automobile.

Brakes are crucial. If you find your wheelchair brakes not working, it can be a dangerous issue. Therefore any damage or indicators of failure need an immediate inspection and, if required, a replacement.

Using a reliable provider that knows what wheelchair parts go with what model is essential when sourcing replacement components.

3. Battery Problems

Although battery power is usually dependable for powered wheelchairs, issues can arise occasionally. For example, it may only have to be charged, or the battery could be completely dead and require replacement.

  • In most cases, batteries just degrade over a while, and you are unlikely to experience any performance drops for a minimum of twelve months, maybe more.
  • Nevertheless, you should consider getting a new battery for your wheelchair if it becomes inconvenient.
  • Battery problems can range from an inability of the battery to hold a charge, the battery not lasting as long as it should, or even the failure of some components of the power system.

The effect of these issues can be frustrating and time-consuming for wheelchair users and can result in missed opportunities, limitations to mobility, and unnecessary stress.

The origin of battery problems may include several factors, such as incorrect charging procedures, failure to look after the battery, or wiring problems.

Wheelchair users can tackle these problems by implementing a range of corrective measures, such as battery maintenance, using proper chargers, and providing proper storage facilities for the battery.

Additionally, it is recommended that wheelchair users conduct regular preventive maintenance of the chair and the battery system to ensure the smooth operation of the chair.


An expert should look at your battery if it depletes unexpectedly quickly; the cause may be inside. If you suspect that your battery is failing or has acquired a defect, you should seek immediate professional guidance; failing that, you should probably just get a new one. You can also read a wheelchair repair manual.

Read Also: Can You Get A DUI In A Wheelchair In Australia?

4. Electrical Defects

Electrical defects in wheelchairs can be caused by various factors, including damaged wiring, faulty connectors, dead batteries, electric wheelchair lights flashing, and damaged controllers.

These defects can cause various problems, from intermittent issues with the control system to the complete stoppage of the wheelchair’s motor.

Electrical faults can be particularly troubling as they are often difficult to diagnose. In addition, unless a user is well-versed in wheelchair maintenance, the typical user may not have the skills or tools to perform the required repairs.

One of the major causes of electrical defects in wheelchairs is poor maintenance. Regular upkeep of the electrical components can help to prevent issues from arising.

For example, regular charging of the battery and checking the connectors can prevent sudden stoppage of the wheelchair in the middle of use.

It is also crucial to properly store wheelchairs when not in use, as this can help prolong the battery and avoid any unpleasant surprises the next time the user needs to use it.

Another related cause of electrical defects is improper use of the wheelchair. Overloading the chair beyond its recommended capacity can strain the electrical components, causing damage over time.

Additionally, using the chair to perform tasks not designed for it, such as jumping off curbs, can cause the wiring to come loose, leading to electrical faults.

It’s not uncommon for powered wheelchairs to have electrical problems.

Your wheelchair may stop working altogether if connections come loose or it erratically responds.

  • Your wheelchair may have an electrical problem if you’ve tried charging the battery and locking the freewheel levers but remain unable to get around.
  • If the joystick no longer responds to your movements, it may have been disconnected from the motor. Problems with electricity may indicate more profound, more systemic problems, or they may be temporary, brought on by, say, a particularly jarring bump or knock.


It’s best to contact a wheelchair service center for assistance with electrical problems. They may either examine your wheelchair’s electrics technically or walk you through the process of checking them. It is crucial to investigate even the tiniest electrical problems.

Although the problem may be transitory and localized, improperly functioning electrical systems severely threaten human health and should never be ignored.

5. Locked or Unclocked Freewheel Lever

The freewheel function on a wheelchair allows the user to disengage the drive wheels from the wheelchair, effectively allowing the chair to be pushed or pulled without the user having to propel themselves forward.

This feature is helpful when the user is tired or needs assistance from a caregiver.

  • The issue with a locked or unlocked freewheel lever concerns the user’s ability to control the chair.
  • If the freewheel lever is unlocked, it can lead to the chair moving unexpectedly, potentially causing harm to the user or others.
  • Furthermore, an unlocked freewheel can cause damage to the wheel bearings over time, leading to expensive repairs or replacement of the wheels.

On the other hand, a locked freewheel lever can prevent the user from moving the chair, necessitating assistance from others. This can be particularly problematic in emergencies, where the user must quickly avoid danger.

Locked freewheels may also make navigating uneven terrain or up hills difficult, as the user cannot take advantage of the freewheel function to conserve energy.


One potential solution to this issue is to implement a visual indicator on the freewheel lever, clearly indicating whether it is locked or unlocked. This can reduce confusion and prevent users from inadvertently unlocking the freewheel.

Additionally, regular maintenance and inspection of the freewheel lever can ensure that it is functioning correctly and prevent any potential faults from arising in the first place.

Read Also: How Much Does It Cost To Charge An Electric Wheelchair?

Bottom Line

Wheelchairs have become an integral part of the lives of individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of independence and mobility.

However, like any man-made device, wheelchairs are prone to faults and malfunctions, hindering the user’s experience.

Figure out these prevalent wheelchair faults, ranging from minor glitches to major issues that render the device inoperable, and fix the problem using the guidelines on how to repair a wheelchair.