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How Do I Speed Up Electric Wheelchairs?

Updated February 21, 2017

Most electric wheelchairs have top speeds of approximately 6 to 8 miles per hour. That's not because they are not technically capable of going faster than this; it's because that is the safest maximum speed for riders. Wheelchairs have a high centre of gravity and faster speeds may cause them to topple over. In fact, many wheelchair-sports leagues will not allow any chair that runs at faster than 6 miles per hour. If you have an electric wheelchair and you suspect it's not running at its maximum speed, however, you may be able to fix it.

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  1. Confirm that your chair is in the upright driving position. If your chair has a seat that tilts, reclines or elevates, you need to return it to the upright position for maximum speed. Your chair will not be safe in any other position. Even if you feel like you are sitting upright, make sure that your chair is not slightly tilted.

  2. Do not run your chair at maximum speed under stressful conditions, such as extreme weather, rough terrain or steep inclines. Any of these conditions could cause the power chair to overheat and enter thermal foldback. Thermal foldback is a safety device that prevents you from burning up your wheelchair motor. If you suspect you are in thermal foldback, allow the chair to cool. Move to cooler, less stressful terrain as soon as possible. Your full power should be restored.

  3. Charge your battery. If you have not done this in a long time, your chair could be flagging. If you charge your battery and you still are not moving at normal speed, replace the battery.

  4. Change the wheels on your chair. Most sport electric wheelchairs use tubeless tires. These tires may be a bit expensive, but they last a long time and never run out of air. If your tires have tubes, they may be low on air. Fill them or replace them with sportier models.

  5. Contact your wheelchair provider and place a service call. Tinkering with your wheelchair yourself could void your warranty. Having to place a service call and get your chair repaired may be inconvenient, but this is the only way you are guaranteed to restore your chair to its top speed. If you have reason to believe that your chair has a serious problem, do not wait until it is completely broken to make this call.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hannigan

Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.

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