I’ve spent the last 2 days doing component-level service on my 6-year-old powered wheelchair. When you live your life in a wheelchair, you fast have to remember all the stuff you can not do when your chair is broken! My goats were very upset when it wasn’t me feeding them dinner last night.
My odyssey started with a quick run for some water softener salt. 2 miles from home I got caught in a huge downpour. The rain was not on radar as I left, it just popped up as I got on the road. Not that unusual for Florida. Deciding it would be best to do that errand another day, I went home. Turning on my chair to exit my van, I had power, but the chair was blinking out random error codes. I love computers, but why must they be in wheelchairs!
Calling my bride in the house to bring my manual chair, I got into it, then we managed to drag my non functional chair into the house.
I’d been out working on the farm before my ill-fated trip. I’d been rained on several times, using a chair that is supposed to be water tight, I never worried about it.
Turns out the rubber membrane that the control buttons are molded into, had cracked in the depression of the button. This allowed water over time to leach onto the motherboard of the controller. The highly mineralized water started leaving deposits on the motherboard, under and around the processor, surface mounted to the motherboard.
Oh, why could you not be in a socket!
I did get a laugh though. When I got the controller open, a nice sticker greeted me that said, “Made in England.” This of course brought back fond memories of an IT Crowd episode where everything that was breaking, was made in England.
Back to my controller, with my surface mount rework station, a large magnifying glass and several hours worth of work, I was able to clean up the mother board and bring it back into working order.
I’m fortunate that I can do all my own repairs, both mechanical as well as electronic. Checking on the web found that there were several places that would be happy to sell me a new controller, for $1200. The local wheelchair place assured me that the controller was DOA and that replacing it was my only option. I couldn’t get them to agree to a friendly wager that I thought otherwise.
So while I only had a 24 hour period of upset, who I really feel bad for are the thousands of people dependant on mobility devices, who get ripped off for every stupid part they need. I mean, simple caster wheels for my chair are $90 from the company. I found better wheels on Amazon for $20. Had I let a local mobility store do my repairs this week, I’d have been out $1500.
My point, if you have skills in electronics or mechanics, think about who you might be able to help if they have issues with their mobility devices.
There is no way I could have afforded to pay for these repairs, and insurance companies have made it so hard to get a new powered wheelchair now, it’s just not even worth trying to fight with them anymore. (Mostly thanks to a couple of huge companies hawking them on TV for years, flooding the market with chairs for people who likely didn’t even need them!)
I’ll be scouring garage sales for a backup chair in the coming weeks!