Can An Electric Wheelchair Get Wet?

There are many parts to an electric wheelchair also known as motorized wheelchair or power wheelchair. There are 5 main parts of an electric wheelchair. The motor, wheels, power base, seat and battery. I wrote an in-depth article on these parts here. These parts work best in a dry atmosphere. It is important to try to keep your electric wheelchair from getting excessively wet because of the electronics, motor and mechanical mechanisms can deteriorate over time or just outright fail.

Electric wheelchairs are not intended to get wet or submerged. Electric wheelchairs are designed for dry operation. If the electric wheelchair is submerged it will likely need costly repairs or be permanently damaged. Now if you rolled through a big puddle or were quickly rained on you will most likely be ok. 

Rain, Snow and water can be destructive to parts of a electric wheelchair.
Prolonged exposer to rain water or salt water will start effecting the performance of your electric wheelchair.

Electric wheelchairs are the only mobility for millions of people. It is so important to keep the wheelchair in the best possible condition. You can play a large part in this. Keeping your electric wheelchair dry will save you money and time over the years.

What water does to your electric wheelchair?

  • Body and frame – Rust can start eating away at the joints a corners of the metal
  • Battery – Corrosion can start at terminals
  • Motor = Rust the brushes, shafts, bearings, magnets, coil and commutator
  • Brakes – Rust the magnet, coil and springs
  • Gearbox – Rust the bearings and worm screw (unlikely because the gearbox housing is sealed pretty good)
  • Joystick – Corrode the electronics coils and damage the display
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How to prevent damaging your power chair from too much water.

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid a puddle, snow or rain. There are a few things you can do to lower the risk of getting your wheelchair too wet. 

  • You should always be up to date on the weather forecast. Change your plans if it looks like rain or snow will be likely.
    •     In the event that you can not reschedule consider having a wheelchair accessible  motor service pick you up as close to your dwelling as possible. Then also drop you off as close as possible to your destination. 
    •     If you still can not reschedule and you will not be using a wheelchair accessible  motor service you will need a wheelchair poncho and joystick cover. You can click on the links to get the most current prices.
  • Avoid puddles if possible by altering your path even if it means it will be taking you out of your way.
  • When going through a puddle go as slow as you possibly can. This will reduce the splashing from the tires onto the wheelchair. 
  • When you are approaching a puddle, do not roll through the middle of it. This is the deepest part of the puddle, maneuver as far away from the middle of the puddle as possible. 

What to do if your electric / motorized wheelchair gets wet?

  • Find shelter as fast as you can. This will drastically reduce how wet your motorized wheelchair will get. Be careful navigating to a shelter because the ground will be wet and possibly muddy. 
  • Dry your electric wheelchair as thoroughly as possible with a dry soft towel.
  • Place a rotating fan in front of your wheelchair on medium to high speed. 
  • Allow your electric wheelchair to sit in a warm, dry place. Leave it for a minimum of  overnight with the fan to help evaporate any water that seeped into cracks and creases. When electronics get wet it can take hours to dry out because of the nature of the components and boards.

Before operating for normal use, do a little test run. Confirm joystick, brakes and the motorized chair is working as expected. 

  •      Charge your battery to make sure it can hold a charge. 
  •      Move your joystick in all directions while paying attention to the response time. If your motorized wheelchair hesitates in any direction it may need to dry longer or be repaired.
  •      The braking system should stop just as fast as before. If you feel any slow response or a rough stop, let it dry for a longer period of time. Have the electric wheelchair looked at by a professional if either conditions persist. 

How to clean and disinfect your electric / motorized wheelchair?

  • Read your motorized wheelchairs owner’s manual for any special conditions.
  • Never use any chemical not recommended in owners manual. 
  • Do not spray with a hose or power washer your electric wheelchair.
  • Do not use any type of leather or vinyl treatment on seats or arm pads on your wheelchair. This will make them slick and dangerous. 
  • When cleaning parts of your electric wheelchair use a damp cloth with soapy water in a small bucket. Make sure it is a mild degreaser and has no abrasive qualities in it. 
  • Use another small bucket with just water and use a damp cloth to wipe away any soapy residue. 
  • The power wheelchair you have may have a seat covering. Do not take it off and throw it in the washing machine. The detergent and the mechanical washing of the cover is to harsh. This will damage the material of the covering and the flame retardant that the it has. Remove the seat cover and wash by hand in a sink with mild soapy water. Do not put in dryer. Squeeze out excess water and hang to dry.
  • When disinfecting your electric wheelchair, use a damp cloth and disinfecting solution on metal and plastic / rubber parts. There may be a recommended disinfecting solution in your owner’s manual.Take extra disinfecting the seat and armrest. Make sure to follow your owners manual for disinfecting because the seat and arm pads are made of more delicate material. For a homemade disinfecting solution add two teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water.
  • Allow to completely dry before using your wheelchair. 

Will my motorized wheelchair need repair if I get it wet?

Electric wheelchairs are made assuming that they will get rained on or driven through a puddle. For most minor incidents your motorized wheelchair will be just fine. Electric wheelchairs are expensive, that is why you should take care of the chair as best as you can to prolong any repairs. 

If your power wheelchair ever needs repairs, have a professional do the work. You can make a problem worse by trying to fix it if you do not have the training or experience. Another reason is that the parts and or labor may still be under warranty. If you try to fix it or make it worse the warranty may be voided.

Steven Abbey

Steven Abbey is a author for Senior Living Headquarters and owns a home in a retirement community. His wife owns a successful family business that has served tens of thousands of people. He also has a electrical technician degree.

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