Power Chair Broken...again!

sweetmozart

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Hubby's chair is out of order again! This time it's 20AA error, tilt modulator. It's just so frustrating, because the chair goes out without the slightest warning or misuse. He literally only uses it to watch tv and go back and forth to the bathroom.

The thing is, it takes Numotion forever to fix the problem, meantime my husband is without the only place he's comfortable sitting. He does sit at his desk chair, but can't do that for more than four hours or so. They say they'll rent us a loaner. Last time this happened it was over a week before the loaner was delivered, and the repair took over six weeks!

At this point, I feel like we need to have a backup chair. For those of you who do have backup chairs, how did you get them?

I'm venting here, but it makes me so mad that these 30,000.00+ pieces of equipment are so shoddy, and that the people in charge of servicing them act like its a toaster, not an essential item that needs to be fixed right away.

I'm sure this happens to a lot of people, not just us. It's just, on top of everything else....
 

affected

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So sorry to hear this. It's quite criminal I think.
Maybe ask the mods to move this up to the general section so someone like Steve can reply?
 

Nikki J

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I moved this. If you want it put back let me know.

Steve is our expert on acquiring wheelchairs. For now besides asking for a loaner call ccals and maybe alsa to see if they have something you can borrow

you aren’t eligible for a new chair by any chance?
 

lgelb

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I'm so sorry. I take it you already gently wiggled/uncrimped all the cables that lead to the seat? Sometimes that resolves an actuator error, if the actuator itself is still functioning. It is frustrating technology, no doubt about it.

I would also put a "wanted" post on Craigslist, your neighborhood FB groups, NextDoor, etc.

Best,
Laurie
 
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swalker

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I am very sorry to hear the Permobil F3 wheelchair is not functioning correctly. I sure know how frustrating that can be!

My answer is in two parts. First, I will discuss the need for and buying a backup wheelchair. Second, I will say a few words about the 20AA error.

Before buying a used wheelchair, be sure to check with the ALS Association. They often have loaner wheelchairs available.

My first wheelchair spent a LOT of time in the shop. There were no loaner wheelchairs available for me to use. I simply went without a wheelchair. I soon realized this was an unworkable situation.

I asked around to see what others had done and found that most eventually secure a backup wheelchair. The most common thing I heard was "if you need a wheelchair, you need two" (and I now have five:)).

So, just a few months after getting my first wheelchair, I found myself looking around for a good used wheelchair. I decided to get the same brand and model (Permobil C500), but without the standing feature.

I found many wheelchairs on ebay and on craigslist. I am pretty mechanical and inquisitive, so I had already learned quite a bit about that wheelchair before considering buying a backup wheelchair. I bought a used wheelchair that was advertised both on ebay and craigslist. I talked to the seller by phone and decided to move forward with buying it.

The wheelchair was located 700 miles away, but in a part of the country my wife and I enjoy visiting. We drove there in our wheelchair van, inspected the wheelchair, and bought it. It has been my most reliable wheelchair (and I currently have 5 to choose from).

Used wheelchairs can be very inexpensive (relative to new) in the US. A new Permobil F5 wheelchair lists for around $50,000. I don't think anyone (including insurance) actually pays that amount, but that is the list price. A used F5 will go for about what many people's out of pocket costs would be for a new wheelchair. For example, I paid $3,500 for a used F5 with 226 miles on it. I also paid $800 for a used Permobil C350 with 26 miles on it.

Wheelchairs that have special adaptations for a user will cost much less on the used market. Both the used F5 and used C350 had custom seats on them. Fortunately, the Permobil Corpus 3G seating system is very easy to work with and it was quite straightforward to replace the custom seating components with stock Corpus 3G components. If bought new, those Permobil seating components are very expensive. Except for Upholstery, I buy things used off of ebay, which has saved me many thousands of dollars.

Here are the general rules I use for buying used wheelchairs
1. I will only buy a wheelchair I can see and ride in myself. I must be able to test the wheelchair to see what is working.
2. I will buy a wheelchair with things not working, but I must understand what it will take to fix those things.
3. I will only buy a low mileage wheelchair. I prefer wheelchairs with less than 50 miles on them. If I were to buy a higher mileage wheelchair, I would reduce my offer price by the cost of replacing motors and other wear items.
4. I assume I will need to replace all upholstery
5. I assume I will need to replace the batteries ($500 for a pair of good MK gel batteries)
6. I make a list of all the bits and pieces I will need to acquire to make the wheelchair fit me perfectly. I need lateral thoracic supports, lateral thigh supports, roho seat cushion, tall seat back shell and cushion, appropriate headrest, swing away joystick mount, good tires, etc.
7. I negotiate price based on what it will take to buy the wheelchair and get it perfectly configured for my use.

If you are buying a Permobil with a Corpus 3G seat, be aware that you may need to acquire an appropriately-sized seat plate and seat back shell so that the wheelchair fits correctly. Do not have him ride around in a wheelchair that does not fit correctly. It is not worth it!

As an example, when I bought the used Permobil F5, it had 226 miles on it. It had more miles on it than I wanted, but was priced appropriately for the miles. It had a custom seat on it and the headrest was not one I could use.

I paid $3,500 for the wheelchair. I spent an additional $1,500 to buy a seat plate, seat back shell, headrest, lateral thoracic supports, lateral thigh supports, seat back cushion and roho seat cushion. The upholstery was purchased new, but everything else was purchased from ebay. That wheelchair served me well until it was stolen (along with our wheelchair van) and destroyed by the thieves. Fortunately, I had backup wheelchairs so I could still get around.

Now, for the 20AA error. That is an error from Permobil's Intelligent Control System (ICS). This is the system that controls the seating component (power leg lift, tilt, recline, seat elevate, etc.).

The 20AA error means "Node is required but not present". That means it expects the tilt capability to be present, but cannot find it.

In my experience, the most likely cause of this error is a bad cable or connection. The ICS control panel is typically mounted just behind the joystick. Check the cable coming out of there and follow it all the way back to the master ICS module (on my F5 that is mounted under the shroud in the front left side [standing behind the chair and looking forward] of the wheelchair base). Make sure all connections are secure. Then, trace the wiring from there to the junction box (typically on the right side behind the unitrack rails on the side of the seat). From there, trace the wiring to the actuator that is not working. It might be the tilt actuator, but could be any of the other actuators.

Make sure each cable is intact and does not appear to have any internal damage. If you have a multimeter, you can check the continuity of the various wires in the cables. Make sure each connection is both clean and secure. Cleaning it with a deoxidizing electronic contact cleaner might be helpful.

If all of that is in order, then you might have a bad ICS master control module. I have had one fail, but with different symptoms than you report.

If you have more information about the failure, I will help as I can.

Despite the apparent complexities of modern wheelchairs, most are actually very simple (outside of the internals of the electrical control systems). There are very few black boxes and some cables that connect them. Most things on wheelchairs don't fail, and when they do are easily replaced.

Steve
 

affected

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With all that Steve has said too, wouldn't it be great if the company had a basic helpline you could call and have someone step you through basic trouble shooting? Like here if your phone or internet fails you call the provider and they do that before they lodge a ticket to start investigating by their technicians.
Steve that helpful reply is truly helpful, thank you so much for taking the time. I love this place!
 

swalker

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That is a good point, Tillie.

Permobil's USA customer service number is 800 736 0925. I have found them to be very helpful.

There is a service tag on the Permobil F3 wheelchair. It will have the manufacture date and the serial number. Be sure to have this serial number when you call in. That will allow them to provide answers to your questions about your specific chair.

When buying a used Permobil wheelchair I always try to call Permobil to see how it was configured when delivered.

For example, I bought a used Permobil with manual rather than power legs. I was able to call and find that it was originally delivered with the power legs, which had presumably failed somewhere along the way and been replaced with a manual actuator. Permobil provided me with the exact part number I needed for a replacement actuator.

The replacement actuator was about $1,400 new from NuMotion (Permobil will not sell direct to consumers). I found one used on ebay for around $175. It was simple to install. I had to configure the control system for it, which was easy, but did require a bit of research.

Steve
 

sweetmozart

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Thank you so much, Steve! ...and everyone who replied :)

Now, I'll go see if I can pull off a miracle and get the thing running :)
 

sweetmozart

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Just an update. We've had a tech come out to assess things, and the chair needs two parts, both back-ordered.

In the meantime, they gave us a loaner with hand controls. I'm glad to have the loaner, but hubby needs foot controls, and has to tilt constantly in order to swallow. So, now I'm working to get a loaner with foot controls. It must be a rare thing, but I don't understand why. There must be others who get their arms and hands attacked first.

I'm afraid I'm not a person who is handy with these things, so, no miracles here.

For those of you who haven't ordered your chair yet, this repair issue is something you should prepare for. Error messages pop up, and the chair freezes spontaneously. I've had to make numerous calls just to get this far. There's still a long way to go to make this situation right. You should plan for a back-up.
 

swalker

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I am so sorry you are going through this. In my experience, foot controls are not provided nearly as often as hand controls, so I understand why one might not be available on a loaner wheelchair.

Keep in mind that some technicians are good, but many are barely competent. I have run into many technicians who know how to turn a wrench, but have very little knowledge about wheelchairs. I have had numerous occasions where a technician has diagnosed something on a wheelchair, ordered parts, installed the parts, and then discovered those parts did not fix the issue.

This is part of what leads to some wheelchair repairs taking months instead of weeks. Having a backup wheelchair may seem like a luxury, but for me has been very valuable when the primary wheelchair is down for a month or more.

Can you let us know what two parts the technician ordered? It would be helpful to know more about things that fail on these wheelchairs.

Steve
 

sweetmozart

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Hi Steve, I didn't even ask what parts were ordered. I was more concerned about the loaner chair, at the time.

Hubby is making do sitting in a kitchen high-backed chair

It seems so odd that there aren't more foot controlled chairs out there.

Yes, a back up chair seems necessary.

Thanks!
 
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