Is your electric wheelchair or scooter misbehaving or not functioning at all? It’s a sad thing when it happens, but like all machines, malfunctions are inevitable. When they occur, the absolute best place to turn to first is your chair’s user manual, as nearly all of these will have a troubleshooting section to guide you through fixing common problems.

The types of issues you’ll find here tend to be simple and straightforward problems that are often practically resolved via common sense troubleshooting. In no way is this guide intended to replace professional service, and if a reader doesn’t feel comfortable performing any of the steps listed here, our advice would simply be not to.

If you feel confident and enjoy the challenge of tinkering and solving such problems yourself, you may find this guide helpful in terms of troubleshooting your power wheelchair. But again, any time you feel like you’re in over your head, set the chair aside and call a qualified service technician.

Also, note that the tips you’ll find here are brand agnostic. Some brands have very specific ways of solving certain problems, and the “beep codes” chairs utilize to try and tell you what’s wrong often vary wildly from one brand to another, which makes all of those things beyond the scope of this guide.

Having said that, let’s take a closer look at some of the more common issues you might encounter with your electric wheelchair or scooter and see how they might be resolved.

I Can’t Even Get My Electric Wheelchair or Scooter to Turn On!

An electric wheelchair with a joystick attached to the right armrest and padded seat

In our experience, this is the hands-down most common problem people encounter with their powerchairs, which is why we made this the first item on our power wheelchair troubleshooting guide. The good news is that, in most cases, the fix is a pretty simple one. Here are a few things to check:

  • Does your powerchair have a key and an ignition system? If so, be sure the key is in the ignition and turned to the ‘on’ position.
  • Make sure the battery quick-connect harness connections are fully joined (if applicable).
  • Make sure the chair’s primary circuit breaker has not tripped (Press the reset button).
  • Make sure your batteries are wired properly (red to positive, black to negative).
  • Make sure the connections on the battery terminals are secure.

My Powerchair Will Power Up, But It Won’t Actually Move

An electric wheelchair with a padded seat and joystick controller attached to the right armrest

This issue isn’t as common as the one we just described, but it does happen. There are a few different possible causes, including:

  • Some powerchairs with keys and ignition systems are built in such a way that if the key has been left in the ignition switch for an extended period and the chair has remained motionless, it will enter a kind of “sleep mode.” Simply take the key out and reinsert it to take it back up.
  • Check to be sure that the battery isn’t plugged into the off-board battery charger port. This will prevent the powerchair from moving, even if the charger itself isn’t plugged into a wall outlet.
  • If neither of the above conditions is applicable, then the odds are good that your powerchair is emitting some kind of beep or other error code, and you’ll need to find your user manual for details on that.

Batteries Won’t Charge, or Charger isn’t Working

A power wheelchair right next to two wheelchair batteries

Without batteries, your power chair or scooter isn’t going anywhere, which is why battery problems lie at the root of broad swaths of powerchair troubleshooting. Here are some simple things to try if your batteries either won’t charge at all or your charger doesn’t seem to be functioning properly:

  • The first thing to check in cases like this is the charger itself. Make sure that it is plugged fully into the wall outlet and that the outlet itself has power. In some cases, the solution is as simple as the fact that the charger has become unplugged. In other cases, the answer is that the outlet in question is connected to a light switch that has been turned off or that the breaker controlling that part of your home has tripped.
  • If the charger is off-board (not connected to the powerchair itself), be sure that it is powered on.
  • Next, check the connection between the charger and the power chair to be sure it is firm.
  • Finally, check the status of the lights on the charger to be sure that it is functioning.

My Powerchair Suddenly Loses Power and Shows a Drained Battery Gauge, But Then Returns Quickly to Full Power and a Full Charge Level

An electric wheelchair with the right armrest flipped up and black seat upholstery

While this isn’t a terribly common problem, it does happen now and again. When it does, the only thing you can do on your own is to check and make sure that the battery connection plugs and terminal connections are secure. This will resolve the issue most of the time, but if it doesn’t, it’s something you’ll definitely need to call a service technician to take a closer look at.

My Powerchair Inexplicably Runs Much Slower Than Usual

This is another relatively common issue that we definitely wanted to include in our power wheelchair troubleshooting guide.

The first thing to check is to see if or whether your powerchair has a recline, elevating, or tilting seat. If it does, be sure that you’re driving it with the seat in its fully upright position. Many models that feature the types of seats listed above have built-in safety features that reduce power output automatically when the seat is not explicitly positioned for driving, with a corresponding reduction in speed.

If you’re using your chair outdoors, it may be a simple function of extreme heat or rugged terrain that’s too much for your powerchair to handle.

Extreme heat will cause your powerchair to enter thermal fold back state. This reduces the power coming from the motors in a bid to protect the chair’s electronic components from becoming damaged.

If this is what is happening, just give the chair a few minutes to cool off. Power it down and wait a bit and if the chair is currently in challenging terrain, get help moving it to a relatively flat terrain while it’s cooling down. After a short time, a restart should see full power restored.

The Motor(s) on My Powerchair Make a Vibrating, Clicking Sound When Driving

Free-wheel release levers attached to the rear wheels of an all-terrain power wheelchair

If this happens, one of the only things you can try on your own is to disengage, then reengage the free-wheel release levers, confirming that they are properly engaged. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you’ll need to escalate to an authorized service technician.

My Joystick/Steering Apparatus Flashes Lights or An Error Code

Reboot the scooter, turning it off and back on again. If the error code persists and you’re able to isolate the power supply to the joystick or control system, disconnect and reconnect the power to it and see if the code disappears. Often, a deflected joystick or “sleep mode” built into some models can cause this issue, and “rebooting” will almost always resolve it.

Failing that, confirm that the 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.

Finally, check all accessible connection plugs, including the joystick, motor, and battery plugs, to confirm that all is secure. Turn the powerchair off, then on again to see if the flashing lights or error code remains.

My Joystick Illuminates But Does Not Respond to Joystick Movement

Joystick controller of an electric wheelchair

This is a relatively rare occurrence, but it can happen. “Rebooting” your powerchair may resolve the issue in the short run. Still, even if that works, you’ll almost certainly want to contact a professional service technician to get to the bottom of it.

Final Thoughts on Powerchair Troubleshooting

As you can see, there’s actually quite a lot of powerchair troubleshooting you can do, even if you don’t’ have your user manual close at hand. While the quick fixes here certainly don’t cover everything that could possibly go wrong with your power chair, you’ll find that this handy guide can solve a few of the more common issues you may have, which will save you both time and frustration.

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