Having an electric wheelchair can make it so much easier to get around when you have mobility issues – especially if you need to run errands or be in and out of stores.
Since an electric wheelchair is motorized it makes it much easier for those with mobility issues to get around, especially when they don’t have to propel themselves. Additionally, they are small and easy to maneuver so you can easily enjoy life by going to restaurants and shops without fear of getting stuck or causing issues by trying to get around.
As much as having an electric wheelchair can make your life easier when the weather is less than ideal the computer components of the chair can become an issue and may hinder your mobility.
When you’re looking into getting an electric wheelchair there are a few things to consider, and what you might want to know about using them in the rain and wet weather to make sure that you can protect the chair and it will work in the future. If you want more information, we wrote a separate article on how to choose a power wheelchair.
Do Electric Wheelchairs Work in the Rain?
Most electric wheelchairs have been thoroughly tested to make sure you won’t be stuck in the rain, and they won’t be ruined with some exposure to rain.
Now, that being said it doesn’t mean you can leave your wheelchair out in the rain for a prolonged period of time. Electric wheelchairs are designed to withstand some moisture – including drinks being spilled on them – but to protect the power chair’s battery and internal components they should be removed from environments with a lot of moisture as quickly as possible.
Why Should My Electric Wheelchair Be Removed From Moisture?
Your electric wheelchair has computerized components to it, and so it makes sense that you should keep electronic parts away from any kind of moisture.
Excessive amounts of water can cause computer or electronic components to corrode over time, and even the frame of the chair could rust which means it may not be safe for you to use anymore – similar to how rust can compromise the safety of a car if it gets too bad.
On top of the body of the chair rusting and becoming unsafe to use, moisture can get into any upholstery you have on the chair and it’s really hard to get those areas completely dry. If they don’t dry outright, the areas can get moldy and start to smell. While the seat could be replaced, this isn’t an easy task and it may be expensive to keep replacing them. This may be something to consider when making sure you care properly for your electric wheelchair.
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How Do I Prevent Major Damage to My Wheelchair?
Most people who have electric wheelchairs will have them inspected every so often to make sure all the parts and components are in proper working order.
During the inspection, a professional will check out all parts of the wheelchair to see if any of them need to be replaced or repaired.
Since those who use an electric wheelchair need it for mobility – it’s most often not an option – they need to know that it will be reliable and work safely when they need to use it. This includes that the battery will work properly and that the chair itself will provide a safe ride without breaking down.
If there are any areas to be repaired, it’s important that the owner repairs them as soon as possible for safety and reliability.
What Should I Do if My Wheelchair Gets Wet?
As careful as anyone might be, accidents can still happen. Whether it’s from being outside or a drink being accidentally spilled on the chair, there are many ways that the chair can be exposed to moisture and be at risk for damage. If this happens, don’t worry – you can still protect the chair from long-term issues with help from the following tips.
Dry It Off
As soon as you notice your wheelchair is wet or has been exposed to a lot of moisture, it’s important to dry it off as soon as possible. Take a completely dry towel and wipe down your electric wheelchair as thoroughly as possible so that you get rid of as much of the moisture at once as you can.
Store Your Chair
Once you have wiped down your chair, there could be some moisture that you aren’t able to get to so it needs to be dried out. Place your wheelchair in a warm, dry place – like a sunroom or covered balcony – for at least 12 hours (without using it) to allow for some of the unseen water and moisture to completely evaporate.
During this part, it’s advisable to remove the battery from the chair and also let it dry out in a warm place separate from the chair itself. You may need help to get it out on your own, but if you can this may be best for the wellbeing of your chair.
Inspect Before Use
Once you have allowed your wheelchair to completely dry in a warm place, you’ll need to inspect it to make sure it’s safe to operate still. The motor and controls are usually considered to be splash-proof, but if your chair has been exposed to significant moisture then it’s important to check it.
It’s especially important to try out the joystick and the brakes before using the chair again away from home.
Also be careful when plugging in the chair for charging to make sure the battery is charging and there aren’t any issues with holding a charge. The last thing you want to do is have your chair’s battery die when you’re away from home. We have a separate article on how to charge a dead wheelchair battery.
Too much moisture in the area where the battery connects can cause it to short out, rendering it completely inoperable and leaving you with the replacement cost of your electric wheelchair.
Fix Any Problems
If you notice any issues or concerns when testing it, call a professional to have it inspected and see if any parts were damaged and need repair.
Electric wheelchairs that are consistently exposed to moisture, or perhaps the user has incontinence, can deteriorate much quicker than those that don’t. In these cases, the parts on the chairs may need to be replaced much more frequently and may also need to be inspected more.
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How Do I Clean My Electric Wheelchair?
You may be wondering: if I am not supposed to get the chair wet how can I clean it properly?
Valid question – and the answer is that you definitely can clean your power chair without damaging it quite easily. Here’s how:
Wipe It Down
Use a damp cloth with a mild cleaner that is non-abrasive to wipe down the plastic and metal parts of your electric wheelchair. Your electric wheelchair’s body is plastic but it has been painted/coated with a material that allows it to be easily wiped down and cleaned with a damp cloth.
Make sure you never hose off the wheelchair – even if it’s really dirty. Direct, flowing water to your electric wheelchair can cause a lot of damage and may even lead to needing a complete replacement.
If you need to disinfect your electric wheelchair, for any reason, you can get an approved disinfectant. There are many approved products, and if you have any questions about what to use it’s important to check in with your wheelchair store or the professional who inspects your wheelchair for a recommended product.
It’s imperative you do not need any chemicals on the seat cover of the chair. The majority of the electric wheelchairs seat covers are vinyl and, if chemicals are used on them, they can become dry and brittle – causing them to crack – or even become slippery and not secure to sit on.
If you need to clean the seat, use warm soapy water and thoroughly dry it so that the moisture doesn’t soak through the material (which it will if you allow water to sit there).
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How Can I Protect My Electric Wheelchair From Moisture Damage?
Even though you will try to take the very best care of your chair, life happens and it can be impossible to completely prevent any kind of moisture from your power chair.
As best you can, try to avoid using the chair outdoors when it’s raining. Now, rain can happen while you’re already out and it was an unavoidable situation. However, if the weather is calling for rain or it’s already drizzling outside it may be best to avoid going out if you can.
What’s important to remember is that it’s not just one event or one time that will cause an issue to your power chair. The majority of issues seen with electronic components and controls on these chairs is from prolonged or repeated exposure and breakdown over time.
Electric wheelchairs are fantastic tools for those who have mobility issues, and they can make everyday life so much easier for maneuvering around. However, like any mobility device, those who own one have to make sure they take care of the chair and are maintaining it properly.
If you are looking to select a power wheelchair soon, you may want to look at our articles on mid-wheel drive wheelchair, power wheelchair for outdoor use, narrow electric wheelchair, and power wheelchairs with elevating seat.
They will be parts that need to be replaced, especially if there is exposure to the elements frequently over a long period of time. With regular maintenance and care, an electric wheelchair will last for many years and will be a reliable way for those who need assistance to get around.