Are Electric Wheelchairs And Scooters Waterproof or Snowproof?
If you are in Colorado, there is a decent chance you will have more sunny days with zero precipitation than not. We get snow in winter. We get rain in spring. We get some thunderstorms in summer. But…we are actually pretty dry most of the time. That’s what makes it so lovely here. Enjoying the nice weather in Colorado should not be limited to those without mobility issues. A scooter or an electric wheelchair can help those with mobility issues to get out and about.
But what if it does rain or snow?
Unfortunately, in most cases electric wheelchairs and scooters are not waterproof. While a well-built electric wheelchair or scooter is usually more resistant to moisture and casual exposure to water during everyday use, prolonged or significant water exposure can seriously damage its electrical components and cause corrosion of the metal parts.
Even though electric wheelchairs aren’t waterproof, most users will still need to use them on rainy/snowy days and in wet conditions. With some information about the electrical and structural damage that excessive moisture can cause, you’ll be able to protect your wheelchair or scooter and feel safer in all weather conditions.
If electric scooters and wheelchairs aren’t waterproof, how are you supposed to use them in rainy/snowy conditions – and just how wet can they get? Just because an electric wheelchair/scooter isn’t waterproof doesn’t mean that it can’t stand up to moisture and even the occasional rain/snow. The question is how much?. As a general rule, minor, temporary and intermittent exposure to water and moisture is not a problem. Problems arise when electric wheelchairs are subject to major, prolonged and regular water exposure.
Driving through or even sitting briefly in a puddle when you can’t avoid it? Not a problem. Driving on packed snow in a ski village? No worries. Submerging most of your electric wheelchair or scooter undercarriage in a shallow pool or lake? Okay, that might be a significant problem. Getting splashed by traffic going through a puddle while minding your own business on the sidewalk? Not a problem. Hosing your wheelchair/scooter down almost every day to keep off the dust and dirt? Again, that might be a significant problem. Running errands on a misty, drizzly or snowy day? Not a problem. Going for a jaunt during a major thunderstorm? Not advisable. Driving in a melting slush of snow or in the slushy first fall of snow? Avoid it.
Scooters are lower to the ground than electric wheelchairs, so keep that in mind when looking at a puddle and thinking about driving right through it.
Electric wheelchairs and scooters rely on batteries, charging systems, and electrical components. That electrical system and its electronic components control an enormous range of functions, including instrumentation display, battery charging, charge level monitoring, forward speed, turning speed, reversing speed, direction changes, tilt functions for various mechanical components, joystick-assisted steering and operations, lighting and seat raising and lowering, and braking. The essential electrical and electronic components of a quality electric wheelchair/scooter are well-protected from routine moisture, but even those protections can have difficulty standing up to significant water exposure. Such water exposure can be very bad. When electrical and electronic parts are exposed to water or excessive moisture (including slushy snow), that water produces corrosion in those circuits, components, circuit boards and contacts.
The metal components of a well-built electric wheelchair/scooter — the frame, for example — are usually well-protected from exposure to water by being sealed and coated with protective finishes. Day to day use, though, inevitably dings up those metal components and those finishes. Exposure of metal frame components to water can result in corrosion that, depending on its extent, location, and duration, can undermine the structural integrity of the component or wheelchair. When I say corrosion, think rust that effectively eats the elements that comprise the metal your wheelchair’s frame is made of. Even before the structural integrity of a wheelchair is seriously undermined, the metal parts of the wheelchair will look dilapidated and old.
The undercarriage of a scooter can be vulnerable to splashing. Scooters are low to the ground. Electric wheelchairs tend to ride higher off the ground. Slushy snow can be a problem. Packed snow is OK.
What if your electric wheelchair/scooter gets really wet?
In a perfect world, your electric wheelchair shouldn’t get soaked. But even relatively small amounts of water or moisture can cause some of the problems we’ve talked about here depending on where the moisture is located and how long it’s allowed to linger. Is there anything you can do to protect your electric wheelchair from damage due to water and moisture? Yes! Here now, in four steps, is what to do when your electric wheelchair gets wet. These may seem obvious, but they are easy to forget. You (and your powerchair) will better off if you remember each of these each time your chair gets wet:
- If your electric wheelchair has gotten wet, dry it as completely as you can with a towel or sheet. If you drive over snow melt (salt), wipe it off completely using a damp cloth, then wipe it dry.
- As you’re drying your electric wheelchair, carefully check the metal parts of your frame — with both your eyes and fingers. If you notice signs of rust or feel flaking or cracked surfaces, watch them carefully. If they progress, contact a Colorado Mobility to assess the structural integrity of your electric wheelchair
- Whenever possible, park and store your chair in as dry and warm a location as possible, ideally for up to 12 hours (overnight is good, too) to allow moisture that you can’t see or soak up with a towel to evaporate
- If you plan to go out and about with your electric wheelchair after it’s gotten wet — and has been dried and allowed to dry — test out the electronics before leaving home.
- If you notice any loss of electric or electronic function, or any intermittent failures or erratic function, contact Colorado Mobility.
Protect your electric wheelchair or scooter from exposure to too much water
Many electric wheelchair /scooter manufacturers design, build, and sell a wide variety of accessories that can help to protect your wheelchair from the potentially damaging effects of water. In particular, there is a wide range of accessories to protect the electrical and electronic components of your wheelchair. For example, many wheelchair manufacturers and aftermarket service and parts providers sell joystick and electrical panel covers that protect them from rain, but still allow full use of them.
Your scooter or electric wheelchair can also be protected from excessive water exposure by physical accessories such as a canopy. What accessories are right for you will depend on a wide variety of factors, including the make and model of your wheelchair, where you live, how often you expect to be out in significant rainfall or moisture, and any financial considerations.