5 Things to Know About Power Chairs

Posted by Shelley Zander on

5 Things to Know About Power Chairs

You’ve likely considered a mobility aid if you suffer from limited mobility. A mobility aid is something that assists in walking or traveling. Examples of mobility aids include crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, and power chairs. One of the most common types of mobility aids is the electric power chair.

Electric and mobility power chairs can be an expensive investment. Before purchasing, you must be educated on the features, mechanics, and brands. This article will help educate you on power chairs. 


Top 5 Power Chair Guide

Power chairs can offer people a sense of their independence back. They are perfect for people who still have the ability for some motion but may have some pain with walking or traveling. This might be worth considering if you cannot be mobile for long periods. 

We will discuss all the pertinent information about mobility scooters so that you can make an informed choice. 

1. What Is a Power Chair?

power chair

power chair may also be referred to as a mobility scooter or motorized wheelchair. They are propelled by a motor. Traditional wheelchairs would need complete hand dexterity to move the wheels. Another option for a conventional wheelchair is to be pushed by somebody else, such as a caretaker. 

One of the most significant advantages of a power chair is that it provides independence and freedom. It can be helpful for those with even limited dexterity without the assistance of another person. 

Power chairs have different wheel placements, mechanical features, power options, and control types. Depending on your requirements, certain features will be a better fit for you. We will provide a guide that will optimize your shopping experience. 

2. Drive Wheel Placement 

mobility power chair

Power mobility chairs come with three different drive wheel places. A drive wheel refers to the wheel that creates the force for the chair to move. The motor will directly control this wheel. There are three types of drive wheel placements. It is important to note that there are different benefits to each type of placement. Not everybody will prefer the same kind of placement.

You’ll want to consider three things to find the best wheel placement for you. This includes: 

  • Where the power chair will be used 
  • If you’re willing to learn complicated chairs
  • Your history of use

The three types of drive wheel placements are as follows: 

Front-Wheel Drive

With an FWD wheelchair, the wheels in the front are powered by the motor. The two wheels on the back are referred to as “caster wheels”. These provide balance for the chair and will move according to the primary wheels.

FWD power chairs often have a smoother ride, as the front wheels will pull the entire chair over any obstacles or bumps. Another advantage of FWD chairs is that they can navigate corners well and handle rocky terrain well. 

The most notable disadvantage of this type of drive wheel placement is that handling can be more challenging to learn. Many people report a more significant learning curve. 

Mid-Wheel Drive

An MWD wheelchair is powered by two large wheels that can be found directly under the seat. There are typically four caster wheels - two in front and two behind the primary wheel. MWD chairs are great for indoor use. 

The turning radius on MWD is extremely sharp and easy to navigate. This is what makes this type of chair so popular. 

One of the biggest downfalls to MWD is that the front caster wheels (which are often small) come into contact with bumps and obstacles first. This can result in getting stuck or having a difficult time motoring over speed bumps or cracks in the cement. 

Rear-Wheel Drive

The last type of drive wheel placement is RWD. This refers to the primary wheels being at the pack of the chair. This was the first type of power wheelchair configuration invented. Since then, many people have preferred FWD and MWD. RWD's benefits are that they are extremely stable and will move forward straight. 

There are some big disadvantages to RWD chairs. One of the primary concerns is that they require a large turning radius. Furthermore, the chair may not be stable when reversing. 

3. Power Seat Capabilities 

power mobility chair

Power chairs can offer different power seat functions. This refers to what the seat can do. Some of these options can make daily tasks much more manageable. Some capabilities of power seats include:

  • Power recline. This refers to the back of the chair moving back or reclining. This will put you into more of a laying-back option. If exiting the chair is difficult, you can recline the chair to watch television, nap, or do other activities. This is great if you want to spend time in your chair throughout the day. 

  • Power tilt. A power tilt will lift the back of the seat upwards while keeping the front of the seat at its original position. Therefore, your entire body will be tilted slightly forward. This will keep your seat-to-back angle the same. 

  • Power leg elevation. Elevating your legs has many benefits. It can help drain fluid from the legs and feed. This capability will extend or flex the knee, so the bottom of the leg is in the air. This is helpful if you suffer from swollen legs or have to wear compression socks. 

  • Power seat elevation. This feature will raise the whole seat while keeping it flat. This will allow you to customize the height of your chair. This capability is perfect for aligning you with kitchen tables. 

  • Power standing. A power standing feature will raise you up into a standing position. This will come in handy if you have a difficult time exiting the chair. 


4. Mechanics 

electric power chair

Another thing to know about power chairs is how the mechanics work. The mechanics will determine how fast you can travel, the maximum include, and how well you can turn corners. This is useful as you shop for the perfect chair for you. 

We will discuss some of the primary terms of power wheelchair mechanics. 


Suspension refers to the system of shock absorbers and springs. It will help absorb bumps and vibrations. Suspension is responsible for making the ride smooth and comfortable. Having poor suspension can result in injury and discomfort. Your body will then have to absorb the shock. This can be difficult on joints and bones. It can also result in aches and pains. 

Having an impressive suspension is especially useful if you are traveling outside. If you are using your power chair inside, the suspension may not be as important to you. Hitting items such as rocks and gravel can result in a bumpy ride. 


Torque refers to how well the chair can navigate obstacles. Torque will ensure that the chair can effectively rotate around an axis. Torque will help reduce the impact on your body, ensure your comfort, and help you stay stable in the power chair. 


The last crucial mechanical information you'll want to know is the tracking technology of the power chair. This will help the chair travel where you control it, despite any environmental complications. For example, bumps and rocks can cause your chair to veer in the wrong direction. Tracking technology will keep the mobility chair continuing where you'd like it to. 


5. Proportional Drive Controls

what is a power chair

The drive control of a power wheelchair is a very important feature. Some drive controls will be more helpful if you suffer from poor hand dexterity or other issues. There are five proportional drive controls. Each has its benefits. 


A joystick is the most common drive control of traditional power chairs. It features a stick that can be moved in different directions and powers the chair. To use, you would push the stick (or gimbal) in the direction you want to travel. The more pressure you put on the joystick, the faster the chair will travel. 

Head Control

Head control allows the user to power the chair with their head. The control stick, or gimbal, is placed on the headrest. If you push the headrest left, the chair will travel left. This is also true to the right. 

Finger Control

Finger control is a good option if you have limited hand mobility. It will let you control the box with one finger. There is a box with a small hole where you will place your finger. The tracker will follow your finger, and where you move your finger is where the chair will go. 


A touchpad is often a touchscreen pad. The user can move their finger in the direction they want to go. No pressure is required, so this is good for those with limited dexterity. 



Finding a power mobility chair that works for you can be difficult. There are many different options and features on the market. It is very important to identify what is most important to you. Depending on your mobility, dexterity, and priorities, some power chair options will be better for you than others. By being knowledgeable about these products, you can make a smart investment that will cater to your unique needs.