Getting started with Mobility Scooters

Who could benefit from a mobility scooter?

Anyone who struggles to walk or gets tired after walking a short distance could benefit from using a mobility scooter. Using an electric scooter is not an admission of defeat and can make a great deal of difference to your quality of life, providing a new lease of life and a newfound sense of independence. Using an electric scooter will help to relieve the strain on your shoulder muscles, as well as your wrist and elbow joints that are used when pushing yourself in a self propelled wheelchair or someone else in a traditional transit wheelchair. An electric scooter can help to provide you with the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Some models of mobility scooter are capable of travelling up to 35 miles between charges, so the distance you can cover is much greater than in a traditional wheelchair. If you think that you, a friend or relative could benefit from a mobility scooter or a powerchair, why not try some and find one that you like. If you know somebody with a mobility scooter, ask them about it, and what improvements it has brought them. Mobility scooters can mean the difference between managing to live at home independently and having to rely on others.

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What is the difference between a mobility scooter and a powerchair?

Mobility scooters and powerchairs are often grouped together to differentiate them from traditional self-propelled, or pushed manual wheelchairs. There are however some fundamental differences between a mobility scooter and a powerchair.

Mobility scooters have three or four wheels and are steered using a bicycle style handlebar (or tiller) which requires two hands, and are designed to travel up to 35 miles. They are often used by people with limited mobility, or those who tire easily when walking. Depending on the model and type of mobility scooter, the scooter may disassemble into easy-to-manage components so that it can be easily transported in a car, or stored at home.

Powerchairs usually look more like traditional wheelchairs, and some models even look just like a traditional wheelchair with batteries and a motor attached to each wheel. The powerchair is driven using one hand by a joystick controller on the arm of the powerchair. Powerchair users tend to spend more time in their chairs than scooter users spend on their scooters. Because of this, powerchairs are usually more adaptable than mobility scooters and some models can have specialist seats and controllers fitted to suit the individual requirements of the user. Powerchairs are also more likely to be used inside although some powerchairs are equally capable indoors and outdoors. Mobility scooters are more likely to be used outdoors, although some of the smaller ones can be used indoors.

What sort of mobility scooter is right for me?

The nature of your disability will go some way to determining what sort of mobility scooter will be the right one for you. If you’re looking for a mobility scooter to completely replace your car, then a small boot scooter is unlikely to fit the bill. By the same token, if you require an electric scooter that dismantles to fit into a car boot, then a large road-legal electric scooter will not be suitable.

Medium-sized mobility scooters are much more substantial than small / boot mobility scooters. Medium-sized mobility scooters often offer more car-like features such as a padded, height and reach adjustable seat, lights and indicators, as well as a longer battery life between charges. They tend to have bigger wheels, with a maximum speed of up to 6mph. These scooters can sometimes be dismantled to fit in a car, but this process is usually more complicated than with a small / boot scooter. The components are likely to be heavier, and so can be more difficult to put into a car boot.

Large-sized mobility scooters are much more substantial, and often twice the size of a boot scooter. These disabled scooters have a top speed of up to 8mph, with a range of up to 35 miles. They can be legally used on and off the road. As they are road legal, large scooters come with a full lighting kit and indicators. They offer large wheels, pneumatic tyres and often have suspension to provide a comfortable ride. For a lot of people, these large mobility scooters will replace their car and will be their main method of transport. As a result of this, the larger electric scooters will be more substantial and rugged than a small / boot scooter.

How often you use the electric scooter, where you go on it, where it will be stored, how it needs to be charged (whether the battery pack can be charged separately from the electric scooter or not) will all need to be considered to help you to determine what sort of mobility scooter you need. If your scooter is to replace your car and will be used everyday, you will need a different type of scooter than someone who uses their scooter only on days out.

How do I choose a mobility scooter?

After you have decided what type of mobility scooter is suitable for your needs, the next thing to do is to try some out for yourself. You will probably need to try several scooters to find one that feels comfortable and meets all of your requirements. If a scooter doesn’t feel right immediately, ask the salesperson to adjust the seat or the tiller, and see if that helps. If that doesn’t help, then it probably isn’t the right scooter for you.

You may be tempted by the cheapest mobility scooter on sale, but it is important to remember that just because something is the cheapest, it doesn’t necessarily means it is the best for your individual needs. Whilst trying different scooters make sure you can drive them around the showroom, or even outside, to see what they are like over bumps, and whether they feel comfortable and stable. Legroom is another important consideration, especially for the taller person. As a rule of thumb, three wheel scooters provide more legroom than four wheel scooters; however, four wheel scooters tend to be more stable.

Remember to ask the salesperson any questions that you want answering. Common topics of questions include the scooter’s speed; range; whether it dismantles for transportation; the weight of the components once the scooter is dismantled; the actual dimensions of the scooter if space is tight; whether the tiller can be changed for a different one, or if the forward/reverse controls can be changed from right hand to left hand. It may be worthwhile disassembling the scooter to see how easy it is and to make sure you can put it in the car, if that is something that is important to you.

Some models are available with different seats, or different batteries. If you’ve found the ideal scooter, but there’s something that doesn’t quite meet your requirements, there may be a solution. Remember to ask the salesperson.

What does my mobility scooter come with?

Mobility Scooters usually consist of a base unit, the drive chain, the seat, and tiller, as well as the batteries and wheels. The base unit is the chassis that the other components are attached to. This chassis provides the area where the feet go in between the tiller and the batteries or drive chain. The drive chain is the part that powers the scooter. The tiller is the handlebar that steers the mobility scooter.

Front wheel drive mobility scooters have the drive train just over the front wheel. Front wheel drive scooters also to be small / boot scooters rather than larger pavement or road-legal scooters. Rear wheel drive mobility scooters use a chain, belt or transaxle mechanism to drive the rear wheels. Rear wheel drive scooters “push” the rider whereas front wheel drive scooters “pull” the rider. This offers more power and efficiency and so provides a better ride, and allows the scooter to go up steeper hills.

The number of wheels and size and type of tyre affect the stability and ride quality of the mobility scooter. Smaller scooters tend to have small solid tyres, which don’t offer the same ride quality as bigger scooters with larger pneumatic tyres. Three wheel scooters offer more legroom and a smaller turning circle compared to a four wheel scooter, but the stability can be compromised.

Mobility scooter seats often have folding armrests, and swivel to aid getting on and off the scooter. The seat is often padded to provide more comfort. Some models have a larger Captain or Admiral seat, which is more like a car seat, and may offer more adjustment than a standard seat. The larger, more comfortable seats are normally found on the larger scooters as the scooter has a larger range, so the distance travelled could be almost double that of a small scooter. Almost all seats are adjustable for height, some adjust for reach, and some even recline like a car seat.

The tiller controls the direction, and speed of the mobility scooter, and is like a bicycle handle bar. The scooter moves by either pulling or pushing the lever on the tiller (called a wigwag). Some models of scooter have a Delta tiller meaning that the user can either pull with the fingers (like a bicycle brake) to make the scooter move, or push with the thumb. This tiller is ideal for people with limited hand mobility or who have one hand much better than the other. This means they can use the same hand for both moving forward and reversing. The control panel on the tiller includes the battery gauge, the speed control, and the horn and light controls, where fitted.

Mobility Scooters are designed to be simple to understand and operate, and so shouldn’t be intimidating.

Mobility Scooter Accessories

Mobility Scooters can be customised to fit the user’s needs. Depending on the model of scooter and the user’s requirements, additional products can help you get even more out of your mobility scooter. Scoota Mart stock a range of mobility scooter accessories, including bigger batteries, mobility canopies and walking stick holders.

Bigger batteries can be expensive, depending on the model of scooter, and the size of battery. However, if you regularly covering large distances, or feel restricted as you can’t travel as far as you wish, then a battery upgrade will be cost effective. If you regularly dismantle your scooter to go in the car, it is worthwhile remembering that bigger batteries will be heavier.

If you regularly travel off road, or on long journeys, different tyres may be available for your mobility scooter. Pneumatic tyres provide a comfortable ride and are usually fitted to the larger scooters as standard. It is possible to puncture-proof tyres so that you can enjoy benefits of pneumatic tyres and won’t suffer from a puncture.

Some disabled scooters have the option of a different sort of tiller to control your scooter. A Delta tiller allows the same hand to control both forward and reverse, and works by the hand either pulling or pushing the lever to control the scooter. This can be beneficial if one hand tires easily, or if one hand is stronger than the other.

A crutch or walking stick holder will mean that you can take your crutches or walking stick with you wherever you go. An oxygen cylinder holder might also be available for your scooter. Rear view mirrors are available, and can make reversing into a garage or shed even easier, especially if you struggle to turn your head. These mirrors are also found on the road legal scooters, so that users can see the traffic behind them.

A mobility scooter bag or pouch can make carrying your shopping or other items easier. This can range from a small pouch that will fit on the scooters armrest which is ideal for carrying car keys and a mobile phone, to a large bag that will fit on the back of seat and will hold a lot of shopping, or all the necessary items for a day out.

Mobility canopies and capes are available to protect you and your scooter in adverse weather conditions. These range from a cape that covers the user and the scooter to a canopy that completely encloses the user and scooter from the elements. Mobility canopies are mainly designed for the larger pavement and road-legal scooters whilst capes will fit most scooters and users.

Mobility ramps are available so that you can get your mobility scooter into a car, up outdoor steps, or over up a step in the home. These are available in aluminium and fibreglass and some mobility ramps even fold so that they can be kept in the car. Other mobility ramps are available for permanent outdoor use to aid getting in and out of buildings for example. These models often have handrails, and are lightweight.

How to charge and maintain your mobility scooter

First of all, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in the manual that came with the mobility scooter as each scooter will have different instructions. Depending on the instructions, you may need to recharge your scooter each time you use it. Or, you may only need to recharge it when it when the battery gauge tells you that battery charge is low.

If you have a small / boot electric scooter you may be able to take the battery pack off the scooter and charge the batteries independently of the scooter. This means that you can leave the scooter in the car, and charge the batteries indoors, such as at home, in a hotel room or caravan. Other mobility scooters need to have the batteries left on them to charge them. As a rough guide, depending on use, terrain, and user weight, batteries can last 1-2 years, depending on usage.

The mobility scooter manual may say that bigger batteries can be fitted to your disability scooter. This will provide you with a greater range, meaning that you can go further before needing to charge your batteries.

Like a car, your mobility scooter will need a service from time to time. The mobility scooter manual will advise you how often your scooter needs servicing. As a rough guide it will need servicing every 12 months or so, depending on use. An authorised mobility dealer will be able to carry out the scooter service, and ensure that the scooter is functioning to its full capability. Depending on the dealer, and the model and age of the scooter, the scooter service may take up to two hours. The service may also include a test ride by the mechanic to fully check the mobility scooter and make sure that it is running smoothly and as it should do. The mobility scooter may need to be taken to a mobility dealer to be serviced, or the dealer may carry out the service in the user’s home. Your scooter’s manual will also describe and weekly or monthly maintenance checks that are required. This can include pumping up the tyres, lubricating the brake, checking the seat mechanism and so on.