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Thread: "Harvesting" powerchair spares

  1. #1
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    "Harvesting" powerchair spares

    I work with a few different non-profits that regularly receive (used) DME. The goal is usually to find new homes(permanent or temporary) for these items. But, there are no monies available for refurbishing any of it -- "labor" can be donated (as mine is) but rarely monies for that purpose (the organizations usually have other goals, as well, that compete for funding)

    Powerchairs come in much faster than homes can be found. Sometimes, they're just too (ab)used to merit any sort of reconditioning. Often, their needs are simply too costly (e.g., replacing batteries is ridiulously costly). And, as they are large/bulky, the space they consume is precious.

    Long story short, a great many of these are just scrapped.

    But, not all. E.g., today I found a home for a Permobil m300 HD. Last week, a tiny 3-wheel "scooter". I think I've a client lined up for another m300 next week with a child-size seating system. Etc.

    I've recently started cherry-picking the "low hanging fruit" off the chairs as "spares" in an effort to save time "repairing" other chairs. E.g., the m300 HD's joystick controller had been physically damaged so it was easier to just swap it out with a controller harvested from a previously "trashed" chair.

    Today I pulled the lighting off of another m300 (I see a LOT of m300's!) thinking it could be retrofitted to another "intact" chair. I later realized this was probably folly as it took way too much time to remove the parts -- and, undoubtedly, will require a similar amount of time to fit them to another "new" machine.

    Wheels seem like they're easy to remove. But, I've never encountered a chair that was in need of replacement wheels. Other "seating" parts seem like they would just quickly clutter up any storage space I can find. Working batteries can get transplanted to a waiting chair -- but won't get stockpiled for similar reasons of space.

    What other bits might I want to target? Ideally, I'd like things that could easily be explained to -- and performed by -- another volunteer as I'm trying to transition out of this particular support role.

    Alternatively, are there any particular makes/models that are easier to "service" that might make for more productive use of this limited amount of time? Especially for a less experienced/capable volunteer?

  2. #2
    IMHO: look at what is mostly used in your area. When we lived in the city the normal powerchair was Group 3, mostly partial to complete rehab powerchairs. These were hard to narrow down because use to a varity of makes as well as model but recent years it depends on which maker is giving best deal to DME dealers.
    We currently live in a rural community that normal powerchair, even for ones that would benefit from full rehab, ones in use are I'm guessing fit in Group 2. Mostly single post chairs that in city were mostly used by elderly first time users that just required powered mobility for problems with ambulation with standard seating, ease of maneuverability, in home use, ease in using transit service(lifts, etc) and mostly ease of loading in private vehicles.
    Once you have idea on what is most used, especially parts that require largest sums to buy, then I'd take all electronics that function mobility and seating functions.
    If you have any resources for good solid shelving I'd set those up to use what space you have to best capability of storing items once tested and well labeled.

    A couple DME's in city donated to places that refurnished any DME equipment after they had to much equipment for their storage abilities.

    Batteries, yes they are expensive! But, have you looked into dealing with wholesell warehouse for any of brands? Back in the 'good ole days' many of us dealt individually with one that gave us greatly reduced rate than DME charged us. The warehouse workers were great bring chair in and they would install batties especially if you showed them manual if they didn't know where/how access that make/model chair.
    This worked well til DME's complained to the place's middleman. However, for a non-profit with proper paperwork and tax card they most likely will help with cost if bought by pallet load.
    Up to couple years ago a guy done reburished locally bought only Group U1 batteries via pallet from warehouse with ease til he closed up shop due to health.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeP2013 View Post
    IMHO: look at what is mostly used in your area. When we lived in the city the normal powerchair was Group 3, mostly partial to complete rehab powerchairs. These were hard to narrow down because use to a varity of makes as well as model but recent years it depends on which maker is giving best deal to DME dealers.
    I don't really "see" clients. I just look over the latest batch of powerchairs (and "scooters") and see which are easiest to refurbish. Cosmetics, mechanicals, electronics, "control response", etc. Someone else tries to find homes for anything that I get working. If "finished" chairs sit around, then any newcomers tend to just get scrapped (chairs take up a lot of space -- space that other "programs" compete for; e.g., a powerchair takes the space of at least two manual wheelchairs or four travel chairs -- each of which are easier to find homes!)

    My question was motivated by an attempt to get a handle on the types of spares I should keep to refurbish those chairs that will be "easiest to refurbish". Aside from batteries (a common problem), I've had to repair/replace joystick controllers, casters, cushions/pads/covers and leg rest parts. Never had to replace a "motor driver", motor, drive wheel/tire, wheel bearing, tilt/lift/recline/leg actuator, etc. So, I'm not keen on "stocking" any of those as "spares". I'm asking, here, to get an idea of what sorts of things people see breaking/needing repair -- in anticipation of chairs with those problems coming through the door.

    Once you have idea on what is most used, especially parts that require largest sums to buy, then I'd take all electronics that function mobility and seating functions.
    There is NO (i.e., $0) budget for any of this. If a chair comes in that needs "something", it's effectively scrap. In the past, we've had select clients who indicated a willingness to fund replacement parts (typ. batteries) for a specific need. But, as most of my work is prepping chairs before a client has been identified, I won't bother with a chair that needs some sort of "investment" as I can't be assured that a client will come along who will be willing to pay for those parts.

    OTOH, as there are constantly chairs coming in, I can choose to "harvest" certain components that are likely to need to be replaced on some OTHER chair -- a chair that may arrive next week or next month or next year (but, not a chair that has been sitting around WAITING for a part... cuz nothing "sits"). But, even that has limitations (mainly due to space). E.g., I "stockpile" spare cushions ON the seat of some other chair (either completed and waiting for its client or waiting to be assessed).

    A couple DME's in city donated to places that refurnished any DME equipment after they had to much equipment for their storage abilities.
    Yes, we've tried to enlist other agencies in stocking chairs (and other DME) to augment our storage space -- even gifting the items to them outright. But, all this stuff takes up lots of space. Do you hold onto a powerchair charger? Or, would that space better be used storing 1,000 glucometer test strips? (no special training required to hand out test strips!)

    Batteries, yes they are expensive! But, have you looked into dealing with wholesell warehouse for any of brands? Back in the 'good ole days' many of us dealt individually with one that gave us greatly reduced rate than DME charged us. The warehouse workers were great bring chair in and they would install batties especially if you showed them manual if they didn't know where/how access that make/model chair.
    Again, there are no monies for that sort of thing. Should money be spent on batteries instead of glucometers? Bedside commodes? Incontinence supplies? Manual wheelchairs? Crutches? Walkers? (money isn't spent on ANY of these items; why should "batteries" -- or powerchairs -- be special?)

    Hence the need to be resourceful... making the most of what you have "for free".

    E.g., I've just decided that a criteria for refurbishing powerchairs will be whether or not that chair can be "collected" by the client (e.g., on the back of a pickup truck). We gave away one this past week that I'm sure the client will spend the better part of a day trying to sort out how to get it OFF his truck (three people couldn't lift it onto the truck). So, chairs like that -- even if nice and shiny new -- will just be cannabilized for the few parts I think we can afford to "store".

  4. #4
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    Please let me know if you come across any old Permobil Chairman Entras. Trying to keep my chair going and they don't make a lot of those parts anymore. Thanks.

  5. #5
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    If you look on Ebay, you'll see most sellers want too much for used chairs or parts. If you sold parts on Ebay at a reasonable or cheap price, you'd generate funds (for batts) and buyer would get a good deal = win win. Scrap what doesn't sell, state that in item description. Of course you'd need proper non profit legalities and accounting to do this.
    Arm rests, actuators (known good), wheel/tire assy, joy sticks, some motors, and other used parts will sell if cheaper than others on Ebay. Example: I need a narrower seat back for one of my chairs after I installed a narrower arm rest bar (Corpus 2G) so it wouldn't hit door frame in tight turn. I found a seat back of the needed dimensions but they wanted $150. $100 or less and I would have bought it.
    In 5 years, I have spent at least $1500 on used parts and $4k on 2 used chairs from Ebay to keep my chairs working and to adapt chairs I bought. I have a chair for every need; travel, indoors, street, yard work, and more.
    Yea, Permobil electronics can be hard to work on, mostly due to wire routing. Some of their connectors are not very good. When I find a seat function not working, a loose connector is the likely suspect.
    I was told by a Permobil dealer that they would only reprogram a chair for the original owner and if it was less than 5 yrs old. Another problem with Permobil.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gearhead View Post
    I was told by a Permobil dealer that they would only reprogram a chair for the original owner and if it was less than 5 yrs old. Another problem with Permobil.
    That's a problem with the dealer, not Permobil itself. I bought an old Permobil Chairman Entra off ebay recently and my dealer reprogrammed it for me. Luckily he still had an old programmer. However, I've bought several chairs from them, so that may have made the difference.

    Great idea about selling parts on ebay! We sure could use access to more used parts.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by beatscookin View Post
    Great idea about selling parts on ebay! We sure could use access to more used parts.
    Ridiculous prices on many used chair parts. Anyone could easily sell tons of stuff by under pricing them. Check Ebay for parts you have, compare prices, easy sale if you sold for 25% - 50% less.

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