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Thread: Bad experience with Max Mobility Smart Drive

  1. #11
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    Jakeyboy1, you bring up a good point: the wristband has to be snug AND it has to be on the outside of your wrist. I always wore watches on the inside, so that took a while for them to figure out why I couldn't get going in the beginning.

  2. #12
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    I know there?s a lot of positive comment on the SD on here, hence I wonder if I?ve been super unlucky, but I?m not much impressed by the unit. I don?t have access to direct support because of the way things work in NZ, but the pre-Permobil rep was trying to help me with it, though with little success.

    Anyway, I first tried an MX2+ in around April last year. The first demo unit kept cutting out, so it went back and I got another one. It also kept cutting out, I strongly suspect because of either more powerful vehicle Bluetooth 'blowing away' the SD wristband signal or something that is used to control traffic lights in NZ doing the same. I say that because I have had issues with audio breakup in the same sort of areas with one particular brand on wireless headphones (not while using the SD). Suggested fixes like changing the orientation of the battery inside the wrist controller didn?t work, but suggested that there was an issue that had manifested between testing and production that MaxMobility were trying to pinpoint.

    I tried the unit in MX2 mode which was a little better, but really only because it tended to cut back in if I was still rolling after it had dropped out (which I don?t believe it?s really supposed to do). The final straw was one day when I arrived at a supermarket to buy lunch, pushed the tiny button to turn the wristband off (and felt the conformation vibration), then it kicked in and drove me into the vegetable display wit he wheel spinning until I switched the motor off physically. No harm done and just embarrassing, but what if it had done that as I arrived at a crossing on a busy street to wait for the traffic to stop?

    Ultimately I ended up having an MX2 unit on the basis the wristband is more reliable, and it seemed OK to begin with, but over time it has shown increasing tendency to start driving while I am coasting and don?t want it on, or to suddenly increase the speed while I am rolling (with accompanying vibration) as if I?ve given it a push to make it go faster.

    It also doesn?t keep the speed I want based on my push speed so much as pick one of two or three preset speeds, the first being slightly too slow if I'm with a walker, and the second being too fast for someone to comfortably walk alongside. The third speed is hard to achieve unless it decides to go that fast by itself, usually the result of a brief downhill section while driving, and would be great for a smooth and open surface if I want to make progress, but rarely engages in that scenario.

    It also has a tendency to cut out going up hill, and to (I assume) overheat when it?s been under load for what isn't usually all that?ll long a time. It just did it this afternoon on Robson St in Vancouver with an ambient temperature of about 24 Celsius - if anyone knows the area it isn?t exactly steep, nor particularly hot.

    The battery has noticeably decreased in capacity over the 15 months or so I?ve had it (over the last nine or 10 in fact) and it drops very quickly from two lights to no power so I have to take 2 lights to mean it needs to be charged before I can depend on it for even a short distance.

    To cap it all I just plugged it in in the hotel room here and the charger light switches from red to green with an audible click sound after a few seconds, despite the battery being so low it was beeping at me as I arrived back at the room. Fiddling with it again I think it?s the connection between the charger and the unit that is a bit sensitive to position.

    Am I really unlucky with these things? I can?t believe so many of you would sing the praises of what my experience suggests is an overpriced and underperforming good idea with poor implementation. That said the laughable MX2 wrist strap is an atrocious piece of design that is there for all to see, so maybe the SD fans overlook its rough edges?

    It?s not user error as most of the issues happen when it's engaged and I?m not moving my arm at all, and one thing I don?t have any issue with is the response to a tap - even gently tapping gets a vibration response and disengagement every time. It does fairly often start driving again if I?m coasting to a halt though.

    I'm going to return it for service with a list of issues when I get back to NZ at the end of the week, but should I expect the behaviour I'm seeing or should I be getting reliable and predictable performance from the thing?
    Last edited by Fen; 08-06-2018 at 10:26 PM.
    T2 complete since late 2016. Apparently I wasn?t as good at mountain biking as I thought

    I apologise that when I type an apostrophe it appears as a question mark. I post using an iPad and this is the only forum it happens on. I will fix it if I figure out how.

  3. #13
    Couple comments, I did not say they have a great product, I said they are or were a great company with excellent service. I have a three mx1's no mx2's, but I suspect there is much in common such as the Mosfets on the circuit board. They are tiny and very will could heat up like you indicate. I had trouble finding them at first expecting something much larger.
    My mx1 experience is like your mx2, I could start, stop, but often it would stop on it's own or in a few very unfortunate instances it turned on when I was not expecting it. I since abandoned the printed circuit board in one of the units and hard wired it to a hand throttle near the brake on my wheelchair frame. The reason for this is that the accelerometer in the smartdrive is just to finicky so I got rid of it in favor of a hand control. And now you say the mx2 acts up too. It sounds like they are using the same accelerometers as before.
    As for your battery charging up too fast, that is likely an indication of it failing and needing replaced, sorry.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  4. #14
    I have mx2 as you say very finicky unreliable when you need it and sometimes kicks in and you can't stop it i almost had a severe accident with it. At a ball game was hot went to rest room took off wristband to wash and cath left wristband on sink gave a little push launched through door somehow regained control and it took off at high speed in a crowd i grabbed rim ( have very good upper body strength tryed to get control but couldn't stop flung me into a railing near some stairs and still kept turning until i yelled for someone to turn off switch . Yet other times you start up a ramp or slope it cuts out and you can't get it to kick in no matter what.

    If i knew how to hard wire i definitely would I think it might be tougher with mx2 than mx 1?


    Quote Originally Posted by nonoise View Post
    Couple comments, I did not say they have a great product, I said they are or were a great company with excellent service. I have a three mx1's no mx2's, but I suspect there is much in common such as the Mosfets on the circuit board. They are tiny and very will could heat up like you indicate. I had trouble finding them at first expecting something much larger.
    My mx1 experience is like your mx2, I could start, stop, but often it would stop on it's own or in a few very unfortunate instances it turned on when I was not expecting it. I since abandoned the printed circuit board in one of the units and hard wired it to a hand throttle near the brake on my wheelchair frame. The reason for this is that the accelerometer in the smartdrive is just to finicky so I got rid of it in favor of a hand control. And now you say the mx2 acts up too. It sounds like they are using the same accelerometers as before.
    As for your battery charging up too fast, that is likely an indication of it failing and needing replaced, sorry.

  5. #15
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    Thanks for the responses both.

    I'm a bit disappointed to say the least to hear that not only are my experiences far from unique, as I was hopeful my unit is rogue and I could pursue having it repaired or replaced, but also because I have read so many unequivocally positive reviews of the SD devices on this very forum when there are clearly significant caveats that potential buyers should be aware of - not from either of you respondents however.

    Just a few weeks ago I was researching Firefly vs SD and several posters outright recommended the SD with no reservation whatsoever. I bought a Firefly anyway as my experience has found plenty of limitations in the SD for my personal use cases and I’m looking forward to trying that out soon.

    Would knowing those caveats have stopped me from going with the SD? Possibly, but also probably not as it is still unique in the market (to my knowledge) with the light weight, unobtrusive form factor etc., though I think recommendations should be qualified for sure. I don’t plan to stop using mine entirely in any case, though I hope to replace it with the Firefly in some situations.

    I hadn't had any issues with the wristband removed until last week - I think just after writing my post above in fact. When not using it I tend to put mine in the side pocket of a Quokka bag I keep on my chair all the time I’m in it (or on my desk if at work, which now gives me pause based on your story pete4sake, as I am not particularly diligent at switching the motor off in the office). On the occasion last week it kicked in while I was outside with my wife and the wristband was in the bag. We were able to switch the motor off without much drama and I had assumed the button had been pushed to turn the wristband on in my bag and then my push had somehow triggered motion in the wristband, but of course I know it can kick in without being moved, so should have realised that’s not necessarily the case. Scary that it can do so with the band sitting on a solid object, but also surprising given how pitiful the Bluetooth range is in practice. I believe my motor disengages if it loses communication with the band, and it does that pretty consistently even if I raise my right hand to scratch my nose! I also still believe the motor won’t kick in if the band is turned off.

    I would definitely like some form of reliable controller for mine, and given the poor wireless performance a hard wired one sounds the way to go. I had the MaxMobility buttons for mine (I say had as the plug came loose from the piece of metal it is supposed to magnetically stow against when the unit is removed, probably in the hold of an aircraft as it happened at an airport, caught in the spokes and was ripped off), but they were, frankly, overpriced for what they are and basically useless.

    With the MX2+ they were all but unusable through the force required to get them to engage the motor, and I was set to return them, but bizarrely they were easy to engage on the downgraded MX2 - same buttons, different motor; not what I would have expected for sure.

    Although they were totally usable on the second motor unit (at least for me at T2 with full hand/arm function), they drive the motor at a non-adjustable speed that is so low as to be all but worthless. I used them only to provide drive if I got stuck in a place I couldn’t push out of with my rims (typically the bottom of a steep dropped kerb). As I have become more experienced in my chair (though still a novice at only 18 months or so in the real world) I had all but reached the point where the SD couldn’t help by the time I was stuck and barely used them anymore, so no great loss save the destruction of a costly accessory.

    The way things are funded for trauma SCI victims in NZ the unit doesn’t belong to me (I must return it if I no longer need it), so opening it to modify the internals isn’t an option for me. I guess that means returning it in favour of something else is an option available to me, but as I said above there isn’t anything that shares the form factor advantages, and I now have my self funded Firefly covering the third wheel style of power assist. I don’t want the weight of power assist hubs and I have ruled out the ZX1 previously based on the weight precluding even my wife being able to load it into the car, far less me with no core muscles.

    Shame the SD isn’t better engineered as it is a great concept.
    T2 complete since late 2016. Apparently I wasn?t as good at mountain biking as I thought

    I apologise that when I type an apostrophe it appears as a question mark. I post using an iPad and this is the only forum it happens on. I will fix it if I figure out how.

  6. #16
    I finally wound up with a (MX1+) that works as it is supposed to after many back and forths with the factory. Another I've hard wired, and a third I am debating what to do with. Hard wiring has an issue of it's own as the only decent throttle I know of are bicycle throttles, but they ramp up to wide open too fast, so flipping is a concern. Currently I use an I-Glide, but like the MX1 it too requires pushing for bursts of power.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by nonoise View Post
    Couple comments, I did not say they have a great product, I said they are or were a great company with excellent service. I have a three mx1's no mx2's, but I suspect there is much in common such as the Mosfets on the circuit board. They are tiny and very will could heat up like you indicate. I had trouble finding them at first expecting something much larger.
    My mx1 experience is like your mx2, I could start, stop, but often it would stop on it's own or in a few very unfortunate instances it turned on when I was not expecting it. I since abandoned the printed circuit board in one of the units and hard wired it to a hand throttle near the brake on my wheelchair frame. The reason for this is that the accelerometer in the smartdrive is just to finicky so I got rid of it in favor of a hand control. And now you say the mx2 acts up too. It sounds like they are using the same accelerometers as before.
    As for your battery charging up too fast, that is likely an indication of it failing and needing replaced, sorry.
    Very interesting. You basically have the Spinergy version of the SmartDrive but just a lot smaller. Do you take it off or just leave it on all the time?

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonoise View Post
    I finally wound up with a (MX1+) that works as it is supposed to after many back and forths with the factory. Another I've hard wired, and a third I am debating what to do with. Hard wiring has an issue of it's own as the only decent throttle I know of are bicycle throttles, but they ramp up to wide open too fast, so flipping is a concern. Currently I use an I-Glide, but like the MX1 it too requires pushing for bursts of power.
    Aha! In that case I guess it’s a quality issue rather than design. Perhaps worth pushing back then. That also explains why some people unreservedly recommend the unit, although it also sounds like getting a good one is the exception rather than the norm.
    T2 complete since late 2016. Apparently I wasn?t as good at mountain biking as I thought

    I apologise that when I type an apostrophe it appears as a question mark. I post using an iPad and this is the only forum it happens on. I will fix it if I figure out how.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by August West View Post
    Very interesting. You basically have the Spinergy version of the SmartDrive but just a lot smaller. Do you take it off or just leave it on all the time?
    I think the two are different players.
    I remove the power unit when done. but the battery, controller, switch and throttle stay on the chair. I've switched out the battery to a much lighter NCM one, charge lasts forever with these hub motors.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  10. #20
    I wish there was an electronics person on here that had one who understood these things. I think I know what is going on, but I got an upstairs issue lol. I wanted to adjust the accelerometer, but couldn't find it, so the next idea was to float the PC board better than they did, but that is as far as I got.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

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