2 | 3
of Mk1 version
Mk3 versions +
(both of them) and ready for use. Total cost to build a pair of
powerchairs with better "everything" than a "new" stock one was 3,000 UK Pounds,
about 5k US Dollars. And they are far superior to any over the counter bought
power wheelchairs. Anyway have a read!(
A new project over here
Off road version (for when you have read this 6 page epic!)
powder coated wheel and centre cap medium
powder coated wheel and centre cap
Now fitted with the wheel centre caps after coating to tidy everything up.
custom powerchair medium
Almost done! Now has arm bars, wheel centres, cushion, etc.
modified f55 wheelchair medium |
modified f55 wheelchair
Done! (Apart from the rear light housing)
Ready to go and fight all the salt and crap on our streets!
light housing now
refitted medium |
lighting housing now
Now finally has the rear light cluster thingy stripped, compounded and polished, new bulbs.
I epoxied the lights in place since the OEM method of fixing them is crap! They
never fitted correctly and kept popping out (or in) when knocked. They wont now! I
wasn't going to fit this because I don't need lights but it looks better on and
at least I have rear lights when going home from the pub.. And do you see
the big 16mm chromed bolt sticking down underneath in the middle? That is the
bolt that my wheelchair clamp in my van grabs hold of. I drive up the ramp
directly to the steering wheel and the clamp latches on to this bolt. When I
want to leave I press a button and it releases me. No transferring needed see
f55s rear view after rebuild
f55s rear view after rebuild
Indicators? Why oh why do power wheelchairs need indicators! There
are no front lights, as they were too huge and bulky and they get in the way. I
may fit a powerful halogen "fog" light under the seat though for when going to
my van in dark car parks etc...
A short powerchair medium |
A short powerchair
Short and very rear weight biased and so agile and manoeuvrable aided by the
reprogramming below at the end of this page.
Completely finished. For now. You really need to read all of this
page to understand the changes, but:
It is shorter, and therefore more
manoeuvrable than almost any other powerchair and many manual ones since my head
touches the wall first going backwards due to the seat/footplate relocation. And my toes
touch first when going forwards. That
actually makes it shorter than my own manual chair too since its wheels stick
out behind me...
It LOOKS big but the ruler says its not.
Its smaller than most powerchairs if not all. Its also smaller than many
lightweight manual wheelchairs! It may not look it but its true. I will never
understand why manual wheelchair users wont try one of these. You will never
look back, it gives you your life back!
Its exactly 26 inches wide at the wheels. (They can be moved in by half an inch
each side if needed too) And its 27 inches wide at the armrests. That's only
because I am fat and using a 20 inch wide cushion. If you use a 18 inch cushion,
or 16 inch cushion then deduct 2 or 4 inches from this as the arms adjust
inwards to suite the cushion size. So more normal people the armrest width will
be less than the wheel width.
As a comparison
my Kuschall Manual lightweight wheelchair is wider at 27.5 inches -- that's an
inch wider and that's with just an 18 inch cushion. With my 20 inch one it would
be 3 inches wider as the wheels will need to be adjusted outwards by another 2
inches... And its better still since when turning the rear wheels on
a manual chair get in the way as they form "corners" behind you. With the power
wheelchair the wheels are small and there is space to turn as they don't fill in
the rear "corner" as such. And its exactly the same length too. At least
it is once you add the measurement of my feet sticking out the front. We just
measured it with myself seated in both. Total length is exactly the same.
Without anyone sat in either the powerchair is 40 inches from the rear anti tip
wheels to the front edge of the deep footplate. The Kuschall manual wheelchair
measures less at 38 inches but your feet stick out of the front further so in
fact no actual difference in use.
Its NARROWER than my Kuschall manual chair since the wheels are
under me rather than each side of my body but only by an inch! But people
imagine power wheelchairs to be "bigger" when that need not be the case. The control pod is mounted INSIDE the arm pad
rather than outside too making that a bit narrower than a stock chair. And the
lack of inch thick side plates on the arms means each arm can be adjusted inwards by
another inch each side. The net result is that the arms are also about 3 inches
narrower overall compared to a stock chair and the control pod is more "tucked
in" out of the way too. (it doesn't hit door frames etc...)
Its almost puncture proof! and in any case
front ones don't matter. I can drive without a front wheel now anyway due to C of G
change. And it does not use those NHS style crumbly awful looking grey tyres. It could in the
event that you think it will damage your carpets, but I don't have any problems
there. It doesn't seem to leave any marks unless the tyres are wet. Then it
does! But they vacuum up clean when dry. And they don't make any tubeless
strong grey ones!
Only horrid battery killing short lived foam filled or "green" tyres. They are
horribly uncomfortable and just don't feel right in use and they destroy range
C of G change advantages:
Much shorter powerchair at the rear, so you can reach things
behind you better.
Much more manoeuvrability in confined spaces just like a
manual wheelchair combined with smaller shorter footplate design
Less weight over front casters meaning punctures not a
Less weight over front casters means less current drain
while turning and while travelling along a non level surface like pavement
and roads since the motors are not trying to fight the chairs nose heavy
tendency to head for the gutter or curb! So less motor and battery wear and
greater range and speed.
Ability to wheelie at will and to lift the small front
caster wheels over door bars, small curbs, tree roots etc. Which is
invaluable! Check out the real world...
Ability to wheelie right back and sit on its main wheels and
the anti tip (smaller) wheels. This is relaxing and means a little pressure
relief. And you can sit back and chill while drinking beer...
Your expensive batteries last longer due to a lower average
depth of discharge.
Wheelies are fun, why should that be just for sports manual
wheelchairs? It just more control.
C of G change disadvantages:
Falling out over the back is a real
possibility on non level ground if
you don't have any common sense! I reverse up steep ramps, or run up them
fast -- just as you would do with your manual wheelchair because you can
fall out of them too! Yes I learned the hard way I have been out over
the back twice! Not exactly recommended really but considering the
extra control and other benefits its not a real problem unless you try to
push the envelope... if it happens just keep your head forwards and it
doesn't hurt (much!) If in doubt just reverse on slopes and ramps! You
cant fall out on the flat those anti tip wheels really do work. Don't blame
me if you do this! The reason those new seat brackets have a bunch of
holes in them is so you can find a position that you are happy with. A small
adjustment makes a huge difference. As does body weight and distribution. So
be careful. The manufacturers should make them adjustable like this
just like all sports manual wheelchairs are.
It washes clean, looks as
good as new after several winters covered in salt and other road crud. And it
comes apart just as easily as it went together should you need it to.
It has a fast charge system (90 percent
recharge in under an hour, 100 percent takes longer of course but that's fine I
have to sleep! Courtesy of Decent Optima or Hawker Odyssey Deep Cycle AGM
batteries. (I have a set of each.) And a special charger
here (scroll down) and a special charging
socket that can take 30 amps... I have a life and cannot wait if I need to go
out with the GF for a meal, to an appointment or to walk the damned dog...
I like to go out CHARGED!
Modified footplate system that rises and
falls with the tilt seat. Its shorter, smaller much narrower improving
manoeuvrability enormously in confined spaces. And its far easier during
transfers. And its not fragile like the OEM ones that stick out at the front
"corners" hitting every damned thing...
Easy Swap rear wheels, and a spare in the van!
Just in case as I am a belt and braces sort of guy!
it has "round narrow corners" (backrest bars shortened and smaller central
lighter, suffers almost no corrosion and just wipes or washes clean, can turn
in smaller areas than my manual Kuschall wheelchair
The main problem
with most stock as bought powerchairs is that they are programmed to suit my
Granma. In some cases actually so badly that they simply wont move left or right
on thick carpets or grass at all. The original 2 pole motor version of the
original Sunrise Medical Quickie F55 (4mph) and F55s (6.2mph) Power Wheelchairs
that I chose to modify were like that. Plus they have so much "turn
acceleration" and worse "turn deceleration" programmed in at both the fast and
slow ends of the speed ranges that steering through a doorway becomes a matter
of faith and luck and lots of damage to the house and your chair! I kid you not
they really ARE that bad. The later 4 pole motor versions use EXACTLY the
same setting but feel slightly more powerful as they respond faster (draw more
amps) for any given input.
as I have said before, most of this dismal "rubber band
feeling" steering response can easily be fixed using the PP1b hand held
programmer. The PP1a version that most users and wheelchair tech guys have wont
help you here here. It has only a few very basic settings that the "user" (you)
is allowed to adjust. I know I have both -- I was assured I only needed the
basic user PP1a but as usual all the experts were completely wrong.) Trouble is
they don't like selling the PP1b version to wheelchair users. I and many others
had a fight to get hold of one.
Anyway there are a bunch of settings that need changing if you
want to drive rather than allowing all the delays (acceleration settings for
about 8 things!) take over. They are there for a reason though.
According to sunrise many of the settings were to make sure the chair passes
some certification for safety such as tipping over backwards on a ramp. So at
your own risk if you decide to change them! Those that choose to are usually the
type of people that accept and control their own risks and they know who they
Settings... What they do. And why your Powerchair
doesn't steer properly!
Normal USER settings (These are in the BASIC END USER Programmer)
This is the rate of forward acceleration. like when you jam the stick forwards.
Normally this is set to a low value. I set mine to 100 (max). it feels too much
at first. After a week you will want more. At least I do. You choose what you
are comfortable with. If you don't choose 100 then you will never actually
achieve the 100 or 80 amps that your controller is capable of during simple
Unless on a hill
or ramp or curb of course. I know this because my trusty clamp ammeter tells me so. And
even then only for the first few feet. Does not alter speed or anything other
than forward acceleration. Your Joystick then does this (you get to choose!)
If a waitress catches the
control stick or small kid grabs the control you may well run over someone. But
This is the rate of slowing down when you are travelling
forwards fast and you return the stick to the centre. I set mine to 20, (from
100) which means
it doesn't slow very fast. It does still slow down fast when you pull the stick
right back as this is not effected here. The reason I choose a low value is because its smoother and you can
let go for a split second without sliding forwards off the wheelchair or slowing
down too fast while you
open a beer or whatever... Decide if you want yours to slow faster or slower and
adjust to suit your taste.
This is one of the multitude of settings the manufacturer chooses
that makes the chair safe and smooth. And very hard to control! There are a bunch
of different turn acceleration settings in this list. This particular one causes the right
or left turn or "correction" you
just tried to do to respond very slowly at first. So you push the stick left or
right and at first little to
nothing happens. Its a timed delay.
If you then don't add any more turn on
the stick (you keep it with the same amount of turn) the wheelchairs turn begins to
accelerate or actually happen just as it should have done from the beginning!
But as a user it just feels like nothing
much happened at first and that door / tree is getting closer so you intuitively turn
harder! Now all hell breaks loose because the first correction was correct
all along you just needed to wait... and you just added some more, so you now
change direction more than you wanted to do and are heading for the door frame
or tree at 6mph. So to remove all this turn
acceleration completely and make the "turning" truly proportional to the control
stick just set it to 100 percent. That is off. Zero delay.
This way you get
instant and positive response that stops you from over controlling. In other
words the powerchair turns by the amount you tell it and does so when you tell
This effect the high speed end only.
It will still be delayed on / at all other speeds. That setting comes later.
d) TURN DECELERATION.
You remember that door frame that the setting above made
you aim at? Well this makes sure you hit it. You realise that you are aimed at
the door frame so you try to stop turning towards it. But no, this setting means
that the control stick
being returned to the centre or even the opposite direction has no immediate
It delays or damps the turning. So it keeps on turning left or
right while you panic and lose a few more knuckles on that door frame! Who invented this stuff, To turn this off
as well you just need to set it also to 100. That disables it. Now when
you want to stop turning the chair agrees with you and it stops turning when you
tell it to. Cool or what!
Downside of the above two settings That waitress again. Now if she
catches it it will jump left, right and forwards! So you need to be very aware
of what's happening around you. This effect the high speed end only. The five
LED speed setting on a typical Penny and Giles Controller and has less effect as you choose
the slower speeds. The settings
that effect that are also later on...
e) FORWARD SPEED.
Maximum speed depends on this being set to 100. The chances are your chair will
be set to 100 already unless you bought it used. The thing that changes maximum
speed is the motors gearing, So you cant make it faster top speed like this.
This only effects the maximum speed (on the five LED light speed setting)
f) MINIMUM FORWARD SPEED.
Effects full speed (stick fully forwards) when set to the number 1 speed setting
One LED lit. The best balance seems to be 30 as I see things. Fast enough
for moving about slowly indoors. And safer when that waitress is about!
Because it will still have some speed of response and power when all of these
settings are changed even on the lowest speed setting.
g) MAX REVERSE SPEED.
Sets the fastest your powerchair can go in reverse. On the
fastest speed setting. Just like a front drive wheelchair going forwards a rear
drive one going backwards is inherently unstable... So don't set this above 60
(that's what I use) or one day your chair will try and spin around and go
forwards and tip you out.
) Go on ask me how I know!
MINIMUM REVERSE SPEED
Sets the fastest you can go in reverse when your speed
setting shows 1 LED or its slowest setting. It feels balanced when its set to 20
i) MAX TURNING SPEED.
This sets the rotation speed of your chair when your speed
setting is at the max - or 5 LED lights. Its a compromise. If you set it too high
the chair spins on the spot very fast. Which you don't need. If you set it too
low you have very little steering response at high speed. After a lot of testing
I use 45. You need to experiment in daily use to get this the best for
your particular chair. It will need to be set lower than it was before if you
remove all the delay/acceleration above.
j) MIN TURNING SPEED.
This effects the rate of turn at the slowest setting or with the
1 LED lit on a typical Pilot plus / Penny and Giles system. Mines set to 25.
if you do everything goes
back to some default settings and we really don't want to do that...
l) SLEEP TIMER
Nothing is more annoying. Mines set to 0m Why would you want it to go to sleep?
Joystick becomes inoperative and you need to turn it off and back on again. Some
may want this. I don't.
m) JOYSTICK THROW. Should already be set to 100 leave it like this or some
of the stick movement has no effect. Don't know what the point of that could
really be unless you have very limited hand movement.
n) STEER CORRECT
Set to 0. Used to compensate for the chair tending to go left
or right if both motors are not equal. Personally I would rather fix the motor
o) READ TIMER.
Go on you know you want to! Mine reads 4405 hours on this chair - the other two
read a bit less. email me and tell me how many yours says and how long you have
had your chair. Not sure what it actually times because it seems to go up slower
than the actual time you use your chair. Maybe it times only above say half
power or something. Anyway its interesting to compare!
p) READ FAULT
LOG Try it. There will be one or two. most mean nothing much other than you
turned it on without the joystick centred or with the brake on, etc. I will post
a list on this page soon or the read ERROR codes and pod flashing light codes.
End of basic "user" programmer settings.
Start of Engineering based programmer menu:
Sadly the above is all you can do with the BASIC END
USER programmer which leaves most of the important stuff unchanged. To set these
and be able to steer properly you need a PP1b or "Engineering" level programmer.
Or an OEM programmer. If you have or can get, buy, or borrow one then this is
what these settings do:
Engineer Menu (only on the PP1b and the OEM programmers, as well as
certain PC software plus programming + lead solutions)
Change the settings here incorrectly and you can make the
chair dangerous and burn out motors, wiring and controllers. And its obviously
going to invalidate your warranty and scare certain other more "corporate"
online so called "experts" to death! So don't do it then! Your choice. But
this is the part that turns your gutless ill steering imprecise powerchair into
something completely usable!
MENU? Yes! This is important if you want to regain any semblance of
proper control. As
above there are yet more programming options that allow you to remove all the
awful delay/accelerations when turning or trying to stop turning, in this case
at the slower speeds as well.
LIMIT. This can limit the maximum current the controller supplies to your
motors. If you have a 50, 80 or 100 amp unit then it should already be set to
the max. 100A in my case. I did find one chair that was set lower apparently
because of a continual overheating problem by an "engineer" turns out that the
"engineer had set the temp fold back too low in a previous session... of which
more later. Can be set low on purpose to limit maximum torque (power) for
kids, mentally retarded etc. Otherwise set to maximum.
CURRENT, Mines set
to 100. Controls maximum current allowed. That appears to make no
sense does it? That's because its the maximum current delivered
with 1 Led lit on your controller or at its slowest speed setting.
So less than maximum gives low power when set to slow speeds. (less torque
available which is "safe" but useless for ramps, steering etc) You WANT power
but not speed to manoeuvre indoors.
d) TEMPERATURE FOLD BACK?
As the controller has to control a large amount of
energy it gets hot. Its not 100 percent efficient. So climbing hills, especially
on a hot day for example can cause the controller to get hot. To protect itself
it then drops to a reduced power level (your chair feels gutless!) until it cools
sufficiently to go back to normal. The standard setting is a very conservative
55 degrees. Depending on powerchair model and control system.
Well the manufacturers don't want to be replacing these controllers
under warranty so its a good safe figure "for them". Its too low for me. Thing is it causes me grief because I am an animal!
It cuts in and slows me down in summer if I am working the powerchair hard. I
have had mine set to 70 degrees C on 3 different powerchairs that have worn out
10 sets of motors (not through heat but wrecked mechanical couplings / gearboxes
etc) and 15 sets of batteries in about 12 years and never had one
controller fail yet.
So if you don't want the thing permanently slowing you in summer turn
it up and accept the small extra risk of failure. Your call! Life's too
short for a safety Nazi Manufacturer "safe" settings... I accept the
small risk and don't care if it fries! In 12 years of abuse it hasn't done so
yet. If you are careful and worry about these things leave it alone!
e) TIMED FOLD BACK.
Mines set to 15 seconds. This drops the maximum current to a (chosen elsewhere)
lower level after 15 seconds if your motors are stalled. It is supposed to
protect the controller, but more so the motors and wiring from excessive current
burning them up if say you reverse to a wall and try to push it down... 15
secs is plenty to get up a curb, or to wheelie away from a standstill. Nothing
else uses that much current other than turning on a ramp, or thick carpets or
grass. Standard setting is 30 secs on mine which is too long. Your
f) CL (CURRENT LIMIT) PERCENT.
When the above stall condition
happens (or when overheat happens as set above) this is the amount the current is limited by
to allow cooling to happen. Standard setting is 50
percent on many chairs. Its a sensible figure. Mines set to 80 because I have more sense than
to overload stalled motors for more than a few seconds. If I do I smell burning
or hot wiring then I would stop murdering it! Most are set much lower so your chair goes
g) MOTOR COMPENSATION.
If in any doubt DON'T CHANGE THIS!
This SHOULD be set correctly by the manufacturer. Unfortunately that isn't always the case as explained to me by an
expert in control systems at Penny and Giles Controls who actually make these
Many Powerchair Manufacturers only make frames and seats. And
figure not set in stone
either, unlike a certain other so called online "expert" would rather have you believe.
My original 12 year old F55s powerchair was sent out to the public for years
with a compensation setting that was way too
low for the old 2 pole motors that it was fitted with. Original Compensation Setting
was 40m/ohm. With this setting the chair would barely respond to the joystick at
all. It was
frankly almost unusable. And the reason that I was talking to Penny and Giles
controls www.pgdt.co.uk in the first place.
They advised my to turn up the compensation to
double that figure. At least. They advised 80 to 95. I finished up at 120 m/Ohm.
At that setting it was much more responsive and controllable without being
jumpy. If you have an F55 with 2 pole motors you can try this. If you have 4
pole motors 40 to 45 is correct! More makes it very dangerous. So only try this
if you know which motors you have.
Most Wheelchair manufacturers know little about this stuff so it
seems, they just buy it in. Or have it made and "branded" for them. They know how to make all the metalwork and braketry
that they sell as wheelchairs. (heavily and badly mostly!)
Changing these compensation setting will not make your chair
"faster" because you can only get your 80 or 100 amps maximum
depending on your controller and no more. But it
will allow you to actually "access" the 100 amps when you want it! To
you have an early 2 pole motor F55 powerchair you can (and sunrise advise) you
to retrofit the later 4 pole motors. And since the compensation setting for these is
40 anyway (the same as the old chair was originally set to) they work massively
If you have 4 pole motors already
then you can try 45 to make it slightly more urgent in control response if you
want a little more suddenness in your chairs response, I use 50 because I am a
hooligan and I am fat which damps the chairs response somewhat! Anyway all at
your own risk of course.
It works like this... The larger the number you use the more
responsive the chair is and the more jerky it becomes. The smaller the number
the more smooth and gutless and less urgent it becomes... Change it in small
steps ONLY and test for a day or so... Or leave it alone.
h) BATTERY MENU.
Unless you are using some strange batteries or different resistance cables I
would leave this set to stock settings which is actually not set at all!
i) GAUGE CALIBRATION.
This allows you to fine tune the battery gauge. its set at 100 which is great
for the stock Sonnenschein deep cycle batteries that most use. I use some Hawker
Odyssey AGM batteries because I like wheelies and you get less voltage drop
under load and they can be safely charged at 30 amps (90 percent full in less
than an hour) they have a slightly higher charge voltage but a very slightly
lower voltage in use. My gauge often reads a little low when in fact this is
normal for these types of batteries. I could correct that here if I wanted to,
but as I know what's really happening I don't bother.
j) PARK BRAKE TRIP
should be yes. Although it doesn't seem to make the slightest difference it
k) FRONT DRIVE
No obviously. Uses a different algorithm for the naturally unstable front wheel drive
powerchairs. And you wouldn't want one of those things. Ever driven a fork lift
l) FAST BRAKE RATE
mines 100. If I jam the stick back its because I want to stop fast! It
just locks up the wheels. Choose whatever makes you happy!
m) SOFT STOP.
yes. Slows you down sensibly if you turn it off or pull the cable out. Stops you
n) SET INHIBIT:
Active short YES or leave it as it is.
I have none 0 -- not sure why you need them. If you are reasonably
competent and your chair is PROGRAMMED CORRECTLY you will only need one profile for
p) SWAP MOTORS.
Don't. It makes everything reversed and is very confusing. Unless you turn the
seat to face the other way... Try it for a laugh but don't blame me when
you break your legs.
q) BRAKE VOLTAGE
12 -- don't try 24 you will probably fry your brakes. At least on this chair.
Leave it at whatever the manufacturer chose.
r) MINIMUM ACCELERATION
these next few setting make a huge difference to controllability at indoor
speeds and when set to the lower end of the speed range (1 LED) I set it to 100
so it goes when I tell it to and not when it decides later on.
s) MINIMUM DECELERATION
Same as above. I want it to slow or stop when I choose to do so. Not a little later on when it
feels like it.
t) MINIMUM TURN ACCELERATION.
This is the same as the Max Turn Acceleration in (C) above but it causes a
delay in steering input at the slow speed end of control. Set to 100 to take
back proper accurate steering control and get rid of the delay! Less than
100 just means it doesn't turn
when you do or at least as fast as you do. So you add more turn. Then it catches up later as you loose 3
fingers on the door frame.
u) MINIMUM TURN DECELERATION
As above only this time it keeps your chair turning long after you chose to
return the stick to the centre! If your car did this you would be killed. This
effects the slow speed response After these changes you will be amazed that your
chair will steer positively on thick carpet and on the slowest settings... So
after you smashed your fingers in the door frame because of most of the above this
makes sure that the chair continues to keep turning into the door frame long
after you tell it not too... set to 100 to get rid of the damned thing forever.
v) CLEAR TIMER.
When you fit new motors, or brushes or batteries or whatever it can be useful,
But why not just put the date on the components and write the current hours next
to it as I do in cd writing pen...
w) ERASE FAULT LOG
What it says! After you fix the "fault" as such.
x) PRESET ENGINEERING MENU
No! You will be back to default setting whatever they may be.
Not all of these settings above will suite you, but they are what works best for
me -- the idea is that you understand what does what!
There are some more lower level settings
too on some software (OEM or "C" programmers) but they are OK as they are. We
only need B programmers, A (PP1a) is useless, B (PP1b) is ideal, C (OEM) is also
fine but does more than we need here.
I give out this hard won information because I know how a badly a
stock programmed powerchair performs compared to mine (yes they are ALL
like that even yours!) and wish to help
as many people take charge of their own lives as possible. It will of
course upset any corporate types, Safety Nazis and the sort of people that worry
about Warranties. However life's far too short to have your abilities curtailed
by all the "normal's" in society. Ignore them and do
your own thing as I do. AT YOUR OWN RISK OBVIOUSLY! Its your choice and