Owning a mobility scooter is a life-changing event for disabled or elderly people as they rely on these machines to get around without needing to hire a car service or use walking aids.
While they're extremely useful in giving people their independence back as best as possible, mobility scooters are still just like any other mechanical or electronic device; delicate and prone to breaking down if a wire gets cut or some other component accidentally gets damaged.
As you can probably imagine, such a scenario can be a huge issue for people who count on these machines to help them move around daily. It is even more stressful when the mobility scooter fails while some distance away from home.
In this guide, we share the top 5 mobility scooter issues and how to fix them. We understand that knowing this is crucial, as at certain times you will need to be able to get your mobility scooter up and running without waiting for it to be serviced.
Should You Fix Your Mobility Scooter Yourself?
Before we jump into action, let us first get the do-it-yourself question out of the way: Should you fix your mobility scooter yourself?
Although it’s obvious that in some cases it is important that you be able to perform repairs on your own, we always recommend that you call in a licensed mobility scooter technician to fix it, using their professional expertise.
Overlooking this advice might threaten your well-being and expose the mobility scooter to further damage. Therefore, as a precaution, be aware that by following these steps is done so at your own risk.
One important principle to know, whether you are doing the fixing yourself or requesting the services of a technician, is to understand how beep codes work.
Beep codes are diagnostic fault codes designed to help you swiftly and easily perform basic troubleshooting. Manufacturers of mobility scooters design the beep codes in such a way that the scooter beeps a specific number of times to correspond with a certain issue. In this way, you can identify what is wrong to work on the problem or relay accurate information to a technician when you make the call.
You will find a beep code chart included in the user manual of your mobility scooter. Thus, you can simply look at it for assistance. Alternatively, you can Google your mobility scooter model followed by the number of beeps you are hearing, to view results on what part or system is having an issue.
5 Most Common Mobility Scooter Issues and How to Fix Them
If your mobility scooter breaks down without an obvious reason such as an accident, then the cause is most likely to be found amongst the following issues: battery, motor, tires, potentiometer, controller/joystick, or ignition key. Let us take a closer look at each of these problems and how you can resolve them.
1. Mobility Scooter Battery
Battery failure is by far the most common issue when it comes to mobility scooter troubleshooting. Most scooter users do not really consider the battery, but if this component does not work properly, nothing else will.
It is to be expected for the battery on a mobility scooter to fail due to constant charging and discharging, which causes the battery to lose its ability to hold a charge. In this case, replacing the battery is the best solution to get the scooter working once again.
If you are not sure whether your mobility scooter battery needs a replacement, here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:
- Your batteries can no longer recognize the charger when connected: This happens when you plug the scooter into its charger, but nothing happens. It is particularly frustrating, as your mobile scooter suddenly becomes unusable.
- Your scooter doesn't cover as much distance as it used to: When you start to notice that your mobility scooter isn't able to travel as far as it used to, chances are this is due to a battery malfunction. Towards the end of its lifespan, the capacity of a battery will often decrease.
- Your mobility scooter starts cutting out or stopping: If your machine begins cutting out, this indicates an issue with the battery and requires replacement. You will need to do this as fast as possible as it can be dangerous to drive a unit with a battery which is prone to cutting out, especially if you are using it on the street.
- The battery is no longer able to reach a full charge or the battery lights drop faster than usual: These are common symptoms of a battery going south and it should be replaced.
Upon noticing one or more of these signs, it is more than likely time to switch your old batteries for new ones and inspect your charger. Most mobility scooters today will alert you when the battery requires replacing, but first, you should check the battery connections to make sure everything is secure and in place.
You would be surprised how often these wirings become loose or how the battery pack is not seated properly. If all is well and in place, you should check the battery voltage using a multimeter. If the battery reads less than 11.8 volts, it means that the battery is less than 25% charged.
If the reading does not improve with further charging, try a different charger if possible. If you still cannot see the reading increasing, then the battery is due for replacement.
Luckily, you should be able to easily order new batteries and even install them yourself. Before ordering, make sure to check which batteries are the right match for your vehicle to avoid additional costs. Lead-acid batteries, for example, are rather heavy, and you may end up paying a hefty sum to return them if you order the wrong pair.
Assuming you got the right batteries, here is how you can replace the old ones:
- First, locate the current batteries in your mobility scooter. They are typically residing inside a detachable battery pack or under the colored plastic shroud beneath the seat.
- Changing one battery at a time, match the colored ends of each battery to their corresponding tabs. Larger mobility scooters sometimes feature a disconnect harness that makes it impossible to install the batteries incorrectly.
- While you have the batteries exposed, you can test each battery separately using a multimeter. If either one measures below 11 volts, you should dispose of it. A battery that reads 12 volts or more without a load on the scooter is a keeper.
Even though most scooter batteries are affordable, you want to keep them in good working condition for as long as possible. A couple of tips to ensure an extended lifespan include:
- Keep up with the charge: If you don't charge the batteries for weeks, they'll dry up and their lifespan will be extensively compromised. So, make sure you maintain a 100% charge and always recharge as soon as you notice the lights going dimmer or the starter sounding.
- Avoid overcharging: If you overcharge the mobility scooter battery, it will cause the voltage to become too high and the vehicle won't operate. To resolve this issue, you'll have to leave the scooter turned on overnight to lower down the voltage.
2. Mobility Scooter Motor
The motor of a mobility scooter is what allows it to move, which is kind of like the muscles in our bodies. Without a functioning motor, you are just left with an expensive seat on wheels!
Fortunately, mobility scooter motors are built to be very reliable to give you a long-lasting service. However, if you have had your machine for several years, the time may come when you experience issues and the motor stops working properly.
A common example is flat spots, which happens when the motor temporarily falls to a decreased output, causing the scooter to bump forward. If you notice your device bumping along, this could be an indication that the motor is failing. Once it reaches this point, you can either repair or replace the motor, or buy a new scooter.
Attempting to repair or replace the motor yourself is not something we recommend. The process takes time to complete and is extremely time-consuming and tiring for a non-professional individual.
Instead, call for a licensed mobility scooter technician with factory training to do the job. This service is not too expensive to hire, and you will enjoy the peace of mind of having your device fixed by a professional.
3. Mobility Scooter Flat/Worn Out Tires
Designed to resist wear and tear, the tires of a mobility scooter are quite durable, so that they can last many hundreds of miles. The common types of mobility scooter tires include foam-filled tires, pneumatic tires (filler with air), and solid urethane tires.
Pneumatic tires are probably the most comfortable type of tire, but since they are filled with air, there's a high chance that they will get flat if they run over a sharp object such as a nail or a screw. If this happens, you will need to purchase new tires.
If your mobility scooter sits on pneumatic tires, you should check them regularly for signs of wear, especially around the sidewalls and tread. You may notice that the tires are cracked, or the tread pattern is worn. If this is the case, it is best to replace the tires before they become punctured.
Solid urethane tires, on the other hand, are much more resistant to wearing out, however, they will still need to be replaced at some point after prolonged use. These flat-free tires may even wear unevenly, forcing you to purchase new tires.
Keep in mind that defective tires can compromise cornering stability and braking performance. Therefore, avoid running your device with worn tires and don't put off inspecting the tires.
4. Mobility Scooter Potentiometer
Your mobility scooter could be working, but you could be experiencing fluctuating speed without reason. This is a sign of a failing speed potentiometer, also known as the throttle pot.
The speed potentiometer of a mobility scooter allows you to control moving forward and backwards by simply manipulating a lever. Among the most common reasons that potentiometers fail are due to moisture and rust, because they are often exposed to the elements. They can easily suffer from corrosion, which causes the unit to malfunction.
You can use a multimeter to check if the wires are showing correct voltage. You should get a steady reading at the base of the speed control as you turn the speed up and down when you are testing the outside wires. Be sure to thoroughly test the wires from the left and center.
The reading should be both positive and negative on each side of the speed potentiometer. For example, the right and center wires measure 3.5 ohms and the left and center wires measure -3.5 ohms, making the potentiometer read centered or open. If your mobility scooter potentiometer is erratic or reads open or 0 on either side, then you must replace it.
The good news is that spare potentiometers are not expensive, and you should be able to easily fit one in your mobility scooter with a bit of electrical experience. You can as well just outsource the job to a trained mobility scooter technician if you're not up for it.
Another wiring-related issue in mobility scooters is the fuses.
Here, you want to check the fuses sitting within the components of the device. Use a multimeter to make sure they have continuity if you cannot get a clear visual inspection. What you are looking to see is the state of the wires inside the fuse – they should not be broken.
Similarly, you want to check the circuit breakers on your mobility scooter. They are usually located on the front side of the battery case on the shroud.
When riding on rough terrain with small wheels and low clearance from the ground, there is a high chance that one or more circuit breakers will pop. This may also occur in the event of a power surge from your residential electricity. You can reset the circuit breaker by simply pushing in the button.
5. Mobility Scooter Controller/Joystick or Ignition Switch
Whenever a mobility scooter is moving, you are using the controller or joystick to propel it forward. In this sense, the controller of a scooter is considered the brain of its operation, since it directs the speed, acceleration rate, and brakes. Consequently, it is crucial that you keep the controller in good condition and keep it regularly maintained.
However, repeated use of the controller can cause it to malfunction. If you own a travel mobility scooter that is often taken apart and put back together to fit into vehicles, you can expect the controller to fail at some point due to wear and tear.
Additionally, the controller of your mobility scooter is prone to damage, resulting from electrical shorts, as well as corrosion due to exposure to humidity. To deal with these issues, you would need to consult a mobility scooter technician because of the complex nature of the controller component.
One more problem you may encounter with the joystick is that it can become locked when you accidentally execute a sequential code, for example: hitting the power button twice or holding down the power button for a few seconds. The solution here is simple, just read the user manual to find out how to unlock the joystick.
As for the ignition switch on your mobility scooter, it is also prone to corrosion due to exposure to the elements, such as happens to the potentiometer. This often causes the ignition key to get stuck or break off. Not to worry, as you can safely remove a broken-off key from the ignition by using a pair of tweezers.
If you cannot remove the key with tweezers, you can use a pair of needle-nose pliers to start the scooter by twisting the head of the broken key. In this way, you get to continue riding your mobility scooter until you get a chance to fix it properly.
Should You Fix Your Mobility Scooter or Buy a New One?
Well, there is no right or wrong answer to this question since it mainly depends on your budget and the seriousness of the issue.
After calculating the cost of fixing whatever is faulty on your mobility scooter, you may find that you are better off saving a bit more money by purchasing a new one. On the other hand, you may find yourself not having to pay too much for repairs, in which case you can get it fixed for a couple of hundred dollars instead of spending a couple of thousands to buy a new scooter.
There you have it. The top 5 mobility scooter issues and how to fix them. While some of the tips and steps we discussed above may sound simple enough to complete, trying to practically implement them may not be as easy as you might think.
Remember, if you are not confident enough with your handyman skills, it's probably best to hire a certified mobility scooter technician to provide professional repairing.
Whether you are relying on your abilities or on a repairman to fix the problem, the most important thing is to address the issue without delay, to minimize the risk of further breaking of your mobility scooter while in use.